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A Look at Delayed Sequels

Today’s episode of Sounds of Cinema looked back at delayed sequels — followups that came many years or decades after their predecessor. Here are the films featured on the program.

Mad Max: Fury Road (30 Years)

The Mad Max series began with the eponymous 1979 film about a former policeman pursuing a murderous motorcycle gang. The original Mad Max was the feature film directorial debut of George Miller and it introduced cinema audiences to Mel Gibson. Miller and Gibson returned to the series for 1981’s The Road Warrior and 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The series lay dormant for thirty years until the release of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller returned to direct and the role of Max was recast with Tom Hardy opposite Charlize Theron as the new character Imperator Furiosa. Miller is now set to direct a prequel focusing on Furiosa and starring Anya Taylor-Joy.

Coming 2 America (33 Years)

1988’s Coming to America was a comedy about the prince of a fictional African nation who travels to New York City in search of a woman to marry. The film starred Eddie Murphy, who was also credited with the story, and Coming to America is one of Murphy’s best regarded films. Murphy and most of the original cast returned for a sequel in which the prince-turned-king returns to Queens in search of the son he unknowingly produced thirty-three years earlier. Coming 2 America is a compromised film that’s pulled in a few too many directions but it was an overall success.

Mary Poppins Returns (54 Years)

Based on the book by P.L. Travers, 1964’s Mary Poppins was a musical about a magical nanny, played by Julie Andrews, who mends the problems in a British household while socializing with a chimney sweeper played by Dick Van Dyke. The movie remains one of Disney’s most popular titles and the company even dramatized the making of Mary Poppins with Saving Mr. Banks starring Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. An official sequel came in 2018 with Mary Poppins Returns. Although released fifty-four years after the original movie, the sequel picked up the story about fifteen years later. Emily Blunt took over the role of Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke returned as a different character.   

The Odd Couple II (30 Years)

1968’s The Odd Couple was an adaptation of Neil Simon’s stage play. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau star as Felix and Oscar, a pair of divorced men with different temperaments who move in together. The Odd Couple was a huge success and it inspired a television series starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. In the 1990s Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reunited on the Grumpy Old Men films which played on their Odd Couple chemistry. Following the success of those films, Lemmon and Matthau did an official Odd Couple sequel released in 1998 for the thirtieth anniversary of the original film. The Odd Couple II was a critical and commercial failure.

Return to Oz (46 Years)

Author L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen books set in the magical land of Oz and they’ve been the basis for several movies but none more famous than MGM’s 1939 film The Wizard Oz which was based on Baum’s first Oz book. Disney acquired the rights to the rest of Baum’s Oz series and produced 1985’s Return to Oz. Whether this counts as a sequel to the 1939 film is a matter of debate among the fans but Return to Oz does include the ruby slippers which were invented for MGM’s film. Return to Oz was a darker movie with occasionally nightmarish images. It was a financial and critical disappointment in 1985 but Return to Oz has gained a cult following since then.

Doctor Sleep (39 Years)

The Shining was Stephen King’s third novel and it told the story of a family who are offseason caretakers of an isolated hotel and supernatural forces lead to madness and murder. The book was adapted into a 1980 film directed by Stanley Kubrick. King was unhappy with the film as it strayed from his novel and he produced a made-for-television remake. In 2013 King published the sequel to The Shining titled Doctor Sleep. Mike Flannagan directed the film adaptation released in 2019. The film version of Doctor Sleep was a sequel to Kubrick’s film and wove together elements of King’s novels.

Rocky Balboa (16 Years)

This phenomenon of delayed sequels has been part of a trend toward nostalgia, specifically nostalgia for movies and popular culture of the 1970s and 80s. That’s partly due to Generation X and Millennials hitting middle age and becoming creators and consumers and reflecting on the stories and characters that were important to them. One of the first of these nostalgia sequels was 2006’s Rocky Balboa. Coming sixteen years after Rocky V, the movie finds the Italian Stallion widowed and managing a restaurant when he’s offered a chance for one last exhibition bout against the heavyweight champion. This series reflected Sylvester Stallone’s life and the success of Rocky Balboa rejuvenated his career. Stallone returned to the role in two Creed films, resurrected John Rambo, and created the Expendables series which deliberately played on nostalgia for the action cinema of the 1980s.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (23 Years)

Over the last two decades Hollywood has focused on familiar intellectual properties which led to reboots of dormant franchises with films such as Jurassic World, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Halloween, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and Bill & Ted Face the Music. Most of these films continued sci-fi and fantasy stories that had already been subject to sequelization. One of the more unexpected of these retro sequels was 2010’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Oliver Stone returned to one of his most well-regarded films twenty-three years later and set the action around the 2008 housing market crash. The Wall Street sequel was uneven. It has some great moments but the movie was sabotaged by a weak and discordantly happy ending.

Top Gun: Maverick (36 Years)

Top Gun: Maverick 1986’s Top Gun was one of the defining movies of the 1980s and it established Tom Cruise as a movie star. After many years of rumors and false starts, Top Gun: Maverick saw Cruise reprise his role but now as an instructor preparing elite naval aviators for a dangerous mission. Maverick recaptures the appeal of the original Top Gun but the sequel is better than its predecessor in almost every way. The narrative is tighter, the characters are more interesting, and the action is superior. Maverick also doubles down on the series’ militaristic politics. The original Top Gun incited a 500% recruitment spike for the United States Navy and the military hoped that the sequel would do the same.

TRON: Legacy (28 Years)

Top Gun: Maverick is not director Joseph Kosinski’s first attempt at a delayed sequel. His first directorial feature was 2010’s TRON: Legacy. The original film had been released in 1982 and starred Jeff Bridges as a computer programmer who was transported inside the world of a videogame. TRON had groundbreaking computer effects and the movie was a moderate success but it persisted as a cult title. A big budget sequel was released twenty-eight years later with Bridges returning in dual roles. TRON: Legacy was one of the first films to use digital de-aging on a major character.

The Color of Money (25 Years)

Well before retro sequels were in vogue, Martin Scorsese directed 1986’s The Color of Money which was a sequel to 1961’s The Hustler. Paul Newman plays the pool shark Fast Eddie who in the first film traveled the country working bars and pool halls but found that the life of a competitor had personal costs he wasn’t prepared to stomach. The Color of Money picks up Fast Eddie’s story twenty-five years later. He’s given up pool for dealing in liquor until he meets Vincent, a talented and hungry pool player played by Tom Cruise, who is managed by his girlfriend Carmen played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Fast Eddie takes Vincent and Carmen under his wing and in the process Eddie rediscovers his love of the game.

And here are a few additional titles not discussed on the show:

Bill & Ted Face the Music (29 Years)

Blade Runner 2049 (35 Years)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (32 Years)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (19 years)

Mother of Tears (27 Years)

Psycho II (23 Years)

T2: Trainspotting (21 Years)