Now that the summer movie season is winding down, we can look back on the the past few months and see what did well and what everyone liked. And for Hollywood that means seeing what’s worth holding onto. It’s impossible for the studios to look at either a box office hit or an audience favorite and not at least consider sequel potential.

Even without their big plans or their pre-written material, ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ would be certainties for second helpings. And even though ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ won’t lead to a direct sequel, the Batman property will continue on the big screen in some form.

The question is, then, whether or not we actually want these sequels. Will a follow up do service to those original ticket buyers or that growing fanbase? Or will they be too much on the side of a cash grab? This week we consider some potentially anticipated sequels to 2012 movies and break down why viewers might like to return to these properties in the future.

Seeking Answers?

An increasing trend for the movies lately is clearly inspired by the current success with serialized television shows. It was one thing for superhero or horror movies, obvious sorts for sequels, to conclude with cliffhanger teasers. But now there are more and more incomplete works being put in theaters. They’re theatrical “pilots,” basically, introducing under-revealed characters and dangling questions unanswered in the hopes we’ll be intrigued and come back for more.

The thing is, it might work. Even if we’re frustrated by ‘Prometheus,’ ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ or ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ we might be incapable of killing our curiosity about what happens next, who these people truly are and what burning questions will be laid to rest. Meanwhile we would have appreciated more ambiguity from ‘Total Recall,’ although not necessarily in order to continue with that world and its characters.

Speaking of which: remember when open endings were a lauded artistic choice? Things have changed. Now we hate on films like ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ for leaving unknown the preferred suitor of Snow, primarily because it’s seen as a set-up to a sequel that will satisfy that open question. But for whatever reason, the planned ‘Huntsman’ spin-off continuation may not actually close that door anyway.

And what of movies that blatantly mean to spawn series but don’t because they’re box office disappointments? ‘John Carter,’ for example, is even less fulfilling if it’s left to stand on its own with the open-ended epilogue. The same goes for ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ which many criticize as completely missing a third act. But then there’s ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,’ which, in spite of our overall disfavor, still disappointed us the most by tacking on a coda that nearly eliminates the possibility for a direct sequel.

Hooked on the Characters?

This used to be a less acceptable reason for producing sequels. Just think about all the popular classic movie characters who weren’t revisited. Even in the franchise-happy era we’ve been able to leave some alone, especially while it became understood that unnecessary follow ups only ruined fan favorites. Still, the internet has allowed us to campaign for reunions with beloved characters and also call for quicker returns on immediate pop culture icons as if we were petitioning for second-season pick-ups on TV series.

Many of us, for instance, will happily follow the hilarious chemistry of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill to another ‘21 Jump Street’ and would love to see Matthew McConaughey swing his baton in a second ‘Magic Mike’ movie. How about more Hushpuppy (‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’), Ted (‘Ted’), Norman (‘ParaNorman’), the guys from ‘Think Like a Man,’ the more likable version of Snow White, played by Lily Collins (‘Mirror, Mirror’), Larry, Curly and Moe (‘The Three Stooges’) or the super teens from ‘Chronicle’?

Of course, sometimes it’s not the characters we’re hooked on that would woo us back for more. For instance, we'd see another ‘Chronicle’ if it focused on another super-powered person or group. And, as has been suggested, a ‘Magic Mike’ spin-off with one of the less notable characters might be better than one that sticks with the title character or McConaughey’s scene stealer. Plus, you know there’s still a chance of the icons being watered down.

That reminds me of another question to ask at the end of this season: which characters and series are ready to be put to bed for good now? Third installments of ‘Men in Black’ and ‘Madagascar’ may have made bank, for instance, but did they deserve to? Can Tyler Perry retire Madea? Could the age of ‘Ice Age’ movies come to a close? And the ‘Paradise Lost’ documentaries reached a wonderful conclusion, so HBO shouldn’t be pushing for a fourth.

It’s true that we have a few more months of movies this year, including some blockbuster titles that may warrant follow ups, spin-offs, prequels and the like. And surprisingly, most of the major tentpoles this fall are already franchise installments. In fact, at ten titles there are nearly as many as there were over the summer. We’ll have to do a review at the end of the next four months, as well. For now, though, which 2012 films released so far are you anticipating sequels for?

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