Bridget Jones Bust: The Secret to Sequels

After 12 years, the much-loved British comedy, Bridget Jones’s Diary, returned with the third film of the series: Bridget Jones’s Baby. Starring Renée Zellweger, the movie rose to the top of the charts in 21 different countries, receiving a total of $30million from 38 territories – $11million of which was from the UK. In its home country, it delivered a remarkable debut of £8.11 million and was crowned the biggest opening ever for a film released in September. Despite international success and wide release, Bridget Jones’s Baby was poorly received in America. Opening at 3,000 cinemas nationwide, the film made just $8million, landing itself at only 3rd in the charts. It was topped by Clint Fastwood’s drama, Sully, starring Tom Hanks, which remained popular in its second weekend of release.

The third instalment of the series, directed by Sharon Maguire, sees the return of most of the original cast – with the exception of Hugh Grant, who refused to be involved – plus a few new faces. It follows once again, the hilariously relatable story of Bridget Jones who, now into her forties, faces the difficult challenge of pregnancy. Though similar, the 2001 and 2004 productions of the Bridget Jones series were both major blockbusters whilst their follow-up, released in the US on Friday 16th September, proved to be disappointing.

The Bridget Jones series certainly isn’t alone. The vast majority of sequels are less successful than  the originals they derive from. Take The Matrix Reloaded, The Hangover Part II, Grease 2, The Godfather III, all of which were the sequels to successful movies yet proved to be somewhat underwhelming. Why is this so commonly the case?

More often than not, the filming process of the sequel undergoes fatal acceleration; creators are keen to capitalise on the success of the original and therefore rush the release of the second before it’s too late. Their speed is, unfortunately, at the expense of quality, leaving the development of the series to fall short of expectations. As it turns out, the success of the first film often proves to be a stumbling block to success for those that follow. As proven in the industry, there’s naturally less of an incentive to ensure the film is high-quality because producers utilise the already-popular brand name.

Similarly, whilst it’s tempting to revisit the ideas that initially brought fame, just because something worked originally does not guarantee the same reaction the second time around. We see this too often in the film industry: a particularly captivating dynamic, setting, or plot recycled in its prequel, only to produce the same movie but without the novelty that carried the first. In fact, studies show that 6 out of 7 failed sequels feature an overabundance of references to the original film; conducing a frankly unentertaining watch.

Though not always the case, some of the most successful sequels are those capable of standing alone, or those that don’t rely too heavily on the audience’s knowledge of the originals. This makes sense; the film immediately becomes more accessible to a wider audience, thus making success more likely. With that in mind, it’s not all bad news for film producers. There are plenty of sequels that have excelled, learning from their less-than-perfect forerunners – but the number of successful sequels is admittedly vastly outweighed by the amount that fail. The Godfather II, Toy Story 2 and The Dark Night for example, all demonstrated success in their own right.

In the end, though poorly received in the US, Bridget Jones’s Baby did secure its target of $35million and another continuation seems more likely than ever. Director Sharon Maguire hinted at the possibility of further development upon recognising the numerous comical dimensions of Bridget, still unexplored. In an interview with the Radio Times Maguire commented, “she’s always reflected my life back at me at every stage. I’m not done yet so I don’t think Bridget is either.” Whilst the majority of incarnations are considered poor, some can be incredible. If you think about it, that is not untrue of films in general.

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