The oddly under-recognized plague of late sequels

"Tron." "Wall Street." "Indiana Jones." And now, "Dumb and Dumber." All of these movies have sequels that came at least 15 years after the original or the last sequel*. And for some reason, people just refuse to learn.

Admittedly, part of it is the fault of fans who don’t know when to leave well enough alone. People were demanding sequels to “Tron” or “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” for at least a decade before they got released. And, in an interview published today, Martha Plimpton has admitted that people always ask her about a “Goonies” sequel.

But let’s face it, after a certain point past a movie’s release date, the idea of making a sequel becomes less “We need to see what happened to the characters after the original” and more “How can we make money without risking it on a new concept?”

To be honest, that’s the big reason it keeps happening. Making a sequel to a successful movie, even one that hasn’t been relevant in years, looks like a guaranteed hit on paper. And while it’s not always guaranteed, it makes more sense to people in Hollywood to regurgitate an old success than to take risks on new ideas. After all, do you really think George Lucas would be rereleasing the prequels (and, eventually, the original trilogy for the second time) if he thought that a new movie would be a hit?

But just because you understand why something happens doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Seriously, did anyone really think that “Live Free or Die Hard” lived up to the potential of the original movie[s]? Even in its “UNRATED” edition? (Oh, unrated editions. That’s a rant for another day.)

The big problem, I think, is that fans refuse to realize why belated sequels constantly let down their expectations. When you watch something great like “Die Hard” and think, “What happened to John McClane after this?” the best answer is the one that you, personally, come up with. Any sequel is going to be a letdown to most people because most people come up with different answers to these questions. Even if they got everyone from the original “Goonies” involved in a new project (well, everyone that’s alive and would make sense to bring back), it will fail to live up to what people want, because people want something specific that they can’t really articulate until they finally see the finished result and say that it disappointed them.

I’m not going to say that all belated sequels are bad. I enjoyed “2010: The Year We Make Contact” for what it was, and I’m sure that “Saraband” is a good sequel to “Scenes from a Marriage.” (Also, do you like that I somehow chose the two most pretentious answers to that question?) But trying to milk a cow that’s been dead for several years just won’t work out.

* In the process of writing this, I remembered that “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” came out nine years after the original. But let’s face it, if I can barely remember an even worse prequel to an already pretty dumb movie, and pretty much nobody involved in the original worked on it, especially when the major talent from the original is coming back for a proper sequel, then I’m not going to count it.