The Hits and Misses of 2016’s Belated Movie Sequels

Chris Tilly

In recent years Hollywood has been doubling down on its biggest franchises. Rather than waiting years been sequels, the studios have started producing them year-on-year. Horror did it by turning the Saw, Paranormal Activity and Purge movies into yearly events. Lord of the Rings made billions releasing annually, as did Harry Potter, though that was partly down to its young stars aging at the same rate. The Fantastic Beasts movies sound like they will follow suit moving forward too. And Marvel and DC have now upped the ante from one, to two, and sometimes even three a year.

So that makes 2016 a curious year, because as well as multiple annual franchises returning, we’ve also witnessed a whole heap of aging properties returning to cinemas. To be fair, the trend kicked off in 2015 when Jurassic World and The Force Awakens breathed new life into old brands.

But this year it feels like we’ve had a constant stream of forgotten franchises returning to theatres for one last bite at that box office cherry. Some have made rather large fortunes. Others have been resounding failures. So let’s take a look back at what worked, what didn’t, and why.

Bridget Jones’s Baby

Gap: 12 Years

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In the UK, the Bridget Jones movies have been a license to print money, with the two previous films based on Helen Fielding’s comic creation – Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason – making a mint, in spite of the latter receiving something of a critical mauling. So it’s less a shock that Renee Zellweger and co have returned for a threequel, and more a surprise that it took them so long. This time the plot revolved around whether or not Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) or Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey) was the father of Bridget’s forthcoming sprog.

Worth the Wait?

Yes. The reviews were largely positive for this one, but the box office receipts were even better. It’s already one of the biggest films of the year in the UK, while globally, the film has grossed more than $210m, from a budget of around just $35m. So don’t expect this to be the last we see of Bridge.

Bad Santa 2

Gap: 13 Years

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The original Bad Santa was something of a cult hit when it was released Christmas 2003. The tale of an alcoholic sex addict who works as a department store Santa so he can rob shopping malls at night, it was a deeply dark comedy that grossed three-times its budget in cinemas, and became a festive favourite on home video where the theatrical version was released as well as a director’s cut and an unrated version.

Worth the Wait?

No. While stars Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox returned for the sequel, a new director and new screenwriters were brought onboard. Their efforts failed to connect with critics and audiences alike however, the film maligned for being an uninspired and unfunny retread of the original.

Finding Dory

Gap: 13 Years

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Finding Nemo was released to pretty much universal acclaim in 2003. The tale of clownfish Marlin and his friend Dory searching the high seas for his missing son was adored by critics and won the Oscar for best animated feature. It also grossed nearly $900m at the global box office, making it the most successful animated film ever at the time, and became the bestselling DVD of all-time, shifting more than 40m copies. But it felt like a wholly self-contained story, meaning that a sequel was far from inevitable.

Worth the Wait?

Yes. Finding Dory was the sequel audiences didn’t know they wanted, but couldn’t get enough of when finally released. The animated tear-jerker broke all kinds of records at the box office this summer, overtaking its predecessor for a total gross of over $1 billion. And while it feels like the story of Marlin, Dory and Nemo is yet again complete, when you’re talking about money like this, never say never.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Gap: 16 Years

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This one had a complicated release, but just in case you missed it, a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel did hit a handful of screens this year. The 2000 original – which was directed by Ang Lee and starred Chow-Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi – won an Oscar, two Golden Globes and four BAFTAs, and became the highest grossing foreign-language film in American history. And the fact that the martial arts epic was based on the fourth in a five-book series suggests the potential was there for lucrative prequels and sequels. But thanks to lengthy wrangling behind-the-scenes, it took an age for a follow-up to take flight.

Worth the Wait?

No. Martial arts choreographer-turned-film director Yuen Woo-ping replaced Ang Lee in the director’s chair, and the sequel suffered for it, with Variety calling the finished flick “a dispiritingly leaden affair” and The Guardian branding it a “Xerox copy with cheap toner.” The film’s release was also a mess, with The Weinstein Company planning to unleash the sequel in theatres and on Netflix the same day, most of those cinema chains refusing, and the film ending up on just a handful of screens.

Blair Witch

Gap: 17 Years

Yes, we know that Book of Shadows came out a year after The Blair Witch Project, but as that sequel was a quick, cheap, and pretty terrible cash-in that was pretty much unrelated to the original, we’re going to ignore it. A bit like the makers of the new Blair Witch. But the first film was a true phenomenon, scaring the bejesus out of audiences, putting the found footage genre on the map, and becoming one of the most successful horror movies of all-time. Book of Shadows killed the franchise stone-dead, but it was just a matter of time before someone resurrected the crone, and that someone ended up being two very talented filmmakers – Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett – director and writer of You’re Next and The Guest.

Worth the Wait?

Vaguely. The film seemed to split critics, but this wasn’t a movie made for reviewers, but rather one designed to frighten audiences. According to Box Office Mojo the belated sequel cost $5m and grossed $45m worldwide, which looks like a resounding success. But the original made a whopping $250m, and thanks to the hype surrounding this one, and the massive promotional spend Lionsgate put behind it – Blair Witch seemed to be EVERYWHERE this summer – that final total is pretty disappointing. Especially when you realise that Book of Shadows made $2m more.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Gap: 20 Years

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There had been rumblings of an Independence Day sequel ever since the original became the most successful film of 1996. Every couple of years director and ‘Master of Disaster’ Roland Emmerich would claim that he and long-time collaborator Dean Devlin were developing story ideas, but they never managed to get a sequel off the ground. In 2013 Emmerich announced plans to shoot a pair of movies, back-to-back, called ID Forever Part I and ID Forever Part II, though they also failed to materialise. But this summer, 20 years on, Independence: Resurgence hit screens; the aliens themselves returning 20 years later, with plans to wipe the human race out once-and-for-all.

Worth the Wait?

No. With Will Smith turning down the opportunity to return for the sequel, Resurgence had a Will Smith-shaped hole that the film’s young cast failed to fill. Resurgence lacked the wow factor of its predecessor, while the critical consensus seemed to be that Emmerich had somehow managed to make a big-budget alien invasion boring. Disappointing box office followed, and in the aftermath – unsurprisingly – talk of a third film ground to a halt.

So that’s the story of the year, and based on these results, 2016’s belated sequels were more bad than good. But the trend looks to be continuing in 2017 via even larger gaps, with Trainspotting 2 reaching cinemas 21 years after its predecessor, and Blade Runner returning a whopping 25 years after the original! Here’s hoping they are worth the wait.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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