Just because a movie is labeled a sequel or a prequel doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an inspired or fresh extension of the original. Decades-later installments often rehash the original film’s structure (often beat by beat). What we often get from Hollywood is a series of not-so-subtle remakes aimed at milking franchises for all they're worth. In other words, filmmakers restart franchises or brands, bringing in a mostly or entirely new cast, but write the follow-ups in a way that feels a little too much like the story you've seen before.
While it may sound harsh to call these sorts of sequels “lazy,” when a movie has virtually the same plot as its predecessor, it's not going to be as impactful as an entry, or original film, that takes more risks. These aren't disappointing movie sequels, per se, but their franchise’s overall continuity arguably just panders to the audience. Vote up the "sequels" that are basically just lazy remakes.
Mary Poppins Returns
Emily Blunt took over for Julie Andrews as the magical Mary Poppins in 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns. Made 55 years after the original, Rob Marshall’s sequel is certainly a love letter to Robert Stevenson’s original. Aided by Blunt’s performance, Mary Poppins Returns relies on a classic to cast a similar enchantment over the audience.
The plot of the sequel reintroduces Michael Banks and Jane Banks as adults when the former’s house - the same house he grew up in, and in which the original movie is set - is about to be repossessed. Right when all hope seems lost, Mary Poppins, the revered nanny from their childhood, returns to resurrect the sunny perspective she brought to their lives in the original. In this way, and with the film’s message concerning the disillusionment often associated with adulthood, Mary Poppins Returns is a beat-by-beat rehash of the original's formula for adventure.2210Stealth remake?
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
It’s not a stretch to say that J.J. Abrams deferred to his success revitalizing Star Trek when he helmed The Force Awakens. In the same way that the latter used the franchise’s previous installments as a blueprint, so did 2009’s Star Trek. By introducing the Kelvin Timeline, an alternate reality in which James T. Kirk’s father perishes while his wife gives birth to our protagonist (via interference from the original timeline), the film is able to chart its own path while not really deviating from the continuity it's ostensibly abandoning.
Despite a rebellious and haphazard upbringing and backstory, Chris Pine’s Kirk inevitably finds himself aboard the USS Enterprise and, ultimately, surrounded by the same crew, and having similar relationships with the characters who supported William Shatner’s Kirk. No one can necessarily call Abrams's Star Trek lazy, but it's a clever remake - and reboot - masquerading as a sequel.174Stealth remake?
Following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a spiritual reset for the franchise, or rather the Skywalker saga. In many ways, The Force Awakens draws from what made the original trilogy great: A ragtag group of unsuspecting heroes gets caught up in a battle between dark (First Order/Empire) and light (Resistance/Rebellion). That said, The Force Awakens has also drawn an overwhelming amount of comparisons to Star Wars: A New Hope.
Like Episode IV, Episode VII not only centers on a Force-sensitive “Chosen One”-esque protagonist from a sand-covered planet who finds a droid with a message/map, but also reintroduces the franchise’s core mythology. Han Solo occupies the same space that Obi-Wan did in the original film, even being slain on screen by the main baddie right before a climactic space battle. The Force Awakens worked for many as a Star Wars film, mostly because it used A New Hope’s narrative as its foundation.2212Stealth remake?
- Photo: Universal Pictures
When Steven Spielberg adapted Michael Crichton’s novel, Jurassic Park, it was a game-changer for summer blockbusters (in much the same way Jaws was in 1975). In addition to the CGI - which made viewers believe dinosaurs had returned (if only for a second) - the film offered up a thrill ride that was fun, scary, and smart. In fairness, you almost can’t blame Colin Trevorrow for relying on that award-winning formula to resurrect a franchise that had grown stale.
Like Jurassic Park, Jurassic World follows two young siblings as they visit the titular park. The main difference between the two films is that while the former was a work in progress (that they wisely decided to abandon), the latter is open to the public. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard embody similar roles to Sam Neill and Laura Dern as the park’s safety (and that of the children) becomes compromised due to evolution AKA “life [finding] a way.” You’d think they’d have learned to stop playing God with T-rexes by now...111Stealth remake?