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There are many types of movie sequels, from those that actually continue the stories of the main characters, to those that only pay lip service with a similar plot. But then... there are those sequels you would never know follow a previous movie, because they hide the fact so successfully. We call these movies Stealth Sequels. Here are our top six, with each Tommy Lee representing difficulty of discovery.
Staying Alive (Sequel to Saturday Night Fever)
This is the classic example of a Stealth Sequel: A movie so stealthy -- we've all collectively tried to forget its existence. Staying Alive needlessly follows John Travolta's Tony Manero as he tries to make it on Broadway, in the worst musical ever made. Bet you didn't know this was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, did you? No, of course you didn't. Travolta, Stallone, and a sequel to a movie that didn't require one... There are sometimes good reasons to not let anyone know you're making a sequel, and in this case, it was to protect the memory of the original movie.
Be Cool (Sequel to Get Shorty)
John Travolta makes his second appearance on our list with an awful, unnecessary sequel to the rather sublime gangster comedy Get Shorty. Once again, Travolta's character tries to put on a musical (more or less). Once again, the movie completely fails to capture the lightning in a bottle quality of its predecessor. Some of the posters came emblazoned with, "From the people who brought you Get Shorty," but sadly, 10 years later, name-dropping Get Shorty wasn't enough to bring them into theaters. Fans who rediscover the original movie will, hopefully, remain in the dark about this one.
Army of Darkness (Sequel to Evil Dead I and Evil Dead II)
Army of Darkness is, without a doubt, the most sequel-y sequel on this list. Not only does it have the same actors and director as the Evil Dead films, it actually picks off directly from where Evil Dead II left off, complete with the last scene of the previous flick intact. So why so stealthy? Well, box office, for one. Each successive Evil Dead movie had a larger budget to play with, and with Sam Raimi's star on the rise, this was seen as a chance to break through to a mainstream audience who may never have seen the splatter prequels. But come on... Who's going to mistake that chin?
The Road Warrior (Sequel to Mad Max)
Like the Evil Dead movies, The Road Warrior shed its connection to its originator, when director George Miller was given a bigger budget to retell a similar story on a much larger canvas. This is actually a personal Stealth Sequel for me, as it wasn't until several years ago that I realized there was a Mad Max movie before The Road Warrior. Feel free to flame, but the stealthiness worked on me for years.
The Dark Knight (Sequel to Batman Begins)
So, what's The Dark Knight a sequel to again? Just kidding. One point, but only because these two movies will be nowhere near each other in the video store.
U.S. Marshals (Sequel to The Fugitive)
Hey, did you know U.S. Marshals was a sequel to Oscar-nominated The Fugitive? The connective fiber is Tommy Lee Jones' hard as nails, but with a heart of gold, federal agent, Samuel Gerard, once again tracking down a fugitive, played by Wesley Snipes. The reason for the title shift is ostensibly that the focus is now on Tommy Lee Jones' character, rather than Dr. Richard Kimble (who doesn't appear). Regardless, fans of The Fugitive will be happy know that U.S. Marshals is a great follow up to The Fugitive, if not in name, then in spirit. Even if the studio doesn't want you to know that.