The current trend in Hollywood is to dig up old, popular franchises and try and spin an extra lease of life out of them. It works too for the stars themselves, who keep a successful franchise as a chip in the back pocket, only to be played when they really need that one last big payday.
However, once there’s a gap of more than ten years between films, it can be a risky business to bring a franchise back to life, and there are fewer guarantees than usual. Here are some who gave it a go, and how they got on…
Basic Instinct A sequel that was mooted for many years, but by the time it moved into production, original star Michael Douglas, original director Paul Verhoeven and original screenwriter Joe Eszterhas were nowhere to be found. Which left Sharon Stone, returning to her breakthrough role nearly 15 years after it had shot her to superstardom.
Sadly, though, various problems quickly became apparent. Stone, for all her profile, wasn’t the leading name in the first film, for instance, and the film came across as being her last chance of a big payday. Plus, bluntly, it was terrible. It proved to be box office poison, taking just $6m in the US (!), and $32m overseas. The original had a worldwide take of $352m. It’s fair to say that there’s no chance of Basic Instinct 3.
The X-FilesLegal battles held up the second X-Files movie, meaning there was a ten year gap between Fight The Future and I Want To Believe. And this is a case where the wait really hurt the film. In 1998, at the height of The X-Files’ popularity, Fight The Future raked in $189m worldwide, and paved the way for a second film to quickly come in and capitalise on its success. Ten years proved way too long, though, and when I Want To Believe also turned out to be a fairly unambitious, extended television episode on the big screen, that surely didn’t help too much, either. A worldwide gross of $66m however hasn’t totally killed off the hope of a third cinematic adventure for Mulder and Scully, but it’s made it tough…
Clerks Kevin Smith isn’t really a director you’d associate with sequels, and thus eyebrows were raised when he announced he was revisiting his debut film, Clerks, to find out what had happened to Randal and Dante since we met them last. Leaving a 12 year gap between the films, this gave Smith the space to build some genuine evolution into his characters, and he gladly took the chance to do so. And while the worldwide box office take of $26m may not raise eyebrows, set against the sizeable business it’s done on DVD and the low production budget, it’s proven to be a very profitable enterprise. More than that, though, Clerks II was a terrific sequel, and one that makes the rumours of a third movie later down the line very interesting indeed…
Crocodile Dundee Mick Dundee, as played by Paul Hogan, was an 80s phenomenon, with the first two Crocodile Dundee films proving very popular indeed. The first was a genuine sleeper hit, the raked in $328m across the globe and made Hogan a household name. The first sequel quickly followed, and Croc 2 did sound business, making $239m. Hogan then went off and worked on one or two ‘less successful projects’ – Almost An Angel, anyone? – and eventually chose to revive Crocodile Dundee for presumably the fairly common reason of wanting one last decent payday. To be fair, Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles – while a retread of sorts of the first film – wasn’t that bad at all, but a 13-year gap between the second and third movie was surely the main reason for a tepid $39m worldwide take.
Die Hard The gap between the assorted adventures of John McClane had gradually been getting longer, with the first two films just two years apart, but the gap between Die Hard 2 and Die Hard With A Vengeance stretching to five. Star Bruce Willis has given various interviews over the years where he’d said he’d never return to his most commercially potent role, but rumours nonetheless persisted of a tech-led Die Hard 4. And so it came to pass that 12 years after Die Hard With A Vengeance took in $361m around the world, Die Hard 4.0 – or Live Free And Die Hard if you’re in the US – headed to our screens.
The difference here though was that Willis still had star power, and the Die Hard movies themselves had remained very popular. The fourth film proved, too, to be less of the hatchet job than many feared, with a matured McClane fitting suitably uncomfortably into the world of hackers. It went on to take in more cash than any of its predecessors, with $383m in the bank. Die Hard 5 is likely.
The Godfather To call the third part of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather saga ‘eagerly awaited’ back in 1990 would be like saying The Smurfs were blue. 16 years and 13 days after The Godfather Part II had made its bow, Coppola revisited the Corleone family, with mixed results. He did prove that audience appetite was there, with the $136m worldwide gross easily out-performing the second film. But he failed to, crucially, deliver a film that matched the standards of the earlier two. And while it’s sold lots of copies on DVD too, we’d argue it’s the part of the boxset that many viewers are happy to pass over.
Rambo/Rocky Sylvester Stallone gambled and won when he brought back two of his 80s icons over the past couple of years. The sixth Rocky film, Rocky Balboa, followed the pretty terrible Rocky V (which had widely been assumed to have killed the franchise) by 16 years, and surprised many by delivering a thoughtful, admittedly far-fetched final outing for cinema’s most successful boxer. Audiences reacted positively, too, and Rocky Balboa coined in $155m at the worldwide box office. Factor that against Rocky V’s $119m, and that’s a tidy way to resurrect a franchise for one last go.
Rambo, meanwhile, is set for further adventures. There was some division as to whether the fourth film, Rambo, was as strong a comeback as Rocky Balboa, but nearly two decades after he’d hung up his, er, guns, John Rambo’s new adventure still pulled in $113m across the globe. Granted, that’s less than Rambo III’s $189m, but it nonetheless proved many pundits wrong who reckoned the audience for 80s action heroes had long since gone. Stallone is clearly the man to call if you need your franchise resurrecting…
The Color Of Money Not your conventional franchise revival, Paul Newman’s decision to revisit the character of Eddie Felson from The Hustler in Martin Scorsese’s 1986 follow-up The Color Of Money left a 25 year gap between the films. This, however, worked a treat, as it allowed some genuinely exploration as to what happened to the character. It proved to be a successful sequel of sorts, too, with The Color Of Money not only doing well at the box office, but also winning Newman his Oscar for Best Actor in 1987.
The Exorcist A franchise that seems fated to be continually revisited every umpteen years, the underrated Exorcist III in 1990 was seemingly set to be the last big screen outing for the series, and even that arrived 13 years after the second film. The third film’s take of $39m across the globe didn’t help, but a director’s cut re-release of the original film at the turn of the millennium brought in a very tidy $112m across the globe, and the increased thirst for horror movies meant a further film was greenlit.
The trouble production of Exorcist: The Beginning, however, clearly didn’t help, and the prequel to the original film had all sorts of directorial trouble. Originally earmarked for John Frankenheimer, his death passed the chair onto Paul Schrader, who completed the film, and was promptly fired when the money men saw the end product. Enter Renny Harlin to reshoot and patch the film into something more to their liking, and the film’s ultimate $78m worldwide take must have been, in the end, a little higher than expected. Don’t expect another film for at least another decade, though…!
Star WarsGeorge Lucas had always talked of making a further trilogy of Star Wars films, and by the time he got round to it – off the back of the hugely popular re-releases of the original films (albeit in special edition form) – Star Wars fever was, amazingly for such a gap between films, very high indeed. There was around sixteen years between Return Of The Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and the latter – in spite of not really capturing the majesty of the earlier films – quickly went about breaking box office records. It’s taken more money at the box office than any other Star Wars movie on its first run, with a total take – to date – of $924m across the globe.
Indiana JonesWith Star Wars out of his system, George Lucas went drilling for further cash by bringing back Harrison Ford’s hugely popular adventure. Just as with Die Hard, the Indiana Jones films had remained popular even in the absence of a new movie, and thus enthusiasm and goodwill towards a fourth adventure was in abundance.
This is one case though where time may have worked against those concerned. Arriving nearly two decades after everyone rode into the sunset at the end of The Last Crusade, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s filmmaking team were older, wiser and each more powerful than ever before. The problem was you sensed some battling behind the scenes to come up with the muddled story that we got in the end. Furthermore, the decision to heavily rely on special effects seemed very anti the ethos and feel of the earlier films. Still, audience appetite was huge, and the fourth film is by some distance the most lucrative at the box office, with a global take of $786m. The Last Crusade took in $474m. Expect, therefore, Indy 5 in the next few years.
Blues BrothersHorrible, horrible, horrible. Never mind that John Belushi was no longer with us, Dan Aykroyd nonetheless pressed ahead with a follow-up to one of his most popular movies, around 18 years later. Belushi’s place was taken by John Goodman, but it seemed that time had robbed Aykroyd of his memory of what made the first film great. Clue: it wasn’t chucking a little kid into the middle of it. Its $14m US take was more than it deserved, and less than the original had made back in 1980.
Superman It all looked such a safe bet, with the 2006 revival of Superman demonstrated just how much the goalposts had changed with blockbuster cinema. Trailing Superman IV: The Quest For Peace by 19 years, Superman Returns took $391m at the worldwide box office – not too far behind Batman Begins – and that’s a total in excess of any of its predecessors. However, it’s been regarded as a bit of a disappointment, with critical reaction being mixed and the high production budget meaning it wasn’t too profitable either. As a result, a new Superman film seems perennially stuck in limbo right now, although don’t expect too long a gap before The Man Of Steel makes his reappearance.
And there’s also, in the less successful camp: The Carry On series, Carrie and The Rage: Carrie 2, assorted Disney animated movie sequels (that may have made a quick buck, but arguably damaged future potential for the franchises concerned), The Lost Boys 2, Psycho II, Chinatown and The Two Jakes, Slap Shot 2, Return To Oz, Texasville, The Odd Couple II (although that’s a film with its share of fans) and any more you care to suggest in the comments…
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