In the contemporary era of media convergence, serialized storytelling is becoming a mainstay across media and genres. Serial narratives supposedly facilitate spreading franchises out across multiple platforms. The media franchise demands long-format storytelling that can be spun off in multiple iterations. The rise of sequels is a much larger issue than a bunch of directors trying to make lots of money or audiences having unadventurous tastes–sequel/serial franchises are a central business model in the media industry today, supported and encouraged by the structure of conglomeration and horizontal integration.
The unjustly maligned sequel is the topic of a virtual roundtable at the Bordwell-Thompson blog in which I am a participant along with other students and alumni of the film studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We answer such questions as "Are all sequels in the arts automatically second-rate?" and "Do sequels automatically equal predictability?" and "Are sequels part of a larger trend toward serial narrative?" In short, no, no, and yes, but please do click over and read what we have to say. Here's a portion of my contribution.