So the second installment of “The Hunger Games” released in the US to an unsurprisingly huge amount, and I really hope you appreciate how I didn’t make a bad “catching fire” pun. I wrestled with it… for hours. But I digress. The point is “The Hunger Games” has successfully landed it’s darker, grittier, some-other-third-buzz-word sequel.
So in the spirit of that, I decided to have my own hunger games, pitting the best darker sequels against each other – who’s the victor? Why… you CHOOZE it! I know, I’m ashamed.
DARK KNIGHT (2008, Nolan)
Let’s start with the movie that made the “dark sequel” the go-to current formula, and for good reason. With TDK, Nolan took a Gotham he established in “Batman Begins” (which was already rougher than what movie-goers had seen thus far) and turned it on its head with the inclusion of Batman’s archnemesis… Maggie Gyllenhaal… I mean, the Joker. Nolan puts Batman through the moral wringer and makes us watch. Pretty damn dark.
ALIENS (1986, Cameron)
Here’s where I might get flack. Is “Aliens” really any darker than “Alien,” an already very dark film? Probably not. Is it any more twisted or graphic? No… certainly not if you count the subtext of sexual violence and male fear of the female sexual experience in “Alien.” Yeah, didn’t notice that did you? Well, I’m sick… and I did. But what Cameron does do with “Aliens,” is he turned it completely on its ear. It put Ripley, our heroine, in much deeper water with higher stakes. Beside, no sequel conversation, dark or otherwise, is complete without “Aliens.”
EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980, Kershner)
Considering “Star Wars” was the franchise that started the toy-ificiation of movies, it’s hard to believe how dark and depressing “Empire” is. Granted, it was going to be darker – many voices, including Harrison Ford, called for Han Solo’s death – but Lucas suspected “Dead Han Solo” toys wouldn’t sell. That said, it’s still a great and gut-wrenching follow-up… is there anything worse than hearing your sworn enemy is your father? Gasp! Maybe Donald Sutherland is Katniss’ father!? Yeah, probably not.