Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Reel Opinion: The Top 10 Best Legacy Sequels

In 1983, PSYCHO II, the first sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller PSYCHO was in theatres. Of the film, famed journalist Aljean Harmetz wrote that it was unusual for a sequel to be made 22 years after the original. Little did she know that the idea would eventually turn into what is now called the Legacy Sequel; one of Hollywood’s favorite shiny new toys. 


A Legacy Sequel is defined as a film that follows the continuity of the original, but takes place further down the timeline. Original characters return and are joined by new ones, and old places and plotlines are resurrected. Some Legacy Sequels ignore previous entries and just sequel-ize the first movie (like HALLOWEEN in 2018), while others serve as a direct follow-up; either staying true to the time that has passed or even ignoring it completely. The best Legacy Sequels are the ones that are first and foremost a good movie, well-received, and use nostalgia as a storytelling device instead of a cheap trick to trigger emotions. For the purposes of this Blog, at least 10 years must have passed between the most recent film and the sequel. 



So let’s go back and visit…








10. DOCTOR SLEEP (2019) 


Mike Flanagan directs this supernatural thriller which is a direct, decades-later sequel to THE SHINING (1980); both films based on Stephen King novels. Ewan McGregor steps into the role of a grown-up Danny Torrance, who has found a way to deal with his ability of seeing dead people…only to get pulled back into the terror when a new threat arises. DOCTOR SLEEP dives deep into the workings of people with Danny’s ability and uses it to great effect, and makes us want to revisit THE SHINING almost right away. The film takes a while to make it back to the famed Overlook Hotel, but once there…it pays off big, and reminds us why that building was so terrifying in the first place.  





9. TRON: LEGACY (2010)  


Arguably the film that launched the new era of the Legacy Sequel by bringing back familiar characters, revisiting old places, and using CGI to de-age actors to their younger selves. Directed by Joseph Kosinski and released 28 years after the original TRON, LEGACY brought back Jeff Bridges and sent us back into the computer world of The Grid, while also kicking in  cherished memories of cabinet arcades and dazzling rock music. The CGI used to de-age Bridges was dodgy at the time, but for the most part the film is a visual and audio delight, and brought TRON back from an obscure Disney film to a new attraction. 







Released 17 years after the last MATRIX film and 22 years after the first, RESURRECTIONS brings back Neo (Keanu Reeves), from the dead for another go-around in the anything-is-possible virtual reality that mankind is stuck in. Using some clever self-referential winks and nods, returning director Lana Wachowski turns the tables on what we’ve come to expect a Legacy Sequel to do, making the fourth go-around in The Matrix one of the best in the series. 







Martin Scorsese directs this follow-up to the 1961 drama, THE HUSTLER, which is less of a sequel to its predecessor and more of a follow-up to its main character. Paul Newman reprises the role of pool hustler “Fast Eddie” Felson, and was joined by Hollywood’s top gun, Tom Cruise. MONEY has an excellent old-man vs. young-man storyline in a battle of generations, and the acting is top-notch. Newman would win an Oscar for his reprisal. 





6. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)


The only reason this sonic boom of a movie doesn’t rank higher is because of its status as a kinda-sorta Legacy Sequel…a question that was never quite clear. Regardless, director George Miller and the new Max (Tom Hardy), sets us on a thunderous rampage across the desert in an all-out assault of sound, and yes…fury. Simplistic on paper but carrying a slight spiritual side, FURY ROAD doesn’t bank much on nostalgia other than the old-school way of making car-crash movies. Nominated for ten Oscars and a winner of six, FURY ROAD was one of the most acclaimed sci-fi films of the last decade. 





5. ROCKY BALBOA (2006)


Sylvester Stallone straps on the gloves one more time as Rocky Balboa in this sequel released 30 years after the Best Picture-winning ROCKY and 16 years after the dung-heap that was ROCKY V. Stallone finally isn’t afraid to show Rocky’s age and frailty, and making him a grieving widow added to the emotional punch the film constantly carries. Packed with big-speeches and moments, ROCKY BALBOA paved the way for its own spinoff, CREED. 





4. BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)


Denis Villeneuve directs this follow-up to Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fil film from 1982, where human officials hunt down manufactured human beings. With startling visuals and a slow-burning mystery, 2049 builds a grand mystery with huge ramifications for the BLADE RUNNER world, including returning star Harrison Ford. The film is done in the style of the original, not just for nostalgia but for consistency, and long-time fans felt right at home. More refined and honed than the 1982 film, this Blogger finds 2049 to be superior to its predecessor in every way. 







Emily Blunt bravely steps into the dancing shoes of the beloved, iconic, and beyond-royalty Julie Andrews in this sequel to the 1964 Disney classic. Rob Marshall directs and Blunt does her own singing in this delight which sees Mary returning to aid the now-adult Banks children…and their children. RETURNS had very high marks to hit due to the high stature of the original film, but thanks to some wonderful performances, music, and a family-based storyline…the film delivers and delivers it practically perfect. 







When THE FORCE AWAKENS hit theatres in December of 2015, it had “only” been 10 years since we last had a STAR WARS film on the big screen; with the Prequel Trilogy running from 1999 to 2005. But AWAKENS served as Episode VII, which makes it a direct follow-up to RETURN OF THE JEDI (Episode VI) from 1983 (everybody got that?). Director J.J. Abrams takes the franchise back to basics; gone were the political discussions and back were the chases, fights, cliffhangers, and fun that STAR WARS is expected to deliver. New characters such as Rey (Daisy Ridley) and cute-as-nuts droid BB-8 became instant icons, while famed characters such as Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia (the late great Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (the late great Peter Mayhew), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), were welcomed back with wide-open emotional arms. A box office monster (it is currently the 4th highest earner of all time), THE FORCE AWAKENS re-ignited the franchise for yet another generation. 







When we see a GHOSTBUSTERS film, we expect to laugh. What we don’t expect to do is cry our souls out…and that is exactly what happened in AFTERLIFE from 2021. Directed by Jason Reitman (son of Ivan, director of the first two films), AFTERLIFE comes to us 37 years after the first classic film…and 32 years after the less-loved GHOSTBUSTERS II. Focusing not on the original characters but instead the legacy that they left behind, AFTERLIFE spends most of its time with the late great Egon’s family as they discover who their grandfather was…just as an old friend is coming back. The film smartly ties back to the original in a natural way that doesn’t feel forced, and although it takes a long while for us to get a glimpse of the guys, the emotional payoff is worth the wait. And it is a payoff that offers a great sense of closure in one of the most satisfying sequels made. This is the one that was worth waiting for. 


  4. BLADE RUNNER 2049


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