EDITORIAL: The most desired and long-awaited sequels

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I'm sure you've been seeing many of the same movie headlines that I have lately.  It appears that Hollywood hell is freezing over with the recent rash of announced and proposed sequels to movies previously thought dead and buried.  Just in the past week, sequels were announced to Twins (reuniting Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, and adding Eddie Murphy), Dumb and Dumber (reuniting Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels), and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (reunited the Channel 4 News Team of Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Dave Koechner, and Christina Applegate).  

While Anchorman has been rumored for a long time and was famously announced, in character, by Ron Burgundy himself on Conan, the news of Twins and Dumb and Dumber  was out of the deep left field of nowhere.  It's been 25 years since 1987's Twins and 18 years since Dumb and Dumber.  Both of those movies were never thought to be franchises.  I don't remember anyone sitting a coffee shop, barbershop, local bar, or movie theater ever stating "You know what's missing at the movie theaters, fellas?  More Twins."  Yet a generation later, we are hearing about reunited casts and sequels.  Out of those three, my money for success goes to the Anchorman sequel and its crack ensemble.  Jim Carrey has been loosing appeal for years and, well, you just heard my sarcasm forTwins two sentences earlier.

This isn't new. Hollywood has been kicking up old properties and recycling ideas for years, but the "recovery distance" between sequels lately is interesting.  The longest gap I can find is the 28-year gap between 2010's Tron: Legacy and the 1982 original.  That is closely followed by the 25 years between appearances by Paul Newman's Eddie Felson pool shark from 1961's The Hustler to 1986's The Color of Money and the 23 years between Wall Street chapters for Michael Douglas's Oscar-winning Gordon Gecko character.  

Most notably, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released in 2008, 19 years after Harrison Ford rode off into the sunset in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.   2006's Superman Returns was made 19 years after Superman IV: The Quest of Peace.  It was 12 years between Die Hard with a Vengeance and Live Free or Die Hard.  Sylvester Stallone self-piloted and resurrected his two best characters with Rocky Balboa (16 years after Rocky V) and Rambo (20 years after Rambo III).  Last year, Scream 4 brought Neve Campbell and the gang back from 11 years away.  Even this very weekend at the box office, American Reunion arrives 13 years after the original and nine years after American Wedding.  Later this summer, we are getting Men in Black 3 after a decade away.

The big question that always arises when these long-distance sequels happen is: Are they really necessary?  Are they worth the effort?  Is it worth revisiting those characters and those worlds?  You can also make the debate of sequel versus remake.  Has enough time passed that movie makers should just start anew rather than resurrect the old?  Stalwart fans will always prefer the original and call into question the new approach, hence why these sequels get the green light.  People like their originals and like the nostalgia.  When done right, they are great experiences.  Most of the movies I listed in the last paragraph ended up being highly successful.  It remains to be seen whether or not Twins, Dumb and Dumber, or Anchorman can match that trend.

In any case, this recent trend of resurrections got me to thinking about other desired and long-awaited sequels, both possible and impossible.  I say impossible in one regard because there are classic old movies with historically wide-open endings that would have made for great sequel possibilities, but time has passed them by.  As for the present, the possibilities are endless, as seen with the ridiculous Twins concept.

For this new editorial, I'm listing the most desired and long-awaited movie sequels, both past and present.  To qualify for my list, the gap between the original and the present day must be greater than five years.  Before I start, I have to send some kudos out to a movie industry Facebook friend of mine who runs his own website, titled "The Sleep Skunk" (link), that specializes in charting movie pitches and movie ideas just like this.  His list is way better than mine.  Here's my take divided into two parts.  I guess I do need to warn that there are minor SPOILERS in the descriptions below, but only if you haven't seen these well-known movies.


Casablanca-- Yes, it's my all-time favorite movie, so I accept my bias, but aren't you the least bit curious how that "start of a beautiful friendship" turned out between Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains?  How did the war and freedom work out for Victor and Ilsa making that plane ride to Lisbon?  In 1998, crime novelist Michael Walsh wrote an unofficial sequel novel to Casablanca, entitledAs Time Goes By (I own a copy on my bookshelf at home) explaining Rick's checkered past and how he and Ilsa do meet again.  Now that 70 years have past, a sequel or follow-up is impossible, and its probably a good thing.  Whatever you do, Hollywood, don't even try to remake Casablanca.  You can't top perfection.  Along the exact same lines of perfection, don't even touch It's a Wonderful Life  or The Wizard of Oz with the same flashy desire (though it sounds like Sam Raimi and Disney are going to try with a prequel).

Gone With the Wind-- That famous "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" split that ended the union of Clark Gable's Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the End was emphatic for sure, but Scarlett's new vigor afterwards and that ending sunset let us know that the saga was far from over. Original novel author Margaret Mitchell refused to write a sequel, but her estate later authorized Alexandra Ripley in 1991 to write Scarlett, picking up from the moment Gone With the Wind ended.  It was subsequently turned into a TV mini-series starring Timothy Dalton and Joanna Whalley-Kilmer.  Too much time had passed and, like Casablanca, you can't make a good sequel without Gable and Leigh.  It's too bad the Melanie Wilkes character dies, because the great Olivia de Havilland is still with us at 95 years old.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-- Those who have seen this fun western classic, starring the dynamic duo of Robert Redford and Paul Newman, know how the movie ended with an open-ended bang. We assume Butch and Sundance weren't going to survive their long odds, but you never see them die.  Could they have miraculously survived their standoff charge?  Even if they didn't, the great team of Redford and Newman longed to make one more movie for more than 30 years since 1973's The Sting (another great sequel that we'll never see and not The Sting II from 1983), but the right project never came around and Paul Newman passed away in 2008.

Some Like it Hot-- Much like the other films listed already, the original 1959 cast members have all died, but I would have love to see the Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe shenanigans continue on, especially to see how that "Well, nobody's perfect" boat ride turned out.  Even back then it would have been impossible with Monroe dying just three years later.  Another Jack Lemmon movie with great untapped expanded possibilities after its ending was The Apartment from 1960.

The Graduate-- Once Dustin Hoffman breaks up the wedding and the still-dressed bride Katharine Ross joins him to run away on that city bus, the camera lingers for a while on their emotions before the credits.  Present jubilation is soon replaced by mounting uncertainty for the future.  Though Hoffman and Ross are both still with us, too much time has passed for us to get an idea about how that bus ride finished and how their relationship turned out.

Good Will Hunting-- Much like new love on the horizon in The Graduate, in the final scene of Gus Van Sant's  Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon ditches his lucrative job offers, turns his Chevy Nova west from Boston towards California, and takes Robin William's line to "go see about a girl."  I'm one person who would like to see how that road trip and reunion turned out.

The Shawshank Redemption-- We don't need to know the authorities will pursue Red (Morgan Freeman) into Mexico.  We don't need to know if Andy (Tim Robbins) gets caught some day.  You know what.  We don't want to know either.  That long distance camera shot of two friends embracing on the beautiful beach in Zihuatanejo was all that was necessary.  No words were needed.  Like Casablanca, don't mess with perfection.

The Joker returning to Christopher Nolan's Batman series-- The unfortunate death of Heath Ledger casts a cloud on this excellent character.  The Joker was apprehended and not killed at the end of The Dark Knight, but recasting the Oscar winner would be ugly and impossible.  In any case, director and creative force Christopher Nolan has plainly said that the Joker couldn't be recast and that this summer's The Dark Knight Rises will be the last film of the series.  It's a little sad, because I love that ending line from Ledger: "I think you and I are destined to do this forever."  I would gladly buy dozens more Ledger vs. Bale prize fights.

Any Christopher Nolan twist ending-- Speaking of Christopher Nolan, this master is known for jaw-dropping, ambiguous endings to a degree far better than anything from M. Night Shymalan.  Nolan insists on the power of audience interpretation and will never answer or follow-up the riddles behind MementoThe Prestige, or Inception.  Not a chance!

Star Wars: Dark Empire-- For a lot of Star Wars fans who followed the multitude of licensed literature that followed the original trilogy in 1983, the "Dark Empire" trilogy written in Dark Horse Comics has always been an intriguing concept.  Taking place after Return of the Jedi, Luke gets tempted by the Dark Side, a cloned Emperor returns, and Han Solo and Princess Leia have a son.  As we all know, George Lucas went the prequel route (Episodes I-III) instead of the future (VII-IX perhaps?), but true fans sure missed having that original cast of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford.  All three have aged too much to play this storyline out.

The Godfather: Part IV-- No matter how much movie aficionados dislike Part III compared the first two great films, its becoming too late to correct or revisit the Corleone family.  Part III  definitively ends with Michael's elderly and often debated, in terms of karma, appropriately solitary death down the road in life, but we are never going to get to see the in-between.

Fight Club and The Usual Suspects-- Despite the wide-open ending of society's collapse at the end of Fight Club and the wealth of fallout possibilities that could come from that, we won't see a Fight Club 2.  The same goes learning more about Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects and its shocking twist ending.  For both movies, the proverbial cat is out of the bag, in terms of mysterious true identities for Tyler Durden and Keyser Soze.  Those developments made the first films so good.  Anything more wouldn't have the same effect anymore.


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Top Gun 2-- While promoting Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol this past winter, Tom Cruise mentioned that possible sequel was in the works.  The original just celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.  The return of Maverick would surely sell some tickets.

Ghostbusters III--The rumors have been around for years, especially lately with Dan Aykroyd angling to get the band back together with a younger cast to pass the torch to.  The rumored sticking point has been Bill Murray's lack of desire to return to the franchise.  This one is up in the air for sure.

National Lampoon's Vacation series-- Speaking of old school, with Chevy Chase experiencing a minor career renaissance on NBC's Community, why not dust off our favorite bumbling father, Clark Griswold?  Maybe because 1997's Vegas Vacation and 2003's made-for-TV Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure buried the franchise.

Beverly Hills Cop 4-- Eddie Murphy, save for his Oscar snub for Dreamgirls, has made a pack of ugly dog movies for the past twenty years, including 1994's Beverly Hills Cop III.  As many have said, if John McClane can return, why can't Axel Foley too?  To me, the only way this sequel is acceptable is if its a hard-R and Murphy is allowed to cut loose from this bumbling family man persona he's been playing far too frequently.  Go ahead and let him bury the hatchet with Saturday Night Livewhile he's at it and triumphantly return to host.  It's time. 

A Good Day to Die Hard-- Speaking of John McClane, Live Free or Die Hard did such a good job in 2006 that it has enabled the grizzled cowboy to keep trucking.  This new film, A Good Day to Die Hard is targeting a Valentine's Day 2013 opening and is scheduled to begin shooting this very month.

Bill and Ted 3-- I don't think you'll get zen-serious Keanu Reeves to put this wacky character back on anymore than Sean Penn would play Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High again.  Reeves, like Penn, has worked too long to shake that "dude" stereotype.  I'm sure, somewhere, Alex Winter needs a paycheck, but with George Carlin no longer with us, the project wouldn't be right and come across as desperation on the part of Keanu.

Back to the Future Part IV-- We are just three years from 2015 and the possible future we limpsed in Back to the Future Part II in 1989.  I know we still don't have flying cars and hoverboards, but I think it would be absolutely wonderful to pull Robert Zemeckis off of the performance-capture stage (The Polar Express, Beowulf, and The Christmas Carol) and get something going before Michael J. Fox can't perform anymore with his deteriorating health from Parkinson's disease.  I know this one would bring a lot of fans.

Forrest Gump 2-- I guess with Tom Hanks aging well and Haley Joel Osment with nothing to do lately that this idea could happen.  Rumors were that screenwriter Eric Roth wrote a sequel treatment in early 2001, but the 9/11 attacks made the story no longer relevant.

Jurassic Park IV--Jurassic Park II: The Lost World brought back Jeff Goldblum in 1997 and Jurassic Park III brought back Sam Neill in 2001.  Could a fourth film bring everyone back together?  You can't say the technology's not there to create an incredible spectacle.  This too has never left the rumor mill in 11 years.

Indiana Jones 5-- Just a year short of my five-year rule for this list, I'm going to allow this addition.  While a hit at the box office four years ago, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull left a bad taste in fans' mouths after the perfect ending of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  You could also tell that Lucas and Spielberg's plan of injecting youth and passing the torch to Shia LeBouf's Mutt Williams character didn't exactly take off.  Turning 70 this July, does Harrison Ford have one more adventure?  Is Shia worth watching after all of this manic Transformers movies?

Riddick-- Fans of Vin Diesel get their wish.  A new Pitch Black sequel is filming now and is eyeing a 2013 release.

Zoolander 2-- About as much of a medium hit as the Pitch Black franchise, but Zoolander 2 with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson might see the light of day someday, especially after interest re-sparked when Stiller recently played the character in a skit on Saturday Night Live last fall.

Mad Max 4-- I, for one, can separate the polarizing public persona of Mel Gibson and appreciate him as an actor.  I would love to see him return to his Australian roots for one more brutal ride.  This one looks to be taking the remake route with Mad Max: Fury Road.  Original director George Miller (who's been making money with the Happy Feet franchise of all things) has cast Tom Hardy as Mad Max with Charlize Theron co-starring.  Historic Australian rains have pushed production back this year.

Pulp Fiction 2 or Reservoir Dogs 2-- Quentin Taratino fans would like to see these colorful characters from both movies return, but did too many of them die in the process?  I think so.

Out of Sight 2-- Much like Quentin Tarantino's fun characters, George Clooney's Jack Foley is a cult favorite from the 1998 original.  Rumors are out there that Elmore Leonard has written a novel sequel to Out of Sight.  No word has come out of Clooney or original director Steven Soderbergh.

Matilda: The Professional II-- With Natalie Portman all grown up and boasting an Academy Award on her resume, seeing her return as an adult Matilda, a now-matured and experienced assassin, would be an excellent treat and return to the character.

Taxi Driver 2-- This one on the list tweaks my eyebrows the most.  Back in 2000, Robert De Niro discussed this himself on Inside the Actor's Studio with host James Lipton.  Reuniting Martin Scorsese, whose latest muse has been Leonardo DiCaprio, and De Niro would bring together the long-lost partners to tell an older Travis Bickle story in the 21st century world.  De Niro could use a return to drama more than just the recent Being Flynn.  The very thought of that level of modern menace is fascinating.  Just leave out the "Are you talking to me?" line.  It's been the most over-used movie quote in history.

There's my list.  As I say to so many "woulda-coulda-shouldas" in my life, "a boy can dream."  Maybe more of these movie sequel dreams can come true someday.