Do delayed sequels ever work?

Joe Holloran examines the modern film phenomanon of the delayed sequel.

Joe Holloran
16th October 2017
This month saw the release of Blade Runner 2049 by Enemy (2013) director Denis Villeneuve. A massive thirty-five years since Ridley Scott’s dystopian Sci-fi classic Blade Runner first hit the silver screen back in 1982. While most sequels are released while the fire of awareness and eagerness is still burning bright, not all follow this path.

Fans of music will know the feeling when they hear one of their favourites groups have reunited. The initial rush of joy and visits to ticket sites, then the question, why? The answer in most cases, sadly, is money.

The same approach is adopted by most film fans upon the news of a long-awaited sequel. The fear always being that the studios will think rather than creating something new that might fail, or scare off their demographics the studios simply roll out more of the same.

Before Sunset (2004). A rare example of a sucessful delayed sequel. Image:IMDB

The horror movie genre is a particular victim of this historically, the recent Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity sequels for instance. today super-hero movies are coming at us quicker than a tidal-wave with many a year. However good the new Blade Runner film is, it does seem to stink of a cash-grab. Of the original cast and creative team only, Harrison Ford has returned. Although an important caveat needs to be given here, namely the disastrous Godfather III (1990), a film with most of the same cast and crew as the original nearly twenty years before in 1972.

However, there are a few case-studies that rebuke the rule.

In 1995, Richard Linklater reinvented the cinematic-romance genre with Before Sunrise. The film was a commercial and critical success and there was talk of a sequel. Linklater and the film’s stars, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy refused. However, in 2004 a sequel was released. Before Sunset is the perfect example of how to re-engage with a dormant story. The same team was involved and the story had developed off-screen across the years. It felt like re-visiting memoires of an old romance for the first time in years.

Films can go years without a sequel and succeed so long as the audience is kept engaged through other media in the same universe. Sci-fi franchises like Star Wars do this, as does the Escape From… films with fifteen years separating Escape From New York (1981) with Escape From L.A. (1996).

This trend of late sequels shows no signs of slowing. So, keep an eye out in the coming years for sequels to the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) and Beetlejuice (1988) and try to keep an open mind about them, they might be great, so long as integrity comes before the lure of dollar signs.

The sequel to this article should arrive somewhere before the year 2989.

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