The sequel is a strange and fickle beast. For people on both sides of the box office, there is a great desire to see them do well; those studio bigwigs in their top hats and monocles love the allure of a built-in audience, and all the dollars they carry; we mere movie-going mortals love the idea of returning to a much-loved story and the characters we have come to love.
Sometimes, those second (or third) trips to the well don’t pan out as planned. Did Crocodile Dundee, one wonders, really have to go to Los Angeles? But sometimes the opposite happens, and the follow-up tale can equal or even outshine the original (and often quite good on its own) movie. I’m far more excited to show my kids The Empire Strikes Back than Star Wars (although, not being a monster, I will make sure they see them in order). This week, Valley filmgoers have the chance to catch one of those rare gems on the big screen, as well as another that hopes to take a spot on the charts.
First up, the classic: screening at local Cinemark Theaters this Sunday and Wednesday is The Godfather: Part II 45th Anniversary, director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 follow-up to his own smash of a few years earlier. The middle piece of the Godfather trilogy is widely hailed as a sequel better than its predecessor, but it is actually a story split down the middle: both a sequel to the events depicted in the first Godfather film, in which Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone ascends to the throne of the family crime syndicate led by his father Vito (Marlon Brando), and a prequel to that story, following a younger Vito (depicted by Robert De Niro) as he forges his empire in the New York of the early 20th century. The first sequel to capture the Academy Award for Best Picture, The Godfather: Part II remains the benchmark by which any sequel must be measured.
The Godfather: Part II 45th Anniversary, Nov 10 & 13, various times, Cinemark Theaters, 367 Russell St., Hadley and West Springfield 15, 864 Riverdale Road, West Springfield.
And now the contender, hoping to clear the bar: director Mike Flanagan’s film Doctor Sleep, the long-time-coming sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1980 chiller The Shining. Both films are based on books by Stephen King, and both center on members of the Torrance family, and in particular the psychic powers of Danny, the son of the family. In the original film — spoilers ahead — Danny spends an increasingly terrifying winter with his parents at the Overlook Hotel, a snow-bound inn that is possessed by the horrors of its past. Before their time there is done, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) has gone round the bend and is hunting down his wife and child.
Flanagan’s film picks up the action some 40 years later, with Danny — played by Ewan McGregor, he is now simply Dan — fighting many of the same demons his father struggled with: substance abuse and depression. Still scarred from his time at the Overlook, Torrance has found a bit of peace in his job at a hospice, where he is able to recognize the approach of death and help those patients about to make that final journey. After trying for years to tamp down his abilities, this new outlet gives the adult Dan a chance to realize that it wasn’t his powers that caused the madness of that long-gone winter. In return, the patients grant him the nickname that gives King’s book its title. When Torrance arrives by your bedside, they know, it’s time to sleep.
But if Torrance has found peace, others have not. A cult known as the True Knot has grown up around the children who share Dan’s gift of “shine,” with its leader Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) preying on the power of the young and gifted in a quest for immortality. When a young girl seeks out Dan’s help in escaping the cult, Torrance must accept his past and future alike, and open himself up to his own powers.
Doctor Sleep will likely divide fans of The Shining; the Kubrick film, while great, was great on its own terms — it was famously different from the novel, and finding a way to reconcile those worlds was an early hurdle for the film version of Doctor Sleep. “Threading that needle has been the source of every ulcer we’ve had for the last two years,” say the filmmakers. See it for yourself, and decide if it measures up.
Doctor Sleep, opens November 8 in wide release.
Jack Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.