Before you jump to the comments to immediately express outrage like, "You're insane! Is that a cynical insult? Are you serious? What about Godfather Part II? Empire Strikes Back? Terminator 2: Judgment Day?" calm down. Hold on. Let me explain that headline, which could absolutely read as the clickbait I so loathe.
The cult-film Wet Hot American Summer was not only the first starring vehicle for some of the most successful present day actors and comedians, it was also a commentary on the tropes of camp films. The whole sequence where Michael Showalter's Coop rallies Camp Firewood for their big softball game against their rival across the lake only for it to end with everyone agreeing that it's a trite concept that's been played out in too many other films was indicative of the tone and approach the film took. It's only fitting that its eight-episode "sequel" currently on Netflix, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, took that tone and cranked it to 11.
It occurred to me this morning on my (always) lengthy drive into work that the latest installment of Wet Hot American Summer isn't just another mirror on the camp film, it's also a mirror on the prequel as a whole.
Looking back at the series, without delving too much into spoilers, the new mini-series not only explores origin stories, it explores EVERY origin story. Even things that you didn't think had or needed an origin story like the "Higher and Higher" song used in the original film. The radio broadcast? Here's the origin story for it. Beth becoming the camp director? Here's the origin story for that. Christopher Meloni's Gene having a torrid love-affair with a fridge? Yup, here's the origins of that. By the eighth episode of the series, you realize that it's not a storytelling device, it's a comedic device that's poking fun at a prequel's need to detail the origin stories of anything and everything, leaving nothing to mystery. Much like the Star Wars prequels where we get the origins for anything and everything like C-3PO (wait, Anakin Skywalker built him from scratch? Huh?), Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp follows the same pattern by giving us backstory to many things that we didn't even think needed a backstory.
And that's where the comment about Gremlins 2: The New Batch comes into play.
The oft-maligned sequel to Joe Dante's dark-humor Christmas film usually gets a bad wrap. So many of the critiques of the film is that it "just rehashes everything from the first movie" and is way too "silly." Those criticisms aren't without merit, both of those statements are true but the film is purposefully a commentary on sequels, especially those in the late-1980s. The movie takes the exact same premise, rehashes it on a larger scale in a different environment (Gremlins: In Space!) and pokes fun at the tropes that sequels often fall into that everything has to be bigger, better, heightened, and the same beats from the first film have to be hit no matter the cost or the placement in the second film. Phoebe Cates reiterates her hatred of certain holiday because of a bad memory associated with it. Gizmo sees a television broadcast of a larger than life hero and chooses to imitate it to save the day at the end of the film. All the while, this very pointed commentary on what sequels have to be and achieve continues on a runaway train.
Taking that same logic, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is to prequels as Gremlins 2: The New Batch was the sequels. A very biting satire on the formula that I think I'll only appreciate more and more with follow-up viewings.