It's remarkable how drastically the absence of a few key players effects a movie franchise. Case in point: The original Superman starring Christopher Reeves and its sequel, Superman II. Both films are considered two of the greatest in comic book movie history (and probably movie history as a whole).
When Superman III came around in 1983, people expected great things - after all Richard Lester - the credited director of Superman II - was back, as were Reeves and franchise co-writers David and Leslie Newman. However, two key players were missing from the Superman III team: Richard Donner (director of the first film and the true visionary behind Superman II) and Godfather author Mario Puzo, who had written the stories of the first two Supes films. Like I said, it's amazing what kind of difference the absence of a few key players makes.
Like many studio franchises, Superman stopped chasing respect and acclaim and started chasing the dollars. The biggest gimmick? Shoving comedy legend Richard Pryor into the cast of Superman III as a "computer genius" - or maybe the honor of biggest gimmick goes to the Superman III's "evil Superman vs. Clark Kent" subplot.
But by far the worst gimmick offense of all was committed by Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which attempted to exploit anxiety over the nuclear arms race via a "Clone of Superman" plot. By that fourth film, most of the original Superman movie team had flown the coop, Reeves was co-writing the scripts himself (yikes), and we were all searching for a super power that could make us forget these perversions of Donner and Puzo's legendary vision.
And no, Superman Returns did nothing to heal the wounds - in my opinion, we're still waiting for another Superman movie to fill void left by Donner and Puzo.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Geeks may try and pretend that Indiana Jones 4 doesn't scar the face of what was arguably the best trilogy of all time, but it's saying something when the creators of South Park dedicate a whole episode to graphic scenes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas raping Indiana Jones. The sad thing is...that's pretty much how I felt watching Crystal Skull...
Now I'm not one to go around shouting that "You ruined my childhood!" crap, but the Indiana Jones franchise does have strong ties to my heart. Some of the best memories I have involve watching those films - they really are that magical.
So, like many of you, I was a kid all over again when Indy 4 hit theaters - and not one of the obvious warning signs was enough to deter my enthusiasm. But two words should've tipped me off from the very beginning: George Lucas.
Maybe the problem was seeing Indiana Jones survive a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator - or maybe it was the film's crazy finale where aliens (from a galaxy far, far, away) show up to high-five Dr. Jones. It definitely had something to do with that ridiculous car chase sequence (a longtime staple of the Indiana Jones franchise) in which Shia LaBeouf (Indy's estranged son - spoiler alert!) catapults from the vehicle and goes swinging through the jungle with a bunch of freaking CGI monkeys... UGH.
Like a certain other set of films-we-do-not-mention, Indiana Jones 4 had George Lucas' corrosive touch slapped all over it, and Spielberg himself couldn't stop the desecration. In one fell swoop, Indiana Jones went from being a sparkling childhood memory and titleholder of "Best. Trilogy. Ever." to a rape gag on South Park...