The sequel to the sequel nobody wanted

One of the universal laws: Hollywood loves nothing more than an easy sell. With the eye-watering sizes of modern investments, studios need reassurance regarding profits, and look to the “easy sell”: films with guaranteed audiences. While far from a new idea, in the 21st century this has attained new highs/lows, encouraged by ready-made franchises and a certain pesky credit crisis. Everybody wants to be the next big – and profitable – thing, and sequels theoretically avoid risk. Regardless of feedback, if money is made, so will a sequel. However, recently this has got out of control. Automatic sequels have never been respectable, but traditionally they did acknowledge release dates. No more, it seems. The gap between original and subsequent commission has been steadily decreasing until reaching zero…and going out the other side.

Which brings us to some news from the previous week: Warner Bros.’s announcement that they have commissioned a script for Clash of the Titans 3.

For those of you incapable of recalling the 2010 3D boom after losing your retinas, the first Clash of the Titans was a remake best-known for being a casualty of the post-Avatar world. Like every other movie in its slot, Clash suffered delays and a hasty conversion into 3D which drew less than complimentary reviews, hardly helped by the film itself. Nevertheless, assisted by 3D prices, it made money – more than $500 million worldwide – meaning an inevitable sequel. However, this sequel is not released until March next year, so why another one already? Why now? Keep in mind that even ignoring mixed reviews, Sam Worthington, the star, actually apologised for the original, albeit promising the sequel will be better. When sequels – AKA follow-ups – are second chances, not rewards, something is wrong.

“Threequels” are not so unusual in Hollywood nowadays – see The Matrix or Pirates of the Caribbean – given the sequel hooks and franchise hunts everywhere. For the studio, Clash seems a safe, reasonable “gamble”, with all Greek mythology to mine and (some) credibility from seasoned actors playing the Greek gods. Clash 3 is notable in this sense more because Warner Bros. waited until 2’s post-production to consider a third instalment rather than alongside the second. So why remark on this in particular?

The answer: timing. A third film might well make “sense”, but why mention it specifically now, without prompting? Such a “delay” draws attention, both to greenlighting films based on monetary interest and also how little studios think of audiences. Clash 3 seems an afterthought; a realisation of missed opportunity. It is optimistic, cynical and presumptuous. Announcing both sequels together might have actually been better, because this only highlights Hollywood’s unspoken truth.

Will Clash 3 be made? Possibly Clash 2 will bomb sufficiently to prevent it, but with a sequel script commissioned before reviews it will have to do very badly indeed. Either way, the idea is still festering away in Hollywood.

Some may recall Mel Brooks’ 1987 spoof Spaceballs, where a character mused “hopefully we’ll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money”. A warning from the past indeed.