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In 2008, I was spending the summer with my mom in Northern Michigan and that’s when I got to watch Mamma Mia and whereas the performances weren’t THAT strong (Meryl isn’t the best singer) it was a great movie and remained one of my favorites for years and will always bring back great movies.
Now cue to 2018 it’s 10 years later and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is back! Normally I’m all for sequels as long as they realize they carry continuity well and when the Mammy Mia 2 trailer dropped in late 2017 my worst fears were proven as I guessed, and rightfully so, that Donna Sheridan was dead. Now it’s one thing to kill off a character, but to kill off one that was so enigmatic to the first seemed like a grave error.
It was an error a pretty annoying one, but it was hardly the only sin of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. You see Mamma Mia set certain groundwork which you’d hope that writer and director Ol Parker would have paid attention to, but it’s almost like he never saw the first one.
Sin 1: Harry Headbanger! We all know Harry had a history of being a bad boy when he met Donna in Paris, but in the Here We Go Again all we see is that Harry is already a banker and quite boring, he does have quite a good moment with “Waterloo”, but it hardly lives up the hype the first movie gave us.
Sin 2 Gives us Bill, who was actually pretty spot on character-wise, though we never saw his signature knee tattoos. The other issue you may remember is Bill actually had a Great Aunt who lived on the main island on Greece and you’d think we would have seen her or heard of her, but we didn’t and instead of renting a boat with Donna to go to Kalokairi he actually owns his own and is about to embark on a boat race.
Sin 3 we have Sam, and he’s as handsome as we’d expect and had maybe the most accurate of the storylines, but he didn’t really personify the hippy version that Donna claimed he was in the original Mamma Mia.
Sin 4 her mom! It’s pretty clear Donna’s mom is supposed to be dead, no matter what people say there is a part in Mamma Mia where Donna says “Someone up there has it in for me. I bet it’s my mother.” this should give you a clue she’s dead, DEAD, but no it seems Ol Parker would do anything to get Cher to play the “Grandmother” in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and honestly we can accept that, but beyond that man is it that hard to reference the first movie while writing?
Now a week after the movie we find this little tidbit about how this storyline came to be:
“If it had worked out that Meryl was going to be the lead for the whole thing, then they would have waited for a time when Meryl could be the lead for the whole thing,” he told Vulture.
If you want someone to really blame though it perhaps lands on producer Richard Curtis whom when he approached Parker to write the sequel he explained that he already had a few ideas about what should happen. It was his daughter, Scarlett, who suggested it should be the ABBA-version of the Godfather II, meaning it would explore the backstory of Donna in a prequel type set-up. And why else would we need to explore Donna’s past again unless… she had tragically and unexpectedly passed away ?!
Scarlett no offense, but we didn’t need your input in this. Also, it’s Mamma Mia, not the Godfather. We would have loved a straight prequel that would have explored more of Lily James adventures with the Dynamos or her mother and her journey with a young Bill, Harry, and Sam. There was more than enough material there. As well this could have set up the 3rd movie with Donna alive in which Sophie is pregnant and separated from Sky for the time being, it could have been a grandmother and daughter story where Sophie connects with her mom while finding her love for Sky again, but instead Ol Parker took the simple way out and killed Donna and no matter how great the song numbers were, no matter how much we love Julie Walters and Christine Baranski comedic moments or how handsome Stellan, Cooper, Pierce, and Collin look it’s still not enough to take the bad taste of the continuity out of it for us.
Now we could turn this into a feminist diatribe about how Ol Parker took over a movie that was originally directed and written by a woman based off an amazing Musical, but that wouldn’t solve anything good storytelling doesn’t depend on gender and movies like this normally have people who can edit and read the story, but did no one take one minute to watch the original film and think, “hmm maybe we should try to match some of the backstories explained in the first movie?”. That’s all as a fan I would have asked for, just some thoughtfulness instead of an apparent money grab.
Now don’t get us wrong this movie will still make a ton of money it’s already cleared the 34.4 million on opening weekend alone and the soundtrack is amazing and Lily James is gorgeous and has an amazing voice while playing a young Donna, which is part of the reason I would have liked an entire prequel movie that wouldn’t have stolen anything from the original. Overall if you go see it you’ll love the music, but if you are a true fan you’ll probably leave feeling a bit empty and confused at the end and that’s alright because part of us wonders if Universal will go for around 3 and if they do it could be their opportunity to fix a few issues or even bring Donna back (we know it would be cheesy), but it could be done if she was in a freak accident and got lost at sea and they assumed she died, but really she’s off having an adventure with no recollection of the events that happened prior as long as it didn’t take itself too seriously it could make for some great fun like the original, but who knows what they’re smoking over at Universal these days.
With all that said what did you think of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again? Were you mad Donna died? Would you like to see the 3rd movie? And if so what plot would you like to see played out?