It’s been reported that Tim Burton has signed on to direct a sequel to his classic film Beetlejuice. Is this great news or just the set-up to another disappointment?
The temptation for creative types to return to the scene of previous glories must be huge, with a ready-made audience available for them, but the list of ‘long-awaited sequels that were worthwhile’ is a very short one.
Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep has turned out to be a good sequel to The Shining, but I’ve already written about why I think it would be a bad idea to turn it into a filmed sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation.
You’ve only got to think about some of the most popular film franchises and their attempts to ‘bring the old gang back together’ to see examples of where things can go badly wrong.
Of course, Star Wars is a prime case in point, with the immense goodwill George Lucas built up with his original trilogy dashed away in less time than it took Liam Neeson to talk about trade federations and midichlorians.
Lucas was also burnt by the attempt to bring Indiana Jones back in the messy and poorly-received Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, while his old pal Francis Ford Coppola found out that even The Godfather films weren’t immune when he finally made Part III, which wasn’t a bad film, but looked it when compared to its predecessors.
Every time there’s talk of a new Ghostbusters film, I get a little nervous at the thought of Dan Aykroyd and Co lumbering around making wisecracks about being ‘too old for this shit’, while a CGI Slimer mugs desperately in the background. Some things are best left alone.
So why is it that it’s so hard to recapture the original magic all those years later? Some of it may that there’s a time and place for everything, and once that time has passed, it’s best to move on. Beetlejuice was perfect for Burton in the late 80s, would it be again in the 10s? He was on a hot run of form at that point, but few would say the same now.
Some of it is obviously the age of the performers in films like Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (and a new Ghostbusters film), where it was hard not to feel that Indy looked too old for all that nonsense. If Harrison Ford is back for a new Star Wars film, can he really play Han Solo with the same panache and charisma?
That might sound ageist and it’s not meant to be, but audiences who are used to seeing actors in a role when they are young and vibrant will inevitably find it hard to adjust to them as older and out of shape. That has to be a consideration for Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice a quarter of a century later.
Anything that takes the audience out of the fictional world for a moment (like ‘gosh, he looks SO OLD’ is a bad thing for a film that is meant to already have people on board with the memories of the original. And if you’re setting the story so many years later, there’s also the need to spend some time filling in the gaps.
Still, there’s certainly reasons why a new Beetlejuice film could be great. On his day, Burton is one of my favourite directors and Keaton was perfect in the first film, as were the rest of a brilliant cast. How many would return is unclear, but the temptation to include Winona Ryder as the mother of a new family must be there.
But it’s hard to feel too confident that it will be successful (creatively, rather than commercially) because there’s so few examples of this kind of thing working out well. Can you think of any?