Empty your pockets. Come on, you know the drill.

Published on May 31st, 2011

Alex on the Hangover 2, Pirates 4, and so-called ‘unnecessary sequels.’

It’s summer time at the movies, which tends to mean that we are being bombarded by advertisements for sequels that many non-fans of the franchises in question would deem ‘unnecessary.’ Kung Fu Panda 2, Pirates 4, Cars 2, Harry Potter 73. Of course, no movie is actually necessary; I will not die if I don’t see Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life next Friday, no matter what you may hear me say to the contrary. Just because we have seen Johnny Depp play a scurvy-ridden Keith Richards three times already doesn’t make his fourth dreadlocked and eye-lined adventure any less necessary than previous entries. The same goes for seeing Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms be really hung over again, except this time in Bangkok. Your life wouldn’t have changed all that much if you never saw them rescue Justin Bartha two summers ago; you might have just gone to see Land of the Lost instead. Yet, these movies are being produced, and since my passion for seeing almost anything in a movie theatre does not seem to be going anywhere, I have seen both of these allegedly unnecessary sequels so you don’t have to. I did this for you.

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is not one I think about often. I didn’t care much for the first film in the series, The Curse of the Black Pearl, until years after its release and consequently never got excited for its sequels. All I remember about Dead Man’s Chest was that it was excessively long and extremely racist, and while I seemed to like At World’s End more than most people, that was mostly just because I wasn’t physically angry when I left the theatre. As far as I could tell though, literally nobody was excited about the latest sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I almost entirely forgot it was coming out this month; even ad agencies couldn’t get excited enough about the product to remind me it existed between segments of The Real World. So when I finally saw On Stranger Tides, I got just about what I expected: a movie that was wholly mediocre without a single memorable moment. I enjoyed watching it, but I couldn’t tell you anything about what happened. There were a couple fun one-liners, a really bizarre Judi Dench cameo, some shit about mermaid zombies, an Orlando Bloom wannabe (who wants to be Orlando Bloom?!!?), and I got to hear Jack Sparrow’s incredible theme music in a booming sound system… but I couldn’t tell you in what order any of these things happened. I’m currently reading over a plot synopsis of the movie, and there seem to be whole sections of the movie I just completely lost track of. It didn’t seem like anybody else in the theatre really loved the movie, but weekday matinee crowds are a notoriously “I’m just here because I have nothing else to do” bunch, so perhaps they cannot be trusted. Or maybe watching two hours and seventeen minutes of old school piracy just made me not want to trust anybody for a while. Either way, I’m confident nobody will be talking about On Stranger Tides for years to come… or weeks to come, for that matter.

I liked The (first) Hangover a lot less than most people, but I did think it was pretty funny and felt that the idea of watching these characters try to solve the mysteries of their night was at least mildly clever. Judging by exuberant Facebook statuses, Twitter feeds and box office returns this weekend, that sentence also appears to sum up how I feel about audience responses to The (second) Hangover. I saw Part II in a packed house, which probably helped me like it more; seeing a comedy in a full theatre is rarely worse than seeing that same movie with one other person sitting three rows away from you. I suppose it was like my experience with Pirates 4: I enjoyed all of it, but only kind of. There was nothing as funny as Stu’s Song in the first film, but most of the gags made me laugh nonetheless, and I still enjoyed the mystery aspect the second time around. When there is a Part III, I’ll see it because I will be confident it will make me laugh, as opposed to seeing a Pirates 5 simply because I might enjoy myself. I suppose sometimes it’s not so much me caring about the movies themselves as it is being interested in their mere existence.

I wasn’t excited about either Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides or The Hangover Part II. On the day I saw both movies, I said to James before leaving, “I’m going to see Pirates and the Hangover today and I hate myself for it.” I don’t see these movies because I care about the franchises; I see them mostly because they’re playing at the multiplex. And so do other people, it seems. These movies aren’t necessary, but it’s still fine that they are being produced: we might not be fans, but these movies clearly do have fans. I’m as unexcited about the final Harry Potter installment as I am excited for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but I have a friend who stands precisely opposite to me on each of those points. I would be unhappy if I didn’t get another Transformers sequel, just like my friend would be unhappy if the Harry Potter series wasn’t financially successful enough to reach its conclusion. And so long as sequels keep being made for franchises that I am only vaguely interested in, I will keep seeing them. I may not care about them per se, but somebody does. And that makes them worth something.

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