I want to take a moment to talk about expectations.
When it comes to sequels there's always complaints. Some people will argue they changed it too much, others that they didn't change it enough. And the rest will regard the changes as an overall improvement. It's also this latter group that will attack the first group for having "expectations" while defending the changes. Is having expectations of a sequel something you can be blamed for though? Are you responsible for having expectations? Or are the producers of the sequel to blame for shaping those expectations?
The blame game
Let's talk about change for a second. Change is not inherently good or bad. Change is just that, change. It can make things better, it can make them worse. It's not something to be feared, but nor should it be revered. However it's not just about the quality of the change, it's also about the quantity. Too little change can result in stagnation, which leads to boredom and indifference. On the other hand an excess of change can lead to something too far removed from the original, alienating those who were fans to begin with. Like most things in life, it's about finding a balance.
So when it comes to expectations too much change often leaves these unfulfilled. Is there a responsibility to meet these expectations though? I'm going to argue that there is.
The power of a name
Names have a lot of power behind them, it's no coincidence that it's a theme explored in fantasy and fairy tales. And although in reality the true power of a name is a little more mundane it's no less real. Names influence how people think, they plant ideas in peoples heads, expectations. Names are incredibly compressed forms of information, whole collections of ideas in the space of a few words. If I were to say "Star Wars", you think "Jedi" and from that you think "Lightsaber" and "The Force". So when you attach a name to something you're also attaching these ideas as well, whether you want to or not.
It's why if Episode VII turned out to be a comedy starring Chewbacca and C3PO it would create a tidal wave of backlash. No matter how good it was (and frankly I think it'd be hilarious) it would still leave a bitter taste in a lot of peoples mouths. They went into that film expecting "Star Wars", and it didn't deliver. And really, can you blame them? Even if they didn't intend to by tying that label to the film they've planted an idea of what it should be in peoples minds. By attaching a name it creates the responsibility to meet the expectations that come with that name. If they don't plan to meet those expectations then either the name shouldn't be used at all, or it should be made clear that it's a spinoff.
Quite simply it's a bad idea to produce a sequel that's a far cry (except Far Cry of course) from the original. It's not what the majority of people want out of a sequel. They don't want something completely different, they want more of what they liked about the original (the exception being if the original was terrible of course). The best sequels can be described as "the same, but different". They don't change things so much that they become divorced from the original, but they shake things up just enough to keep it fresh and exciting.
So remember you can't blame people for having expectations (barring the unreasonable variety), but you can blame people for creating them. And I hope you're all looking forward to Star Wars Episode VII: C-3PO & Chewie go to White Castle, Episode VIII: Dude, where's my Star Destroyer!?, and Episode IX: Weekend at Vaders.
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