Delayed Movie Sequels

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 5th October 2010.

The recent cinematic release of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps comes twenty three years after the release of the original iconic eighties movie, which spawned the much misquoted line, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Directed again by Oliver Stone, with a returning Michael Douglas as greedy corporate raider Gordon Gekko, the film is set on the brink of the global financial crisis.

Whilst a plotline placing a recently released from jail Gekko in today’s financial climate is appealing, one has to wonder whether there is actually a demand for a follow-up movie so long after the original. Of course, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is only one of many much delayed sequels, all with mixed fortunes financially and critically.

The Blues Brothers 2000 dropped on audiences in 2000, eighteen years after the original. With director John Landis back at the helm, and Dan Aykroyd reprising Elwood Blues, the movie was hamstrung by the fact that the other Blues brother was dead. John Belushi passed away in 1982 from acute cocaine and heroin intoxication. John Goodman stepped in as new lead singer Mighty Mac McTeer, however, despite being on a new “mission from God”, lightning didn’t strike twice and the film grossed US$26 million from a budget of US$28 million.

Sylvester Stallone recently revived two of his franchises after lengthy hiatuses. Following a series of flops in the nineties, including Judge Dredd and the painful Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (it should’ve been titled Stop the Film or I Will Shoot Myself), Sly brought back Rocky Balboa for the imaginatively titled Rocky Balboa in 2006, sixteen years after Rocky V, and John Rambo for the even more imaginatively titled Rambo in 2008, twenty years after Rambo III. That was the one where Rambo single-handedly freed Afghanistan from the Russians.

The thoughtful and bittersweet Rocky Balboa was a critical and box office success grossing US$155 million, however, the return of Rambo was less successful, drawing much criticism for its grisly depiction of the titular character’s record breaking 236 kills.

Personally, I quite enjoyed Rambo. If you are going to depict violence on-screen, you should also show the consequences of that violence, although perhaps not over two hundred times. On a per exploding head basis, Rambo is great value.

2008 saw the return of whip cracking adventurer Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, nineteen years after the last instalment, the somewhat falsely titled Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Starring a geriatric Harrison Ford, the film was a huge success, becoming the 29th highest grossing movie worldwide. Unfortunately, most Indy fans were left cold by the George Lucus penned story and the film is regarded as a disappointing sequel.

Whilst I think any Indy is good Indy, I must admit that the alien storyline, the ending ripped off from the original X-Files movie and the surviving a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge scene are cringe worthy.

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was released with much fanfare to huge anticipation in 1999, sixteen years following Return of the Jedi. Although technically a prequel, the origin story of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader went on to become the thirteenth highest grossing film ever, despite much fan derision for the annoying Jar Jar Binks and a silly storyline involving intergalactic trade disputes. That’s right, trade disputes. One of my most cherished films has its origins in a trade dispute. That’s like making a prequel to Romeo and Juliet that sees the Capulets and Montagues first go into conflict over bin night.

The record holder for the longest ever delayed sequel is the direct to DVD Bambi 2 which was released 64 years after the original. Strangely, this film is actually a “midquel” with its plotline taking place within the story of the original. Whilst I am not particularly excited to see the return of Gordon Gekko, the nerd in me is getting excited about the December 2010 release of Tron: Legacy which follows 28 years after the original Tron.

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