Looking Forward to the Sequel to the Movie That You Hate

By  · Published on November 10th, 2015


Pixar has released the first teaser trailer for Finding Dory, a sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo. That movie was, briefly, the highest-grossing animated feature of all time, without even being available in 3D (it would later be re-released in the format in 2012), and went on to win the Oscar for that category. Finding Nemo also was so popular that it ironically increased the market for clownfish as pets (leading to serious environmental problems), and it became the best-selling DVD of all time – a record that still stands. Everyone loves it.

Except me.

My dislike of the movie, as I recall, stemmed completely from my annoyance with the vocal performance of Ellen DeGeneres. I’ve always been against voice work in animated films being so over the top and being so recognizable as major celebrities clearly cast for their familiarity, which is distracting. DeGeneres in Finding Nemo, like Robin Williams in Aladdin, is guilty of both. I did enjoy much of the movie, but anytime DeGeneres spoke as Dory, I was completely taken out of the experience.

So, it’s a strange turn of events that I found myself sort of amused and charmed by DeGeneres’s voice in the new teaser. Have I changed as a person? Is it because I’m older and more forgiving? Because I’m a father? And have seen much worse? Have I gotten over being annoyed with something so trivial? Am I just a big softy? Or, is it DeGeneres who has changed? Is her comedic vocal delivery better? Is she more subdued? It’s difficult to remember how my attitude differed, if it did, 12 years ago, so I’m not sure if it’s more me or her.

Regardless, I’m surprisingly hooked. I’m anxious to see where exactly Pixar and writer/director Andrew Stanton take us this time, in terms of ideas more than setting (we already know the characters are headed for Northern California, where Dory’s family is) and just how they deal with the captivity issue, after the documentary Blackfish led to some rewrites to reflect sensitivity on the matter. Usually an unnecessary sequel that is sure to repeat the original a lot will still appeal to me if I at least love the characters. This is obviously not that, but I’m curious enough anyway.

The idea of looking forward to a sequel to a movie I don’t like is appropriate the week after Spectre disappointed me so badly that I’m not sure yet if I want another James Bond movie. Or at least another one starring Daniel Craig. Of course, we all got plenty excited for Skyfall after Quantum of Solace (unlike other writers here at FSR, I’m not a fan of that one), and that worked out okay. In fact, the 007 franchise has been full of disappointments followed by redeeming installments or re-castings. So has the Star Trek franchise.

One of the most anticipated movies of next year is also a follow-up to a movie that a lot of people hate. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will be directed by the same director as Man of Steel and co-written by one of its writers and star many of the same actors with a plot directly resulting from the effects of the plot of the 2013 superhero blockbuster. Fans and filmmakers alike have tried to deny that one is a sequel to the other, but it basically is. The trailer for Batman v Superman even includes the climactic sequence from Man of Steel, albeit from a new perspective, as if to promise that this new movie will similarly have a new perspective.

I’m all for the idea of a sequel redeeming a franchise from a predecessor’s wrongdoings. We’ve seen a number of series pick themselves back up after a crummy number two, and occasionally, such as with the X-Men movies (including Wolverine spinoffs) after a crummy number one. And a crummy number three. Ongoing franchises that have only gotten better with age include Fast and the Furious and Mission: Impossible. And of course we’re all really looking forward to J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens washing away the stink of the prequels. We’re also looking forward to Star Trek Beyond washing away the stink of Abrams’s Star Trek Into Darkness.

Fox is apparently going to make an effort to do even better than they’ve done with their X-Men redemptions by producing a sequel to this year’s dismal Fantastic Four, and I’m optimistic that they can indeed do something good with the actors they have and the right creative team behind it. I’m also hopeful that Jurassic World 2 (aka Jurassic Park 5) will be better, even though the box office success of Jurassic World (aka Jurassic Park 4) indicates no suits will think it needs to be. Actually, they’d probably rather not stray at all from the quality of this year’s “original.”

Can anything be salvaged and turned around? I think so. I’d bet even a sequel to Jem and the Holograms (which embarrassingly has a sequel hook) could be a huge improvement. And returning to the works of the director of Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, I think Stanton’s John Carter is a mess that I never wish to re-watch but its final moments contain a sudden boost in its level of adventure and energy where I honestly left the theater excited and willing to give the property another shot in the form of much-improved sequel, were anyone willing to make such a gamble. Alas, it performed about as bad as Finding Nemo did well, so that will never happen.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.