Ten of the Most Long-Awaited Sequels (Not “The Matrix Resurrections”!)14.01.2022
It’s obvious that late sequels are becoming more common, despite the differing reactions to Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections. If a once-popular property is possible to be revived (if even one cast member is still alive), it will. Technology, however, makes that consideration seem increasingly irrelevant. Matrix 4 was released on the big screen after 18 years of development. This is not the shortest time for sequels, but it was one of the longest. This is also an example of a series that has been well and truly finished getting a revival.
The fifth Scream movie, titled Scream, will be released in theaters within the next month. Only 11 years have passed between the previous sequels. Slasher franchises can be notoriously difficult to kill so this one is less surprising. However, the series was previously the domain of Wes Craven. This is the first Scream movie without the director, who died in 2015. It remains to be determined if this means the film will be a complete reimagining or a tribute. Both modes can work.
Although it’s tempting to speculate on what’s next, I think we will continue to see more sequels than reboots. While neither style is necessarily better than the other, sequels offer a more concentrated nostalgia punch. Ghostbusters: Afterlife did not do as well as the 2016 reboot, but it certainly stirred up more shit. These are the most recent, long-awaited sequels (or not).
Toy Story 4 (2019)
Surprised to discover that Toy Stories 2 and 3 took longer than the one between 3 & 4. The wait between Toy Stories 2 & 3 was 11 years. It took a little longer than the time between 3 & 4. The fourth film was 9 years, but that could be because it felt like the true end–the heart-wrenching and tear-jerking finale to a trilogy which we are still reeling from. The latest installment in the series could have been considered an afterthought. However, it’s just as funny, well-crafted and moving as the previous films, so it’s hard to be mad about it. The conclusion is less definitive. Time will determine if this will be seen as an epilogue, or the beginning of a new journey for beloved characters. The movie proves that beloved series can be adapted for additional sequels if they are made with the same care.
It’s a refreshing change in an age of overused and increasingly tedious cinematic cameos. This one includes some high-quality voice work by Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Betty White, and Carol Burnett.
Where to stream: Disney+
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Our somewhat convoluted theory about modern Apes Trilogy is that the movies are direct sequels to the originals and not reboots. It has to do the numerous instances of time travel in the series from the 1960s/70s, but we won’t bore you. This movie launched what is probably the greatest blockbuster series of modern history, at least because it was willing to go into the darkness.
Each movie explores human inadequacies without being completely cynical and hopeless. They refuse to offer up easy, obvious heroes or reassuring platitudes. But they are also quite exciting. The films are a direct inspiration from the original series’ trenchant social commentary. They suggest that we don’t always have to be the heroes of our stories and that unless we change our narrow-minded and violent ways, we will not deserve what’s ahead. It’s incredible that these movies were made in a world full of blockbusters carefully planned to make us feel happy enough to shop.
Where to stream: Fubo and FX Now
Bay Boys for Life (2020)
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence re-enacted the roles they played in 1995. It was 17 years later, and we don’t think anyone really wanted it. Although the two leads were charismatic, the first two films succeeded largely on their charm. However, they were middling and somewhat generic action movies in Michael Bay’s canon. Bad Boys for Life was released in January. It had a much lower budget than the previous one and it did not feature Michael Bay. There was no reason to believe this would be another of many forgettable third films.
However, time has been kind to Mike & Marcus. The movie received (deservedly so) much better reviews than the other outings and grossed quite a bit more even though COVID cut its box office run. Director Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah and producer Marcus have crafted some impressive and thrilling action sequences and added depth to characters that were formerly more about one-liners. The success of the movie is so impressive that there’s talk of a fourth, luck-pushing movie.
Where to stream: Starz
Finding Dory (2016)
Although it is a natural temptation, promoting your comic-relief supporting characters to lead status in your story is risky. It is risky because it rarely works. This was the case for Disney back in the days of direct-to-video. They offered money-making, but not memorable standalone adventures with characters like Timon & Pumbaa and Tinkerbell.
Although the set-up is not radically different than that of Finding Nemo with Dory, a forgetful child, teaming up to find her parents, there’s an emotional core that creates a compelling backstory that gives Dory hope. The movie has some laughable moments, but it’s not to their credit.
Where to stream: Disney+
Incredibles 2 (2018)
What could be more natural that a sequel? The entire Marvel output can be fit into a 14 year time frame, but Brad Bird and Pixar took 14 years to make Incredibles 2. (Pixar has become less sequel-averse). This is not a radical reinvention or a deconstructionist move (which may have been tempting), but it advances the story of the Parrs and their friends and adds some more current themes. Public and politicians are growing tired of Mr. Incredible’s destruction.
The family has to rebrand. Holly Hunter’s Elastigirl, who is more cautious, is moved to the front and fitted with a bodycam to restore public trust. A new villain lurks in the wings. He manipulates minds using screen images. The film is made with enough effort to deal with modern cultural ideas, but not too much to get bogged down. This animation by Pixar is also some of the most elegant.
Where to stream: Disney+
T2 Trainspotting (2017)
Although it sounds odd, there is something comforting about the return visit with Ewan McGregor’s Mark Renton and his company. Even if it does not feel necessary. It may be that it harkens back the simpler days of toilet suppository dives and hallucinogenic ceiling babies. Director Danny Boyle takes great care to restore the gritty, dynamic visual style that made the original so memorable.
We see that Renton has been quite successful for himself, thanks to the drug money he took 21 years ago–until a failed marriage and a midlife crisis sent him back to Edinburgh to visit his friends. What could go wrong? Although it’s a nostalgic exercise and more of an ending than a narrative, it’s still a good choice.
Where to stream: Digital rental
Twin Peaks and The Return (2017)
Twin Peaks, the revival a beloved TV series from the early 1990s succeeds as an anti-nostalgia triumph or, better yet, as a show that reflects ambivalence about the past. After a fashion, Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper is back, but the actor doesn’t get much beyond a brief appearance. He becomes the inadvertent villain for his inability to transcend his glory days and his willingness to bring others back with him into their darkest moments. There is more to this story than meets the eye.
Twin Peaks gets a hilarious origin that is rooted in one humanity’s darkest times. Numerous characters, both new and old, are on hand to tell the town’s tale, as well as dozens of musicians. It’s those who can move on that get happy endings. This suggests that it’s not only important to check in with old friends but also the danger of living in the past. The Return featured a number of touching final acts by several actors (including Catherine E. Coulson and Warren Frost, Peggy Lipton and Miguel Ferrer), adding layers to the theme of moving on. It is an amazing feat, and it reminds us to be cautious about what we wish for.
Where to stream: Fubo, Showtime
Cobra Kai (2018)
Cobra Kai, on the other side of the nostalgia spectrum succeeds largely because it leans into nostalgia and blends in enough new characters and elements to keep it from feeling like an endless wallow. An incredibly smart move was moving one-time villain Johnny Lawrence to co-lead status–William Zabka turning out to be an impressive actor more than capable of pulling off the character’s bitter, peaked-in-high-school ambivalence. The show begins by looking at The Karate Kid’s world from Johnny’s perspective. He was not a saint in highschool and he isn’t one now. However, he lost his girlfriend in high school to the self-righteous, self-important, one-time nerd, who went on to create a family and start a successful business. While the show is aware of its silliness, it also manages to create some believable characters in a complex mythology.
How long has it been? It’s been 29 years since Daniel LaRusso and his co. appeared in Karate Kid III. However, The Next Karate Kid (1994), and the 2010 Jaden Smith reboot make the math more complicated.
Where to stream: Netflix
Masters of the Universe: Revelation
Every update to the 1980s-era Mattel-based cartoon series has something to offer. The computer animated He-Man series and the Masters of the Universe series are a charming reboot that is, to their credit, aimed at children rather than their parents. Noelle Stevenson’s She Ra reboot felt revolutionary. It was an all-ages show that reimagined the character from scratch, ignoring the obvious “girl power” themes. Instead, it featured an elaborate but not complicated mythology set in a world where gender, skin color and sexuality are the norm.
Kevin Smith’s Revelation series is the only true continuation. It picks up where the original series ended (41 years later) and ties up some threads that were left hanging (that series had some amazing writers who added a little sci-fi/fantasy cred those 30-minute toy commercials). The show proudly and joyfully pitches itself to middle-aged 80s children who loved the show back in the day. It expands the world and raises the stakes, while refusing to shy away form the fundamental weirdness of a fantasy universe full of heroes with names such as “Fisto” or “Clamp Champ.”
Where to stream: Netflix
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Denis Villeneuve is the perfect director to continue Ridley Scott’s science fiction film. He has never made a bad film, and more importantly, he has not made an uninteresting movie. Let me go out on a limb and say that Blade Runner’s original film is not the sum of its parts. Its incredible cinematography, world-building and stunning cinematography sometimes make it seem deeper and more thoughtful than it ever was.
Blade Runner 2049 does a better job than the original Blade Runner, diving deeper into the questions of what it means to live as a human being that the first movie only began to address. The sequel also features a Harrison Ford return to form performance, which is a small miracle in and of itself. It’s important to remember that while the audience reaction to the sequel was mixed (and both received complaints regarding their pacing), they were still able to deliver a remarkable performance.
Where to stream: HBO Max and Max Go