Friday, June 5, 2009

Weekly Top Tens Part 1: The Ten Best Sequels of the Decade

Two weeks ago it was book adaptations. Last week it was remakes. This week, my three part top ten list deals with sequels this decade. First off, the ten best. The biggest omission for most people will probably be the two Lord of the Rings sequels, which were not included because I feel as if the series is one big movie – the were shot together, and were always meant that way, so they’re out. Everything else is included. So, here goes.

10. 28 Weeks Later
Danny Boyle’s low budget zombie horror film, 28 Days Later, is one of my favorite horror films of the decade. Even though he did not direct the sequel, he was still involved in producing it, and the film while not quite as good as it’s predecessor, was still an excellent little zombie movie. If the first film was mainly about man’s lack of humanity – as after all the military men in that movie were worse then the zombies, who after all are only following their own nature, then this one is about the difficultly of being an occupying force. The American military has taken control of England, and tries to contain the outbreak, but of they cannot. What follows is a tightly wound horror movie, with a perfect nihilistic ending.

9. The Bourne Supremacy
The Bourne Identity was a solid little action movie, but it took it’s sequel to make the series into one of the best action series of the decade. Everything about Supremacy is heightened – the action, the twists, the surprises, the editing, the acting – everything more complex. Whereas Jason Bourne was a bit of a hapless dupe in the first film, he rose to the level of a tragic figure in the second installment. Paul Greengrass made this series great with this movie.

8. The Matrix Reloaded
I maybe one of the few people around who is willing to admit that he liked the sequel to The Matrix, but I really did think the second film did a wonderful job at expanding the universe created by the first film, making the proceedings more philiosophical and profound. Not to mention that the action in this movie is still first rate – you won’t find many action scenes better than the freeway chase in this movie. A great first sequel in the series.

7. Blade II
I was not much of a fan of the first Blade movie, but when Gullermo Del Toro took the reins for the second installment, he delivered a simply great comic book movie. Wesley Snipes’ Blade didn’t seem quite so cheesy this time around, and neither did the villains, who had strangely vaginal mouths that opened up to swallow its victims. Del Toro seems to have an obsession with the macabre, and things that bite and will not let go, and in Blade II he raised a cheesy comic book movie to a great level.

6. The Bourne Ultimatum
Yes, I believe the Bourne series is one of those rare series that simply got better as it moved along. Again, Greengrass’ direction in this movie was superb, the action sequences cut with the same rapid fire intensity of a Michael Bay movie, but this time with some actual meaning behind it all. By this point, Matt Damon has his role down cold, and Joan Allen, Albert Finney and Julia Stiles were excellent in support. I don’t think there is another movie in this series, but that’s only because this one ended on the perfect note.

5. Clerks II
The only film on this list that isn’t either an action film or a horror film, Kevin Smith’s Clerks II is a wonderful continuation of his breakout 1994 hit film. Dante and Randal are still working their dead end jobs 11 years later, in fact, they are working even deader end jobs at Mooby’s, a fast food chain obviously modeled on McDonalds. They have no real ambition, and are miserable. Through one long day, they will go through pretty much everything – most of it hilarious, some of it heartfelt. By the end, you find yourself almost proud of these characters – they’ve finally gotten off their ass and done something. I hope Smith visits them again in 10 years.

4. X2: X-Men Unite
The first X-Men movie was all set up, and limited payoff. But by the time of the second movie, director Bryan Singer no longer had to spend time doing all of that, and was able to dive right into to telling his story. Obviously the subplot about “coming out” to your family was important to Singer, but everything about the movie is better then the first. The filmmaking tighter, the story movies along quicker, and the action sequences more exciting. In short, X2: X-Men Unite is just about as good as an X-Men movie could possibly be.

3. Spider-Man 2
Much like the first X-Men movie, I felt that director Sam Raimi spent too much time with set up in the first Spider-Man movie. But in Part 2, he was able to just jump right into the story of Peter Parker not wanting the responsibility of being Spider-Man. Haunted by guilt over the death of his uncle, Parker isn’t sure what to do. This movie has stronger action, much better special effects (Spider-Man looked like a cartoon in the first one) and a much better villain in Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock - a man who doesn’t really want to be evil, but cannot help it.

2. Infernal Affairs 2
Most people probably didn’t even see the first Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong action movie that was the basis of The Departed. But it was the second movie in the series that was truly the best. Flashing back in time to show Hong Kong in 1996 right before it’s about to be handed over to the Chinese from the British, as well as continuing the story from the first film (which had a slightly different ending as The Departed), what started out as a fun action series reaches the operatic level of The Godfather.

1. The Dark Knight
Unlike many of the films of this list where I think the sequel improved on a mediocre first installment, The Dark Knight topped an original in Batman Begins which was already a truly great film. And The Dark Knight is a great and true sequel in every way. It is a film that doesn’t just repeat the success of the original film, but builds on it. Christian Bale continues to make Bruce Wayne/Batman into a great character, and of course there is not much more that can be said about Heath Ledger’s Joker that hasn’t already been said. This is a true action masterpiece.

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