On 15 June there was an announcement that I didn't think, or rather had hoped, I would ever hear again: DreamWorks Animation are planning to release a fifth Shrek movie. Yet, here we are, and not only have the studio confirmed another movie is on the way, but they also want to make more follow-up films after it. Safe to say, I'm not too keen on the idea.
I say this not because I dislike the Shrek franchise. Far from it. When I was younger, the first two instalments were up there with my favourite films and I watched them tirelessly. I'm also not opposed to sequels in general – I actually thought Shrek 2 trumped the first film. But let's face it, Shrek The Third and Shrek Forever After were not as inspired in plot as they were in their titles.
When it was released in 2001, Shrek was a novel idea, mixing fairy tales together to create a unique story about, on the surface at least, the ogre getting the girl. If you really want to go into it though, it was pretty deep, with Shrek not only having to accept who he is and learning to open up to the idea of friends and romance, but also breaking free from expectations. Princess Fiona does the same at the end when she chooses to be with Shrek rather than dream of Prince Charming, remaining an ogre herself as well.
The second film was a little more light-hearted, presenting themes such as meeting your in-laws for the first time and maintaining that spark once the 'happily ever after' buzz fades away. But where it ever-so-slightly lacked in message, it made sure it made up for it with heaps of action and fun – and a wonderfully ingenious villain in the Fairy Godmother.
But it wasn't until Shrek The Third was released in 2007 that I truly appreciated how good the previous two were. The third instalment was silly and solely aimed at children, unlike the earlier ones that were full of jokes anyone of any age were bound to appreciate. It felt a little stale, a little too familiar and a little too overblown and garish. Having an excitable Justin Timberlake voice a young King Arthur is just one way to prove that this movie was out to irritate.
One scene from the forgettable film stands out in my memory – a chorus of frogs dramatically singing Live And Let Die – but even that wasn't enough to keep me entertained for long. It was also the first movie in the series not to have an out-and-out villain and that seemed to be a mistake. Luckily, Shrek Forever After did have a villain, Rumpelstiltskin, making the film a slight improvement on #3. But still it remained forgettable, missing the wit and charm that came way before it.
Consistency in both style and quality have seemed to be a real issue with the Shrek films, arguably down to the fact that the directors haven't stayed the same throughout. Andrew Adamson co-helmed both the first and the second but departed before Shrek The Third was made, and his presence is sorely missed in the films that followed. It's easy to see why this could be the reason for the decline, given that Kung Fu Panda, which has managed to maintain its 'awesomeness' throughout the whole trilogy, has had Jennifer Yuh Nelson in charge of every instalment.
From a financial point of view, it's easy to see why DreamWorks are keen to revisit the grumpy green hero voiced by Mike Myers. Together, the films have made over $3bn worldwide at the box-office and there's no denying that bums will be in seats given the nostalgia surrounding the characters. If mine just so happens to be in one however, we hope they've upped their story game – and managed to conjure up a really dastardly villain too.
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