Yahoo! has a list of their ten worst movies of 2013 and four of them are sequels. The biggest problem with sequels is that they rely less on character development and more on creating more action with less story development. Bad sequels always suffer by exaggerating what made the first movie so good while ignoring the real reason the first story was so good; because it told a great story. “Babe” was a great movie about a pig trying to achieve his dreams, yet “Babe: Pig in the City” was just an overblown mess with more talking animals and far less reason for Babe to do anything. “Terminator 2” was a great movie about a killing machine learning the value of a human life, yet “Terminator 3” was nothing but special effects and meaningless action.
Besides the inevitable disappointment of sequels that strip away character development in favor of more visual action and special effects, the other movies on Yahoo’s list of the ten worst movies of 2013 include “After Earth,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.” All of these movies had promise (except for maybe the fairy tale turned movie idea). The problem with “After Earth” is that it lacked an interesting story and simply burdened the audience with a heavy dose of theme. “After Earth” is a perfect example of how your theme needs to guide your story but not be a blatant, in-your-face demonstration to the audience every five seconds. Audiences love themes; they just want a story that embodies that theme in an entertaining way.
“The Lone Ranger” could have been a good idea, coming from the same people who created “The Pirates of the Caribbean.” Yet “The Lone Ranger” flopped anyways. When you make Tonto, the sidekick, more like the star, things go wrong in a hurry. Lots of special effects can’t make up for the lack of a compelling story.
Notice the common theme with bad movies? They lack an interesting story. “Die Hard” had a great story. “A Good Day to Die Hard” focused too much on action and not enough on character development. Bruce Willis is now a caricature of himself in all the “Die Hard” sequels that stripped away the humanity that made the original so endearing. Watch the original “Die Hard” and then watch any of the sequels to notice how the sequels rely more on special effects and action and less on telling an interesting story.
The lesson is simple. Make sure you tell an interesting story first. Without an interesting story, no amount of star power, special effects, or hype from previous movies can create a good movie without the foundation of a solid story structure underneath. Take away a good story and you wind up with a bad movie. It happens every time, so don’t make that mistake with your screenplay.