Usually, sequels come out a couple of years later, as you want the original still fresh in the audience’s mind. It has to be said that sequels are often disappointing with a lot said about notable exceptions that might actually be better than the original, such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Godfather Part II or Aliens. But what do you do when it is decades later?
The Shining and Doctor Sleep
Original: The Shining, released 1980, Director: Stanley Kubrick, starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd.
Sequel: Doctor Sleep, released 2019, Director: Mike Flanagan, starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and Kyliegh Curran.
Years between films: 39
To me, The Shining is one of the greatest films ever made and is made by one of the greatest directors ever, based on a book by the most successful horror writer in the history of the world. It’s hard to imagine the trepidation of director Mike Flanagan when he got the job. The sequel to the book of The Shining was only released a few years ago so providing filmmakers wanted to wait for an “official” sequel they had to wait for Stephen King.
Blade Runner & Blade Runner 2049
Original: Blade Runner, released 1982, Director – Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer and Sean Young.
Sequel: Blade Runner: 2049, released 2017, directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford.
Years between films: 35
Blade Runner must surely rank as one of the most influential Sci-Fi films in existence. People still quote Rutger Hauer’s final speech as an ode to life and death. It’s depiction of cities, replicants, and even something like advertising is iconic.
Mad Max Trilogy & Mad Max: Fury Road
Original: Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, released between 1979 and 1985, Director George Miller, starring Mel Gibson
Sequel: Mad Max: Fury Road, released 2015, Director George Miller, starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Hugh Keays-Byrne
Years between films: 30
The cult classic trilogy of what started out as an Ozploitation film has a warm place in the hearts of many, the latest chapter is probably my favourite film of the decade.
All three of the original films left room for the continuation of the story. Danny may have escaped but what about the rest of his life with these powers? Blade Runner ended with Deckard fleeing with Rachael with huge questions remaining about his own identity. And Max Max never seems to have a definitive ending, just more of Max wondering the world.
While I think all three are good films it’s fair to say one was a runaway success both critically and commercially – Mad Max: Fury Road. I think there are a number of reasons for this:
- George Miller – the director of the original trilogy made the new sequel. It seems throughout the intervening years a fourth film has never been far from Miller’s thoughts. Keeping the same director not only means continuity of ideas, themes and aesthetics but it will satisfy a certain section of fandom who are easily ostracised.
- Mad Max has a mixed reputation – While the Mad Max trilogy are cult favourites and certainly have their charms, they were never up there with The Shining and Blade Runner in cinematic reputation. The odds of making a film that would live up to The Shining or Blade Runner were slim, almost inevitably you were going to disappoint people. I don’t think the same is true for Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
- You don’t always wants answers – it is true there was potential for more stories within the world of The Shining and Blade Runner maybe you don’t want them. Would learning more about Danny and his powers make for a good film? Would learning the absolute truth about Deckard’s identity be a good thing? Already this question causes controversy with different cuts of the original film suggesting different answers. Sometimes part of what makes a film so special is that you’re left wondering, perhaps for decades, about what it was all about? Each Mad Max film has been different but never really explained what happened to the world and Fury Road didn’t try to answer that question, just added another chapter to the story.
That’s not to say Doctor Sleep and Blade Runner 2049 did everything wrong. Blade Runner 2049 assembled a great cast including Harrison Ford and got one of the best directors working – Denis Villeneuve – to make the film. Doctor Sleep was always aware of the legacy of The Shining and played this perfectly, it contains lots of references but ultimately is its own film.
More Films Coming Back…
These three aren’t the only films that had a lot to overcome. The Rise of Skywalker is getting released in a couple of weeks and this has the monumental weight of the Star Wars franchise on it, but next year we have a variety of sequels and reboots of classic films -a new Ghostbusters with the original cast, a live-action Mulan and Bill & Ted Face The Music. And they’re making a new Top Gun as well which I’m told some people are excited about.
I often complain about the lack of new ideas in Hollywood, and we live in an era when any “franchise” is resurrected to make some more money but I wouldn’t complain quite so much if they met the high standards of these three films.