Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unnecessary sequels to SF/F books & movies

I.J. Parnham’s response to my post about watching the movie “2010” in 2009 got me to thinking. Here’s the money quote:
I could never see the point of the book Ten past Eight, or the other sequels. And I've only tried to watch the film once, but didn't get even halfway through. It's a classic case to me of the utterly unneeded sequel that does slightly diminish the impact of the original.
Now, as I wrote in my responses, as a youngster, I appreciated both the book and movie “2010” because it explained the first movie. Because the ending of “2001: A Space Odyssey” says different things to different people, there must have been some driving need for Clarke to Tell Us All Exactly What Everything Means. That, or the need for the next book in a contract. Or writer’s block.

Anyway, the movie/book “2010” struck I.J. as unnecessary. Are there other sequels/prequels to fantasy and SF books/movies you think are unnecessary?

I’ll answer my own question and stay with Arthur C. Clarke. Rendezvous with Rama was an excellent book filled, like "2001," with big ideas. The immediate sequel, Rama II, was the same book with different characters. But when some of the characters got marooned on Rama II and Clarke wrote two more books, I barely got through books two and three. I only finished book three just to see what the Rama craft was. I can’t remember now but I remember being unimpressed.

I’ve only read the first Dune book. I’ve heard that, starting with Book 4, Frank Hebert went off the deep end. Then there are the scads of prequel trilogies out there. Do they help or hinder your enjoyment of the original Dune books?

On the movie front, I didn’t think we needed Alien 3 or Alien 4. Well, the ending of Alien 3 was okay but #4 was excess. I didn’t like Terminator 3 either (and have yet to see the new one).

Those are the ones that come immediately to my mind. How about y’all? What are sequels/prequels to SF/F movie or books you think are unnecessary?


  1. Never saw a need for the additional Foundation books after Asimov's trilogy.

    And, while DUNE MESSIAH and CHILDREN OF DUNE are okay, I could've enjoyed it with only the first one.

  2. Terminator 4 is so bad it makes the third one look good. The most disappointing thing, in my opinion, was that it never tried to have its own identity. Every five minutes there would be a reference to T2, whether a line of dialogue, gesture, or piece of music (and yes, they try and reuse GNR's "You Could Be Mine").

  3. I don't think that the last two MATRIX films were really planned from the start. They seem unnecessary to me.

    The three Star Wars prequels [come on, who doesn't love them some Star Wars?]seemed more like one mans life long dream accomplished rather than something necessary. Wouldn't we have all rather received movies that took place AFTER Jedi?

    On the other side of the coin I think the three Back To The Future movies play out nicely together and work better as a whole than just the first one standing alone[a great movie don't get me wrong].

  4. For annoying sequels Scott Card's Ender series irritates me even though I've given up on them. The original was a great book and although showered with awards the sequels weren't really needed, but for utter jaw-dropping devotion to extending an idea beyond breaking point you have to admire him rewriting Ender's Game from the viewpoint of another character.

    For a sequel that actually worsens the original I'd go for Orbitsville by Bob Shaw. The book has a great ending that says everything that needs to be said and is quite chilling and memorable. There was no need to carry it on, no angles to take, and yet he did and the books were rubbish and contradicted the original ending.

    Thinking of Shaw there must also be a whole sub-category of needless novel mock-ups. His short story Other Days, Other Eyes was a classic. It had a brilliant idea for a story and dashed it off in 20 pages. Perfection. Clearly the author hated throwing away such a great idea on a short story so the inevitable novel version came along and added nothing.

    In fantasy, where to start? The whole damn lot of 'em possibly, but for bizarre devotion to duty in cashing in on the original idea I'd go for the largely forgotten Faradawn Trilogy by Richard Ford. The original book was a great story if you're in the mood for that sort of thing, all very Watership Down with talking animals and so on. It was very popular and so it became a trilogy, but as the original had told the entire story the author took the novel route of writing about something completely different. My memory might be wrong here but the second and third books in the series had nothing at all to do with the first book, containing none of the characters, themes, setting. It's even set on a completely different fantasy world and has no references to the first book.

  5. I absolutely loved the "first" Ender series. (I have signed first editions of each, and treasure them.) Each book gave you something real to consider, from a unique perspective. Path was a fascinating world, and Xenocide made me reexamine priorities in my own life. Each time I read it, I get something new out of it. That being said, from that point, each subsequent book became more superficial. Sort of thumbing his nose at us, because he knows we'll buy whatever he writes due to our love of the original books. The more Card adds to the series, the more disappointed I get. I basically get them, skim them with Card in mind (just to see what he's thinking these days) and then sell them to half-priced books. His recent books (ALL of them) seem more preachy than fantastical.

    I actually enjoyed the posthumous Foundation trilogy, with the exception of Brin's contribution. (Reading his stuff feels more like work, than fun. It's like trying to decode stereo instructions.)

    Sequels that sucked? How about Lost World? Rarely have I been so charged about getting a book on the day of its release, and never have I been so disappointed. I read it on a single plane flight. It was like a Roy Clark Big Letter Book. I walked off the flight, and dropped the book into the trash can at the gate. I rate Lost World as one of the worst books I've ever read from a major author.

    And call me a lightweight, but I loved the Harry Potter series, and the Incarnations of Immortality, start to finish. (Not sure if you consider those sequels, or planned series...)

  6. I believe the most egregious offender of unnecessary sequels for sci-fi/fantasy films is the Highlander series. The first one was brilliant but each sequel further convoluted the story... and don't even get me started on the TV show with Duncan MacLeod.