I’ll get this out of the way right up front: Gremlins 2 is one of the most underrated sequels of all time. It might not be as a good as the first film. While it’s bigger and funnier, it’s not necessarily better. But it’s pretty far away from being anything close to bad. Gremlins 2: The New Batch is a satire of the first that could only be made by the people who had gone through the process of creating the original.
Initially, Joe Dante didn’t want to do the sequel. Warner Bros. hadn’t expected it to be the huge success that it was, but once it came out they wanted a sequel right away. He had such a hard time making it that he couldn’t imagine jumping right back into it, so he declined and went on to do other things for about five years before they approached him again. They told him that they wanted a Gremlins film in theaters by the next year, and if he could do that then he could do whatever he wanted with it. That was what sold him.
In many ways, Gremlins 2 is even more of a Joe Dante movie than the first. It feels like a living cartoon. Hell, it even opens with a Loony Tunes short. There is so much of the director in this one that it’s fascinating, particularly when it comes down to his own deconstruction of the first feature.
It’s no surprise, then, that Gremlins 2 moves away from the small-town atmosphere to the corporate environment of New York City. Our hero Billy Peltzer has gone corporate as well, working in the most prestigious building in the city, Clamp Enterprises. In some ways, Gremlins 2 is actually about the making of the first movie. Everything that Billy does is supervised and micro-managed and eventually everything that can go wrong does.
The gremlins literally run the show this time around. They’re the stars, and they take control of the building, which is the most technological building ever created, and all hell naturally breaks loose.. At one point they even take control of the projection booth and stop the movie itself. It’s a very different setting and a very different kind of story, but it has a keen focus on the original that it never loses. What critics thought of Gremlins, what audiences thought of it, the experience of making it, all of that comes into play. None of it is forgotten.
This is a smart move by a smart filmmaker and slightly anarchic at the same time. He makes full use of the fact that they let him do whatever he wanted to with this one. The one thing Dante thought was the most absurd about the original production is the number one thing the sequel focuses on. There’s, essentially, every flavor of gremlin imaginable this time around. There’s a brainy one, a spider one, a bat one, a female one and so on. To quote the company’s CEO Daniel Clamp, “They come in electric too?!”
Yet everything about Gremlins 2 is in good fun. It doesn’t vilify anybody. Even Clamp, who could easily be a stand-in for the prototypical power-hungry producer is depicted to be a decent person who actually does everything he can to help once things start going wrong. But moments like Billy interrupting Kate as she’s about to give another speech like the first film—and one that’s even more out of left field—are still evidence of good-natured self satire.
The amount of fun that the filmmakers have poking fun at themselves is refreshing to see. It’s a very rare thing in the industry, and those who are willing to do it are all the more impressive for it. Everything about the first one is amplified here. The gremlins are even crazier, the tone is more absurd, Gizmo is even cuter. And all of it works. This has no intention of topping Gremlins, this is a study on Gremlins as told through a chorus of cartoon sound effects.