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5 sequels that took a franchise in a whole new direction #TheLastJedi


Sequels take us back into the universe that we loved in the original and expand upon it in many ways. Whereas most sequels follow a similar formula regarding genre, style, and narrative, occasionally they will flip their predecessor on its head and take the franchise in a whole new direction.

From what we’ve seen of The Last Jedi so far (which arrives in Cineworld on December 15th), it won't just be different from The Force Awakens but could even change our outlook on the entire Star Wars saga.

For one thing it's directed by Rian Johnson, no stranger to mind-bending, gritty wonderment as his brilliant time-travel action movie Looper demonstrated. It stands to reason we can expect something equally radical from The Last Jedi, especially with the ageing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) grappling with the potential demise of the Jedi order.

This is something we cannot wait to see, but could it make as big of an impact on the series as these five sequels did for theirs?

5. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Doubtful over the potential impact of The Last Jedi? All you need to do is look at The Empire Strikes Back to remind yourself just how much a sequel can change a franchise.

A New Hope is a simple tale of good against evil: Luke Skywalker is called to defeat the villain and save the world whereupon his life goes back to normal. Empire could have easily been a rehash of A New Hope but instead it took a risk and surpassed our expectations.

It took the characters we already adored and expanded on them to make them more complex, it told us more about the Force, introduced new worlds and characters, and, more importantly, it made the series more dramatic and gritty than we expected.

Empire is the prime example of a sequel that that took its franchise in a completely new direction and we’ve got a feeling The Last Jedi will do the same.

4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

At this point, every muggle and their gran knows who Harry Potter is and has seen all the films at least once in their lives.

Although there’s always been a darker element to the series, foreshadowed early on by the return of You Know Who, it isn’t until the finale of Goblet of Fire when things started to get real with the death of Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson).

Enter the next movie Order of the Phoenix, the film which signalled the beginning of a mini-trilogy of its own: one that was darker and had more at stake than anything in the previous films.

There were heart-breaking losses, nail-biting battles, and enough Death Eaters at this point that we wished Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) could go back to the good old days when he lived under the stairs and ran from giant spiders. Anything would be cheerier than the final films but we still love them nonetheless.

3. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

The Mad Max series is known today for its insane post-apocalyptic setting, characters, and spectacular car chases but the series wasn’t always like this.

The original 1979 film was something completely different. Mad Max was originally a low budget exploitation/revenge thriller which saw a gang of bikers murder the family of a policeman named Max (Mel Gibson). After the loss of his family, he goes insane (you might say he goes mad) and hunts the bikers to avenge his family.

It’s gritty, grizzly, and gripping but it wasn’t until Road Warrior when the series became the post-apocalyptic insanity we know and love today.

2. Return to Oz (1985)

Remember how charming The Wizard of Oz was? Didn’t you find it an endearing film full of imagination? Didn’t your heart melt when Judy Garland sang 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow'? And we know that there’s a huge smile on your face when the central trio skip down the yellow brick road.

The Wizard of Oz truly is a cinematic classic and we expected its long-delayed sequel to be just as much of a whimsical journey down a yellow bricked road.

How wrong we were.

When Dorothy (this time played by a young Fairuza Balk) returns to Oz, she discovers that the world she once knew is now more of a living nightmare than a dream come true. Oz is ruled by the Nome King alongside Princess Mombi who have turned our friends from the original into stone.

The biggest change in Return to Oz is the sheer amount of dark imagery. From the horrific “Wheelers”, nightmare-inducing stop-motion effects, and the room of screaming heads, we know that we’re not in Kansas anymore with this one.

1. Aliens (1986)

Has there ever been a harder question to answer than "What’s your favourite Alien film?" 

Ridley Scott's original is a masterclass in sci-fi horror with its practical effects and claustrophobic atmosphere still holding up today just as well as they did back in 1979.

Aliens is just as incredible but it wasn’t what we expected from a sequel to a horror film. Instead, James Cameron took a ground-breaking sci-fi horror and turned it into an epic sci-fi action film.

When Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) awakes 57 years after her ordeal on the Nostromo, she finds herself venturing back to LV-426 as part of a rescue team when the colony that populated the planet stopped responding.

Unsurprisingly, they were wiped out by a horde of xenomorphs. From here on out Aliens is an action-packed thrill ride that reinforced Ripley’s standing as a heroic cinema icon, as well as introducing other memorable characters including the late Bill Paxton as Hudson.

Where will Star Wars: The Last Jedi rank among these revolutionary sequels? We'll find out when it hits Cineworld on 15th December.

Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.

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