Currently working on the 8th book in my Sam Archer series, I’m having a lot of fun but also working hard to tackle certain challenges which have presented themselves with every Archer book since my 1st thriller, Nine Lives. There are over half a million words in this series now, and Archer has been through a lot of experiences right in front of the reader’s eyes. That means that with every new release originality, plausibility, surprise and interest must be maintained; so too, do high standards.
Sequels in any form of entertainment are hard to master. One has to give an audience what they expect, yet also surprise them, and that requires a lot of care and thought that sadly is often absent. But some get it right. From all accounts (no spoilers please!), Better Call Saul is already a wonderful spin-off/prequel to the fantastic Breaking Bad, a show that after 5 seasons got it perfectly right when it knew it was time to say goodbye. The recent Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier was a great film, respecting the original yet telling an interesting, intelligent story.
Cap 2, a recent sequel that got it right., The result; a great story.
As you can probably tell from my love-affair post to Aliens earlier in the year, I think James Cameron is the master of the action thriller sequel. As well as that epic film, he also created Terminator 2, many people’s flick of the 90s and the no.1 favourite film for many more. When you lay out the script of both films with their predecessors, it’s fascinating to see that they almost fit one on top of each other in terms of structure. The feel of the original is preserved, but the follow-ups are approached from different angles and in different genres, shifting from sci-fi horror to sci-fi action. The thrills and spills are cranked up to 10, but in both stories there is an intelligent, human story that connects to the 1st film and also with the audience, running through the story of each movie and giving all the action a purpose.
Yep, you nailed it buddy
However, one must also know when it’s time to pack up your gear and ride off into the sunset, and that's easier said than done. Watching the Die Hard and Alien franchises being bled dry for every last cinema and DVD ticket is hard to watch for any fan. The trailer for the upcoming Terminator Genysis was released recently and my heart sank when I saw it. The 1984 original is a masterpiece in low-budget thriller film-making, with a long list of reasons as to why it is so superb still to this very day. However, this latest travesty has them regurgitating lines that are over 30 years old, attempting to ret-con the events of the 1st movie, a Kyle Reese that looks like he is a machine himself, a fake-looking liquid Terminator plagiarised from T2 and a swathe of action-heavy CGI (OMG, a school bus flipping on a bridge!). Now I could be completely wrong; this movie might be a masterpiece (I highly doubt it and think it’s going to be the final nail in the coffin for the once-great series). But seeing such classic work getting abused by lazy film-making and bland story-telling is hard to watch and it irritates me immensely. Show some respect for what was started and what came before.
Just stop. Please. I'm begging you.
In closing, I would just say this, both to drive it home to myself as I crack on with this next book but also as a reminder for anyone else charged with creating a follow-up to a cherished story. When you create a sequel to something people liked, there is a responsibility to make the best piece of work you possibly can, paying respect to what came before, making a self-contained story that any newcomer will understand and also bringing a whole new set of ideas to the table. Get it right, and not only will you thrill your audience, your work will also hit a whole new height of quality. Get it wrong, and the above will happen. I’ll be back, the T-800 once so famously said.
Sometimes there comes a point where moving on is the best idea.