This year’s film slate includes the usual glut of remakes, prequels, and sequels — some of them continuations of decades-old franchises. Films like Coming to America 2 and Top Gun: Maverick began their stories in the ‘80s and are only now receiving their long-awaited followups, while the next James Bond film, No Time to Die, will serve as the farewell to the Daniel Craig era of the franchise.
It’s going to be a while before we can all head out to theatres again to enjoy these movies together. In the meantime, why not prepare for these new entries by revisiting what came before? Here are the films (and even some books) to consume in preparation for their respective sequels or reboots.
Coming 2 America
Over 30 years after the events of the original 1988 film, now-King Akeem (Eddie Murphy) of the fictional African nation of Zamunda discovers he sired an heir during his previous visit to the States. Akeem and servant Semi (Arsenio Hall) must return to Queens, New York to kindle a relationship with Akeem’s long-lost son, the rightful heir to the Zamundan throne.
It’s curious how Akeem could have fathered a child in New York City offscreen during the events of the first movie, but I guess we will find out how it happened when the film releases this March. Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall both reprise their additional roles as Randy Watson, Reverend Brown, and the elders at a Queen’s barbershop (how they are still alive three decades later is beyond me). The film is a direct continuation, so revisiting the original Coming to America is paramount to enjoying the sequel.
Coming 2 America will be in theatres on March 5, and streaming on Prime Video that day as well. Watch the first film on Prime Video today.
Godzilla vs. Kong
Godzilla vs. Kong is the main event in a connected universe of massive monster movie remakes, all of which are best viewed in advance of the epic finale. The 2014 Godzilla reboot stars Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and marks the beginning of the sci-fi saga.
The second film Kong: Skull Island (a personal favourite) introduces us to King Kong and The Monarch organisation, whose mission is to uncover and protect ancient, massive beasts. Monarch gets wind of a mysterious beast living on Skull Island and compiles an expedition to investigate, comprised of Samuel Jackson, Brie Larson, and Tom Hiddleston, to name a few.
The third instalment, Godzilla: King of Monsters, features the evolution of Godzilla as he battles four other ancient monsters to determine who will reign over the earth. Watching all three films will be more than prepare you for the title bout.
Godzilla vs. Kong premieres in theatres on March 25. Before then, you can catch Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla: King of Monsters and as well as 2014’s Godzilla on your digital platform of choice.
The King’s Man
You can prepare for The King’s Man in several different ways. If you are a comic book fan, read the graphic novel series Kingsman before jumping into the action-adventure film trilogy. Both the graphic novels and films follow the members of a private secret agency that vows to defend the world from power-hungry villains. Based in the UK, their cover operation is as a well-tailored group of gentlemen suit makers.
The King’s Man is a prequel to the films Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017). As the new one takes place years before the events of the existing movies, it is not required that you watch them first, but I highly recommend it. They provide essential world-building, grounding you in the heightened atmosphere of hyper-violent spy hijinks. Still, while you may miss a couple of inside jokes or references, as The King’s Man chronicles the creation of the British crime-fighting syndicate, watching it before the other films should be fine.
The King’s Man premieres in theatres on August 19. The other two films aren’t currently streaming, but are available on most digital rental platforms.
Spiral — formerly titled Spiral: From the Book of Saw — continues the labyrinthine mystery slasher thrills of the Saw franchise. To catch up on what happened previously, I suggest watching at least the first film along with Saw III and Saw: The Final Chapter. These three films are the most important to understanding the evolution of the main villain and discovering how and why his tortured legacy continues to live on.
Spiral may not be a direct continuation of the Saw films, but does live within the same universe, which means it may include callbacks and references to the originals. Watching a few of the earlier Saws will ground you once again in the twisted moral universe in which the films take place.
Watch Spiral in theatres May 21. You can catch Saw on Amazon Prime Video.
Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: Maverick brings famed Navy airman Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell back to the big screen, with Tom Cruise reprising one of his most memorable roles. Val Kilmer is also back as Lieutenant Tom “Iceman” Kazansky in this 35-years-in-the-making sequel.
As the sequel opens, Mitchell continues taking high-flying risks while teaching new recruits and avoiding the promotion that would inevitably take him out of the skies. I have never seen Top Gun myself, and will probably make a double feature out of it when Top Gun: Maverick premieres (only in theatres, at least for now) on July 2.
Watch the original Top Gun on Stan now.
Space Jam: A New Legacy
The intergalactic basketball team is back, this time subbing in big-time player LeBron James for the first film’s Michael Jordan. The prep for A New Legacy is pretty simple: just watch the original Space Jam, perhaps for the millionth time. You may also want to watch a couple of LeBron James’ real life games if you haven’t seen him play; otherwise, the impact of seeing him on the court with Bugs Bunny won’t be as powerful, which would be a shame.
Watch Space Jam: A New Legacy in theatres on July 15. You can stream the original on Netflix.
A classic 1995 horror film is getting the Jordan Peele treatment in the 2021 Candyman reboot. The 2021 film follows the reemergence of the mythical urban legend of the “Candyman,” the vengeful ghost of a man who was the victim of a racist murder. As the legend goes, saying “Candyman” five times in a mirror will cause him to appear and visit upon you a gruesome death (naturally, a bunch of teenagers do this in the trailer).
Watch the original film to familiarise yourself with the folklore, though note that writer Peele has promised a few changes to the story for this reboot. (The trailer hints that Candyman’s burden can be passed down to others, continuing his dark legacy.) You might also want to watch Jordan Peele’s earlier films, Get Out and Us, to get a strong sense of his style of storytelling. The film is directed by Nia DaCosta, also a Black woman, and stars Emmy Award-winning actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, so it is going to be worth the work.
Catch the original film via a digital rental before the new Candyman premieres in theatres on August 26.
The fact that a 148 instalment tweet is coming to life as a full-length feature film is something I never would’ve imagined, but hell if this isn’t a gripping story. Zola chronicles the journey of two young dancers from their first meeting through their trip down south as they attempt to make it big (and make big cash) in the Florida club scene. Per the tweets that inspired the film (written by A’Ziah King), dangerous drama unfolds along the way, filled with sex, drugs, and money.
While there’s no movie to watch in preparation, if you want to know what happens before seeing it unfold on the big screen, read the Twitter feed. Zola premieres in theatres at some point in 2021.
No Time to Die
The 25th instalment in the James Bond series will be the current actor’s last, as Daniel Craig is retiring from the character and a new 007 agent will take his place. Prepping for the final film in Craig’s chapter involves watching his four prior James Bond exploits: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre.
Unlike the earlier films, which most stand alone, these four reveal heretofore unknown elements of Bond’s childhood and personal life, as well as establish some overarching villains, so you will want to review each prior film before the new release. Doing so will be a ceremonious goodbye to a 15-year era within the long-running franchise, making way for new blood in the role. After abandoning several earlier dates, No Time to Die premieres in theatres October 7.
Watch Casino Royale, Skyfall, Spectre and Quantum of Solace on Stan.
Dune is an emotional sci-fi adventure based on the novel of the same name by Frank Herbert. The complex story follows Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), the heir to a noble, space-faring house assigned to protect a world that is the only source of spice, a valuable intergalactic asset vital to the survival of humanity.
This is not the first time a film has been made out of the popular book. In 1984, director David Lynch helmed a film adaption starring Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Brad Dourif, Patrick Stewart, and Sting that baffled audiences at the time but has come to be appreciated by some for its trippy visual design. Another adaptation appeared in 2000 when a three-part miniseries starring William Hurt aired on what was then known as the Sci-Fi Channel.
You could watch both iterations to get a sense of the different interpretations of the text, but the best way to prepare for the 2021 Denis Villeneuve version is to read the book itself. You actually have time to do all of the above: The new film premieres in theatres on December 26.
Neither the 2000 miniseries or the 1984 film are currently streaming in Australia.
The Matrix 4
The secrets of The Matrix 4 have been closely guarded since the production was announced a few years back. In the absence of a trailer, the most we have to go on when it comes to the plot is based on conjecture and speculation. Recently, star Keanu Reeves revealed the film is not going to be a prequel to the Matrix trilogy, and given the way The Matrix: Revolutions ended, the story could go pretty much anywhere. All we know is that some of the original cast will return (Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lambert Wilson) and some will, notably, not (Laurence Fishburne); there will also be a bunch of new characters played by the likes of Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff).
The Matrix deals with complex themes of power and control, technology, and the ethics of human existence, and are heady enough that rewatching the trilogy — and maybe even The Animatrix, a related series of short films — to prep for the new film.
The Matrix 4 will be released in theatres December 16. Watch the original trilogy on Amazon Prime Video noww.