_Kennedy Horton is a sophomore at MU studying English. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life and social justice for The Maneater. _
I’ve been discussing with my friend lately about which installments of certain movie franchises are the best. She argues that “High School Musical 2” is better than “High School Musical,” that “The Cheetah Girls 2” is better than “The Cheetah Girls,” and that “Shrek 2” is better than “Shrek.” All I can ever do is shake my head and remain firm in my assessment that it is almost always the other way around.
I’m not saying that the further installments of those films aren’t good, but it doesn’t even feel like a fair assessment. It seems easier to make sequels because you can see what people liked or didn’t like and react accordingly. In one situation, you have a gauge of the audience’s reaction, in the other situation you have actual numbers of the audience’s reaction. So there’s much more to go off of in terms of how to make it better. Comparing the two can’t be done — not justly.
There’s also a soft spot for the beginnings of things. There’s this special fondness for the first domino that falls. Of course, HSM 2 gave us the groundbreaking song “Bet on It,” and “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” gave us the iconic “A Night to Remember.” Even with those stellar songs, how can they compete with “Stick to the Status Quo” or the revolutionary “Breaking Free”? It can’t be done. The first High School Musical started it all, and I can’t turn my back on that.
The same goes for the Cheetah Girls or Shrek. Sure, “Cheetah Girls 2” gave us the ever-relevant “Strut,” but it can’t challenge “Cheetah Sisters,” the franchise’s first reconciliation song. And honestly, I don’t even remember “Shrek 2” that well, but I know “Shrek” introduced a lot of to us “All Star.” These songs, along with life lessons such as “follow your heart” or “it’s what’s on the inside that counts,” what more could we ask for?
There’s also something to be said for growing up with these movies, because I’m making this argument primarily for movies that came out during my childhood. Obviously, I wasn’t the same age as the actors or even the characters they were portraying when these films were released, but out of all the chapters that came out, I was at my youngest at the release of the first movie. Because of that, I have the greatest nostalgia attached to the first films. I think it is commonly agreed among its fans that “Twilight” was not the best movie in the Twilight saga — that’s between “Eclipse” or “Breaking Dawn Part 2.” Trying to watch “Twilight” now is excruciating, but if I’m ever going to watch any of them, that’s always the one I want to watch. If I’m ever going to re-read any of the books, it’s always that one. It’s the genesis of the whole saga (which also happened to give us Paramore’s “Decode”). No matter what, it always hits me in the gut.
I could understand if the argument was that a last segment is better than the first. If someone said they thought HSM 3 was better than HSM or that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” was better than “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” I wouldn’t really have any qualms about that. The beginning and ending of a story are the most emotional parts for different reasons. The former is hopeful and the latter is heartbreaking — different emotions but the same weight.
But to say that the middle of a story is the best or outweighs the first or last is just inaccurate. Emotions are a big part of films, and that’s part of what makes any movie good. It can be judged categorically for plot, acting, writing, emotional toll and more. Holistically, however, all of these things should be taken into account.
Personally, emotions are just the biggest aspect. It’s shocking to me that people’s emotions could not be primarily tied up in the first piece of a creative puzzle. Sure, you fall in love with the big picture when a franchise is complete and you appreciate each piece separately, but when it comes to picking a favorite, I think you have to go with the initial one. It means the most because you never had anything like it before.