Dead Alive: Bringing Popular Characters Back to Life in Sequels

Dead Alive: Bringing Popular Characters Back to Life in Sequels (photo)

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Fans of the gleefully excessive Jason Statham action film “Crank” know that it concluded with an impressively ballsy ending: Statham’s Chev Chelios gets his revenge but — SPOILER ALERT! — falls out of a helicopter in the process. In “Crank”‘s final shot, he falls into a car, bounces on to the pavement, twitches and… dies.

It was certainly a surprise — a pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless — when the IFC.com staff first got word of a sequel, this week’s “Crank: High Voltage.” Statham was pretty clearly not alive at the end of that first movie, but, as the sequel’s poster puts it: “He Was Dead… But He Got Better.”

Chelios is not the first. Hollywood has a long history of bringing back popular dead characters in sequels. Here’s a look at five commonly used techniques:

04132009_CitySlickers2.jpg“He’s My Twin!”
Jack Palance in “City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold”

As grizzled cattle driver Curly in “City Slickers,” Jack Palance had a signature monologue about the meaning of life. He tells Billy Crystal’s character Mitch that the secret to happiness is to find “just one thing” you truly care about and to pursue that with every fiber of your being. When Crystal asks what that thing is, Palance replies, “That’s what you have to find out.”

In the sequel, playing Curly’s heretofore unmentioned twin brother Duke, he imparts a less poetic but far more insightful glimpse into an actor’s motivations. As Duke in “City Slickers II,” Palance reveals that “just one thing” isn’t nearly as important as one other thing: gold. It’s a pretty materialistic message, but look at it this way: Palance is just being honest about why he returned to play Curly’s ghost, watch Billy Crystal have sex with his wife and generally crap all over the career-capping performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Palance is fine as Duke, still grizzled, still full of gravitas, if a bit less invested than he was in the original. But who could blame him? There’s no doubt he — and really, everybody in the cast — was just searching for a nice fat paycheck.

See also: Chow Yun-Fat as his twin brother in “A Better Tomorrow II.”

04132009_AlienResurrection.jpg“She’s My Clone!”
Sigourney Weaver in “Alien: Resurrection”

Let’s give credit where credit’s due: bringing a dead character back to life as a clone is maybe the cheapest ploy in the risen-from-the-grave playbook, but at least “Alien: Resurrection” writer Joss Whedon used the gimmick to interesting effect — the only interesting effect, really, in a movie full of uninspiring computer-generated ones. Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley killed herself at the end of “Alien3” to destroy those nasty facehuggers once and for all, but we all know that when there’s more money to be made, there’s no such thing as once and for all. So for the fourth “Alien,” the real Ripley stayed dead while military scientists cloned her out of a drop of blood in order to harvest the alien embryo she was smuggling inside her intestines for most of the previous film.

Somehow, the procedure mixes the clone’s DNA with the alien’s, creating a Ripley vastly different from the one we knew in the rest of the series. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet doesn’t make much time for soul-searching amidst all the extra-terrestrial vivisections, but Weaver’s performance is still suitably alien: speaking in a eerie monotone and occasionally pausing in the middle of chase scenes to writhe on the ground and note “I hear them. It’s the queen! And she’s in pain.” No kidding, she’s in pain; she’s trapped in a dreadful sequel. But there’s something about that weird Ripley/Alien hybrid that strikes a nerve, one that Whedon continued to tickle in similar storylines about twisted versions of beloved characters on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

See also: Temuera Morrison as Commander Cody and an entire army of Jango Fett clones in “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”

“He’s Dead! But We Can Bring Him Back To Life!”
Leonard Nimoy in “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock”

If you’re really going to kill a popular character, it helps to have a loophole. That way, if you do decide to make another movie, you’ve already built in a plausible way to bring said character back. “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” killed off Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock, but it kind of did it with its fingers crossed. He dies of radiation poisoning in the Enterprise’s engineering section, but before he does, he gives Dr. McCoy some kind of Vulcan mind meld and gravely intones the word “remember.” And after he does, Admiral Kirk sticks his body inside a photon torpedo tube and deposits it on the newly formed Genesis planet with its remarkable regenerative powers.

It all sets up the plot of “The Search For Spock,” where Kirk needs to take Spock’s Vulcan katra (or “living spirit”) out of a befuddled McCoy and reunite it with his revived but rapidly aging body, which is stranded on Genesis. Once they recover Spock and return him to the Vulcan homeworld, he can undergo something called fal-tor-pan (loosely translated, it means “convenient alien ritual”) to merge his body and mind. A highly illogical turn of events to be sure, but you can’t deny that “Wrath of Khan” at least sowed the seeds for Spock’s return. Plus, it sets up that great finale, where an alive-but-confused Spock struggles to remember Kirk and to comprehend the sacrifice his friends made to save him. Spock’s moment of recognition (“Jim. Your name is Jim.”) is so powerful, you’re left awfully glad the pointy-eared guy was good to his word on the whole “live long and prosper” thing.

See also: Jennifer Garner, dead in “Daredevil” and brought back to life in the spin-off “Elektra.”


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.