Though trying to keep in the habit of writing a review after every movie I watch, I realised I hadn’t written anything on Clerks (1994) last week; so, to make up for it, I decided to write a duo-review on the original and it’s sequel.
For those who’ve never seen either of these, they centre around two store clerks, Dante and Randal, showcasing all the mischief Randal forces his friend to endure as Dante tries to pick up the pieces after him.
If you think these characteristics sounds familiar, that’s because they are. Often film and television will star 3 main characters who follow the trope of the outgoing “go-getter”, the nervous one who’s roped into everything, and the third wheel who is typically the balance between the other two; a classic example being Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
So, what are the differences between the original, Kevin Smith’s first feature film, and the sequel that came 12 years later? Well, as I said, the original was Smith’s first film, which he made at the age of 24. However, he didn’t have much money back then – definitely not close to the regular amount spent on creating a movie – even for its time; to help with this, each of the actors in the original were friends of his that either were already actors, or simply wanted to help their buddy out. This was also the reason for the feature being shot on black and white film, rather than colour, as he couldn’t afford colour film. By the time he made Clerks 2 (2006), though, he’d already established himself as a film maker, gaining a large fanbase, as well as praise from many first-time viewers of his films. Because of this, Smith (obviously) had more money to put towards each of his films, this being no exception.
So, the second is better because more money and experience was put into it, right? Well, it depends how you look at it, really. From a production standpoint, Clerks 2 was a better movie – having more trained actors, a bigger budget which could be used towards different locations, creating their own fake fast food company (including the decorating of the building and uniforms for the characters), and better filming and audio equipment. If you compare this to the original, where Kevin Smith had to sell his old comic books just to raise enough money to fund the feature, you can guess what the difference in quality is like. That’s not meant as a slander against Smith’s first film – considering how little they had to work with, he did an amazing job. However, if you look at it from the perspective of a film maker, I’d say you could easily argue that Clerks was better; not only is it well scripted, shot, and edited considering the lack of funding and experience Smith had at the time, but it’s also fun for the audience as well as everyone involved in the making. While the actors obviously stay in character when on screen, they generally give a vibe that they’re enjoying themselves, which I find adds to the enjoyment of viewing it.
As far as scripts go, I’d say it’s down to each viewer to say which they prefer, because both are great in different ways, so you simply can’t boil it down to “which is better”. You could apply the same to both films in general, though. I wouldn’t say either is better than the other, but it’s simply down to each viewer’s opinion. After my first time watching them both, I preferred the second of the two, but these days I generally enjoy the first, though still highly enjoying the second. My reason for preferring Clerks is down to two main factors: it continuously gets the same amount of laughs from me each time I watch it, and I prefer the feeling of it, as Clerks 2 feels a little too Hollywood-inspired. For some, they may prefer that feeling about the sequel, but I personally prefer my indie movies to feel unscathed by Hollywood’s standards.
Both are definitely worth checking out, without a doubt! I don’t think any of Smith’s films in the View Askiewniverse could be considered ‘bad’ movies in any way, so, really, you should check them all out.
If you liked this review or either of the films, go ahead and check out my review on Kevin Smith’s first horror movie, Tusk.