Legacy Sequels (And Why They Should End)
Sequels are no new concept. Any franchise with a successful first installment is bound to garner a sequel or two (or 9 if you’re Halloween). Rarely, if ever, do these sequels match the quality of the original, they’re mostly made for a quick buck. It reached an apex in the 80’s and has since, finally, begun to taper off. Then, in 2018, Halloween came back.
Halloween (2018) was a fun and scary time that brought back classic characters in a fun way. Did it have to exist? No. Did it negatively impact the original? No. So, was it worth it? I’d say yes. It wasn’t groundbreaking but it seemed like it wanted to cleanse the Halloween series and do proper justice to the original. Unfortunately, Halloween’s success gave others’ ideas, and these ideas spread like an epidemic, and now we have a problem on our hands, the legacy sequel.
The legacy sequel is a sequel set X years after the original that brings back classic characters from the original in a contemporary setting. These legacy sequels are most commonly found in the horror genre, but it’s since infected sci-fi and action as well. We’ve seen legacy sequels from Halloween, Scream, Texas Chainsaw, Ghostbusters, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Jumanji, The Matrix, even the new Spider-Man counts in a way. Now, not all these movies are awful, although some certainly are, but the issue is none of these movies had to be there, and many of them retroactively ruin the good ones.
I’ve said it in multiple articles, and I’ll say it again, the absolute number one worst possible creative choice to make in a franchise is to overcomplicate the lore. The majority of the aforementioned franchises (save for the Matrix) were built upon simple, self-contained stories. We as the audience are given all the information we need, and the blank spaces left behind are either insignificant or ones the audience can infer for themselves. Particularly in horror, the antagonist and stakes benefit from mystery and simplicity. By the end, everything required has been spelled out for us and if there is a cliffhanger, it isn’t one that needs 3 movies worth of explanation. They have been made as finite stories, and sequels may mess around later, but more often than not, they never touch the sacristy of the original. That’s where my gripe with legacy sequels come in.
Legacy sequels insist on rewriting history, and almost never for good reason. A legacy sequel will add a dimension to the original story that not only was never there in the first place, but actually hurts the impact of the original. It’s a very transparent maneuver by the writers to force in as much nostalgia bait as possible. It sacrifices respectful writing for spectacle, with no regard towards the original vision. Take the new Texas Chainsaw. Sally returns as a hardened killer who’s been hunting down Leatherface since 1974. That is not Sally, or at least not the Sally that Tobe Hooper wrote 48 years ago. Sally’s role in Texas Chainsaw was a fragile city slicker thrown into the violent backwoods, and she cannot adapt. Her being caught off guard and not adapting is essential to not only her character, but to the core message of the film. Making her a veteran of sorts completely wrecks her character and disrespects one of the most haunting final scenes in all of cinema. Something similar happens in the new Spider-Man (Which I still thought was a great movie). The movie “rescues” each villain from the old movies by curing them before sending them back home. While it works in a way, it also retcons the impactful ending of the original movie. The demise of the Green Goblin was shocking and important for the entire original franchise, but now he’s back. It betrays the tragedy of the character just so they can have him return to sell more tickets.
Contradiction of vision is why the legacy sequel is so flawed. Unless the creator has a say in it, people shouldn’t tamper with a pre-established film. Film is very personal, and every film is an extension of its creators. Twisting and contorting that original vision for a few bucks is insulting. It stains the original and rewrites core ideas that wreck the individualism of the original. It reduces it to a steppingstone to more content, rather than treat it as the wholly unique idea it is. The more legacy sequels there are, the more we distort original ideas, the more bloated and congruous Hollywood becomes. Hollywood has a tendency of returning to same formula over and over, and the legacy sequel is the horrible next step of that. We need to let things merely exist without tampering with it. Don’t “fix” things that don’t need fixing, let new creative minds use their own voices.