A film sequel 54 years in the making attempts to rekindle its magic in today’s more modern but complicated times.
By design, film sequels are meant to capitalise on the success of their predecessors. While common logic dictates that the shorter the gap between the first and last instalments, the better – strike while the iron is hot, as they say – not all film franchises fit the mould of the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
According to vulture.com, sequels that come out every two to four years produce the best results revenue-wise. The theory is that these gap years provide enough breathing space for the film to grow into the consciousness and hearts of the viewing public.
Meanwhile, releasing a follow-up six or more years later is considered too late, putting the franchise in danger of losing both money and prestige. The Scream franchise, for example, waited 11 years before releasing its fourth instalment and it grossly underperformed as a result.
This is why Walt Disney’s announcement that it will resurrect the character of magical nanny Mary Poppins on the big screen was met with stoic scepticism.
It was 54 years ago that the first Mary Poppins film charmed viewers of all ages – making its 21st century return the longest film sequel gap in history.
To be fair, plans for a sequel were already in place in 1965, only for the project to be shelved due to the misgivings of author Pamela Lyndon Travers, who openly loathed the original film adaptation of her precious children’s series.
Since then, the possibility of a comeback has remained in limbo.
But despite the film being considered dated, executive producer Marc Platt felt that the moment was just right for Mary Poppins to finally come out of hiding.
“I think it’s a time in the world where we all want a little magic back in our lives,” Platt said in an interview for Playbill.
“It felt like it’s time for Mary to come back and take care of us a little bit to remind us of hope and possibility and that anything is possible, even the impossible.”
Mary Poppins Returns follows the story of now-grown ups Jane and Michael Banks as they navigate through a personal loss. They receive the ultimate surprise when their childhood nanny pops out of nowhere to help them deal with the tragedy.
Despite the 1930s setting, there’s still the challenge of making the film appealing and relatable to modern viewers.
“We were creating an original musical, and this very sort of delicate balancing act of paying homage to the first film but creating something completely new. That was a challenge the entire time,” director Rob Marshall confided.
Even lead actress Emily Blunt, who was a big fan of the 1964 movie and original actress Julie Andrews, had to dig deep to put her own stamp on the beloved character.
“I decided before I played her not to re-watch the original picture. I had this searing memory of her that I wanted to honour, but this was going to be my version,” said Emily.
“I definitely found new ideas in the books, in which Mary Poppins was quite different from what I remembered. She’s completely bizarre and unknowable and eccentric, and very rude, vain and stylish.”
Regardless of whether cinemagoers will remain firm fans of the original or will deem the 2018 version a worthy successor, one fact remains: Mary Poppins’ ray of optimism is worth emulating, no matter the decade.
“I do realise people’s need to escape into a heightened world that’s fantastical, certainly in our times, which are fragile and very disconcerting,” reflects Emily.
“We must never see ideas of hope and joy as being trivial words or trivial life choices.”
Also starring: Dick Van Dyke, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer
Running time: 130 mins
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez