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Can sequels to hits like 'Alien' and 'Jurassic Park' make two times a charm?

New entries to series like "Home Alone" and "Batman" aim to entice viewers

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Can sequels to hits like 'Alien' and 'Jurassic Park' make two times a charm?

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A speeding vehicle with a bomb on board? Been there. An acid-blooded alien with a grudge against Sigourney Weaver? Done that. A bachelor billionaire with a bat fixation? Puh-leeze.

Familiarity sometimes breeds contempt, but that isn't stopping Hollywood from releasing a slew of big-ticket sequels this summer. Along with Speed 2: Cruise Control, Alien Resurrection, and Batman & Robin, expect to see the Jurassic Park dinos come back in The Lost World, plus the return of an even scarier creature — the Home Alone kid (now played by Alex D. Linz of One Fine Day). How will audiences take to the refried films? ''It's always a gamble,'' says Batman & Robin director Joel Schumacher. ''Just because you climbed to the top of Mount Everest once doesn't mean you won't fall off the next time.''

And a long drop it is. Most of the sequels are much pricier than their predecessors, thanks mostly to the high cost of their stars. Weaver, for one, is reportedly getting $11 million for the fourth Alien film (she pocketed only $5 million for Alien 3), boosting its budget to $70 million. Sandra Bullock will earn a smidgen less than her usual $11 million fee, but Speed 2's budget still hovers at around $70 million. Arnold Schwarzenegger reportedly pocketed $25 million to star as Mr. Freeze in the new Batman (with George Clooney in the cape), though insiders say Schwarzenegger took less than that in exchange for a chunk of the profits.

Smart move. The Batman franchise has earned almost $600 million domestically, with no sign of slowing down. The Alien series seems a good bet too; though the last sequel was a disappointment ($55 million), Resurrection will give Weaver an intriguing new partner, Winona Ryder, in her first action role. But Speed 2 sounds iffier. Though the original made $121 million, the sequel, now shooting in the Caribbean, will be Keanu-less (Jason Patric will take over the helm — this one is set on a boat). And while Macaulay Culkin's retirement from tykedom probably won't alter the subtle mise-en-scene of the Home Alone series (the first two made a total of $457 million), audiences will have to decide whether Linz has the delicate touch and steely fortitude to pull it off.

Originally posted Jan 10, 1997 Published in issue #361 Jan 10, 1997 Order article reprints