Studios get lazy. With the onslaught of prequels, sequels, and spin-offs over the past few decades, this has never been so obvious. From a business perspective, it makes sense: If the public wants more of the same, give it to them. If the fans want more story, broaden the original scope. Who needs mystery anyways?
Typically, when a franchise or a success seems like a certainty, thanks to market research and test screenings, any prequel, sequel, or spin-off receives the green light before their predecessors even see any box office returns. However, there have been several cases where highly celebrated franchises lay dormant for a lengthy period of time, only to return years later.
This week, Danny Boyle takes us back to Edinburgh for another druggy adventure with the skagboys in T2 Trainspotting, a sequel that takes place 20 years after the original. In light of the reunion, we broke down 25 similar films, discussing whether they were successful in their own right. Some were good, some were bad, but one thing’s for certain: this is a list.
Nine Years Later
American Reunion (2012)
Previous Entry: American Wedding (2003)
Returning Cast: All of the principals, including those not seen since American Pie 2.
Is It Better Than the Last One? Yes. This Pie leaves a better taste in your mouth than Wedding, although that film essentially replaced dead-behind-the-eyes Tara Reid with slightly-less-dead-behind-the-eyes January Jones.
Is It Any Good? There’s much ado about nostalgia, and you likely won’t be able to count how many references are made to previous entries on just one hand. However, there is a strange comfort in seeing this group of actors back together again. Much of this is personal; I graduated the same year these characters graduated, so I experienced a total recall. The gang get up to the same embarrassing antics, but like all of the earlier films, everything works out in the end. Kudos to the producers for getting them back together one last (?) time, and additional congrats to the marketing team on the film’s poster mirroring the original’s. –Justin Gerber
Nine Years Later
Anchorman: The Legend Continues (2013)
Previous Entry: Anchorman (2004)
Returning Cast: Everybody. Like, seriously, everybody.
Is It Better Than the Last One? Not particularly. The first Anchorman makes for one of those comic experiences where it’s never quite as good as the first time, but the first viewing will make you laugh harder than you ever have before. It’s shock comedy in the proper sense, not the one fashionable in the early aughts, but the one where it’s almost impossible to know what’s coming next.
Is It Any Good? By contrast, The Legend Continues is just as disorienting, but not in a good way. The off-the-cuff nature of the first installment was taken way too far in the sequel. Where the first film at least had a (frequently ignored) message about how idiotic and cruel the macho attitudes on display were, the sequel goes for the much easier and less interesting “cable news is evil” talking point, one that Network already more or less closed the book on decades earlier. And that’s really just window dressing for a bloated two hours of free-form improv that relentlessly commits the cardinal sin of mistaking randomness for comedy. And let’s not even talk about the second news team battle, which ends up collapsing in a heap of cameos from every single celebrity who ever wanted to be in an Anchorman movie. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Nine Years Later
Before Sunset (2004), Before Midnight (2013)
Previous Entries: Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004)
Returning Cast: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy both returned each time.
Is Each One Better Than the Last One? Yes. The Before trilogy makes a case for being the greatest movie trilogy of all time. Sorry, Matrix fans.
Are They Any Good? Um … yeah. Hawke and Delpy, along with Richard Linklater, have taken events that occurred in their own lives and fed them to their respective characters (e.g. ending of a marriage in Before Sunset). While the first one is one of the more underrated walk-and-talks of the 1990s, unfairly lumped in with other Gen-X flicks of the time, the sequels allowed room for more collaboration between the director and the stars, creating a world that we want to return to every nine years for as long as humanly possible. The possibilities have proven to be endless over the past two decades. –Justin Gerber
10 Years Later
Previous Entry: The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Returning Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Frankie Faison
Is It Better Than the Last One? No, and Hannibal never really had a chance. The Silence of the Lambs is a master-class thriller that seeped its way into pop-culture infamy and even the lexicon. Fava beans and chianti, if you please?
Is It Any Good? As a gruesome, kinky curiosity, yes, Hannibal’s pretty decent. An unrecognizable, uncredited Gary Oldman is Mason Verger, a disfigured, mentally unstable trust-fund gazillionaire seeking revenge for Hannibal Lecter’s vicious actions in the past. A re-cast Clarice Starling is back on the hunt as well, as the nutso sexual tension between the crazed cannibal genius doctor and the talented podunk FBI agent flares up again. It’s notable for how gross it is: disembowlings, dead tissue about the face, and eating Ray Liotta’s brains. Ridley Scott loses the tension in favor of showmanship, and that’s a distinct choice, but it’s no Silence. Hannibal pairs well with the original, but it’s not necessary. NBC’s Hannibal, now that’s something to salivate over right there! –Blake Goble
10 Years Later
Men In Black 3 (2012)
Previous Entry: Men in Black II (2002)
Returning Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones
Is It Better Than the Last One? Totally.
Is It Any Good? Men in Black II was an over-expensive and heavily re-written disaster production that managed to sneak its way into 2002’s box office top 10 on the strength of Will Smith’s huge commercial hit streak. Men in Black 3 was an over-expensive and heavily re-written disaster production that managed to sneak its way into 2012’s box office top … 20 on the strength of nostalgia for Will Smith’s ‘90s. The key difference? MIB3 felt like a nice course correction and comeback for the alien-bustin’ G-men franchise, with goofy effects and a disarming sweetness in the last act. Also, if you’re curious, be sure to look up the stories about Smith’s larger-than-life trailer taking up space on the streets of Manhattan. It’s embarrassing star behavior that will live on in infamy. –Blake Goble