Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sorta-sequels:Expanding the Material.

Both the television and movie industries are well-known for adapting various types of source material and eventually re-adapting them - in essence rebooting them - to fit the sensibilities of newer generations. There is such a thing as 'headcanon', wherein a fan takes what they can from a franchise's various universes and reconstructs them to better fit their own stakes in the adventures of their favorite characters.

A lot of times this has been used to remove certain elements from a series to make it more palatable, such as the Machete Order, which rearranges Star Wars movies and removes parts, or the acceptance of the removal of Superman III and IV from the original saga and replacing it with Superman Returns at the suggestion of the studios. Some even go as far as chucking X-men The Last Stand and X-men Origins:Wolverine entirely from the X-men saga despite creator insistence on piecing everything together. This also happens in the world of Super Sentai (or Japanese Power Rangers, if you will) where despite all efforts by Toei to create a larger universe, fans insist on splitting each team into their own little worlds.

I, on the other hand, have usually been all for the addition of new material in order to expand my viewing experience. Here are some franchises that I've come to realize work together fantastically well.

Justice League Unlimited 

Bruce Timm's legendary animated universe, which began with Batman The Animated Series and expanded onto other series. All the expanded material eventually converged into the groundbreaking animated series Justice League. Justice League then expanded into the all-out fan favorite Justice League Unlimited.

But there are a few unexplained things in between. Justice League ends with the betrayal of Hawkgirl and the destruction of the Watchtower. Justice League Unlimited shows a bigger watchtower with a rotating leadership and expanded roster of close to 80 individuals.

The direct-to-video hit Justice League Crisis on Two Earths, while marketed as a self-contained story, began life as a JLU film. The script is retained and  introduces new elements found in JLU as well as explains the additional roster as an idea borrowed from a world-jumping villain team. It also sidelines John Stewart who was injured and ringless by end of JL and replaces him with Hal Jordan, as well as features repairs on the Watchtower and introducing the invisible jet.

Viewing order:
- Justice League
- Justice League Crisis on Two Earths
- Justice League Unlimited

Ju-On and The Grudge

What the Ring did not do and what Ju-On excelled in is to completely transplant the original Japanese characters from Ju-On and involve them in a Western setting. The fun bit is, if you ignore the information on paper in the police desks and newspapers, which if you don't know Japanese, you won't even be able to read, the entire franchise, including the American versions, works as a cohesive whole.

In the TV movies, we learn of Kayako's obsession with her son's school teacher. This causes her husband to go crazy and murder the family, including the cat. This develops a rage in Kayako that engulfs the house and everyone who enters. This 'grudge' spills over to the Japanese theatrical releases, more as a legend that affects people who come into contact with the house.

If you went ahead and watched the American versions though, you'd then learn that Kayako was also obsessed with another man- her American college professor. This could lead one to wonder - just what else is in that diary of hers? Through the American version, we see Kayako's curse eventually make its way to San Francisco where it takes even more people with it.

Viewing order:
- Ju-On (V-Cinema) 1 and 2
- Ju-On The Grudge (Theatrical) 1 and 2
- The Grudge 1, 2 and 3

Black Butler

Black Butler fans will caution you to watch the film as a standalone piece, as it is quite enjoyable by itself and not bogged down by the original version's continuity. The reason for this is, to make the film plausible enough in a Japanese setting, the character of Sebastian is supplanted into the future. All the characters are changed, with the lead now a girl masquerading as the male master of the house. Despite that, many scenes mirror the first few episodes.

However, the creators of the film do enough to actually integrate the theatrical version into the universe of the original. It is revealed that the Genpo family of the theatrical film are actually descendants of the Phantomfive family of the manga/anime and that Sebastian had already made contact with previous masters of the house. Lin, the housemaid is descendant of Mae Rine and is revealed to be part of a long-standing familial contract to protect the masters of the house. many other tidbits in the film connect both iterations of the franchise.

Viewing order
- Black Butler (anime)
- Black Butler (movie)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Before being rebooted into Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a fresh start for the franchise, all the 'live' and 'theatrical' versions of the films seemed to follow a cohesive thread.

The Henson Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as seen in the first and second movies, which are later adapted into a third film later made it onto TV by way of Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. This iteration 'clarified' that the brothers were not true brothers by blood. However, the TV version is generally disregarded now as part of canon as many elements in it clashed with both the creators and the fanbase. Collateral damage is Venus de Milo, a female turtle, who after the series ended was never seen or heard from again.

However, in 2009 a new movie was released. The story is set far enough into the future of the Turtles that it may take on the guise of a sequel to any of the previous iterations (except Next Mutation). In the new version, the brothers are actual brothers again, and lead different lives before coming back together for an entirely new adventure. The movie functions as a glimpse into the future of the Turtles and may be viewed as a sequel to the original films. Some fans also suggest that it may be a universal sequel that can even connect to any of the three animated TV series.

Special Mention: The Hulk

The Hulk is now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by way of The Incredible Hulk. However, if you want an expanded experience, including Ang Lee's The Hulk may give you better perspective on the character. The only true hindrances to considering them as part of a cohesive storyline are the few minutes of origin scenes presented in both films. However, the progression from Ang Lee's Hulk to The Incredible Hulk is an example of great character development, and the second film is the natural consequence of the first. Personally, while not as seamless as the rest of the mentions here, every time I do a Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon leading into The Avengers, I make sure to include Ang Lee's Hulk.

What do you guys think? Any movies/shows that you watch together even if they may not be meant for that?

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