Top Five Sequels that Switched Directors

Posted: October 18, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

Two big films are coming out this Friday; Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Ouija: Origin of Evil. Neither look particularly good, but both are interestingly sequels (technically Ouija is a prequel, but whatever) to an original film that have changed directors. Often a different director on a sequel film is a bad sign, but there are some examples of films which traded directors for the better and I decided to look at five films that helped improve their respective series by coming on board. As a rule, I’m only looking at the first time a director was replaced in a series, so something like J.J. Abrams taking over Mission: Impossible after Brian De Palma and John Woo each had a crack at the series wouldn’t be eligible. John Woo taking over after just De Palma though could make the list (spoilers, he doesn’t).

5. The Empire Strikes Back, Irvin Kershnerthe-empire-strikes-back

I think there’s a misconception by the general public that up until The Force Awakens, George Lucas directed all of the Star Wars movie. Most geeks however know that to be false. After the mammoth success of Star Wars, Lucas stepped into a producer role so he can be more well-equipped to handle the business side of things and he was also involved with ILM in pushing special effects forward. Taking over as director was a fella named Irvin Kershner. Kershner’s resume outside of Star Wars is a little scattered, but there’s no denying his work on Empire. The cinematography is richer, the mythos is expanded, the characters feel deeper, the stakes are higher, and the climax is more emotionally charged. It’s a sequel that goes a different direction than its predecessor while simultaneously improving on the foundation. It might even be the best film in my list, but it’s also clear that Lucas still had a major role creatively. That’s not a bad thing, but for this list the emphasis is on the directors who brought a new creative vision to the series and while Kershner surely brought that too the details, the big picture was still Lucas.

4. Aliens, James Cameronaliens_ver1

A hotshot young director making an action-packed sequel to a horror masterpiece directed by a top talent sounds like a disaster, but in the case of Aliens, things worked out pretty well. Crucial to the film’s success is the respect James Cameron showed to Ridley Scott’s original vision. This doesn’t replace Alien, but instead lovingly recreates that world and naturally continues Ellen Ripley’s story. At the same time, Cameron brought new elements to the proceedings with a bunch of new characters, a glimpse into the military culture of this future, and of course, a shit load of action. While the film spends a lot of time setting up all of the pieces, once the firefights start the film hardly lets up. It’s an intense battle for survival and it ends on an incredibly thrilling final twenty minutes. The end result is a film with a different style to Alien, but one which is in many ways an equal.

3. Goldfinger, Guy Hamiltongoldfinger

The James Bond movies were popular from the start, but it was with Goldfinger that the series’ popularity exploded. This third entry in the series would be the one that most defines what the series was about. Espionage and action, a colourful villain with a gimmick henchman, over the top evil schemes, beautiful women, creative gadgets, and a sly, somewhat silly sense of humour. It’s a formula that hasn’t always worked for the Bond series, but when it hits it hits pretty hard. Goldfinger remains the high bar for this kind of Bond movie, seamlessly blending all of the elements into a tight package that delivers just about everything you want from a blockbuster entertainment. While I probably have more affinity for original Bond director Terrence Young (particularly sophomore entry From Russia with Love) there’s no denying that it’s Hamilton’s film that most set the tone.

2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso Cuarónharry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban-movie-poster

I was six years old when the first Harry Potter film came out and as such I thought it was pretty great. Looking back though, it’s pretty clear that Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone and its follow-up The Chamber of Secrets were fairly mediocre films. Warner Bros. must have realized this too because out went family friendly director Chris Columbus and in came visionary director Alfonso Cuarón, fresh off his amazing film Y Tu Mamá También. I’m not going to pretend that Azkaban is some modern masterpiece (it’s easily the weakest film Cuarón has made this century), but it is substantially better than what came before and also set the tone for the series going forward. Crucial to Azkaban’s success is Cuarón’s ability to bring a darker tone and visual style to the world of Potter while still capturing the sense of fun that pervaded through the first two films. This was also the first film while the characters started to feel a little older and more interesting. In short, this is the film where Harry Potter shifted from being a series for kids into something a little more mature, and its influence on the series moving forward is huge.

1. The Bourne Supremacy, Paul Greengrassbourne_supremacy_ver2

I really like The Bourne Identity. It’s a cool spy-movie with a neat story, introduces an interesting character, and has a handful of effective scenes. By all measures, it’s a good movie and Doug Liman did a good job with the material. However the series identity would be defined not by Liman, but by Paul Greengrass. Starting with The Bourne Supremacy, Greengrass injected a sense of energy through frenetic editing and some very aggressive camerawork. He give the films a greater sense of immediacy and, in spite of the inherent impracticality, authenticity. That’s the thing about Greengrass’ work on Bourne, these movies aren’t all that far removed from your standard improbable action movie, but they’re made so intelligently that they feel so much better. The action scenes themselves are really awesome, not just for their visceral thrills, but for the intelligent ways Bourne is able to dispatch his enemies. Greengrass may have perfected the formula with The Bourne Ultimatum, but it was Supremacy where he took over and forever shaped Bourne’s perception with audiences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s