10 Long-Awaited Sequels That Didn’t Live Up to the Hype
Sequels can be fickle. Occasionally, they can go on to be as good as the original; movies like Aliens, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Backand The Godfather II are all examples of sequels that are as popular and well-made as their predecessors. Logic would dictate that more of what worked for the originals would work for a sequel.
But some franchises made fans wait for the follow-up, which can pose problems. Pulling off a sequel to a popular or classic film does not always guarantee success, especially if there are gaps in the filmography. What was relevant or groundbreaking in previous films may have changed, and casual viewers may not care enough to invest in a sequel to a movie that they barely remember. Here are some long-anticipated sequels that couldn’t recapture the magic.
‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ (2008)
The Indiana Jones franchise is one of cinema’s most loved adventure franchises. Created by George Lucasdirected by Stephen Spielbergand starring Harrison Ford, the first three films were hits. The Library of Congress preserved the first film, Raiders of the Lost Arkand the original trilogy holds up for the most part after all these years.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came nineteen years later Raiders of the Lost Ark, but its reception was less glowing. Some people liked it, but few seemed to love it. Multiple people involved, including director Stephen Spielberg, actor Shia LaBeouf, and writer George Lucas, eventually apologized for not giving fans what they expected.
‘Zoolander 2’ (2016)
Starring Will Ferrell, Ben Stillerand Owen Wilson, Zoolander was a hit when it came out. These actors and names like Vince Vaughn, Jack Blackand Paul Rudd dominated early 2000s comedy. Zoolander was also a genuinely funny jab at the fashion world, and audiences loved it.
Zoolander 2was released fifteen years after the original Zoolander film and was met with almost universal derision. It had bounced around in “development hell” for years, which is rarely a good sign. The film felt essentially the same as the first, with recycled gags and relying on humor that was popular a decade earlier. Zoolander 2 did not hit the mark.
‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ (2010)
When Oliver Stone gave us the original Wall Street, the 1980s were coming to a close. It was the perfect time to skewer those working on the actual Wall Street and their flagrant disregard for the legality of their actions. Michael DouglasThe character was instantly iconic, and he won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Gordon Gekko.
Twenty-three years later, Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas returned to the world of finance, but with a less-than-glowing reception. While not a train wreck by any means, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps still feels like a forced, moral statement on the 2008 financial disaster and buries its talented cast under an unnecessarily complex plot.
‘Tron: Legacy’ (2010)
Tron, released in 1982, was a relatively well-received film on release, but that was primarily due to its advances in visuals and utilization of computer animation. While the narrative and plot were not outright panned, the consensus was that Tron was a success because of the leaps in its visuals and cinematography.
Tron: Legacy was released almost three decades later. Despite still boasting impressive visuals and tapping original star Jeff Bridges, it was not as popular as anticipated. The issue with making a sequel to a cult favorite like Tron is that you’re ultimately catering to a passionate, vocal but likely small group. Tron: Legacy was an entertaining follow-up to a groundbreaking film that few people asked for or wanted. It performed below expectations, and as a result, a planned sequel was scrapped.
‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ (2019)
The Star Wars franchise is arguably the most recognizable IP on the planet, covering a whopping forty-two years of cinema. Hopes were high after the new home of Star WarsDisney, announced a new trilogy, closing out the story that George Lucas started in 1977. The trilogy began with one good film, followed by a deeply divisive film, so this final chapter in the entire saga had a lot of riding on it.
In retrospect, perhaps the final film in the trilogy, The Rise of Skywalkerwas doomed from the start. Carrie Fisher, the rumored focal point of the film, passed away before filming was completed. The original director left the project due to “creative differences.” The film spent too much time trying to reverse the previous film’s choices. It was a mess and was as poorly reviewed as The Phantom Menace. Yikes.
‘The Matrix: Resurrection’ (2021)
The original Matrix trilogy changed what people thought action/science-fiction films were capable of. It’s a heady mix of philosophy, religion, social issues, and high-octane action. It was praised by critics, other filmmakers, and even science fiction authors, most notably William Gibson; Gibson is credited with jump-starting the popularity of the cyber-punk genre.
The The Wachowskis, creators of the franchise, stated on multiple occasions that they never intended to and would not make a fourth film. Warner Brothers clearly wanted one, though. One of the sisters, Lana, eventually returned and made the fourth film. Still, multiple roles had to be recast. Granted, the attempt was ambitious, but ambition and nostalgia alone were not enough to sell fans on The Matrix: Resurrections.
‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ (2021)
In 1996, Space Jam starring Michael Jordanand Bugs Bunny, became a beloved classic of millennials everywhere. Featuring athletes at the height of their stardom, a surprisingly well-done mix of animation and live-action, and the iconic Bill Murray, Space Jam was a resounding success.
Space Jam: A New Legacywas postponed multiple times, shuffled directors, and was a theatrical dud when finally released. Some of that is due to a simultaneous streaming release on HBO Max. Still, A New Legacy didn’t have the same pull as the original, feeling more like an extended ad for HBO Max than an actual film.
‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (2022)
Tobe Hooper‘s infamous 1974 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a monumental impact on horror films and cinema as a whole. It practically invented the slasher genre, and the insistence that it was based on actual events (however dubious that claim may be) made it that much scarier to general audiences.
With the success of David Gordon Green‘s legacy sequel to 1978’s Halloween and the promise of seeing final girl Sally Hardesty again, hopes were high for Netflix’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre. An earnest attempt, the result was still a messy misfire. The film attempts to broach sensitive social topics much like the original, but most of what it says comes off as forced or heavy-handed.
‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ (2003)
In 1984, James Cameron Unleashed The Terminator on theatergoers. The original is considered Cameron’s big break, given Arnold Schwarzeneggerr superstardom, and was enshrined in the Library of Congress. The sequel was just as popular, if not more so, but afterwards, Cameron said he felt the story was finished.
A greenlit sequel fell prey to “development hell” after WB acquired the franchise. Neither Cameron nor star Linda Hamilton opted to return, and Edward Furlong had to be asked to leave the production due to substance abuse problems. With so many of the original pieces missing, Rise of the Machines felt formulaic and uninspired, despite the original Terminator, Schwarzenegger, returning.
Enchanted was an important film for Disney. Its live-action format and utilization of the traditional “princess narrative,” while also deliberately poking fun at that very same narrative, proved wildly popular. It shot lead actress Amy Adams into stardom and was a hit.
A sizable problem with the sequel, Disenchanted, is that it took fifteen years to materialize. It attempts to apply the same format, poking fun at and paying tribute to traditional Disney tropes: but viewers have seen this in Enchanted and several Disney films afterwards. Despite substantial streaming numbers on Disney +, the film was a critical bust. Had it happened sooner, the sequel might have been more popular.
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