News about the long awaited Blade Runner sequel keeps coming through, now with the revelation that Ryan Gosling might be playing the lead alongside the returning Harrison Ford. This is all well and good, but it comes a little too close to what is quickly becoming a familiar sequel formula: decades to do a sequel, get the male lead to come back and do the movie, hire a younger male co-star to infuse the sequel with sex appeal for younger viewers. The fact that these older actors are really far too old to be starring in sequels of their former action movies seems to bother no one – after all, men can go on being action stars forever and we’ll all suspend our disbelief. If you don’t believe this is an actual epidemic in Hollywood right now, I’ll have you know my list was twice as long before I narrowed it down to six.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Harrison Ford is no stranger to what I’ll call “The Expendables Formula”. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was one of the most grievous and disappointing examples of the trend, pairing a decrepit Indy with an ineffectual Shia LaBoeuf as his son Mutt. It was implied in the end that Mutt could take over the family business, but that Indy wasn’t quite ready to give up the fedora. I think you could argue that, if not Steven Spielberg, then certainly George Lucas was having a crisis of relevance from returning to yet another beloved franchise after so many years, making this movie doubly cringeworthy to sit through.
The original Tron was one of the most innovative and unique movies of its time, so it seemed reasonable that the sequel would aim for the same level of creativity and technological advancement. While it was a pretty flashy movie, there was nothing much about it that seemed terribly special, and it certainly lacked the wonderful sense of humor inherent in the first film. Having Jeff Bridges reprise his role as Kevin Flynn should have been perfect, but whoever wrote the script missed everything that made Flynn such a great character, so Bridges pretty much ended up phoning in his performance. Enter Flynn’s son (Garrett Hedlund) to entice the younger crowd to the theaters. Unfortunately, Hedlund isn’t exactly the epitome of charisma.
Dumb and Dumber To
Comedians are a special category. Because their purpose is often times to be ridiculous, appearing ridiculous as old men in roles meant for younger actors is almost an advantage. That’s a big part of what made Dumb and Dumber To even more absurd than the original. It is almost reasonable to have younger men acting stupidly, but less acceptable to behave stupidly past middle age. But it’s also harder to watch older men make fools of themselves, and that makes Dumb and Dumber To especially cringeful watching.
I combine these because there’s really no difference. They’re both high profile Stallone franchises that had comeback sequels several years after their preceding installments, but within quick succession of each other. And when I say quick succession, I mean that Rambo was being planned while Rocky Balboa was being filmed. Stallone starred in both as his iconic characters and kicked ass like he was thirty years younger. It wasn’t too long after this that The Expendables became a franchise, a way for old action stars to stay young forever. Interestingly, many of the actors from the movies in this list have appeared in The Expendables movies, which I suppose means they partly own up to how ridiculous it is that they’re still action stars.
Live Free or Die Hard/A Good Day to Die Hard
Bruce Willis is one of the worst offenders of the Expendables syndrome, not necessarily because he’s any more or less unbelievable as an action star than the rest, but because his Die Hard sequels are undeniably terrible. I cannot stress how absolutely, mind-numbingly terrible these movies are. They look terrible, the dialogue is ridiculous, the jokes are lame, the storylines are nonsense, and despite the non-stop action and explosions, they’re really quite boring. All I remember from A Good Day to Die Hard was an awful recurring joke that Bruce Willis would repeat about being on vacation. They even pasted a sound bite of it over a scene as he jumped out of an exploding thing. These movies are so damn bad.
Terminator: Rise of the Machines
Its kind of hard to make a sequel about an ageless robot starring the same actor who originally played that robot almost twenty years earlier. Needless to say, Schwarzenegger had aged a bit in the interim. And considering the character is a robot anyway, there really didn’t seem to be any continuity reasons to have it be the same actor. I mean, if they can just switch the actor playing Darren in Bewitched then there really is no reason a robot can’t be built to look like someone else. That being said, this is Hollywood and a franchise has its integral parts, the most important of which are the faces attached to it. And that being said, Terminator Salvation made just about as much money without Schwarzenegger as Terminator: Rise of the Machines did with him.