Over the next five years we are going to witness a new era in Hollywood and movie-making – “The Belated Sequel.” Not a reboot, like Spiderman or Batman, not a prequel, like Prometheus, but a straight sequel, carrying on the story that was started in the first movie (or few movies.) Hollywood has always loved a sequel and year after year will be filled with them, but the next five years will see sequels to films that were originally made over ten years ago.
Off the top of my head I know that sequels are in development for Jurassic Park, Bill and Ted, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Anchorman and Trainspotting. All these films are classics, original movies, great ideas and in some cases have already had sequels that have either exceeded the original or told a weaker but still watchable story. All these films were around at least ten years ago and this is their major fault and why any sequel made will fail.
We have already had some belated sequels in recent memory that may well have tainted the memory of the original series. The most famous is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls. I couldn’t have been more excited about this movie when it was announced and followed every development, tried to discover every detail and got in line with everyone else when it was finally released. Like everyone else, I was hugely disappointed.
What I’ve realised now is that this was inevitable. Indiana Jones is an incredible film series, very close to a perfect trilogy. They are exciting, action-packed and funny. Harrison Ford is a great hero, an old-fashioned action star and a very cool character. The longer the time went by between the third movie in the installment and the belated fourth, the legacy and expectation of the originals was only going to increase. There was nothing at all Spielberg or Lucas could have done to make Indiana Jones a worthy sequel because we have such high expectations. It was always going to be a disappointment, with or without a Nuke and a Fridge!
It also doesn’t help that the man in the middle of the action is now collecting his pension and claiming free bus travel. Harrison Ford was a realistic, believable action hero and while he is very good and proves he can still do a lot of the action sequences that made him famous, it still feels wrong seeing the character we know as young, fit and relatively athletic, panting and creaking his way through a whip-swing.
The third issue isn’t just relevant to belated sequels but does apply more-so to them than the usual franchise movies. Do we really need a new movie in the series? Who is actually asking for the new film, wondering what is happening to our aging characters? I love the idea of a new movie in a lot of the series I mentioned before but I could always do without a new one, particularly if the original is almost twenty years old!
Unfortunately, all of the films I mentioned at the beginning of the post suffer from at least one of the issues I’ve raised. I’m not sure I actually want to see an old Dan Aykroyd busting ghosts and I certainly don’t want to see him pass the torch to anyone new. Jurassic Park is an incredible film but do we really need another sequel to a franchise that already produces films which always feel like copies of the original? Star Wars has already been down the belated movies route and it didn’t end well, what can Disney actually do that Lucas couldn’t? Trainspotting and Anchorman will suffer from the fact that the originals are so good, there is no way that a sequel will ever match up, even though I’m desperate for Anchorman to be brilliant. As for Bill and Ted, that sort of speaks for itself…
There is one film that bucks this trend and manages to beat the rule. Toy Story is the perfect trilogy. Every sequel is as good as or better than the one before it and it has a huge gap, ten years in one case, between movies. The difference is that the blueprints are already being planned for the sequels as the last one is finishing. It’s the process that delays it and because its animated, we don’t have to worry about an aging Tom Hanks trying to fit into cowboy boots or Tim Allen trying to fly.
Other than Pixar’s classic, no other movie beats the rule. No sequel that is made and released more than five years before the last is actually any good. It will never live up to the original because our expectations are too high, the actors are too old or the film is a money-making forced sequel in the first place.
Overall, if a sequel is belated, which I think is anything more than five years, it will never be as good as we all want it to be. Unfortunately, that spells disaster for Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters, Anchorman, Trainspotting and (shockingly) Bill and Ted! Our expectations are too high, the actors are too old or the sequel is pointless in the first place. It doesn’t mean I won’t be first in line to see all these movies when they are finally released though.