When a sequel is independent of the previous

I have had to argue with a few friends on the flexibility of sequel both as a literature and film terminology. Although many look at the word in its grammatical origin and hold it with such rigidity, I do understand that there is a place in the English dictionary for implied and applied meanings. More so, with literary creativity comes a lot of inventions that may differ slightly with an original term or find a nomenclature, slang, or compound words that not only gives room for new meanings to thrive but also brings about grammatical independence to unusual expressions.

A colleague wanted to see the preceding parts of Funke Akindele’s Jenifa and I thought that irrespective of the link between Jenifa (Parts 1 & 2) film and The Return of Jenifa TROJ ( a sequel), there is need to treat TROJ with some level of independence. My argument portends that wherein the former is one film in two halves, the latter is complete in itself. In other words, whereby both situations express a continuum from the previous, a film earmarked in Parts 1&2 is like conjoined twins, while a sequel could be seen merely as an identical twin.

I figure that there is a difference between a movie in parts and a sequel. Whereby a movie in parts is the direct follow-up or prelude to the other, a sequel is an independent story that merely derives its origin from the first or simply shares a subject matter with the previous. Take for instance; you are watching a movie, and just before a male character strikes his wife or vice versa, the picture freezes, followed by an inscription that reads: “Watch Out for Part 2” or words like: “The Movie Has Just Begun”. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I have just seen half of a movie. Obviously, this is just the anti climax, and the second half should just take off from there, with the knife either coming down on the victim or a change of motive by the assailant. But a sequel (a possessive term for an independent part film) is different in that, although it furthers a storyline, it is at creative liberty to employ twists that make it independent of the previous. It can even change the lead cast without apologies to creative license. The most important thing in a sequel is its thematic exploration, setting and characterisation, and not necessarily the cast or sequence. Here, the story can take a very different dimension plying on the same subject matter. This, to my mind, is the creative license that differentiates a sequel from a film in parts.

And a sequel they say is complete in itself, even though it continues the narrative of a preceding work.

My friend thought this sounded like a Course 101 lecture on movie review or production. He fired back with another definition: ‘A movie sequel is a narrative that continues a story or expands upon issues presented in some previous work’. He frowned at me for wanting him to ignore this standard definition because of TROJ. But I think this is a case study of perception. While I am trying to let us see the word sequel in this contest as a ‘term’, my friend is bent on treating it as a ‘word’ with one meaning and without the need for contextual application.

It becomes even clearer to me that perception is one area that people differ in life and it’s why one editorial judgement will continue to be different from the others even when they are treating the same issue of interest.

But do we agree that a sequel is meant to stand on its own? My friends couldn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ throughout the argument. Instead, I hear words like: “Victor, sequel means continuation, even for those of us wey no go school….. “Oga, the word sequel in itself means that it is the continuation of something. It can end a narrative or lead to production of series!”

Did I say anything to the contrary? No! I bought their point; the common point. But none bothered to see things from a broader perspective. None wanted to agree that creativity has shifted the goal post of traditional word game. None wanted to second the fact that a sequel (a possessive term for an independent part-film) must never remain colonised by the previous.

A movie sequel may reference the previous, but should not be seen as an outright continuation. If a work of art could stand on its own, this merely suggests that it is a sequel because it has an origin somewhere. This does not rob it of its independence or relative sovereignty.

Hollywood for example does not always follow its part themes religiously. See the movie Fast and Furious 1 &2; Tokyo Drift; and Fast Five. What about Basic Instinct? There are two versions of the same film. The second is a sequel because it expands on the issue in the first film, and even took it through a new dimension. I can go on and on. Transformers is about one of the films in this sequel analogy that readily comes to my mind as a movie that retains all the cast. Creativity is what it is because it is flexible and innovative. A traditional word cannot dictate the pace forever, instead that word will give way to new meanings. Sequel, I stand to be corrected has given way to new ‘terms’.

But I chose to rest my case when one of my friends said on a final note: “Still ‘sequel’ is a continuum, it’s an English word and has been defined in the dictionary and the last time I checked the meaning had not changed. No one says a sequel can not stand alone but it must continue a previous narrative. If producers of the films you mentioned decided to produce stand alone ‘sequels’, it’s their choice and style.”

But that was not all. Another friend came in here and said: “A small dictionary I have here says that sequel is ‘that which follows: followers, successors, consequences, upshot: a resumption of a story already complete in itself.”

I like the last part of that definition: “a resumption of a story already complete in itself,” with that, I thought my day was made. What do you think?

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