Top 5 Unlikely Yet Inevitable Comebacks
|LISTS - MOVIE LISTS|
Holy Hollywood revival! Some things just won't stay dead...
You think the Bible would have sold as well had the big finale been JC dying in that cave? Get outta here – bring in the writers for another draft and make sure the long-haired kid stays in the picture!
5: The Empire
Anyone watching Star Wars at the cinema back in 1977 would have been forgiven for enjoying the happy ending. The Death Star was reduced to a burst of glistening 70s VFX particles, Vader last seen hurtling towards infinity in a crocked TIE Fighter, and our cast of smiley heroes dressed in their Sunday Best, patting each other on the back, collecting shiny medals and laughing at R2-D2’s digital one-liners. But of course, a franchise only becomes a franchise with the release of a sequel, and the sales of action figures and plastic lightsabers meant it was a question of when and not if the Empire would be striking back.
We’re never told how the Empire picked itself up after the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, but there they are: a fully-armed Galactic Force with new toys like AT-ATs and a grudge to settle. The implication is they never really went away – an organisation that big could obviously shoulder the burden of rebuilding the Death Star, scouring the Galaxy for the rebels and sending a limo to the suburbs of infinity for Mr Vader. Evidently as long as the Empire’s charismatic and good-looking (read: creepy and decrepit) leader Emperor Palpatine remained in charge, things would go on as normal. Remove the head, as at the end of Return of the Jedi, and the body will die. A desperately short-sighted management policy. One wonders what will happen at Fox once Emperor Murdoch is thrown into the fires of eternity…
As with The Empire Strikes Back, the resurrection of this particular necromorph is built right into the title. It’s hard to argue that the films didn’t peak with the first or second in the series, but the fourth entry, Alien Resurrection, came almost 20 years after the original and, impressively for the third sequel in a fairly shlocky sci-fi franchise, managed to hold onto its lead talent. Sigourney Weaver returned in true tuff-gal form, directed by Jean-Pierre ‘Amelie’ Jeunet. What made the fourth film in the series particularly unlikely however were two factors, both arising from the third film, Alien3.
The first obstacle is the death of Ripley. Alien3 ends the way a good trilogy should – by slamming the door on the chance of any further sequels. Infected by the Queen Bitch, Ripley ends the third film by literally hurling herself and her million-dollar franchise into the abyss (note, not The Abyss) forever. Or, as ‘forever’ as the concept of cloning would allow.
The second obstacle is that Alien3 knows its role as a sequel too far, and so obeys the rule: change it up. Take what was iconic about the previous film and invert it. After the ballistic fury and gun-crazed machismo of the second film, Aliens, Alien3 obeyed the rule by scrapping all the guns and taking it back to basics. Classic sequel behaviour – Crocodile Dundee 2 and Terminator 2 are other great, yet very different, examples. Alien3 had already played the sequel card, proud and aware of its status as the final piece of the story. Alien Resurrection ignored this and just plain jumped the necromorph. Game over, man.
‘This time it’s personal’ – Jaws: The Revenge
‘You can’t take revenge on an animal. That’s the whole point of Moby Dick’ – Lisa Simpson
Spielberg’s 1975 classic is often cited as the birth of the New Hollywood, ushering in the age of the blockbuster and a move away from the hardbitten early 70s dramas such as The French Connection. As a standard-bearer for the multiplex movie, a sequel was the least it deserved. Three sequels, however, was perhaps more than it could bear.
It was perhaps easier for the Jaws franchise to survive the death of its title character, given that the shark never exactly had the greatest lines of dialogue. That particular shark being blown up at the end of Jaws meant that the franchise became more about the fear of Great Whites than any antagonist. The plot of Jaws 3, in which the shark went all Avatar 3D on our asses, saw a baby Great White die in captivity with its megashark mother swearing revenge on the nasty humans. Do animals have a sense of revenge? Sadly, Lisa Simpson doesn’t answer this one.
But avenging the death of its young (incidentally, the plot to pretty much all of the Death Wish movies – is it easier to sympathise with Charles Bronson or a Great White shark? Discuss) still wasn’t as personal a vendetta as in Jaws: The Revenge. The budget was blown on roping in Michael Caine rather than a decent script. Ambiguity, credibility and sense were shown the door and the theme of revenge was explored in full. So much so that the shark follows the family all the way from the coastal waters of New England to the tropics of the Bahamas. Clever shark. Mean too. Moby Dick don’t know sh*t.
2: Sean Connery as James Bond
Diamonds Are Forever is one of the great James Bond movies. Casinos, grappling hooks, quirky henchmen, Las Vegas. You can imagine Connery missing the tuxedos, girls and judo-chops as soon as he turned away from the role that made his name, not enjoying commercial success on the same scale until The Man Who Would Be King some four years later. In the larger context of his career, Diamonds… was essentially the last appearance of Sean Connery the youthful romantic/action lead. Come 1976’s Robin and Marian and he is no longer the matinee idol, rather an aged and forlorn Robin Hood, and by the 1980s he was taking on the bearded paternal action roles we now know him for, such as in Highlander, The Untouchables and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade.
And so to Never Say Never Again, a movie that took its title from the unofficial motto of mid-life crises the world over, and for good reason. 12 years after Diamonds Are Forever, and just six before playing Indy’s dad, Connery returned in an unofficial Bond movie sporting fake teeth and hair and looking strangely plastinated, like when Bond had ‘plastic surgery’ (aka half an hour in makeup) to make him more Japanese in You Only Live Twice. That the plot is a re-hash of Thunderball, the worst of the early Bond films, does it no favours at all, but it’s Connery’s attempt to revisit his youth that reminds you of just how old he is. And James Bond should not be old, fallible or desperate. It’s a good thing diamonds really are forever – if you’re building your Bond collection you’d be better off buying DAF twice rather than the reheated cheese of NSNA. I for one won’t be watching it again. Never, I tell you…
1: Sylvester Stallone
Rocky’s Oscar wins (for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing) may look a little odd from a distance of 33 years, but the original film stands up as one of the great sporting movies. Stallone was nominated at the 1977 Oscars for Best Actor and Best Screenwriter, the third person to receive the double nomination after Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles, and while neither Chaplin nor Welles were stiff competition for Stallone’s Worst Actor of the Century award at the 2000 Razzies, his was a career that started on a high. The muscles and the timing, however, positioned Stallone as one of the action men of 1980s Hollywood, with all the sequelitis that that involved.
Rocky II really wasn’t that bad. With largely the same cast (and plot) as the first film, it’s a companion piece in a similar way to Halloween/Halloween 2. Rocky III is where the real rot set in, with no real reason to be made other than for fans to follow the continuing adventures of their favourite meathead. Rocky III was released the same year as First Blood, a franchise that became another sprawling strung-out victim of sequelitis. Between 1982 and 1990 Stallone starred in 3 Rocky movies and 3 Rambo movies, playing characters who largely communicated using physical violence rather than language. I guess he really took that snub for Best Screenwriter to heart.
1990’s Rocky V saw the champ retired, brain damaged and broke, and one strongly suspected that was where we would leave the saga of Rocky Balboa. But it seems sequelitis can be treated but never cured: 16 years later saw the release of Rocky Balboa (hopefully titled in Japan Rocky: The Final), and two years later, in 2008, Rambo. Now we hear of Rambo > (due out next year). Just like a punchdrunk boxer who fights way past his prime, he just won’t quit. He might do well to remember that Chaplin and Welles never did sequels, although perhaps now the world is ready for Citizen Kane II: Rosebud’s Revenge…