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.