With the release of Incredibles 2 this weekend (a full 14 years since the first Incredibles came out) the writers here at AiPT! thought they would take this opportunity to discuss other sequels that took years to arrive, but were definitely worth it when they finally did.
They say that good things come to those who wait, and when it comes to these long-awaited sequels that was certainly the case.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Nathaniel Muir
Since a new Star Wars movie comes out now on a yearly basis, it’s easy to forget that before 2015, there had not been an actual feature film release since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Sure, the franchise had remained in the public conscious, but this was due to merchandising and its rabid fanbase.
The new movies have been incredibly polarizing, but it is hard to dispute that The Force Awakens was hotly anticipated. Whether you felt it was entirely unoriginal or a breath of fresh air, it was great to see a mainline Star Wars film on the big screen again. TFA delivered a fun story and introduced some great new characters to the Star Wars universe. The film also helped remove the awful taste of the prequels away and seemed to be the start of a great new trilogy. The movies may have gone downhill since (with the exception of Rogue One) but watching Episode VII on opening night gave me goosebumps.
Blade Runner 2049 – Michael Rosch
As someone who’s seen every cut of the original Blade Runner and considers Ridley Scott’s Final Cut to be one of the greatest films ever made, I was incredibly concerned when I first heard a sequel was coming. Especially because that news broke during a time when Scott was putting out one garbage movie after another. Fortunately, Denis Villeneuve, a filmmaker I’m growing increasingly impressed by and who directed one of last year’s best films, Arrival, was given the reins for this brilliant and beautiful sequel that lives up to — and may one day be thought of as superior to — the original Blade Runner.
It’s a crime that the film’s DP, Roger Deakins, hasn’t won an Oscar for his Cinematography yet in his extraordinary filmic career where he’s long been pretty much universally recognized as the best in the world at what he does but he finally got his long-awaited Oscar this year for Blade Runner 2049. And, if ever there were a film that deserved to break the Roger Deakins Oscar curse, it was this one. Every shot in Blade Runner 2049 is a work of art.
The film manages to match the pace and tone of the original, expands on the world and similar themes in fascinating ways, and somehow manages to be so engaging that I didn’t realize until after the film was over that it somehow successfully skirted definitively resolving the biggest open question of the first film.
Even Jared Leto’s efforts to Leto-up every moment of his screen time can’t bring the movie down. And the character of Joi (who is both reminiscent of the film Her and, paired with Gosling, inevitably invokes Lars and the Real Girl) is so fascinating on her own, it could almost justify an entire other movie just about her. This is intelligent Science Fiction at its best. And ultimately, like the first film, what makes this story great is its exploration of what it means to be human in a world where the Replicants often come off as more human than the “real humans.”
Toy Story 3 – Justin Cohen
Toy Story & Toy Story 2 were childhood classics. They were the start of the Pixar brand, and they introduced to us a cast of unforgettable characters and the phrase “to infinity and beyond.” When Toy Story 3 was released 11 years later, I wondered if it could possibly match the special feel of the first two. Could the story be nearly as gripping? The short answer: yes.
The story was set many years later to match the film coming out long after the first two, with Andy going to college and having to leave behind his beloved toys. It was a story of moving on that could resonate with anyone, especially those of us who grew up with the films and were around the age or a bit older than Andy ourselves. The plot was arguably the strongest of all the Toy Story films, and I don’t believe you if you tell me you didn’t cry towards the end of the film. I’ll never forget being in a nearly sold out IMAX screening in NYC at 9am on opening weekend – there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater. It’s easily one of the best long-awaited sequels in my opinion, and it’s one of my favorite films in general.
Mad Max: Fury Road – Michael Compton
When it comes to hi-octane action that fires on all cylinders, few films compete with George Miller’s Mad Max franchise. The Road Warrior in particular (aka Mad Max 2), alongside John Carpenter’s seminal Escape from New York, set the parameters for 80’s action cinema back in 1981, paving the way for cutting-edge sci-fi classics such as The Terminator and RoboCop, not to mention a plethora of lesser copycat fare. Micro-budget ripoffs such as Battletruck, A Man Called Rage and Wheels of Fire, to name a few, all feature car chases shot in the dystopic futurescape deserts of discount overseas filming locations. Even household names such as Patrick Swayze and Kevin Costner got in on the game with Steel Dawn and Waterworld, respectively. And while all of the above films feature superficial similarities (barren settings, battles for resources, S&M costuming), none came close to mad Mel’s tanker chase away from “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” Lord Humungus and his gang of “gayboy berserkers.” None are as quotable as Beyond Thunderdome (“two men enter, one man leaves,” “bust a deal, face the wheel”). None were as innovative on a shoestring budget as the 1979 original that started it all. That is, of course, until Miller’s triumphant return to the franchise back in 2015.
A good thirty years had passed between Mad Max‘s third installment (Thunderdome) and the long awaited Fury Road, and if the film’s bogged down production hadn’t provided would-be audiences with a health dose of skepticism then the track record of 70s directors returning to the well that helped make them household names only to fail miserably did. While Phantom Menace and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may have their fans, they’re certainly few and far between and neither title did anything to improve the reputations of George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. Same could certainly be said for Ridley Scott and his most recent Alien films. Could Miller, a man in his 70’s, whose more recent filmography included children’s titles such as Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City, fare better? The answer, thankfully, was yes.
At Fury Road‘s onset, we’re reintroduced to our sullen anti-hero, Max Rocketanski; now played by Tom Hardy (Mel Gibson was cut for…reasons; think Roseanne pre-Roseanne). The once cop, now wanderer of the wasteland has been captured by a gang of marauders in order to function as a blood donor to antagonist Immortan Joe’s “war boys;” a troop of irradiated kamikaze soldiers loyal to Joe, ruler of The Citadel. When it’s discovered that Joe’s right-hand woman, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), made a run for it with Joe’s escaped concubines, Max and war boy Nux make their escape as well, teaming up alongside the iron-armed Furiosa. What follows could perhaps best be describe as an adrenaline fueled ballet of explosions, gunfire and vehicular mayhem the likes of which the screen had never seen.
With Fury Road, Aussie auteur George Miller puts Fast and Furious directors half his age to shame. He and comic book co-writer Brendan McCarthy (2000AD, The Zaucer of Zilk) craft an at once wondrous and woeful vision of a future gone awry. While I’d fall short of calling it the best Max film, as a select few have (I personally prefer the, dare I say, more “restrained” vibe of Road Warrior), Fury Road is a phenomenal achievement and a worthwhile successor to the Mad Max trilogy of decades past.
Creed – Tyde Dermody
Admittedly, this one may be cheating just a little. I’m not sure that many people were eagerly awaiting a follow-up to Rocky Balboa after it’s release in 2006, but when Creed was released nine years later in 2015, Rocky fans were shocked and delighted to find that it was one of the best films in the entire series.
Directed by the brilliant Ryan Coogler (after his incredible debut film Fruitvale Station but before his groundbreaking superhero smash Black Panther), Creed takes everything that fans have loved about Rocky for decades and adds Coogler’s unique flair, as well as his penchant for grounded and believable characters, ultimately crafting a modern-day boxing film that deserves to be heralded as one of the all time best.
Anchored by an incredible performance from Michael B. Jordan, as well as fantastic supporting work from Sylvester Stallone (arguably at his career best in the film) and Tessa Thompson, Creed feels like a natural extension of the world created many years ago in the first Rocky film. The unparalleled passion from Coogler, Stallone and everyone else involved just seeps out from the screen, elevating the film and keeping it from ever feeling like an unnecessary cash grab.
So there you have it: our picks for some of the best long-awaited sequels. Do you agree with our picks? What are some other long-awaited sequels that you feel were worth the wait? Let us know in the comments below!