The fantasy comedy Hocus Pocus 2, which hit the screens on 30 September 2022, is the sequel to the 1993 film titled Hocus Pocus. The release of the second film in the franchise after a long gap of 29 years has led to Hocus Pocus 2 being dubbed a ‘legacy sequel,’ which brings us to the question: What are legacy sequels?
A gap of about three decades between two films that share a storyline in continuity is surely a long time. However, this is not the first time a sequel has been made after these many years; there have been several films that have taken even longer, such as the action blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick and the delightful musical Mary Poppins Returns.
Defining legacy sequels and their aspects
A legacy sequel is generally understood as a film which comes after a considerably long gap — at least more than a decade. It may be the first sequel of the original or a sequel to the second film in a franchise. In some cases, this long gap is explained through the story, while some stories may not warrant an explanation at all.
In other instances, a legacy sequel can be a retcon — one that creates a new storyline from the original film in a franchise while ignoring the story’s progression and characters in all previous sequels.
Like other sequels, legacy sequels usually fail to surpass the original in popularity. However, films such as Top Gun: Maverick and Mad Max Fury Road did prove to be outliers.
Thus, even though their success may not be as noteworthy as their predecessors, studios look to capitalise on the appeal of the classic characters in the original; they either create a new franchise or ensure the continuation of one that has proven to be somewhat successful in the long run. This is why legacy sequels always feature the most famous characters from their respective original films, whether or not they are played by the same actor.
Interestingly, many of the legacy sequels are actually films that were originally planned for release years earlier but could not premiere because of production hassles and other related issues.
Here are some of the finest legacy sequels that released after a long gap
Top Gun: Maverick
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Penny Benjamin, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Monica Barbaro
Release date: 27 May 2022
Synopsis: Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Cruise) is one of the topmost aviators of the US Navy. Having served for over 30 years, he is tasked with training a new crop of Top Gun pilots for a special mission. When he meets the young Lieutenant Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Teller), the ghosts of Maverick’s past, especially the death of Bradshaw’s father, Lieutenant Nick ‘Goose’ Bradshaw, during a mission comes back to haunt him.
About the sequel: Top Gun: Maverick is a direct sequel to Cruise’s Top Gun (1986) and, as such, comes close to four decades after the original. The sequel was originally meant to be directed by Tony Scott, who directed the 1986 film. However, Scott’s death brought in Joseph Kosinski, who had directed Cruise in Oblivion (2013).
Cruise announced Top Gun: Maverick and released its first trailer at San Diego Comic-Con on 18 July 2019 to a rave reception. The film was supposed to release in December 2020, but the pandemic forced several postponements. It eventually hit the screens in mid-2022.
Hailed by critics and fans alike as one of the greatest sequels of all-time, Top Gun: Maverick rapidly shot to the top of the box office. It is the first movie to earn over USD 1 billion worldwide in 2022 and is among the top 15 highest-grossing films of all time. Its success has made the film one of the rare sequels that surpassed its original in all departments by miles.
Interestingly, Cruise and the other main actors actually flew the fighter jets they are seen flying in Top Gun: Maverick. The cast underwent a three-month boot camp training with the US Navy to become familiar with aspects of flying. They themselves operated the cameras fitted inside the cockpit during flights. Cruise, who has a pilot’s license, also used his own P-51 aircraft in the film.
Coming 2 America
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, KiKi Layne
Release date: 5 March 2021 (Streaming)
Synopsis: King Akeem (Murphy), the monarch of a fictional African country named Zamunda, learns he has a son in the US. He decides to travel to America with his trusted advisor Semmi (Hall) to see his son and hopes to build a relationship with him.
About the sequel: Coming 2 America is another of the legacy sequels with a very long gap between the sequel and the original.
Murphy and Hall played their respective characters first in Coming to America (1988), which was a major commercial success that year. As in the original, both actors also play multiple other hilarious side characters in the sequel.
Unlike its predecessor, the sequel didn’t have a theatrical release and premiered on the streaming platform Amazon Prime Video. It neither did well at the box office nor could impress critics.
Blade Runner 2049
Genre: Sci-fi, Mystery-Thriller
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks
Release date: 6 October 2017
Synopsis: Officer K (Gosling) is a young blade runner for LAPD, whose task is to eliminate ‘replicants’ — robots that look and behave just like humans. When he learns about a long-buried secret that could threaten his futuristic world, K decides to find former blade runner Rick Deckard (Ford). The problem is that Deckard has been untraceable for 30 years.
About the sequel: A sequel to Blade Runner (1982), Blade Runner 2049, like Tom Gun: Maverick, is a legacy film that came around four decades after the original. In the first film, Ford was the main protagonist and played a younger version of his character.
Although Blade Runner 2049 was received positively by critics and praised by fans, it was surprisingly a flop at the box office. However, it won two Academy Awards — Best Achievement in Visual Effects and Best Achievement in Cinematography — besides three other nominations in technical categories.
Mad Max Fury Road
Directed by: George Miller
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Release date: 15 May 2015
Synopsis: Max (Hardy) is a drifter in an apocalyptic wasteland where everyone is literally fighting for survival. When a warrior named Imperator Furiosa (Theron) escapes a tyrant’s fortress with his five wives, Max unwillingly becomes her ally. They must flee the brutal and blood-thirsty henchmen of the warlord across the wasteland to a place which might serve as an ideal refuge.
About the sequel: Miller had been planning Mad Max Fury Road since 1987, two years after he directed Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) — the third film in the franchise and had Mel Gibson playing the titular character. Had things gone as planned, Mad Max Fury Road would have hit the screens sometime in the early 2000s, and Heath Ledger would have played Max. Years later when he was asked whether to describe Mad Max Fury Road as a reboot or a sequel, Miller said he calls it a “revisit.”
In any case, Mad Max Fury Road far surpassed every film in the original trilogy when it came to critical appreciation.
It is only the second sequel after Toy Story 3 (2010) to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, having none of its predecessors get a nod in the same category. Since Toy Story 3 was an animated film, Mad Max Fury Road is the first live-action film with such a distinction. Of its 10 Oscar nominations, the film won six — all but one in technical categories.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Directed by: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner
Release date: 17 December 2010
Synopsis: Sam (Hedlund) is a virtual world designer who accidentally enters a cyber world created decades ago by his missing father, Kevin Flynn (Bridges). While inside the highly advanced game world, Sam learns of a major conspiracy that might end the real world and must defeat a powerful foe with help of Quorra (Wilde). He must also come to terms with his father, who he realises has been trapped in the simulation for 20 years.
About the sequel: Both Bridges and Boxleitner were the main leads in the film’s predecessor, TRON (1982).
The sequel performed moderately at the box office upon release, and critics gave it a thumbs-down. While the visual effects were praiseworthy, the performances, particularly of Hedlund and Wilde, were not.
The failure of the sequel scuttled Disney’s plans to create a TRON franchise. In an interview with Vulture in June 2022, Kosinski revealed that he had written and storyboarded the third film in the franchise, Tron: Ascension. Also known as TRON 3, its story, Kosinski said, revolved around the video game world entering the real world, creating a “blending of the two.”
Nevertheless, TRON: Legacy is today hailed by fans of the TRON universe as a cult classic in its own right.
The Matrix Resurrections
Genre: Sci-fi, Action
Directed by: Lana Wachowski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Release date: 22 December 2021
Synopsis: While finding out whether his own reality is actually what it appears, Mr. Anderson aka Neo (Reeves) returns to the Matrix once more only to realise that it has become even more powerful than before. Supported by his old ally Morpheus (Abdul-Mateen II) and some new faces, he must rescue a trapped Tiffany aka Trinity (Moss) to bring balance.
About the sequel: When The Matrix Resurrections was announced in late 2019, expectations sky rocketed since it was set to be a sequel to The Matrix Revolutions (2003) — the last film of the acclaimed The Matrix original trilogy. However, the film was a disaster at the box office, crossing just USD 153 million worldwide — around USD 40 million lower than its budget.
In February 2022, production company Village Roadshow sued Warner Bros, alleging that the decision to release the film simultaneously in theatres and on streaming platforms was the reason behind the poor box office performance.
On the other hand, critics panned it for its poor work in almost every department except performance.
There was also a controversy over the recasting of actors such as Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving in the legacy characters of Morpheus and Agent Smith, respectively.
When Fishburne was asked if he was in the new The Matrix movie in June 2021, he famously told Collider, “[Y]ou’d have to ask Lana Wachowski why, because I don’t have an answer for that.”
Even though the film justified the change within the storyline, not everyone was pleased with the recasting.
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Will Patton
Release date: 19 October 2018
Synopsis: Deranged serial killer Michael Myers (Castle) escapes captivity and returns to Haddonfield to pursue Laurie Strode (Curtis), who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the events 40 years ago as depicted in the first film. As Myers begins his killing spree, Strode must overcome her fears to protect her daughter and granddaughter.
About the sequel: Though the 11th instalment in a long-running horror franchise, the 2018 film is a sequel to the 1978 film of the same name, which was the first in the series. The franchise is known for following multiple timelines, all originating from the first film. As such, there is no connection between the films that were released after the first and the ones that came in 2018.
Critical reception for the sequel was positive. The sequel was followed by its own sequel, Halloween Kills (2021). Both Curtis and Castle are set to reprise their respective roles for the final time in Halloween Ends (2022).
Mary Poppins Returns
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Cast: Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Release date: 19 December 2018
Synopsis: Mary Poppins (Blunt), the magical nanny of the Banks family, returns to help Michael Banks (Whishaw), his three children and his sister Jane (Mortimer) through a crisis in their lives.
About the sequel: One of the best legacy sequels ever made, Mary Poppins Returns hit the screens more than 50 years after the premiere of its predecessor, Mary Poppins (1964).
Based on the book series of the same name by P. L. Travers, the 1964 film had Julie Andrews playing the titular character. The characters of young Michael Banks and Jane Banks were played by Matthew Garber and Karen Dotrice, respectively, in the original movie.
Most actors from the original could not reprise their roles in the sequel, which sets the story just about 20 years after the events in the 1964 film. However, Dotrice and Dick Van Dyke, who were also in the first film, appear in the sequel playing characters different from what they portrayed in 1964.
Though not as popular as its predecessor, Mary Poppins Returns was widely appreciated by critics and fans alike.
The Color of Money
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Tom Cruise, Paul Newman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Bill Cobbs, John Turturro
Release date: 17 October 1986
Synopsis: “Fast Eddie” Felson (Newman) is a renowned former pool hustler who sees potential in a new talent, Vincent Lauria (Cruise), and decides to take him under his wing. Things go smooth initially, but a falling-out makes Lauria a prime opponent of Felson.
About the sequel: The Color of Money is a sequel to The Hustler (1961). Both films are based on Walter Tevis’ two novels of the same name. Critically well-received upon release, both films were also commercially successful.
Newman played a young Felson in the original film, which was directed by Robert Rossen. The film won two Oscars out of nine nominations. Newman, who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for The Hustler, finally won in the category for The Color of Money.
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis
Release date: 8 November 2019
Synopsis: A psychic named Danny Torrance (McGregor) is struggling with a trauma he suffered years ago at a haunted hotel as a child. However, his quest for peace is interrupted by a young girl named Abra (Curran) who has similar powers and is being pursued by a dangerous cult named True Knot. Danny must join forces with Abra to protect her and others like them from the cult and its incredibly powerful leader Rose the Hat (Ferguson).
About the sequel: Author Stephen King’s book The Shining was published in 1977, and director Stanley Kubrick turned it into the acclaimed 1980 film of the same. King also wrote Doctor Sleep, which was published in 2013 and serves as a sequel to The Shining.
The sequel is set years after the events of The Shining, in which Jack Nicholson played the disturbed Jack Torrance out to murder his own wife and son — Wendy and Danny. Despite the legacy of its predecessor, Doctor Sleep flopped at the box office. According to Business Insider, two reasons behind the poor performance were the lack of appreciation for Kubrick’s film among younger audiences and the decision by Warner Bros. not to release the film earlier during the Halloween period.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Genre: Action, Adventure
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, John Hurt
Release date: 22 May 2008
Synopsis: Soviet agents led by Irina Spalko (Blanchett) force renowned explorer and archaeologist Jones (Ford) to recover a mysterious crystal skull. Jones then joins forces with a young man named Mutt Williams (LaBeouf) to prevent the skull from falling into Soviet hands and prevent a global catastrophe.
About the sequel: Ford played the titular archaeologist and Spielberg directed all previous films in the franchise before returning with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth.
The film’s story is set 19 years after the events in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Interestingly, the gap between the storylines of the two films and their release years is also the same.
One of the finest legacy sequels in cinema, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a major box office success upon release. However, it received average reviews from critics.
During the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California, in May 2022, Ford announced that the fifth film in the franchise and a sequel to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will be released on 30 June 2023. In that sense, it marks a gap of 15 years between the fourth and fifth Indiana Jones films — a rare situation where a legacy sequel is followed by another legacy sequel.
The fifth film will be directed by James Mangold with Spielberg serving as a producer. Its cast includes Antonio Banderas, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Mads Mikkelsen, Boyd Holbrook, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann and Toby Jones.
Bad Boys For Life
Genre: Action, Comedy
Directed by: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Cast: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Kate del Castillo, Vanessa Hudgens, Paola Núñez
Release date: 17 January 2020
Synopsis: The widow and son of a ruthless drug lord are after the life of detective Mike Lowrey (Smith), who was responsible for his incarceration. Lowrey seeks the help of his detective friend Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) and the two join Miami Police Department’s special team, AMMO, to take down the drug cartel.
About the sequel: Languishing in the development stage for a long time, Bad Boys for Life is the second film in the franchise and takes place 17 years after the events in Bad Boys II (2003).
Both Smith and Lawrence play middle-aged versions of their characters. Performances, action and story ensured the film’s success with both fans and critics. With a worldwide gross of over USD 425 million, it is the highest-grossing film in the franchise.
The Craft: Legacy
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Directed by: Zoe Lister-Jones
Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, Michelle Monaghan, David Duchovny
Release date: 28 October 2020
Synopsis: Three girls at high school practise magic and witchcraft but are unable to achieve success at a crucial spell. They meet Lily Schechner (Spaeny), who already has unique powers, and decide to induct her into their coven. However, a terrible secret that Lily is unaware of comes to haunt the four.
About the sequel: The Craft: Legacy serves as a sequel to The Craft (1996), a film about four girls in high school who go to dangerous lengths while practising witchcraft. Nancy Downs, one of the main characters in the first film, also appears in the sequel. The character is played by the original actress, Fairuza Balk.
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Directed by: Richard Franklin
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly
Release date: 3 June 1983
Synopsis: Norman Bates (Perkins) returns from a mental institution after more than two decades. He finds his hotel, Bates Motel, run down but tries to reintegrate into society by befriending Mary Loomis (Tilly), whose mother, Lila Loomis (Miles) was the one he tried to kill years ago. And then starts his descent into madness once again.
About the sequel: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) is hailed by many as the greatest horror film ever made. Thus, the anticipation around Psycho II was understandable, even though it was directed by Franklin and not Hitchcock who had died in 1980.
Perkins reprised the role of the psychopathic serial killer in the legacy sequel, whose story is set 22 years after the events in the Hitchcockian original, placing the story in line with the over two decades gap between the films.
Though nowhere as famous as the first film, Psycho II received decent reviews and is a must-watch for those who are fans of the franchises if for nothing else than the bone-chilling performance by Perkins.
(Main and Featured images: IMDb)