With Trainspotting 2 being released at the end of the month, and Blade Runner and Pirates of the Caribbean sequels out later this year we wondered: what are our favorite unnecessary movie sequels, and by favorite we mean, sequels that were the most unnecessary. What constitutes an unnecessary sequel? It could be a simple cash grab (Jaws 3-D), it could be a sequel to a film that played out its logical conclusion (Alien: Resurrection), or thematically is a sequel in name only, i.e. none of the stars return, it’s unrelated to the original (Dirty Dancing 2). A bad sequel doesn’t make it always unnecessary but unnecessary sequels are usually bad. So let’s get to it!
I have a superhero film, a comedy and something in the horror genre. None of them should have been made; two were franchise killers while the third went back to its roots in its next installment.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
I loved Superman I and II growing up. These movies are the genesis of the current crop of superhero films. They took the films seriously but were campy enough to enjoy as a kid. The special effects were fantastic for their time. Then came Superman III with Richard Pryor. Go watch the first ten minutes of this film: it’s a Keystone Kops short from the 1920’s. It gets redeemed slightly with a Superman vs. Superman fight later in the film. So at that point, the producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind believed the franchise had come to its natural conclusion and they sold the rights. Four years later the new production team released Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. In this one Superman promises to rid the world of nuclear weapons, inadvertently creates “Nuclear Man”, and has two dates at the same time a la Peter from The Brady Bunch. The budget was slashed from 36 million to 17 million and the run time of 134 minutes got cut to 90. With the budget slashed the special effects were a mess. It was disrespectful to the original films and a near film atrocity. It should never have been made. I can only think that Gene Hackman came back to the franchise for an easy payday. It’s tough to watch, given a choice I would watch Helen Slater’s Supergirl instead. Christopher Reeve once said, “Superman IV was a catastrophe from start to finish. That failure was a huge blow to my career” and he was a co-writer of this film.
Bonus: Believe it or not this film was not the lowest grossing of the “Super” pictures of the 70’s and 80’s, that distinction goes to Supergirl.
MG: I loved the Superman films and went to the theater with enthusiasm to see this. I didn’t like it at the time, but it was years later before I fully appreciated how bad it was. It’s so bad it’s actually funny to watch now, and it makes my top 3 for best “Honest Movie Trailers” by Screen Junkies on YouTube.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)
There are sequels I have seen that I just didn’t care for, for example, Men In Black II, and there are ones that I have high expectations for that make me mad when I see them: Batman and Robin, Vegas Vacation, and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. Anchorman 2 is one of these. I have no clue why I thought this would be good or even why this would make a good sequel. In this one, everyone came back from the director to the full cast and still they did not succeed. Comedy sequels are often difficult to recapture the original chord (Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Caddyshack 2, etc.) Some, like The Hangover films, are the same film over and over again with the same jokes. Anchorman 2 wasn’t funny, wasn’t original and really felt like it was an afterthought. It’s too bad because Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Adam McKay and even David Koechner are all very talented and can do great work. They should have created something original and left Ron Burgundy’s legend to live on as a one film gem.
Bonus: There has been some on and off talk about potentially doing a third one; I beg Adam McKay and Will Ferrell keep it classy no more Ron Burgundy.
MG: Sequel anger is no joke. Its effects can last for years and even tarnish your love of the good films before it (see my write-up of Crystal Skull later). I liked the first Anchorman, but was never a diehard member of the cult that grew for the film. I avoided seeing this based on the strength of your negative review.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
This pick is a personal one for me, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (not to be confused with the dreadful Nic Cage film) was the first rated R movie I ever saw in a theater and as an eleven-year-old, it was creepy as hell. When I look back on it now I scratch my head and say WTF? The first two Halloween movies were hugely successful and the story is connected, Michael Myers running around killing people. The third film goes completely off script, the actors from the first two are gone, no Michael Myers, and absolutely nothing to do with the first two except for the word “Halloween” in the title. Unless you are a movie savant you would not know any of the actors in this film. It stars Tom Atkins as Dr. Dan Challis who is investigating the Silver Shamrock Novelties Company days before Halloween. The company owner is making latex masks that will be activated by commercials on Halloween that will then crush children’s heads. There’s also some androids and witchcraft and the movie has an abrupt potentially undetermined ending. John Carpenter, the original Halloween director, was still producing at the time and thought maybe the Halloween franchise could be an anthology series but when it performed weakly at the box office they went back to Michael Myers and the original format. In retrospect, this movie may be better than the other two I selected and with better production and script maybe they have something here, but this should never have been made or at the least not be tied to the Halloween series.
Bonus: The featured masks (The Skull, Witch, and Jack-o-Lantern) were actually produced and sold in stores for $25. No deaths from crushed heads were reported.
MG: Can’t say I saw any Halloween films beyond the first one. Based on your plot description, though, sounds like this is ripe for a reboot as a separate franchise.
No doubt, 90% of sequels are driven by a studio’s desire to cash in on a known commodity. Then sometimes even the best-regarded filmmakers feel that urge to keep telling a story, even when the signs say to leave well enough alone. Here are some examples where they went too far.
The Godfather Part III (1990)
With the Godfather Part II (1974), Francis Ford Coppola accomplished what no one had done previously: make a sequel that many regarded as better than the first film. Fast-forward to the 1990’s, and maybe he wanted to challenge himself to do it again, or he just wanted money to buy his winery, but he went back to the well for the third installment. Critics somewhat unfairly placed a lot of the blame for this film on Sophia Coppola’s acting, but it really falls on her dad’s shoulders for overreaching. For me, the best part of the first two Godfathers was Al Pacino’s performance – so much simmering beneath the calm surface of his quiet intensity. 16 years later, had morphed into the shouting “Who-ah!” legacy-Pacino stage of his acting career, and it wasn’t the same, not by a longshot. Andy Garcia gamely tried to recreate young Pacino, but it was not even close. While not a horrible film, although it never should have been nominated for Best Picture, it had little to say and did not feel tied to the first two.
Bonus: Robert Duvall declined to do the film because he wasn’t going to be paid commensurate to what Pacino and Diane Keaton were. Later he chastised the film for being made only to make money. Good one, Robert.
DJ: “Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in”. They should have left this one out. Its an ok film but as a sequel it’s not worth it. I agree that Sophia Coppola got way too much credit for ruining this.
Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Yet again a revered Academy Award-winning director, this time Steven Spielberg, is flying too close to the sun. The most ridiculous aspect of this film being made is that Harrison Ford and Spielberg both said the reason it took nearly 20 years between this film and The Last Crusade was because they were waiting for the script to be right. Wow. There must be a lot of horrific Indiana Jones screenplays out there if this was deemed to be the best one. I don’t know why, but they play this film a lot on cable channels, and when I catch pieces of it I’m reminded how incoherent the plot is and how crudely it is made – in acting, directing and god-awful special effects. So now they are talking about making a fifth one with Spielberg again AND Harrison Ford??!! I didn’t think Disney would be that stupid. Like it was before Skull was made, the franchise is in a perfect position to be rebooted with a new actor and director, much like James Bond and what Disney is doing with Star Wars. I’m so disheartened to hear that this franchise will continue to be run into the ground. Let’s hope Disney rethinks this one.
Bonus: Harrison Ford insisted that more jokes about his age be added to the script. Yep, that helped a lot.
DJ: This is in my top 2 angry sequel films next to Batman and Robin. This movie is a film crime, Spielberg should be ashamed, and it’s a complete embarassment to a revered franchise of mine.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Has any franchise been more poorly managed than what 20th Century Fox has done with Marvel’s X-Men? After a strong start in 2000 with the original X-Men movie, the franchise was heading off the rails with the rough third installment and the worse Wolverine spin-off. By the time First Class came out in 2011, I was already so checked-out that I bypassed the film in theaters. Then when I discovered it on the small screen, I was pleasantly surprised by a story and character-driven movie with an excellent young cast and strong directing. Days of Future Past (2014), while flawed, was a great way to bring together both X-Men casts, and it felt like a fitting way to go out and give the franchise a rest. But nope – every franchise has to be a trilogy! I was wary when I heard about plans for Apocalypse, even with original director Bryan Singer returning, and my fears were well grounded. This is a terrible film across the board, featuring another destroy-the-world plot with a swirling cloud of debris in the sky (no idea what it was building), a bland/boring villain, tons of bad CGI, and otherwise good actors like Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence in contract-fulfillment mode. So much of the experience of watching this film is being bludgeoned by bombastic and poorly made CGI effects. With Logan just being released, and appearing to be a more reality-based affair, now is the time to give the X-Men a few years rest at least. But in Apocalypse they just introduced you to the next cast iteration, so you know they won’t let it rest.
Bonus: When does 20th Century Fox’s Marvel license run out? Spider-Man just moved from Sony back to Marvel, and it would be nice to see X-Men go back as well.
DJ: So I have an unopened copy of this, are you saying, “Don’t open it?”
MG: Ouch, you paid money for a DVD of this movie? You can get your money back, but you can’t get the two hours back.
DJ: UPDATED…Watched it and it was as awful as you say. Such a wasted opportunity.