Movies · TV

How to Follow-Up a Remake

By  · Published on August 23rd, 2016

The secrets to making a successful sequel to a successful redo.

It’s rare that a remake is so popular that it warrants a sequel. When it does happen, it’s even rarer that the follow-up is also a hit. The truth is, almost all sequels to remakes are bad and deservedly underperform, and that doesn’t fare well for Mechanic: Resurrection, in which Jason Statham reprises his role from The Mechanic, a 2011 rehash of the 1972 Charles Bronson vehicle of the same name. But it’s not impossible to succeed twice. The following tips could help anyone tasked with achieving an exception to the reboot rule.

Make It Meta

For a period in the 1990s, the thing to do with a movie version of a TV series was make it self-parodying. Now the best thing to do is play the remake rather straight – though not necessarily serious – and then if you get there, deliver a self-aware sequel that pokes fun at genre, sequel, and remake expectations. It worked hilariously well for 22 Jump Street, without going overboard to the point of not functioning on its own. Years earlier, there was Ocean’s Twelve, which critics today defend as a great sequel about itself.

Stick to Remakes of TV Series

While not an all-inclusive certainty, the majority of successful remakes that go on to not just have successful sequels but full franchise fortune are those based on TV series. Some may consider them adaptations rather than remakes anyway, but if we qualify them (we did above with 22 Jump Street), you’ve also got Mission: Impossible II, U.S. Marshals, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, and Addams Family Values. You could probably also count Star Trek Into Darkness.

Don’t Just Remake the Sequel

When the original movie had a sequel of its own, the easy thing would be to just remake that. But easy doesn’t always translate to good, and while Father of the Bride Part II performed decently at the box office, it did neither the first movie nor its specific source material justice because it was clearly a lazier effort. And Rob Zombie’s Halloween II is even worse. Again, not every example fits the bill, but it’s generally better to go in a new direction. It helps, as in the case of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, if the initial remake is such a fresh take that faithfully remaking the sequel isn’t doable anyway.

Cast The Rock

It’s a rule in general that getting Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in your sequel will give your series a big boost. He’s not nicknamed “franchise Viagra” for nothing. And he did join two remade properties at their first sequel stage – The Mummy Returns and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – and both made more money worldwide than their predecessor. It’s unclear if it works if he was in the first movie, too, but Disney should give a Race to Witch Mountain sequel a try anyway.

Make an Awesome Movie

Hey, now, there’s an idea: just make a great sequel and chances are critics and audiences will be into it. This seems like a given, but so many sequels to remakes seem like so little effort was put into them – like the producers thought they didn’t need to given the simple appeal of a sequel to a popular movie – especially when compared to For a Few Dollars More. It has its cliches, to be sure, but it’s also an awesome follow-up with more great music and signature Sergio Leone style. It also could help to release the sequel just four months after the first movie opened to great success, as was the case with Dollars in the US.

The Best Way for a Sequel to Copy the Original

Here are the 20 biggest remake sequel box office successes (domestic totals, adjusted for inflation) – only looking at the first follow-ups:

  1. Mission: Impossible II ($346m)
  2. The Mummy Returns ($309m)
  3. Star Trek Into Darkness ($236m)
  4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($223m)
  5. Quantum of Solace ($203m)
  6. 22 Jump Street ($202m)
  7. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear ($179m)
  8. Ocean’s Twelve ($174m)
  9. Dr. Dolittle 2 ($173m)
  10. Father of the Bride Part II ($151m)
  11. Three Men and a Little Lady ($147m)
  12. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle ($145m)
  13. The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps ($123m)
  14. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ($113m)
  15. Cheaper by the Dozen 2 ($110m)
  16. For a Few Dollars More ($108m)
  17. 102 Dalmatians ($107m)
  18. U.S. Marshals ($106m)
  19. The Ring Two ($103m)
  20. Addams Family Values ($102m)

And here is my ranking of the 10 best remake sequels (first follow-up only) of all time:

  1. For a Few Dollars More
  2. Ocean’s Twelve
  3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  4. 22 Jump Street
  5. Addams Family Values
  6. The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear
  7. Mission: Impossible II
  8. Quantum of Solace
  9. Star Trek Into Darkness
  10. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.