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What makes a good movie sequel?


Marvel's "Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness" opens in theaters this week.


BENEDICT WONG: (As Wong) You opened a doorway between universes. And we don't know who or what will walk through it.

MARTÍNEZ: No, we don't. It's one of a bunch of sequels coming out this year. We're getting reprises of "Jurassic World," "Top Gun," "Hocus Pocus," "Downton Abbey," "Minions" and a lot more. So what makes a sequel good? Vulture went back in time to try and answer that question recently and came back with a ranking of the 101 best movie sequels ever made. TV and film critic Matt Zoller Seitz contributed to that list. He joins us now on Skype. So Matt, what would you say to a cynic who only sees sequels as a way for Hollywood to cash in and make some bucks?

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: Well, a lot of the time, that is all that it is, but not always. I mean, I always like to think of it as, there can be multiple versions of a pop song. And there can be sequels to a pop song. And why can't there be that to movies? If there can be multiple novels in a series, why not movies? And at best, it's a creative experiment. Like, we can just redo the thing that was a success. Or we can try to add something to it. We can try to criticize it. We can reflect back on itself. And that's what the best sequels do.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what does make a sequel good?

SEITZ: I think it has to - first of all, it has that commercial imperative where it's supposed to give people kind of the experience that they had the first time, because that's the whole point of the exercise. It made money, and they want to make money again. But you also want to add something new. You want to, you know - you add new characters. You open up the universe. Maybe you introduce a note that kind of questions what you thought you knew. Like, I think "The Matrix" sequels do that very well. And of course, there's that franchise-building thing. But I think, at its best, in a movie like, say, "Evil Dead II," you can do a lot more. You can kind of remake a drama as a comedy. You can make it kind of a metafictional reflection on what makes a sequel, which I think "Matrix Resurrections" did very well. And then there's also a thing called legacyquels, where you have a reboot, essentially, with a bunch of new characters in the same universe. But then they encounter people from the first series of movies who act as kind of mentor figures.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So those are a couple of examples of films that did this well. But what about some movies or franchises that did this badly?

SEITZ: (Laughter) Oh, my goodness. Well, I think a lot of the...

MARTÍNEZ: The list is long, I can imagine.

SEITZ: I think a lot of the slasher movies from the '80s got very repetitive. And that was my generation. And I eagerly went to all the new "Friday The 13th" and "Nightmare On Elm Street." And there were a few that were pretty good. Like, I thought the fifth "Nightmare" was excellent. But a lot of times, you do just get, like, the question of - why are they going back to the same summer camp to get hacked up? - becomes a plausibility issue (laughter). When you're starting to question the plausibility of one of these movies, it's in trouble. But I think, at its best - you know, I think the "Jurassic Park" series, which has a new one opening this year, does a great job of building plausibility concerns right into the story. They actually have characters saying, why have we not shut down the island? Why are we still letting people go into the - go to the island with dinosaurs where they have been eaten before?


MARTÍNEZ: Any sequels coming out soon that you're really looking forward to?

SEITZ: Well, you know, the "Doctor Strange" movie I'm actually looking forward to. I've - I go to see all the Marvel films with my kids. But this one is special because Sam Raimi directed it. And he's somebody who, I think, has done some of his very best work as an artist in the superhero genre with "Darkman" and three Spider-Man movies. And this is somebody who really, really knows how to build a sequence and how to have fun. And I'm glad he's back, you know? He's a giant. He hasn't directed in, I think, over a decade now.

MARTÍNEZ: Matt Zoller Seitz is a TV and film critic for New York Magazine. He joined us via Skype. Matt, thanks a lot.

SEITZ: I really appreciate it. Thank you.