Good Late Sequels

It’s an accepted maxim that sequels tend to get incrementally worse as they go along. Some of this is due to exhaustion of the source material, and some because the writers need to go wilder each time to generate interest. Nevertheless, there are some cases where sequels released late in a movie’s chain are surprisingly good. Here are three examples I was thinking of this morning, I’d love to hear your own choices.

Hellraiser: Deader - You could be forgiven for thinking that the seventh Hellraiser movie had long since run out of ideas. And judging by the ones around it, you would be correct. However, this one was born of a script originally intended to be a separate horror film (simply Deader), and as such is a well thought-out and compelling story even sans the Hellraiser elements (which are minimal in the film). So this is a case where repurposing a property intended to be its own thing actually improves the result (and this could make for an interesting topic as well, movies that ended up added to or removed from another storyline).

Terminator: Dark Fate - After a string of terrible sequels, starting with the third movie, I had pretty much given up on this franchise. Only the fact that Linda Hamilton was back for this one motivated me to check it out. I’m glad I did, as it’s a much better sequel than the others. I actually enjoy this movie quite a lot, and the fact that it is simultaneously a plot correction for some of the lousy sequels is pure gravy.

Night of the Seagulls - The fourth and final installment of the Blind Dead horror series, which is neither as big nor as influential as the other series mentioned here. I include it because it’s a good case of even a lower-tier property getting a fine film late in its run. It is an effective story on its own, and the monsters feature almost peripherally at times. This seems to be part of the recipe for a good late sequel, telling a new story and involving the original elements in a more subtle way.

What films would you add to this list?

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I always held up Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives as the best movie of the series. The next one, Part VII: The New Blood, isn’t too shabby, either.

Creed is a spinoff movie, technically, but if you look at that as the seventh movie in the Rocky series, it’s still pretty damn good.

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The Color of Money was a sequel to The Hustler made 25 years later. It’s not Scorsese’s best, but it’s pretty good.

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Oh, and Mad Max: Fury Road is an obvious contender here.

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Rocky Balboa from 2006 was a sequel in need of telling, and taking 16 years to come out served both to give the series a break after the lackluster Rocky V and give Rocky the resolution the character needed, delivering an emotional climax that’s nearly on par with the first film.

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I never bothered to see that one, but the fact that it considers Edward Furlong to be a mistake that could and should be eliminated does make me consider it more favorably.

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I liked Rocky Balboa a whole lot more than I thought I would, and it really does service to those characters.

And you’re right, it’s a hell of a palette cleanser after Rocky V. Who would’ve thought the “Gonna Fly Now” training montage to retain that kind of power?

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It is a pleasure watching him get terminated.

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Not gonna lie, I can’t maintain my composure during the final moments of that fight and the crowd cheering him as he walks off. Gets me even thinking about it to type it here.

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Mmhmm. It was much better than it had any right to be. And Paulie, man. PAULIE.

Love that last shot of Rocky over the credits as he looks over Philly.

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WHOA! Huge slam on Edward Furlong outta nowhere!

I’ve not watched him in anything else other than American History X, but I never had a problem with him. His John Connor was one of the best child leads I’ve watched.

Surely he’s no filthy, disgusting anteater?

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Rocky Balboa’s a good pick - and you can turn to Bond and find several great late features.

The 21st entry in the Zatoichi series, Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival is one of the series finest (and personally I think the 24th film, directed by its star Shintarō Katsu, was top-drawer too - Zatoichi in Desperation had a distinct visual style)

But let’s go waaaaay back, silent era.

Bartolomeo Pagano played Maciste in 30 features and shorts, starting with Cabiria in 1914. The Warrior in 1916 is one of my favorites, but it’s the 25th or 26th (if you count an earlier short) entry that many consider one of the best in the series.

Maciste in Hell - Fellini named it one of his all-time favorites and an early influence - see it with the live metal score from Gojira for extra punch!

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For me it’s not him so much as his character as John in T2. Having rewatched it recently, I was struck with how grating he is, and how kiddy-fied the whole film is. It really is an attempt to turn the franchise in a family-friendly direction, and in hindsight it suffers for it. It’s not a terrible film and it has a lot of good moments, but it is weaker for having him in it.

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Interesting because Channel Awesome and Filmmento did videos last year showcasing how Terminator 2 is considered THE perfect action movie. Considering it from your lens, I can see that, given how very gritty and ugly (in a good way) the first film was, whereas the second is as sleek and clean as the T-1000. I’m honestly surprised Bobby Budnick survived the T-1000 encounter, cuz I’d see him getting stabbed as a resulting of lying to it. But that said, considering the more annoying kid characters that came before him in sci-fi and would come after not 8 years later, John Connor is one of the good ones.

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Indeed, taken on its own I can see the arguments for why it’s a good film (and you are correct that he’s far from the worst child actor). I am contrasting it to the first, and it is a jarring tonal shift in that regard. Imagine how different Aliens would have been if Newt wasn’t scrappy and feral, and instead was an obnoxious wisecracking tween.

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I believe you mean Colossus.

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Stretching the definition a bit, but Cobra Kai is a million times better than it has any right to be, with a starting point of dropping these characters from a silly '80s franchise into the real world of the 2010s, and actually managing to make you root for a character like Johnny Lawrence while playing completely fair with what we already knew of him (don’t listen to the reputation it’s somehow built up; the show is NOT IN ANY WAY just a canonization of the edgelord “Daniel was the real villain” crap). It’s also helped by getting back a quite surprising amount of original cast members, even from the third film where they’d have every right to want to just never think of it again. I also hold out hope that Hilary Swank shows up in the upcoming and apparently final season.

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He’ll always be My Cheesesteak in our hearts.

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Teaching Bishop all the different slang terms from her planet. Pretty funny that Cameron did both of these films.

Speaking of, I’ll go ahead and put Aliens on this list. Sure, 7 years ain’t exactly on the same level as Fury Road & Rocky Balboa, but given the 80s (1980, not 80 AD for any Servo sticklers) was the height of the sequel machine pumping out new films in response to successful films, waiting 7 years for someone with an actual good idea for a sequel is practically infinity. Sure, some don’t like it because it removes the fear of the unknown, otherworldly Lovecraftian-like horror of the first film and turns what was once an unstoppable monster into Heinlein-like bug drones answering to a queen, but again, it’s SO well done and feels natural to the established lore, I can enjoy both for what they are and still feel they belong together (and for the record, I consider all comic book continuations from Dark Horse to be superior to any other sequels).

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No stretch at all, this is legit an fantastic example! This series is great and 4 seasons in, it’s still the best “nostalgia cash-in” series to date, doing everything right. As you said, the returning cast is fantastic (that they managed to get John Kreese and Terry Silver to have actual depth and not simply be bad guys proves this show’s power and skill), but I’m blown away by the new kids. They are all great, channeling but not being beholden to the legacy cast, and all are compelling.

It was hilarious that they kinda did their version of that, but not in any way saying that’s exactly how it happened.

If they manage to redeem THIS film/character, then this will be the greatest series of all time. And I was under some impression that season 4 would be the last, so now I don’t even know anymore if Season 5 will be.