An EW movie critic on her standards for sequels -- Lisa Schwarzbaum argues that the follow-ups dominating the multiplex this summer should be as good as the movies that preceded them

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
July 11, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Batman Illustration by Michael Witte

An EW movie critic on her standards for sequels

How do you review a sequel? Do you consider it as independent of the original? — Amberlin Tannehill
Great question for this summer of 2s. I look at a sequel as an entity that ought to be intelligible to someone who didn’t see the original — but must reward anyone who did. In other words, I certainly do relate it to what has come before — who wouldn’t? And by my simple math, the thing that comes after should be at least as good as the thing that came first. Otherwise, don’t make it. (Studio accountants will beg to differ.) Happily, for every junky ”2 Fast 2 Furious,” there’s a rewarding ”X2: X-Men United” to surprise me.

Do you believe ”Shakespeare in Love” deserved to win the 1998 Academy Award for Best Picture over ”Saving Private Ryan”? — Jevon Mallett
No. I think Ryan wuz robbed — in no small part by the march of ”progress.” With the proffering of videotapes and DVDs that spare Academy voters the inconvenience of dragging their old or lazy butts to movie theaters, the playing field has been subtly, profoundly, and permanently warped. Shakespeare’s small cleverness looks cute on a TV screen, its visual flatness softened by home-viewing intimacy. (You can pause the tape anywhere, answer the phone, and not lose any momentum.) The epic scope of ”Saving Private Ryan,” by contrast, is ruined by screen shrinkage. Don’t get me started on how this has changed cinematic aesthetics and affected what wins awards; I’ve got only a few more lines left here.

What movies do you like to throw on at the end of the day? — Nathan Pedersen
Put it this way, Nathan: Cue up ”All About Eve” anywhere and I can hum the dialogue. Show me ”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and I lose all track of reality, swooning until the end for the, oh, 25th or 26th time.

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