Awkwardly late sequels usually prompt a few eye-rolls. When it’s been ten years or more after the original, attempts to resurrect it reeks of a cash-grab. Just look at Go Set A Watchman, an awkwardly late sequel that came out for all the wrong reasons and went horribly awry. But then turn to Mad Max: Fury Road, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and Ash vs Evil Dead, all of which are challenging our assumptions about awkwardly late sequels. When they’re done right, they prove things like …
Sometimes the passage of time enables the creators to tell a story they wouldn’t have been able to tell years ago.
Mad Max: Fury Road caused a lot of head-scratching when it was announced — who the hell is demanding another Mad Max movie 20-some years after the last one? But today’s milieu gave George Miller the chance to make a surprisingly subversive action film that wouldn’t have flown in the ‘80s mainstream. Plus, modern special effects and technical wizardry allowed it to be such a streamlined, brutal pastiche that some critics are speculating it could be a contender for Best Picture. Technology and the sociopolitical atmosphere enabled this film to speed past even its classic predecessors.
Sometimes time gives critics room to ponder and re-assess.
J.K. Rowling spent more than a decade immersed in the world of Harry Potter and lived her own rags-to-riches transformation in the process. She’s had time to step back, breathe, and retroactively ponder her own decisions, questioning things like if Ron and Hermione’s relationship would really last. She’s also had time to digest fan accusations that the Harry Potter world was not diverse enough. Whether that’s true in the novels or not, it’s certainly true in the films, and she’s already taken to Twitter to address how she’s handling it in the script she’s writing for Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, the not-quite-prequel to the Potter series.
In signing heavyweight performers such as Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Ron Perlman, and Ezra Miller, the film is also learning from the Potter films that although using inexperienced child actors suited that story — and the Potter cast did admirably well for their ages — it’s easier to write parts where the acting powerhouses are front and center, not on the sidelines, as Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, and Gary Oldman were.
Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder.
The Evil Dead franchises thrives on absurdity, blood, and a hilarious louche of a hero who is amazing in small doses but would certainly get grating if we saw him all the time. Its last entry, Army of Darkness, came out in 1992, but the passage of time allowed us to feel jubilant at Ash’s return. It also allows Ash to have yet another obstacle to overcome that makes him an everyman: He’s middle-aged and has to deal with aches and pains while he’s trying to fight evil.
Plenty of sequels and prequels that are uncalled for — for instance, nobody wanted another Peter Pan story, and the critically panned Pan shows how, when sequels or prequels are blatant money grabs, audiences can smell it. But when they’re crafted with thought and care; when the passage of time is used for the creator to reflect and let the world catch up to the story they want to tell, the late entry only serves to keep the party going.