The Art of the 20 Year Gap Sequel
Some sequels work and some don’t. What’s for sure is that the longer it’s left, the less likely it is to succeed. Whether the films fan base fades with time, or that the original actors are no longer available to fill their character rolls, films with long gaps are risky business. Looking at sequels that have long gaps, we check out popular movies and franchise that had a 20 years or more gap between films and what made them work or fail.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (1983 and 2015) – 32 Year Gap
Why it worked: Largely because of a dissociation with the series creator George Lucas. Whilst Lucas had created and shaped the original three films into one of the most beloved film universes, his mismanagement and oversaturation of the series after the originals, showed us how very little he understood the series fan base. From unwanted special additions, to awful CGI heavy sequels, Lucas had clearly lost the vision in which he had with the original trilogy. With fresh faces tackling the new film, and with a safe but fan friendly plot, The Force Awakens was a happy re-visit to the Star Wars universe we knew and loved.
Dumb and Dumber To (1994 -2014) 20 year Gap
Why It did not work: They main issue here is that 20 years later and nothing much has really changed. If anything, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne have managed to get stupider, and the movie is pretty much just a call back to the previous film. With little character progression, we are left frustrated at how futile the entire film is. The comedy is dull, and the film drags on with little to no pacing. Dumb and Dumber To feels like a parody of itself.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (1989 – 2008) -19 Years Gap
Why It did not work: One word for you… Aliens. Indiana Jones is a relic hunter, and it just so happened that some of the rarest relics that Indiana has sought after held supernatural implication, due to their religious connections. The introduction of intergalactic creatures is a step to far for the world already established in the previous three films. Throw in some terrible CGI, an awful cast and the feeling that the movie was trying hand the mantle over to an annoying, newly introduced, character, and you end up with an full mess of a film that should not have been made.
Independence Day: Resurgence (1996 -2016) – 20 year gap
Why it worked: There’s a lot to love here. The earth has moved on, and so have the original characters. Almost all the cast returned, which is what any fan of the original would have wanted. And although Will Smith dropped out from the project, he is barely missed. It’s important that the audience does not feel that they have missed out on a huge chunk of the films history, and IDR manages to plop the audience into the film with little disorientation, with clever exposition that gets everyone up to date. We have higher stakes, bigger baddies and plenty of new fun characters. More than anything else, we find the earth fitting into a bigger picture, with the original cast leading the way forward. The long gap just enhances the series and makes for a much more interesting story line.
Lost Boys: The Tribe (1987 -2008) – 21 Year Gap
Why it did not work: With only Corey Feldman returning to the film, it felt like a cheap cash in on a much-loved vampire flick. Corey Haim flirted widely with the idea of returning, but he ultimately turned down a leading role and the script had to adjust accordingly, resulting in a poorly realised film. Swapping a biker gang for surfer gang and even shoe-horning in David’s (Kiefer Sutherland’s vampire from the original) brother into the mix, The Tribe was too busy trying to be its predecessor to realise that story and cast are integral to a film. The Tribe lacked originality and untimely failed to be a good film. Not only was it a poor sequel to The Lost Boys, it was just a terrible experience to watch. After 21 years of waiting, fans were left heart-broken at this bastardisation of a potential franchise.
Return to Oz (1939 -1985) – 46 Years Gap
Why it did not work: A far cry from the bright, all singing, all dancing original adaption, Return to Oz kept closer to the source material. But turning a much-loved colourful musical into a dark and gritty drama failed to have the impact that the film makers thought. Whilst the source material was fine, it was the original films presentation that sold the film to millions. Dancing munchkins sells, headless Nazi witches don’t.
Tron: Legacy (1982 – 2010) – 28 Year Gap
Why it did not work: The original Tron had an easy going, straight forward, story that was easy to follow and aimed at a younger audience. It’s sequel, Legacy, did not. It had a busy and complex plot that needed far too much exposition to clue the audience in to what was going on. The plot was convoluted and far too multifaceted and whilst the film used the state-of-the-art production design, it came down to nothing more than pretty lights and loud music to hold audience’s attention. The visual effects and pounding soundtrack overshadowed the entire film. With a terrible script and little to no character development (let’s not mention turning the films titular character into a no faced bad guy), Legacy was a tiresome mess that was stretching to capture the quaint joy of the original.
The Thing (1982 -2011) – 29 Year Gap
Why it did not work: We did not really need a sequel, let alone a prequel. The original did pretty good job of saying all that was needed to be said, and this prequel feels like nothing more than cash grab, filling in blanks that were never real there to begin with. A sequel could have been an ambition and welcome addition to The Thing, but what we got was something that felt alien to its predecessor. With heavy use of CGI instead of particle effects, a terrible script and shoehorned in American character (in a Norwegian base) this prequel failed to be the missing jigsaw pieces that it so desperately wanted to be. It’s 29-year gap just made this whole ordeal even weirder.
Mad Max: Fury Road (1985 – 2015) – 30 Year Gap
Why it worked: From a continuity perspective, it’s unknown where the new Mad Max fits into the series, and this makes it easier to pick up without ever seeing the other films. Even the switch from Mel Gibson to Tom Hardy is smooth. The movie tells you all you need to know about Max right from the very start and Hardy does a fine job in portraying the lonely road warrior.
But what makes it a truly great sequel is its fan service. Fury Road is more of what made the Mad Max films great, fast cars, crazy characters and plenty of violence and post-apocalyptic madness. Coming from Thunderdome, which wildly changed the pace and tone of the original two films, it was welcome return to series that fans loved.
T2 Trainspotting (1995 – 2017) – 22 Year Gap
Why it worked: Out of any genre, dramas are the most obvious to succeed from a long lead time between sequels. T2: Trainspotting is a great example of how a film can revisit characters in meaningful and entertaining way. Whilst the film introduces us to familiar faces that have matured and grown in the years between, the film constantly reminds that nothing has really changed. T2 promotes the futility of existence and turns an already depression first film, into a deeply dark sequel that’s as entertaining as it is brutal.
Superman Returns (1987 – 2006) – 19 Year Gap
Why it did not work: Superman Returns suffered from a dramatic change in pace and emotion. Coming off the back of Christopher Reeves light hearted family films, Superman Returns gives us a lamenting superhero who has about as much joy as an empty box of chocolates. Gone are the comedy undertones and enjoyable moments of humanity, all replaced by superhero who spends his days spying on lost loves and battling tired and overused bad guys. There was no fun, the character development between film was none existent and plot felt tired and overly familiar.
Land of the Dead (1985 – 2005) – 20 Year Gap
Why it worked: George Romero’s films are all stand-alone, however that does not prevent a sense of change of progression within the newly found world, and the heavy handed symbolism, for current global events, keeps the films relevant. Land introduced us to smart, self-thinking, zombies that primarily attack for revenge, and a sense of sympathy for the zombies is an interesting twist for the series. This interesting development made the film feel fresh and gave the audience much deeper sense of dread and apprehension. In essence, Land of the Dead delivered more of what fans loved, heinous bad guys, more gore than you can shake a femur at and a humongous horde of hungry zombies.
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“Hi Horror Fans – I don’t like waiting for anything. A five minute que in a coffee shop is enough to blow my top, let alone waiting 20 years for a sequel. What’s the longest you’ve waited for a sequel? Hell..whats the longest you’ve waited for anything. Lets chat in the comments below.