How to write about 22 sequels

22 Jump Street
Starring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Wyatt Russell, Amber Stevens; directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Djimon Hounsou, America Ferrera; directed by Dean DeBlois

First, well duh, mention that these are in fact sequels. That’s right, when a movie becomes a hit, it must be replicated, which means that the writing about it must be replicated as well.


Second, talk about how it’s the same (characters, writers, directors, settings, voices, artists) and yet how it’s somehow different (new story, evolved characters, updated challenges).


© How to Train Your Dragon 2

© 2014 DreamWorks Animation LLC

Third, describe how it’s better or worse than the previous installments. Is it more amped up? Does it have more exaggerated special effects? Does it possess more knowing swagger or is it bogged down in insufferable familiarity?

Fourth, does it seem like an effort to simply milk more money from a franchise, or does it reflect the artists’ genuine interest in spreading their wings and flexing their muscle to tell a whole new story from the same source material?

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in 22 Jump Street
Photo by Glen Wilson – © 2014 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

Fifth, be sure the writing is as stilted, familiar and leaden as the sequels themselves, or, if it’s worthy, as breathless, exalted and showy.

Sixth, be sure to spend plenty of time ruminating on whether these sequels should even exist. Was the original too thin and hackneyed to begin with, or was there enough backstory, complexity and nuance to keep our interest in revisiting these characters and setting all over again (and again)?

Seventh, minutely examine the filmic technique to discern any attempt at some unique flourish. Sequels cry out for compare-and-contrast essay formats, so go forth and parse.

Eighth, it’s important to mention if viewers need to see the previous installments or if the sequel can stand on its own viewing. Readers love to know if they have to do any more work than simply walk right in and sit right down.

Ninth, always try to weave in — or mention as much as possible — the commentary (and even repeat actual text) that was written regarding the previous sequels so as to pad the column or garner interest in that previous writing and show how much depth of knowledge one has of the source material.

Applying these nine rules to these two films, here’s how this writing could look:

Forget all of these rules and have fun with these two sequels as they manage to break the sequel rules. One makes fun of the fact that it’s a sequel (22 Jump Street is essentially a cinematic parody of sequels by filling it wall-to-wall with jokes, satire and parodies of the previous film and the Hollywood penchant for sequels), and the other transcends the sequel by making it more exciting and visually stunning with a surprising story that is more involving (How to Train Your Dragon 2). If you didn’t see the previous films these were based on, it’s unlikely you will see these sequels. But, if you do (even if you have seen the previous films) you will be entertained nonetheless. See ‘em again for the first time!

Oh, and tenth, be sure to be curt. No need to go on and on and….

Doug Young is the award-winning film critic for The Colorado Statesman.