Sequels. There is always some sort of opinion surrounding them. Whether in book or movie form, they often have a reputation of not living up to the original. A common occurrence is that they do not add anything to what was established in the series prior. Sequels can feel rushed, feel pressure to go bigger and better or, ultimately, just fall flat. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes sequels can live up to, or even surpass, their predecessor. But why is this? If done correctly, second, or even third installments, successfully continue to build on the already supplied character arcs, worldbuilding, and storylines. Whilst the former points are perhaps more likely to make a sequel stay in your mind, there are certainly still some great ones out there.
Shrek, for example, is a beloved movie by many. By following the traditional fairy tale structure – with Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, and the creatures of Duloc receiving a happily ever after – the movie is nicely wrapped up. Because of this, a sequel was not needed, right? Well, not necessarily. In my opinion, Shrek 2 is just as good as its predecessor because it did not copy the exact formula or plot simply for money’s sake. Instead, it successfully added to the storyline that was presented in the first movie, by giving the audience familiar faces whilst providing them with a new setting and characters to love.
Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series follows a similar model to Shrek. Whilst the first book was well received, its sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury, is still widely considered the best book in the original trilogy. It provides readers with new places and characters, and we begin to see how the seeds planted in the first book begin to grow and morph into a larger storyline. Whilst book two successfully added to the original, the final book, A Court of Wings and Ruin, fell flat in a few places. Even though it is a substantially sized book, the pacing was nevertheless rushed when it came time to tie up all the loose ends and simultaneously give characters their happily ever after. In theory, a great premise – if executed correctly. Instead, it left readers confused about the events and actions of the book.
These two series are good examples of how sequels can be successful, but also may not work in relation to the rest of the series.. There are many more franchises out there where sequels are produced to capitalise on the success of the originals which, in turn, severely impacts what comes next. On the other hand, sometimes the creators try their best, but the production process alters the final result – or, despite all odds, they are just not well received by audiences.
Whether or not a sequel is enjoyed is ultimately up to the reader. That is the beauty of individual opinions and perspectives: people enjoy different things. This, in turn, provides the opportunity for a wider variety of entertainment to be created for a multitude of viewers and readers.