“Don’t Worry, Jesus Comes Back in the Sequel”

I went and saw District 9 over the weekend, and it’s a film whose impact only becomes apparent after you’ve had time to think about it. Not that you won’t leave the theater thinking it’s a good film, but its ideas stick with you.

One of the most interesting things about it is how it deliberately leaves several plot points unresolved. It’s not that the story is incomplete — the main character completes his journey, and that journey ends in an unexpected yet completely satisfying way — but there are elements that, while not central to the story, play their part and go on their way, with us not having any idea as to how they’ll turn out. So of course, everyone is talking about how these things will play out in the sequel.

The better question is, do we really need a sequel at all?

We have this mentality that, no matter how many loose ends are wrapped up at the end of a film, there has to be a sequel. I think the idiocy of it really started with Jaws 2. Yes, ANOTHER giant man-eating shark is going to terrorize the SAME town all over again. And YET ANOTHER giant man-eating shark is going to follow the son of the man who killed the first two. And STILL ANOTHER is going to go after the wife of the man who killed the first two. It’s ridiculous. But no matter how tight a bow is put on a film, somebody wants to undo it and keep on going.

Look at The Matrix. It tells its story — Neo goes from being just another drone in the machine to knowing the truth and finding his true potential. That final scene of his phone call and flying into the air shows that he has truly become the One. But all anybody could talk about as they filed out was, “Oh boy, Neo’s gonna kick some ass in the sequel.” Two minutes after the credits roll and they’ve not only already forgotten about the film they just saw, they’re assuming there’s going to be another one. And what happened in Matrix Reloaded? We watch Neo take the exact same journey he did in the first film, from skeptic to believer, all for the sake of padding things out into a trilogy. Just because we’re given that cool moment of Neo flying doesn’t mean we HAVE to see a second film with him flying in it.

Now, I’m not saying I’m against sequels. The Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite movies of all time. If there’s a good story to tell, keep on going as long as you like. But unfortunately, that part of the equation usually gets left out, and what we get is what happened with The Matrix Reloaded — a bigger, louder retread of the first film that doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

So everyone is speculating what we’ll see in this supposedly inevitable District 9 sequel. Maybe the real speculation should be if that sequel is really all that inevitable. Maybe we should see what other stories Neill Blomkamp has to tell before we consign him to eternally rehashing his first one.

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