Movie Sequels: This Decade's Never-Ending Story Hollywood is addicted to sequels. It's a big-screen trend that bloomed in the '70s, but exploded in the past 10 years. "We've trained audiences not to expect an ending," NPR film critic Bob Mondello says.

Movie Sequels: This Decade's Never-Ending Story

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GUY RAZ, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Now, last week, Bob Mondello and I started a look back at the film world over the past decade, and this week, it's Mondello Part 2.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Terminator")

Mr. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Actor): (As The Terminator) I'll be back.

(Soundbite of movie, "Back to the Future Part III")

Mr. MICHAEL J. FOX (Actor): (As Marty McFly) Oh, I know you did send me back to the future, but I'm back. I'm back from the future.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Godfather Part III")

Mr. AL PACINO (Actor): (As Michael Corleone) Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Bob, you are officially a sequel now.

BOB MONDELLO: Apparently, I'll be back. I like that.

RAZ: That's Bob Mondello, our film critic, of course. And today, Bob is here to talk about films from the past decade with twos and threes and even sixes attached to them. It seem like, Bob, there were a lot of sequels over the past decade, or does it just feel that way?

MONDELLO: No, there have been a lot. There - I guess there are always a lot, but it feels like they got big. They really just got big.

RAZ: Now, but I mean, these are nothing new. You had James Bond and "Star Wars" and Indiana Jones.

MONDELLO: Sure, and Buck Rogers, if you go all the way back. I mean, you know, this is how Hollywood decided to hook people on the movies in the first place. They used to do these serials, right? And that's - the whole notion of a sequel is sort of like that. You do the story, and then you do it again, and then you extend it, and you extend it a little bit more.

This decade, I think what's happened to sequels is they've gotten all literary, and it's kind of interesting to me that you've got the two wizard franchises.

RAZ: Oh, yes.

MONDELLO: "Lord of the Rings" and the "Harry Potter" movies, and then you've got the vampire franchise now.

RAZ: "Twilight" series.

MONDELLO: "Twilight" series, and let's play a clip from one, the one that won pretty much everything, both the box office and then also the Oscar nominations. It got nominated all three times, and actually, it won for the third one, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

(Soundbite of movie, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. IAN McKELLEN (Actor): (As Gandalf) Now come the days of the king.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. VIGGO MORTENSEN (Actor): (As Aragorn) Today does not belong to one man but to all. Let us together rebuild this world that we may share in the days of peace.

(Soundbite of applause)

MONDELLO: And then, of course, there's another kind of literary adaptation, the novels of the sort that we now call graphic. Back when I was a kid, they were called comic books.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Comic books. The graphic novel, Bob.

MONDELLO: The graphic novel.

RAZ: Please, please.

MONDELLO: And I guess the example of that that's been big has been "Spider-Man." Let's listen for a second to "Spider-Man 2," after Peter Parker has tried to retire his alter-ego.

(Soundbite of movie, "Spider-Man 2")

Mr. JASON FIORE-ORTIZ (Actor): (As Henry Jackson) You take Spider-Man's pictures, right?

Mr. TOBEY MAGUIRE (Actor): (As Peter Parker) I used to.

Mr. ORTIZ: (As Henry) Where is he?

Mr. MAGUIRE: (As Parker) He quit.

Mr. ORTIZ: (As Henry) He'll be back, right?

Mr. MAGUIRE: (As Parker) I don't know.

RAZ: Oh, he'll be back, Bob, over and over again.

(Soundbite of film, "Spider-Man 2")

Mr. MAGUIRE: (As Parker) I will always be Spider-Man.

MONDELLO: That essentially is what sequels are. They just - they keep on coming back. They are now franchises, okay? When film companies decide to do this, they build a franchise around something. If you buy all of the "Harry Potter" books, you know you're going to have seven of these, right? And so you can extend the franchise for all of that.

RAZ: I mean, it seems obvious, though. I mean, an ailing movie industry is going to keep making sequels when they know they've got a winner, right? I mean, they know people are going to go see them, so they're going to make them.

MONDELLO: Yeah, well, that's - I mean, that's the logic. It seems to me that two things happen when you make sequels. One is that the second one and the third one and the fourth one, each of them has to escalate a little bit. So the star gets more expensive because he's been in the thing, he becomes essential to the thing, and then all the special effects budgets have to go up.

And the other thing, it seems to me that happens, is that you're training an audience to see pictures in a certain kind of way. Not to get too highfalutin about this, but the Greeks thought that there was a certain way that a drama was told, right? You have rising action to a climax and then falling action to a conclusion.

Well, basically, what Hollywood does is it cuts off the conclusion. So you get this rising action to a climax, you stop, and then you're set up for the sequel. And what happens then is that you keep on getting these stories that are all beginning and middle, and you never get an end, and we've trained audiences not to expect an ending.

When people die, it's a surprise, right, because they can't come back.

RAZ: Well, I'm looking forward to "Euripides Part II."

(Soundbite of laughter)


RAZ: In the clip we heard earlier on, from "The Lord of the Rings," where he says at the end: We may share in the days of peace. I mean, that sounds like it is over, that it is finished.

MONDELLO: Good point, and it actually was. That was one of the eight endings they did to that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: because they had to convince the audience that it was actually over. And you know what's hysterical is it isn't really over. They're going to do a "Hobbit" movie, right, the other novel that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote. I mean, basically, they just keep on going with these things.

RAZ: That's Bob Mondello. He reviews films for this program, and throughout the month, he'll be reviewing the decade gone by. Bob, we will see you sequel part four next week.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONDELLO: Absolutely. Part three, I think.

RAZ: And we'd like to hear from you as well. What were your favorite sequels from the past 10 years? Join the discussion at

(Soundbite of music)

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