These days, when a movie comes out that is even remotely profitable, you can be damn sure the film company is going to milk the material dry with another installment. And therein lies the problem with sequels: they are so focused on trying to ensure that the characters from the original don't grow stale or begin treading water that they fail to realize the potential of a fresh face. While this method can blow up in your face just as easily as any other, oftentimes it can lead to great success. The following list of movie characters represent a few occasions where new characters paid off in a big way.
Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise), "The Color of Money"
Say what you will about Tom Cruise; the dude can act the crap out of just about any role. And while sequels rarely live up to their predecessors, especially when that predecessor is "The Hustler," deciding to go the route of shining the spotlight on new pool shark, Vincent Lauria, was a great way to shake the franchise up while still letting Vincent interact with Paul Newman's Fast Eddie. Anyone who can pull off such a feat convincingly, particularly here, deserves a spot on this list.
Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), "Fast Five"
What's the best way to add testosterone to a series already overflowing with it? How about throwing The Rock in for good measure. Not only was this the right call from a strictly action movie angle, but Luke Hobbs is the perfect adversary to the likes of Dominic Toretto. Plus, adding Dwayne Johnson to a petering franchise has worked so many times before ("The Mummy Returns," "Journey 2," "G.I. Joe: Realiation") that it's practically down to a formula.
Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), "X-Men 2"
As long as the movie is not titled "Jumper," then chances are that a guy who can "bamf" from one location to another is going to be a pretty welcome addition, especially when the guy is an actor like Cumming who can actually act his way out of a paper bag (yep, still ripping on "Jumper" a little bit). And unlike many of the characters in subsequent "X-Men" flicks, Nightcrawler is given purpose right from the start, and is engaged throughout the film. The character is so interesting, in fact, that they couldn't help but create a character with similar abilities in "X-Men: First Class," albeit with less effective results.
The Joker (Heath Ledger), "The Dark Knight"
I mean, come on. This one was a total no-brainer for this list. While it is fairly common and obvious to switch up the villain roster in a comic book film sequel, there are a number of movies that didn't even have that foresight. "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer" would be a great example. But even then, if they'd had a villain as completely encompassing as Ledger's Joker in that film, surely our advice would be to bring him back again and again. We have to assume that that would have been the plan here if not for his untimely real-life demise.
Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), "Lethal Weapon 2"
Not only did Leo Getz make enough of an impression on the audience to allow him to stick around for another two films, his character also set the more light-hearted tone that would be followed for the remainder of the films. Now, whether or not you consider that a good thing or a bad thing is really not up to us, but you can surely agree that any character that can be added to a sequel and change the course of the whole franchise's tone is clearly an impactful one.
Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), "Mission: Impossible III"
Much like Leo Getz, what we had here was a much needed injection into the funnybone of these films. Sure, this may actually have been the darkest of the four films in the franchise, but the addition of Benji Dunn brought a bit of life back into a film that could easily have lost it entirely if not for the addition of a new, interesting characters. The same could even be said for "Ghost Protocol," as it again catered to the notion of bringing fresh faces into the fold. But clearly Dunn was still the most entertaining, as who can resist the comedy stylings of Simon Pegg?
Fat Bastard (Mike Myers), "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"
Okay, so maybe by the third installment, the Mike Myers pulling an Eddie Murphy card had grown a bit stale, but for at least the second installment, the Fat Bastard character was easily the funniest aspect of an already pretty damn funny movie. That alone is saying something. Plus, not to overpraise such a silly movie, but as far as new characters go, an obese Scottish henchman is far from stereotypical, adding to the hilarity of an already irreverent franchise.
Bernie Focker (Dustin Hoffman), "Meet the Fockers"
It would have been easy to just tread water for this sequel and have Ben Stiller's character simply have another bad experience with Robert De Niro while trying to impress the family. Instead, this sequel has De Niro less pitted against a potential son-in-law who's ultimately trying to impress him, and more against a man who is his polar opposite in the form of Dustin Hoffman, whose antics are a welcome shake-up to the formula, and who provides the perfect yang to the prior's yin.
Elias (Trevor Fehrman), "Clerks II"
What makes the Elias character in "Clerks II" so amazingly comical is not that he is much different than what we've seen before in the lead character of Dante, but he is more of the sweet, fairly innocent version of that. And in that regard, the Randal character doesn't respect him in the slightest, making any bit of restraint Randal might use with Dante virtually nonexistent here. Therefore, even if Elias doesn't serve as a particularly funny character all his own, he is at least the catalyst the movie needs to enhance the comedy of the its funniest character (Randal) tenfold.
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Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) & Yoda (Frank Oz), "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back"
Duh. What other characters would you have possibly expected here? Of course, it was too close to choose just one, as they are probably two of the franchise's most beloved for vastly different reasons. On the one hand, you have a bounty hunter who manages to be more badass than every character combined while hardly saying a word, and on the other, you have a Jedi master who presents more questions than answers. Namely, how in the world is this little dude a Jedi master? In both cases, however, we are introduced without being told the whole story, and that's a major factor to the appeal of both of these classing sequel characters.