Blade Runner 2049 comes out today. It’s been 35 years since the original Ridley Scott film, so I thought I would take a look at other sequels that made us wait a long time (at least 10 years) for better or worse. We’ll start with the positive examples and examine why they were successful before doing the same for the terrible ones.
Toy Story 3 (11 years): We start with one of my favorite animated films of all time. To be completely honest, back in 2010, I was nervous about a third Toy Story film. But I was proven wrong and then some. The characters remain just as lovable, the story is updated to reflect a grown-up audience, and the prison escape scene is the best thing ever. There will be another huge gap between this film and the planned fourth installment, so let’s hope Pixar can work its magic again.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (32 years): True, there are more recent Star Wars films than Return of the Jedi, but this is its direct sequel. And what a sequel it was; J.J. Abrams set out to bring the fun back to a galaxy far, far away and he surpassed even our wildest expectations. For those of you who complain that the movie blatantly rips off A New Hope, there’s a clear reason for the familiarity. After the disastrous prequels, we need some sort of reassurance and comfort, so why not incorporate elements that made the original a classic? I have full confidence that, with The Last Jedi and Episode IX, the franchise will move away from those shortcomings and tell a more original story. But that wouldn’t be possible without Abrams reinvigorating the world of Star Wars after a long hiatus.
The Incredibles 2 (14 years) and Mary Poppins Returns (54 years): Yes, I’m including two long-awaited sequels that don’t even come out until 2018 because I’m so excited for both. What makes a movie worth revisiting are oftentimes the characters and these two properties excel in that regard. Whether it’s the same actors returning or a new one recast in an iconic role, the essence of who they portray are forever endearing. I’ve heard that The Incredibles 2 will focus primarily on Elastigirl (voiced by the amazing Holly Hunter) and takes place immediately after the first film, as it should. As for Mary Poppins Returns, could you ask for anyone better to take up the mantle from Julia Andrews than Emily Blunt? There is proven talent behind both projects and a respect for the original that far surpasses other attempts at a sequel. Could they both fall flat? Absolutely, but I have too much faith in them to believe such nonsense.
Jurassic World (14 years): I’m sure you’ve already heard me and various other people criticize this movie, so I don’t need to go too much into detail here. Directed by a guy who got an insanely lucky break (Colin Trevorrow), nostalgic to a fault, and horribly acted by a certain someone (*cough* Bryce Dallas Howard *cough*), Jurassic World feels more like a cash grab than an actual film. I have no doubt that Trevorrow loved and admired the original Jurassic Park, but he let his fandom cloud the ability to avoid clichés or create interesting characters. He almost made me believe there was something magical about this film, but there’s nothing that compares to the Spielberg masterpiece. With the announced sequel title “Fallen Kingdom,” it doesn’t look like they learned their lesson either.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (19 years): I finally watched Last Crusade a few months ago and loved every second of it. The father/son dynamic between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery is an exemplary model of that particular relationship. I’m sure most people who grew up with the original series were more excited to see another one, but how did that turn out? From casting “actor” Shia LaBeouf to spawning the phrase “nuke the fridge” to including aliens for some strange reason, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was doomed to fail.
Zoolander 2 (15 years): I also railed against this movie a long time ago; I would even go so far as to call it the stupidest movie I’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something since I usually stay away from the stupid genre). Any attempt at humor from Ben Stiller and company only succeeds in making the audience dumber. There was no reason for a sequel, but the power of Stiller and Owen Wilson was too much for Hollywood to resist. If anything, Zoolander 2 served as a glorified list of cameos (go to the Wikipedia page and see for yourself). A stupid movie doesn’t deserve to stay in the public consciousness let alone warrant another one, so do yourself a favor and avoid both movies if you can.
As you can see, the list of long-awaited sequels is rather up and down. There are some incredible highs, but also some ugly eyesores. What’s the secret to staying in the former category? First of all, I think you need a director who’s passionate about the original and knows where to take a sequel. With Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve (one of the best working today) has often spoken of his love for the first Blade Runner as well as his desire to tell the story himself. Usually, when a creative team assembles to revisit a previously successful movie, they just resort to adding more of the same (I’ve heard that’s the problem with Kingsman 2). But the best sequels know how to toe the line between nostalgia and freshness. Toy Story 3 and The Force Awakens updated their formula to accommodate a new audience (story progression for the former, casting diversity for the latter). Furthermore, the rules for sequels often align with the ones for remakes (check out my last rant for more), so it would be wise in the future for directors to look at the original and see if there’s anywhere to go that’s worth building a whole movie around. I’m excited to see Blade Runner 2049, even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the first one, for those very reasons.