Harrison Ford seems to be running down the list of iconic roles that he could return to decades later. First Indiana Jones, then Han Solo, and now as Rick Deckard in the planned Blade Runner sequel. It’s the kind of thing that would have probably happened regardless of Ford’s participation. They have a hotshot new director with Denis Villeneuve taking over for original director Ridley Scott, and a plum co-lead in the perpetually weird but still fascinating Ryan Gosling.
It’s that tendency to extend a story when it doesn’t really need to that usually gets you more misses than hits. For every delayed sequel misstep like Terminator 3, there could be an enormous creative and financial success like last year’s Creed. It’s usually binary, with these sequels either being ridiculously good or unforgivably bad. But the good intentions of Villeneuve and the other filmmakers behind Blade Runner 2 make it seem like it’ll fall in another category altogether. Only time will tell if it will fall into the category of well-intentioned but depressingly mediocre sequels that wind up as mere footnotes to the original. Here’s a few of that bittersweet category’s finest examples.
5. Exorcist II: The Heretic
Four years after the scariest movie ever made, the studio behind director William Friedkin’s horror classic thought, “Yeah, well, let’s do a cheap sequel. What’s the worst that could happen?” The Heretic was greenlit without the consent of Friedkin or William Peter Blatty, the writer whose book served as the basis for the first movie, and followed a new priest as he investigates the death of Father Merrin from the first movie, as well as catching up with Regan, the now seemingly normal girl who was possessed in the original.
Years later, producer Dick Lederer admitted that the project had the lowest aspirations ever. “What we essentially wanted to do with this sequel was to redo the first movie — have the central figure, an investigative priest, interview everyone involved in the exorcisms, then fade out to unused footage, unused angles from the first movie,” he told author Barbara Pallenberg, who wrote a book called The Making of Exorcist II: The Heretic. “A low-budget rehash — about $3 million — of The Exorcist. A rather cynical approach to moviemaking, I’ll admit, but that was the start.” The only reason you remember this half-eaten sandwich of a movie even exists is the original.
4. French Connection II
Oh, would you look at that? Another middling sequel to a William Friedkin classic! French Connection II had the pedigree and the potential to be a solid follow-up, but the story that followed actor Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle character (which garnered Hackman a Best Actor Oscar) from New York to Marseille to track the titular drug dealer. The sequel dropped Roy Scheider as Hackman’s partner, but it was directed by thoughtful action movie specialist John Frankenheimer. In the end, Frankenheimer’s cerebral approach couldn’t match the realistic ferocity — not to mention the iconic car chase sequence — of the original.
Roger Ebert’s 2.5-star review hinted at the way the film hinges on being just meh: “If Frankenheimer and his screenplay don’t do justice to the character,” he said, “they at least do justice to the genre, and this is better than most of the many cop movies that followed The French Connection into release.”
3. 2010: The Year We Make Contact
What did the sequel to one of the best and most experimental science fiction movies of all-time need? Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban, John Lithgow, and a less abstract and more overt approach, that’s what. Director Peter Hyams did what many knew better not to do and followed up Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with 2010: The Year We Make Contact nearly two decades after the first movie. Instead of a poetic and sometimes psychedelic paean to the potential of mankind, Hyams used the framework of astronauts following up on the failed Jupiter mission from the original as a sort of Cold War cautionary tale involving the U.S. and U.S.S.R. having to band together to escape the fifth planet from the sun exploding and becoming a star.
Despite his reluctance before making the film, Hyams approached Kubrick for his blessing. The cinematic master gave him a response typical of the lackluster sequel itself. “Sure. Go do it,” Kubrick told Hyams. “I don’t care.”
2. Jaws 2
Three years after making the highest-grossing movie to date, Steven Spielberg decided to move on from the thing that made him influential and famous, balking at the idea of film studio Universal’s attempt to capitalize on the success of Jaws again. “Making a sequel to anything is a cheap carny trick,” the relatively green director told an audience at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1975, continuing by saying the studio “offered me the opportunity to direct the sequel, but I didn’t even answer them. I didn’t call or write or anything.”
Spielberg lasted almost 10 years before making his first sequel. Universal lasted only three before cranking out Jaws 2 — a virtual rehash of the original, where another shark terrorizes Sheriff Martin Brody — with an unknown director named Jeannot Szwarc. Roy Scheider returned as Brody, but disagreements with Szwarc over creative differences led to the pair throwing punches at each other on the set. Jaws 2 was a financial success, briefly becoming the highest-grossing sequel ever made before The Empire Strikes Back dethroned it in 1980, but otherwise lives on in the long string of bad sequels to Jaws. The best thing Jaws 2 ever gave the world was its tagline: “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water …”
1. Blues Brothers 2000
No sequel was less equipped to explain “Why in the hell did they do this?” than Blues Brothers 2000. A definitively defanged version of the semi-subversive, balls-to-the-wall 1980 original, Blues Brothers 2000 is an embarrassment that does everything the first movie does, but somehow gets it so, so wrong. Maybe it’s because the Blues Brothers aren’t the Blues Brothers without John Belushi, who died in 1982.
Effectively another example of a shameless rehash, Blues Brothers 2000 sees original Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd getting out of jail once again and trying to get the band back together … again. Substitute Belushi for John Goodman and you just want to make the music stop. We’ll tell you this much: the first Blues Brothers movie sure as hell didn’t have Blues Traveler in it.