It looks like Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh aren't too old for this shit after all. That's right, folks, almost twenty years after the LAPD's most deadly cops took down the Chinese triad, it seems that Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and director Richard Donner may finally gear up for Lethal Weapon 5. Get your guns and witty banter ready, because these aging cops are going to need them.
The thought of bringing Riggs and Murtaugh back for another case will almost certainly get many fans excited, but it also raises some concerns. After all, long-awaited sequels don't have the best track record in Hollywood. This becomes even more worrisome when we consider the fact that (critically speaking) the series is actually one of the more consistent properties in Hollywood, and went out on a high note in Lethal Weapon 4. With that in mind, let's dive in and discuss how the folks behind Lethal Weapon 5 can craft a fifth installment that's worthy of the previous four.
Pay Homage To The Previous Films...
The Lethal Weapon films are notably distinct from many other franchises of a similar ilk because these movies do stack on top of each other. Every subsequent film refers to the others, and a mythology develops as a result. Even in Lethal Weapon 3, we get a scene in which Riggs shows us the scars that he has developed over the course of his relationship with Roger. While we certainly want to see Lethal Weapon tell a story that's accessible to newcomers to the franchise, we also want to know how the injuries and traumas of the last four films have informed and changed our heroes.
...But Don't Recycle Old Bits
With that said, we have also seen what can happen when films focus way too much on fan service and fail to tell a new story. There's no question that we want to know how all four Lethal Weapon movies have built to the events of Lethal Weapon 5, but we also don't want to see yet another "on three, or one, two, three, go?" bit used just because most of the other Lethal Weapons used it. It has been almost twenty years since Riggs and Murtaugh were last seen on the silver screen together; they will almost certainly have new jokes and gags ready for us.
Don't Ignore Lethal Weapon 3 and 4
The Lethal Weapon franchise can be informally broken down into two arcs. The first (following Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2) revolves around Riggs' journey to discover that life is worth living. The second (focusing on Lethal Weapon 3 and 4) is Riggs' journey to find a life with Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) that doesn't depend on the Murtaughs. Although Lethal Weapon 1 and 2 are the two more quotable and referenced films, Lethal Weapon 5 needs to acknowledge everything to feel like a cohesive unit. Unlike other beloved franchises, there shouldn't be selective continuity here.
Keep The R-Rating In Place
Despite all of the fun banter and hijinks that we see in every single Lethal Weapon movie, it is worth remembering that this is actually a very dark and brutal franchise. From drug-running special forces veterans to Chinese triads trafficking in slave labor, every Lethal Weapon movie is anchored by somber themes, grim violence and an aura of sadness that hangs over the two heroes. Those ideas only get more profound as Riggs and Murtaugh get older and saltier, and Lethal Weapon 5 will need to continue the gritty, hard-R tone that characterized the previous entries in the series.
Make Age A Major Theme...
In Lethal Weapon 4, Martin Riggs finally started to come to the realization that he may have lost a step when compared to the man he was earlier in his career. Now, keep in mind, that was twenty years ago. As of right now, Mel Gibson is 61 years old, and Danny Glover is 71 years old. Instead of having them jumping off of overpasses and sprinting down streets like they used to, Lethal Weapon 5 should lean into their age and make it a core theme of the film. To act like they haven't slowed down would go against the core of the franchise.
...But Don't Make It A Recurring Joke
On the other hand, Lethal Weapon 5 should endeavor to take the aging of our two heroes seriously. The series has mostly done this over the years, but Lethal Weapon 3 (arguably the most comedy-focused entry in the franchise) consistently poked fun at Murtaugh's advanced age by having him wear a girdle under his police uniform. "I'm too old for this shit" is a running joke that fans have come to love, but the fifth installment in the Lethal Weapon franchise should still make sure not to play it all for laughs and give us a serious story about two men coping with their age in the face of conflict.
Don't Leave Room For A Sequel
The modern Hollywood landscape has become defined by franchises that seem to go on indefinitely, with very few film series willing to bid farewell to beloved characters. However, after decades of adventures and iconography, it's time for the Lethal Weapon franchise to officially end on its fifth installment. This doesn't necessarily need to be a bloody and somber ending in the vain of something like Logan, but we want a proper conclusion to arcs that were established in 1987. Lethal Weapon 4 changed the game by making Riggs a father, and Lethal Weapon 5 needs to bring the whole thing full circle.