How long is too long? At what point does the audience’s hunger for more of the story go away? The critical and commercial success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (after 10 years without a Star Wars movie), Jurassic World (after 13 years) and Mad Max: Fury Road (after 28 years) makes this a tricky question to answer. For certain franchises, it seems as though it’s never too late to return to the well.
Nevertheless, we can probably learn a thing or two from movies that brought back once-successful characters and ideas, only to be greeted with a huge collective yawn. Not because they failed to live up to the originals like Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace: that film had people camped out and ready to see it before it disappointed anyone. These movies were disappointments as soon as they were announced.
Here are 10 Sequels (and 1 Prequel) That Waited Way Too Long.
11. Tron: Legacy (2010)
Sequel to: Tron (1982)
To be fair, this movie had a few things going for it. More than anything else, it had Computer-Generated Young Jeff Bridges as a cool bad guy, and Real Old Jeff Bridges as a cool good guy, reprising his role as Flynn but really blending his Big Lebowski character “The Dude” with Star Wars: Episode IV-era Obi-Wan Kenobi.
It’s the non-Bridges parts of the movie that get glitchy. Despite attempts to update it, the concept of Tron, in which a man inadvertently gets sucked into a computer, doesn’t really hold up in the era of the Cloud. Tron himself barely even shows up. Flynn’s abandoned son Sam, the alleged main character, ends the film as a CEO despite not doing anything on Earth or Tronworld to deserve that. His love interest, Quorra, looks hot and does very little herself. So hey, at least they have that in common.
10. The Thing (2011)
Prequel to: The Thing (1982)
Yes, it’s titled like a remake. But then, what else would you call a prequel to The Thing? The First Thing? Thing Zero? The Thing Before That Other Thing? You see the problem. The original film’s story (not counting the 1950s sci-fi horror The Thing from Another World, on which it was based) traded on John Carpenter’s rep as a brutal, brilliant storyteller, and he didn’t disappoint. The new film didn’t have Carpenter or any talents in his weight class and unlike, say, an Alien sequel, it couldn’t rely on familiar visuals. So it had to hope the old film still had enough fans 29 years later to make this one a hit.
Plus, the plot again involved a bunch of researchers in Antarctica discovering an alien that can infect them, and pretty much all dying to keep it from reaching civilization. Wait, are we sure this wasn’t a remake?
9. The Odd Couple II (1998)
Sequel to: The Odd Couple (1968)
While the classic pair of neat-freak Felix and slobby Oscar have influenced generations of comedy duos on the large and small screens, it’s safe to say that “gee, some people really can be TOO organized, huh? And others aren’t organized enough!” was no longer the height of observational comedy by the time Seinfeld was going off the air.
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were still able comedians, having just proved their mettle in the hit Grumpy Old Men, but despite the usually capable Neil Simon on scriptwriting duty, the film has nothing to offer that the five-year-long TV series from the 1970s didn’t do better.
8. The Black Bird (1975)
Sequel to: The Maltese Falcon (1941)
When Sam Spade dies, Sam Spade Jr. inherits his agency, his secretary (Lee Patrick as Effie), his tradition of “serving minorities” and the tendency to get involved with the Maltese Falcon and his father’s ersatz copy of it (or is it the real thing after all?). The villain is a bald Nazi dwarf commanding an army of Hawaiian minions (yes, you read that right), just in case that “serving minorities” bit wasn’t skeezy enough.
Patrick and Elisha Cook, Jr., reprising their roles from the film noir classic, tried to legitimize this project, but mostly just embarrassed themselves. Advertised as “A Falcon Funny Movie!” (it wasn’t) and not to be confused with Blackbird, the 2014 Mo’Nique/Isaiah Washington story of faith and homosexuality. Actually, go ahead and watch that movie instead.
7. The Jungle Book 2 (2003)
Sequel to: The Jungle Book (1967)
As we’ll see, Disney is generally the worst offender on this list, and problems with its sequels aren’t limited to the gaps between releases. For instance, the whole point of The Jungle Book is that it’s a coming-of-age story. Baloo and Mowgli may resist the idea that Mowgli has to go back to the world of man, but he does have to, and the distance between the worlds is unbridgeable. Men and animals kill each other, on the reg!
But in the sequel, life in the Man Village bores the crap out of Mowgli and he eventually works out a sort of shared-custody deal where he has regular visits with his jungle “family” and presumably some really awkward Thanksgiving dinners. Also, Shere Khan comes back for revenge, because of course he does.
6. The Wicker Tree (2011)
Sequel to: The Wicker Man (1973)
The “Citizen Kane of horror movies” must have seemed a tempting prospect for a follow-up when it was released, and there had been a couple of attempts, but it finally got a sequel in this decade. Well, sort of: Robin Hardy (who directed both), Christopher Lee (who acted as the main villain in Tree) and fans can’t seem to decide whether Tree is a “spiritual sequel,” straight-up sequel, or a companion piece. Is Lee playing Lord Summerisle, the pagan leader from the first film or just an “Old Gentleman” as listed in the credits?
Whatever. Neither that confusion nor Lee’s death have prevented Hardy from working on the last film in the trilogy (because it’s a trilogy now): The Wrath of the Gods. If you’re into naive Christians getting sacrificed by pagans to ensure a harvest, Hardy has got you covered.
5. Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (2002)
Sequel to: Blood Feast (1963)
Say what you will about the standard blood-‘n’-guts horror sequel, but it’s usually at least efficiently made, coming soon enough after the last film that horror fans feel like the menace never really left. Witness the Saw, Paranormal Activity and Final Destination franchises.
And then there’s this bewildering thing.
Blood Feast is generally considered the first-ever splatter movie, and its director, Herschell Gordon Lewis, the “Godfather of Gore,” which must have inspired him to go back to it thirty years after he retired from filmmaking. But it really seems like the potential audience for this movie wasn’t interested enough in film history to track down a 39-year-old movie in the then-chaotic video market, just to find out whose grandson was doing all the dismembering here.
4. Easy Rider: The Ride Home (2012)
Sequel to: Easy Rider (1969)
Suppose you are director Dustin Rikert. Suppose you like the counterculture classic Easy Rider, except for all that icky counterculturalism. Suppose you want to direct a more conservative motion picture, but use all that motorcycle-riding-as-symbol-for-the-soul-of-America that the hippies were so into. Suppose you’d secured the rights to the Easy Rider name, 43 years after the first film was released.
You certainly can’t use any of the original actors or production crew: the few that aren’t dead are too long retired to be interested in desecrating their classic work for a quick buck. Your best bet would be to patch together some generational story about the family of the first movie’s main character, and hope there’s a market in the 2010s for the kind of 1960s nostalgia you’d find on Bizarro World. Your best bet still wouldn’t be a very good one.
3. Return to Oz (1985)
Sequel to: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
So hey, did you like the original Wizard of Oz? Would you like a story that features Dorothy’s beloved Auntie Em believing that Dorothy is stone cold bonkers and would benefit from electroshock “therapy” to clear her head of all this “Oz” nonsense? No? Too bad.
Ironically, no one can say this movie was unfaithful to Baum’s intentions: the movie gets its plot from the later Oz books of L. Frank Baum, who also wrote the original Wizard of Oz, and all those books were in print decades before MGM brought it to film. A small but devoted cult following sprang up around the film largely for that reason, but box-office receipts in the 1980s were not particularly kind.
It may have been a lose-lose: while the film suffered for being far darker than its predecessor, something more faithful to the 1939 version might still feel hopelessly dated in an age where full-color film was no longer exactly a novelty.
2. Return to Never Land (2002)
Sequel to: Peter Pan (1953)
This film peaks early, when Captain Hook’s magical flying boat attracts the attention of British and German warplanes during the London Blitz. But any hopes that Peter Pan or even Captain Hook might spend the film fighting Nazis are quickly dashed.
The movie quickly settles into the same ground as before: Tinkerbell’s life is in danger and can only be saved by belief, again; Captain Hook is pursuing Pan and being pursued by a sea monster, again; and for all her protests, Wendy’s tomboy daughter Jane is doomed to reprise Wendy’s role in the original as soon as she shows up. The proto-feminism of making her a “Lost Girl” wasn’t enough to make anyone but very small kids feel like the Boy Who Will Never Grow Up had any new directions to grow in.
1. Fantasia 2000 (2000)
Sequel to: Fantasia (1940)
Fantasia is a strange beast: a true Disney classic that plays more like an art film. Except for the well-known “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” piece, there’s barely any story to its sequences; they’re just about setting animation to classical music.
Classical music hadn’t exactly gotten more popular in the last 60 years, and from a studio that had reinvented itself with then-recent hits like Aladdin and The Lion King, just imitating early animators’ attempts to figure out their craft was not exactly revolutionary.
The live-action introductions for each segment were a particularly weird, old-fashioned touch. It also replayed the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence, apparently because Disney was afraid none of the new sequences were good enough to take its place in moviegoers’ hearts. They were right, but still.
Can you think of any other sequels that should have been left never made? Let us know in the comments!