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Bigger and better: How the sequel should always be better

The arrival of "22 Jump Street" in theaters this past week seemed inevitable the moment the credits rolled in the original movie. "21 Jump Street," the movie, won over audiences with its humor, fun twist on the 1980s television show and even a few inside jokes along the way.
So naturally when the original scored big with audiences in terms of reviews and revenue, the sequel talk immediately began.
Flash forward to 2014, and "22 Jump Street" seems poised to score big again as the second installment is being lauded as better and bigger than the first one, a rarity in the movie business. Critics like "22 Jump Street," and fans love it.
And isn't that the way the sequel should be?
Often times, the sequels, third or fourth movies in a series begin to take a turn for the worse as characters play out, scenes grow old and scenarios and banter wear incredibly thin.

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In a few rare cases, the follow up movies to the original actually do better at the box office and even gain more praise than the predecessors. If you sit down, watch and take a long, hard look at those examples, you can see the formula for finding success the second time around isn't exactly a paint by number scenario per say but does show a pattern that writers, directors and producers should heed.
Take the "Star Wars" franchise for instance. As endearing and groundbreaking as "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" was, fans of the movies gravitate toward "Episode V" when the Empire struck back, and George Lucas hit his creative stride alongside famed director Irvin Kershner to create a brooding, dark and spectacular sequel to what many thought would have been an untouchable original movie in the series.
What made this sequel so engaging and remarkable was its continuation of a story that captivated audiences and developed characters on both sides of the spectrum, both good and evil. Far too often, sequels do little to differentiate themselves from the originals and instead feel like a tired rerun. "Star Wars" took the time to tell us who characters were above and beyond initial glances.
Being able to get away with telling the same story over and over again to the same enthralled audience would conceivably be a recipe for disasters when it comes to sequels. "The Hangover" movies proved that the second time around with the same story isn't always as well received.
"22 Jump Street" managed to win over critics and fans, where "The Hangover" missed badly. The difference is the former made it very clear through the movie itself that it was the same story, and that self awareness while audiences were watching breathed life into a tired idea.
Watching it play out was funny, because the actors and everyone involved in the movie were in on the joke.
What isn't quite as funny is a second movie or sequel that thinks and believes its doing something special when in actuality it is regurgitating old jokes, even though ultimately that doesn't have to be the case.

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