Casting Continuity: A Necessity For Sequels

by Erik Amaya

Cobra Kai. (L to R) Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso, William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence in Cobra Kai. Cr. Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix © 2021

It seems at one point reboots were all the rage in Hollywood. Nowadays, it appears the latest trend is not rebooting franchises but reviving them with long-awaited sequels. Doesn’t matter if it’s Star Wars, The Matrix, Bill and Ted, or even Karate Kid in the form of Cobra Kai — nostalgia is the name of the game, and the powers that be seek to milk it dry. Unfortunately, the success to many of these revivals hinges on the return of the original cast.

Cobra Kai has been successful for a whole host of reasons, but definitely one of the main strengths is that so many of the original actors have reprised their roles. Each has had their own career, none of which has been catapulted into super stardom. But seeing them all slide right back into their characters decades later has been an unexpected treat for so many fans.

This is in stark contrast to Matrix Resurrections. That film was polarizing for many different reasons, but one possibility is the strange recasting of two main characters. The movie was fortunate enough to get Keanu Reeves, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Carrie-Anne Moss to return. Sadly, though, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving did not. While it is still unclear if the actors were ever approached to come back, their characters were presented as new/old hybrids with strange explanations for why they looked different. Although the new actors did well in their respective roles, the hokey explanation added a lot to the story’s already muddled plot. One can’t help but wonder if the movie would have had more success as a revival if more of the original actors returned.

Then again, Star Wars has taken this idea to the extreme. The Mandalorian receives huge praise for its inclusion of Luke Skywalker. What’s even more awesome is that Mark Hamill was involved in the project. But The Mandalorian takes place when Luke was much, much younger than Hamill is now. To solve this problem, they used CGI to de-age the actor back to high 1983 appearance. As a general rule of thumb, a sequel is going to be more successful the more it includes its original actors, but if they were to feature young Luke again, it might be best to simply hire a different actor rather than watch an entire show about a CGI de-aged character. The Book of Boba Fett‘s use of the technology to feature Luke only furthers the debate on how best to feature the character in the future.

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