When ‘Staying Alive’ hit theaters on July 15, 1983, as the much-anticipated sequel to ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ expectations were sky-high. However, the film, directed by Sylvester Stallone, quickly proved to be a major letdown, earning a reputation as one of the most disappointing sequels in cinematic history.
The Film’s Premise
Set six years after its predecessor, ‘Staying Alive‘ follows John Travolta’s character, Tony Manero, now striving to make it on Broadway. Despite living in a rundown Manhattan hotel and working as a waiter and dance instructor, Manero’s ambition remains undimmed.
The film introduces new characters, including Tony’s patient girlfriend (Cynthia Rhodes) and a British dancer (Finola Hughes). The plot, centered around Tony’s involvement in a Broadway show titled ‘Satan’s Alley,’ differs from the gritty realism that defined ‘Saturday Night Fever.‘
Why is ‘Staying Alive’ a Flop?
One of the film’s most striking downfalls is the shift from the vibrant streets of Brooklyn to the manufactured glitz of Broadway. There is the absence of the original film’s depth, with the characters reduced to clichés and the dialogue lacking authenticity. In the end, the film fails to capture the essence that made ‘Saturday Night Fever’ a cultural landmark.
Despite its ambitious dance sequences and the inclusion of the Bee Gees’ iconic song ‘Stayin’ Alive,‘ the film faltered in delivering a coherent and engaging narrative. Its series of musical interludes failed to weave into a story, drawing unfavorable comparisons to other dance-focused films like ‘Flashdance.‘
Set against the backdrop of a Broadway production, the climax of ‘Staying Alive’ shows the film’s overreliance on spectacle over substance. The final scene, featuring extravagant elements like fire, ice, and laser beams, was overly theatrical and lacking in believability.
The film’s only redeeming moment is a victorious strut across Times Square to the tune of ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ This sadly reminds us of what could have been a worthy sequel to a beloved classic.
Financially, ‘Staying Alive’ was not a complete disaster. It grossed $127 million worldwide against a budget of $22 million. However, this box office success did little to salvage its critical standing. The film currently holds the honor of being the oldest film with a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes.