The old saying that “good things come to those who wait” doesn’t always apply to movie sequels. In fact in many cases, even the announcement of a sequel of a beloved cinematic property brings a sense of anxiety to moviegoers. “I hope this doesn’t suck” is a mantra often professed by many hardcore fans when a franchise entry is released many years after its predecessor. Surely the delayed production is a sign of trouble?
Of course there are exceptions: Mad Max Fury Road was incredible. Aliens is one of the best sequels ever made, and Toy Story 3 was an animated tear-jerker like no other (all three were even Oscar contenders/winners). But in many cases, too many years between films dull the momentum and usually fails to recapture the lightning in a bottle that made the original so inspired and enduring. With that in mind, here are 15 such sequels the world could have done without.
15. Jason Bourne (2016)
The Jason Bourne series is one of modern cinema’s most popular and acclaimed franchises, thanks to great practical action sequences, political intrigue, and Matt Damon’s most iconic and enduring role. So it was a bummer for fans when he sat out The Bourne Legacy, the fourth entry in the series, featuring Jeremy Renner as his replacement.
So his return for 2016’s Jason Bourne (which also featured the return of Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass) drummed up huge interest and excitement, and made for a solid box office hit in a summer when many blockbusters underperformed. But why was there such a lack of word of mouth or critical acclaim?
The truth is that while it was a decent action picture, it lacked the depth and character development work that had made the original series so memorable. In fact, it’s hard to recall anything in Jason Bourne that raises the bar for the franchise. Pretty lackluster for a near decade wait. Better luck next time?
14. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines isn’t a catastrophically bad sequel. It’s just merely serviceable and non-essential, plus the lack of any returning characters (besides Arnold Schwarzenegger) feels like the stakes aren’t set very high. Likewise, James Cameron’s absence is palpable; while director Jonathan Mostow has a way with stark thrillers (Breakdown), he’s not an overly ambitious filmmaker. So whereas the original Terminator films were groundbreaking in terms of story and effects, Machines lacks a visionary touch (minus a decidedly dark ending). It certainly wasn’t an upgrade twelve years after Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Perhaps another issue is that the addition of the T-X female terminator (Kristina Lokken) feels more like a gimmick and not an interesting take on gender dynamics in genre films. Schwarzenegger certainly seemed to have a bizarre take on it, as he rambled in a truly awkward DVD commentary: “This scene with the enlargement of the breasts was fantastic … in the audience you see immediately women in the audience saying ‘Wouldn’t it be nice, where can you get that done?'” Uh, okay Arnold…
13. Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
It’s less interesting to wonder why it took twenty years for Roland Emmerich to helm a sequel to 1996’s Independence Day than to decide why they bothered making such a half-hearted sequel in the first place. The fact that Will Smith, the star of the original film, didn’t want to return wasn’t a good sign either (he chose to do Suicide Squad instead: another lackluster film, but at least it paid the bills).
Independence Day: Resurgence underperformed with critics, audiences, and box office receipts, which wasn’t surprising given the trailers did little to excite. Resurgence was a rehash that felt particularly uninspired. Liam Hemsworth was a bland leading man, the effects didn’t wow, even returning vets Jeff Goldblum, Brent Spiner, and Bill Pullman looked bored.
A film two decades in the making should have felt special. Instead, it was just another casualty of the poor summer box office of 2016; a by-the-numbers blockbuster that evaporated from anyone’s memory who saw it.
12. Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008)
The Lost Boys is an over-the-top by-product of 1987: big hair, an MTV-ready soundtrack featuring INXS and Echo & the Bunnymen, an oiled-up dude playing the saxophone, and the Corey’s. It’s Joel Schumacher’s best film for sure, but given his track record, it’s still no Citizen Kane, folks.
But there has been enough interest, cult appeal, and ’80s nostalgia over the years to spurn interest in a sequel. And after 21 years, we finally got one… that went straight to video. Lost Boys: The Tribe failed to recapture any of the magic of the original. Minus the return of Corey Feldman (reprising his role as vampire hunter Edgar Frog), it featured a bland young cast (nice try casting Kiefer Sutherland’s youngest brother Angus though), and an uninspired story too eager to repeat the beats of the original than tread any new ground. Its 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes isn’t anything to brag about either. “Cry little sister”, indeed.
11. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
No film epitomized the greed and materialism of the 1980s better than Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. Michael Douglas’s sleazy Gordon Gekko proved so powerful that his “Greed is good” speech became oddly inspirational to some (which deeply troubled Stone). So when Stone chose to make the sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, in the aftermath of the 2008 financial market meltdown it felt like an appropriate referendum on forgotten economic lessons from the Reagan era.
Unfortunately Stone’s follow-up to his ’80s classic missed the mark in pretty much every respect. Mostly because it seemed redundant: while Douglas remained magnetic as Gekko, there was very little left to be revealed about his character. Likewise the scenes involving Douglas and Shia LaBeouf (playing the spiritual successor of Charlie Sheen’s character Bud Fox from the original 1987 film) lacked sufficient chemistry or tension. Stone also made an egregious error with his grace note ending, giving Gekko the redemption he doesn’t deserve.
10. Hannibal (2002)
The critical and commercial success of 1991’s Silence of the Lambs made a sequel feel inevitable, especially given that its unresolved ending left Hannibal Lecter roaming free. Too bad its hopes hinged on Silence author Thomas Harris writing a follow-up. A notoriously sluggish writer, he didn’t arrive with the novel Hannibal until nine years afterward. And that book was such a polarizing read that Jodie Foster and Lambs director Jonathan Demme jumped ship.
Director Ridley Scott took on the adaptation with Hopkins returning and Julianne Moore taking on the Clarice Starling role. But despite their involvement, along with a cast including Gary Oldman and Ray Liotta, Hannibal was bound to disappoint critics and fans. Scott had discussed the “structural problems” of the script, which meant (thankfully) excising the ludicrous ending where Starling and Lector became lovers. But that was just one of many cracks in a poor plot. Hannibal was a box office smash, but had little of the stimulating dialogue or psychological intrigue of its predecessor. When Lector was released from his cage, he became less interesting, and Oldman’s performance as villainous Mason Verger was so over the top it felt like he was in a different film.
9. Zoolander 2 (2016)
Was anybody really asking for a Zoolander sequel? Guess not! The follow-up sixteen years in the making only made $56 million on a $50 million dollar budget, and gained negative reviews to boot. Absence apparently did not make audiences grow fonder toward Ben Stiller’s dimwitted fashion model and his equally empty-headed sidekick Hansel (Owen Wilson).
Zoolander 2 was basically a complete retread on the original, and the film tried to gloss over its lack of inspiration by jamming in as many celebrity cameos as possible (okay, the scene involving Justin Bieber’s grim fate was enjoyable for those with Bieb-fatigue) and throwing in a needlessly convoluted plot. For a filmmaker who has a way with pop-culture skewering comedy (The Cable Guy, Tropic Thunder), Stiller phones it in here, and his performance as the lead character follows suit. Zoolander 2’s collection of tired jokes puts it (to paraphrase the sequel) in both the “old” and “lame” category.
8. Caddyshack 2 (1988)
Caddyshack is one of the best comedies of the ’80s, featuring classic performances from Billy Murray, Ted Knight, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield. Caddyshack 2 only features one returning cast member: Chevy Chase. And he hated every minute of it.
The eight-years-in-the-making sequel had trouble written all over it. Original director Harold Ramis balked at trying to make a second film based around Dangerfield’s loutish Al Czervik character: “The studio begged me. They said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a great idea: The Shack is Back!’ And I said ‘No, I don’t think so.'”
Despite his initial protests, Ramis wrote a screenplay with Dangerfield in the lead, only to have the comedian quit the production, reportedly tossing the script in the trashcan. Ramis followed suit afterwards.
Everything about Caddyshack 2 felt second-rate: Jackie Mason felt ill at ease in the Dangerfield role and not even Dan Aykroyd could liven up the proceedings. Chase, realizing he was on a sinking ship, told director Allan Arkush to “Call me when you’ve dubbed the laugh-track,” during post-production. Ouch. Did somebody step on a duck?
7. Tron: Legacy (2010)
First off, let’s get this out-of-the-way: Tron: Legacy is a gorgeous film.
But despite its effective eye candy (minus the unconvincing “young” Jeff Bridges), and Daft Punk’s killer score it never quite caught on with audiences or critics. It certainly made a profit, but not enough to inspire Disney to pump out a sequel anytime soon.
In many ways this feels totally appropriate, given that the original Tron faced a similar fate in 1982: it was a cult classic that took time to build an audience. But as a sequel three decades in the making? It didn’t earn the wait.
The problem is in its story… or lack thereof. The plot in Tron: Legacy was an afterthought to the visuals. Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, and Michael Sheehan aren’t given much to do, and the story of a son searching for a father lacks a sense of urgency.
6. The Godfather Part III (1990)
The Godfather Part III is somewhat legendary for being so inadequate in comparison to its two iconic predecessors. And it all started at the inception. Francis Ford Coppola never wanted to make a third film in the franchise, feeling he had already told the Corleone saga in 1972’s The Godfather and 1974’s Part II, despite pressure from Paramount Pictures to produce another cash cow.
But when Coppola found himself in debt after a string of flops, he gave in for a payday– never the best sign for an artistic endeavor. Paramount only gave him six weeks to write a script and Robert Duvall wouldn’t return. Things got even worse after the role of Mary Corleone had to be recast after Winona Ryder left the project. Coppola subsequently cast his daughter Sophia, which lead to criticisms of nepotism given her wooden performance.
The film wasn’t a total loss: the “pull me back in” line is now part of the pop culture vernacular, and there’s an excellent shootout sequence. But Part III lacks the visual and narrative grace of its predecessors. It feels superfluous and uninspired… because that’s literally what it was. Definitely not worth the 16-year wait.
5. Alien 3 (1992)
James Cameron’s 1986 classic Aliens ended on an up note, with Eleanor Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) gaining her own nuclear family: a surrogate daughter (Newt), a possible lover (Corporal Hicks), and even a family pet (good boy, Bishop!).
So when Alien 3 was announced, many were expecting to see their future adventures together, and waited 6 long years for a follow-up. Talk about a rude awakening. The film opened with all of Ripley’s buddies getting killed while she was stranded on a humorless prison planet (where all but one inmate were British for some reason). The film wasn’t scary. The alien didn’t look very cool. And then she got killed off in the finale. What fun! To say it was anti-climactic would be an understatement.
Alien 3 was doomed from the get-go, between a lackluster script and studio meddling that drove first time filmmaker David Fincher to completely disown his own film. The box office haul was fair, but not great. Now we know there’s a small, passionate fan base that deem it underrated. But there’s way more that are salivating at the chance for director Neill Blomkamp to give us the true Aliens follow-up we’ve been waiting for.
4. Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003)
This sequel/prequel/thoroughly unequal follow-up to Dumb and Dumber is practically a lesson on what not to do when resurrecting a beloved film property. Dumb and Dumber is a classic ’90s comedy because of four people: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, and The Farrelly Brothers. So why would you make a follow-up (nearly a decade later) without their involvement? Perhaps it’s one of the best kept secrets in Hollywood, but it was certainly ill-advised.
And with a plot so bland and hokey, lead Dumb and Dumberer actors Derek Richardson (Harry) and Eric Christian Olsen (Lloyd) were doomed from the start. The negative reviews were as caustic as they were inevitable. Now sure, you can claim that 2015’s Dumb and Dumber To was bad, but at least it had the original cast, and admit it, you laughed a couple of times. Okay, maybe just once. But that’s still one more laugh then you’ll get watching When Harry Met Lloyd!
3. Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)
Who thought revisiting the Blues Brothers was a good idea? Without the late, great John Belushi in the role, even the notion of a sequel felt downright disrespectful. Nevertheless director John Landis and Dan Aykroyd felt compelled, and drafted in John Goodman to fill the void.
Goodman is a national treasure, but he was put in an unwinnable position. Not even the addition of veteran actor Joe Morton or a host of musical guests including Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, BB King, Taj Mahal, Jimmie Vaughan, Steve Winwood, James Brown, and Wilson Pickett could liven up the proceedings.
All the jokes that felt fresh in Landis’s original felt stale in the sequel. And the addition of an annoying kid is the ultimate deal-breaker, grating our nerves in every scene he appears in. No one wanted a Belushi-free sequel, let alone one that veers into cloying family film territory. One would think a near two-decade long follow-up would have been more thoughtful and inspired. Instead this misguided sequel is more snooze than Blues.
2. Escape From L.A. (1996)
John Carpenter and Kurt Russell have a powerful creative alchemy. So fan anticipation was high when they re-teamed on a sequel featuring iconic anti-hero Snake Plissken. But Escape From L.A., their 1995 follow-up Carpenter’s 1981 cult classic Escape From New York was deeply unsatisfactory.
So what went wrong? For starters, the ominous atmosphere of the original had evaporated. The sequel was more focused on one-liners and satire than on being an engaging action picture. While EFNY certainly had comedic moments, they were better balanced against the film’s grittier aspects. Escape From L.A.’s served too much undercooked satire and too little spectacle to satisfy its audience. When one of the biggest set pieces in a big action film is Kurt Russell shooting hoops, you’ve got problems.
Another surprising issue is the film’s look. For one of Carpenter’s highest-budgeted films, Escape From L.A. looks shockingly cheap (the surfing scene with Plissken and Peter Fonda being the most glaring offense– even if it was meant to look cheesy, it’s unacceptable). Escape From L.A. was a massive letdown that failed to seize on the strengths of the original, and certainly didn’t warrant a sixteen year wait.
1. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (2008)
We should have known the fourth Indiana Jones film was in trouble when George Lucas returned to the fold. As the Star Wars prequels proved, he’d lost a step over the years. And the 19-year gap between The Last Crusade and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came with major expectations. Unfortunately director Stephen Spielberg couldn’t offset Lucas’s cold touch.
Crystal Skull had a host of problems, including the new characters it introduced, most notably Shia LaBeouf, who was totally unbelievable as bad boy Mutt Williams. And while it was great seeing Harrison Ford reunite with Raiders co-star Karen Allen, they couldn’t compensate for a silly plot, with a goofy climax involving aliens (and how about that tedious jungle chase?).
It’s fitting that the best scene was its opening sequence, which climaxed with a mushroom cloud. At least Spielberg admitted its flaws (throwing Lucas under the bus in the process): “I never liked the MacGuffin. George and I had big arguments about the MacGuffin. I didn’t want these things to be either aliens or inter-dimensional beings. But I am loyal to my best friend…I’m going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it…I will never fight him on that.”
So that wraps up our list of 15 long-awaited sequels that underwhelmed. What films would you add to the list? Be sure to tell us in the comments.
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