Inspired by the home video release of TRON: Legacy and the original TRON (for the first time on Blu Ray) hitting shelves today, I wanted to look at popular stand alone films/franchises that have several years (even decades) between installments. To date, some are good, some are bad and there are scheduled/rumored sequels to some older properties coming down the pike that seem questionable.
To this day, it still boggles my mind that Disney wanted to dust off the original TRON and attempt this sequel a whopping 28 years after Flynn’s adventures in “The Grid”. Now truth be told, I liked Legacy and it did a fine job at continuing the story but had trouble fleshing it out and there were some missed opportunities. Though it wasn’t all I hoped for it was still enjoyable, not to mention gorgeous.
The original TRON…about as ancient and simplistic as this picture isn’t it?
Whenever there is talk of a sequel or reboot (assuming you’re on board for it of course) the nostalgic part of you gushes with possibilities, while the realistic part of your brain should be asking “do we need this?“. For years we’ve witnessed hit and miss installments to our favorite series and sometimes the story should not go on. TRON: Legacy beat the odds (even showing enough promise that a third TRON film was green-lit earlier this year) but others haven’t been so lucky.
I want to address some film series that are looking to be continued and address the reasons that, aside from nostalgia’s sake, we may not (or simply just don’t) need them. But before we really get into it, here’s a look at some of my favorite film franchises (TRON included) who have had mixed results going back to the well:
Live Free or Die Hard – 12 years after Die Hard 3 (and 19 years since John’s little run-in at Nakatomi Tower) comes this little sequel. Little? Well little to Justin Long who didn’t think it was humanly capable to took out a helicopter with a car, then proceeded to take out a JSF F-35. Yup, it’s par for the course in McClane World but it’s high time we called BS! on the aging Johnny boy. True, it had enough tongue in cheek humor to make it all work but how can you expect to top the over-the-top elements in that film?
Rocky Balboa – Again, the last chapter in the Rocky saga Rocky Balboa was graceful and proper send off this time 16 years since the last Rocky movie. Not entirely necessary but welcomed and respectful. Still, something had to rectify Rocky 5 and it certainly did the job.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 19 years after The Last Crusade, Indy “Nuked the Fridge” and the collective groan of fan boys can be heard around the world. Like Nic Cage said in The Rock, “it’s something we wish we could dis-invent“. Yeah that about sums up my feelings. Although Lucas and Spielberg are working on number 5 (shudders) I could expect this from George but not Steven. Also, if this image of Harrison doesn’t scream “he’s too old” then I guess nothing will. I’ve recently thought a reboot would make more sense but that’s a topic for another day.
Rambo – Rambo films were made pretty close to one another but the gap between Rambo III and Rambo was 20 years. While I believe Sly perfectly closed the book on Johhny boy (who only really wanted to go home in the first place) got what he wanted. It was a great way to (finally) send him off…but now these rumors of Rambo 5 aren’t sounding to great.
TRON: Legacy– Outside of the few die hard TRON junkies out there, watching the original Tron (either back in 82 or recently) is a tough pill to swallow. Cutting edge graphics at the time really amazed people but the story didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Now Legacy had much more exposition and even though it slowed the film down it was equally confusing. That said it was a vast improvement over the original in style, story and effects.
So while there are other films that have decades between installments I want to look to the future at other films from the past slated to get a dusting off…whether we want it, need it or not.
Last year Screen Rant and Film School Rejects posted info on two films that really make me wince: Top Gun 2, and Ghostbusters 3. They’ve been rumored and speculated on for quite some time. Worse, they’re supposed to be followed by another iconic hero who’s even more past his prime, I mean the point of relevance. What will Henry Jones Jr. be searching for this time? What will Indiana Jones 5 be titled? The Legend of the Eternal Hip or The Search for the Great Hall of Medicine?? Oh and don’t forget, we can look forward to the raging and aging John McClane in Die Hard 5!
Come on gang, can we let these characters go?? Or will we continue to send them into their grave having done little service to the mythology with each succeeding installment. Or, in an inspired decision to simply let go of the reins, as proven time and time again in the 007 series, get a fresh face in to reinvigorate the roles?
But the one film that I can’t keep from bringing up again and again is one of my very favorites. We’ve heard rumors and been teased to death with the possibility of the fearsome foursome returning to “pass the torch” (a long running plot idea) to a younger generation. But have you seen Ramis or Aykroyd lately? Even Bill Murray’s appearance of the Scream Awards (nostalgically awesome as it was) still looked odd…and he hasn’t even read the script yet. This is not Marcus Aurelius making Maximus the new Emperor. No, the “passing of the torch” would only work if it looked like they were still capable of Ghostbusting. They look like they’ve been retired for a while therefore making the passing of anything an idea past it’s time and therefore a moot point.
I do hate continuing to be negative about this and bash the Ghostbusters, but I have to voice that Ghostbusters 2 wasn’t that great. Over the years we’ve accepted it as canon. Some people claim that to make this third film work requires Aykroyd and Ramis’ hand on the script (where previously the “passing the torch” premise was written by Lee Stupinsky). But the recent video game was written by Aykroyd and Ramis and you’d think with a limitless digital playground they’d come up with a fantastic story…sadly it wasn’t great either. It felt quite a bit retreaded playing to the fans’ nostalgia rather than meet their expectations.
So I’m not saying older actors can’t reprise the roles of yesteryear as we saw Die Hard 4 and Rambo 4 kick legitimate ass beat the odds (but even as a fan, Rocky 6 was still a stretch). That said, if Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was any indicator then Ghostbusters 3, to me, seems like an ill-fated venture, and don’t even get me started on this third Bill & Ted film they’re talking about. Now I’m as nostalgic as the next guy but somethings are better left alone. If not then it’s sure leaving the door open to unflattering puns like this…
In short I’d like to suggest that we (meaning studios) leave our heroes and icons alone. TRON: Legacy proved to be an interesting concept whereby an aging (trapped is more like it) Flynn didn’t detract from the story. In fact it enhanced it. But as other franchises try to go back to the well, it may only serve to exploit the weaknesses the previous films had to begin with, which ultimately makes a cohesive follow up that much more ill-fated. Sorry if I sound so negative but it’s how I feel. And to answer my question posed in the title, I really don’t have one save for suggesting that anyone thinking of continuing something from nearly 20 years ago better check if the character still holds weight, and better yet, the actor(s) in question can do the same.
So what do you all think? What’s your take on sequels waaay after the fact?? Am I being too negative on the matter?? Are you eager to see a possibly doomed sequel just for the sake of nostalgia? Or do you have the sense to say no??