Work: Sequel Wars

I thought I had better put something up about the work I am doing at the moment. Here are the first two intro paras.
What is a sequel? For some fans passionate about particular movies the moniker ‘sequel’ signals a monstrous malediction of genius. Works of art are reduced to vehicles of merchandising. Film texts that were once indexes of personal and collective identification become mere prompts for megaplex popcorn with extra syrup. What is the nature of the awesome and destructive power sequels have over the first incarnations? The horrific violence wrought upon a film to turn it into a franchise can not be solely located with the capitalist spirit of lecherous studio executives to exploit enthusiasms. What audience is the franchised film sequel made for? Are we really the stupid subjects of sociocultural programming that allow purveyors of these ‘perversions’ to peddle their wares? Can the notion of a ‘sequel’ be rethought and articulated in such a way to encourage an enrichment of a ‘franchise’?
I have been prompted to write a paper after an exchange on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) message board for the Alien versus Predator (AvP) movie with an avid fan of the Alien series of films. I had posted some suggestions of what needs to be in the sequel to this movie. Innocent enough, I thought… My first respondent was A:3. I am calling this fan A:3, because his position was that after the three films in the Alien series, there was “no life in the series” and the fourth should not have been made. A:3 was particularly insulted by the AvP film. He believed the Predator series was a total shit, and joining it with the Alien series for a crossover film was an utter travesty. A:3 manned the message boards shooting down any post or response that discussed the possibility of a sequel to AvP. Incurring the wrath of this disgruntled fan, I discovered that the fan’s keyboard is mightier than the logical argument. He challenged me to find a sci-fi/action movie series where the final film in the series rated the same or better than the original (the ratings were provided by the user rating function on the IMDB site). After an hour of searching I gave up. The closest I could come were The Lord of the Rings series and the Evil Dead series. I later discovered the recent Spiderman series (another series of films directed by Sam Raimi) also has a higher rated sequel than the initial film. However, none of these are really sci-fi/action movies. I found the fact that almost no sequels at all managed to measure up to the initial film in the series absolutely amazing! Surely this must be one of the hard and fast ‘laws’ of cinema: a sequel will ‘always’ be worse.
Anyway, there is much to say about sequels. I start off by talking about the birth of the blockbuster and take a Deleuzian angle on the ‘culture industry’. What is commodified is not ‘culture’ per se but ‘enthusiasm’. Here I pull out some more Deleuziasms to do with desire. I am thinking about the ‘culture industry’ less in terms of the production of ‘culture’ in the form of cultural artifacts or ‘meaning’, but some forms of mass culture as ‘anti-production’ that ‘captures’ consumers in the desiring machines we call enthusiasm. Enthusiasm does not belong to the ‘cultural products’ (artifacts or meanings) but to the desiring machines that organise whichever assemblage the cultural products are part. What it results in is a ‘turnstyle capitalism’.
Perfect example of what I am talking about in its most docile form, and where I am getting inspiration for the term from, are sporting fans that are part of the assemblage of franchised sporting teams and the mass culture surrounding them. Quite literally a profit is extracted at the turnstyle as a direct manifestation of the fans enthusiasm for a sporting team (what I call a fan ‘object’ or, because it is not really an object but a constellation of intensities, the ‘fanject’).
Enthusiasm in the movie industry is different for instead of desire operating within the strict confines or thresholds of the way in which the fanject is (anti)produced, fans allow their enthusiasm (desire, but not so reactionary anymore) to break apart the confines of the organising principles which create the movie as fanject. This is evidenced by a particular mode of ‘script rewriting’ where instead of injecting the fanject assemblage with other fantasies, the concepts of which the intial movie is only but one example are allowed to morphogenetically become or ‘involve’. Sequels become ‘formulaic’ when sequels are produced with a mimetic relation to an ‘original’ that can be then reduced to the same. When this happens the concepts that organise the movie (fanject) remain potentialised. Yeah…
I am about 2 thirds the way into it at the moment.
Much work to do!