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Categories: Features

We take a look at the franchises that have taken away a little more than they’ve given in our count down of the brilliant films that should never have had sequels.

There are certainly a lot of sequels that even the most diehard fans of a particular title will happily admit they’d like nothing better than to boot into the sun but that’s not what we’ll be talking about today. Here, we’re looking at some of the straight up masterpieces that spawned more unbearable entries into their canon than enjoyable ones…

 

Ocean’s Eleven

Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the Rat Pack classic was an intoxicating romp that served as an, often kind of beautiful, ode to stardom itself. An unhurried pace, coupled with Soderbergh’s stunning photography (shot under his usual cinematography alias of Peter Andrews), made it a real moment in cinema. A seminal heist film and a shining example of old fashioned movie magic. Its sequels were never really going to live up to that example, and it’s nice how consistently self-aware they are, but they’re undeniable disappointments when considering the talent involved. Ocean’s Eleven wasn’t just a cheap trick, its power came from a masterful tonal balance and, put simply, Ocean’s Twelve was all brains and no fun while Ocean’s Thirteen was all fun and no brains.

 

Psycho

When people think of the legacy of Hitchcock’s Psycho (a seminal, if not revolutionary, film) people tend to think of Gus Van Sant’s, hugely maligned, shot-for-shot remake or maybe the prequel TV series which ran from 2013 to 2017. People often forget that Anthony Perkins resumed the role of Norman Bates three more times and there’s a good reason for that. Psycho II is a fairly entertaining piece of genre trash that comes nowhere close to anything accomplished in the original, which was already a classic of twenty-three years when Psycho II came out, but it really only serves to set up future sequels, which can most accurately be described as uneventful, and begins this convoluted obsession with the life story of Norman Bates; ultimately turning him into some kind of hero.

 

The Ring (U.S.)

Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake of Hideo Nakata’s chilling modern classic was a truly faithful, creative and carefully crafted credit to the original. Ironically enough, it was Nakata himself who ruined the image of the name in America. In an ominous thematic link to the film, the shoot for the mandated sequel, The Ring Two, was beset by flooding before being literally blessed by the original Ringu director and resuming production under his stewardship. Making The Ring Two somewhat of a paragon of bad sequels. None of the creeping dread present in either Nakata’s original or Verbinski’s remake found its way into The Ring Two, falling prey to the common mistakes of cash-grab Hollywood franchise sequels and continuing an unengaging narrative at the expense of atmosphere.

The real reason the American offshoot of Ringu became so bemoaned, however, was yet to come; and it wasn’t even the godawful nonsense of 2017’s last gasp of the American franchise (for now, at least) Rings. After the, very deserving, success of Verbinski’s remake, Hollywood, as it always does, became gripped by a new trend and proceeded to steamroller their way through as many other modern Japanese horror greats as they could before moving on to Thailand in the mid-2000s and finally South Korea in the late-2000s. But honestly, it was sort of worth it. If only for beginning Verbinski’s long collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer, reteaming the following year for what is probably their most famous work, individually or collectively, and, sadly, another film on our list.

 

Jurassic Park

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park changed so much and that’s why, perhaps, its sequels changed so little. Out of all the films on this list, it’s the Jurassic Park franchise that’s chewed up, and spat out, the highest number of talented directors. In the pursuit of recreating perfection, the series has, instead, created a paradoxical vortex, that makes a lot of money while seeming to please very few, which has sucked in even Spielberg himself. What Jurassic Park gave us was so so astonishing, in part, because we never knew we wanted it until we saw it. We were left stumbling, trying to adjust to a new world of computer effects that can be timeless and a lust for dinosaur action which, realistically, hit a point of diminishing returns within the film series the moment Jurassic Park ended.

 

The Fugitive

Back during the 90s edition of Hollywood turning TV shows your parents watched into movies, one of the few that actually worked was The Fugitive and it worked so well that it earned seven Oscar nominations; winning for Tommy Lee Jones’ unforgettable powerhouse performance which, itself, delivered one of the most iconic pieces of movie improv ever. So, even with lead star Harrison Ford gone, throwing in talents like Wesley Snipes and Robert Downey Jr. would make a sequel centred around his character sound like something that you could be tempted by. Well, don’t be. U.S. Marshals is as soulless, and lacklustre, as thrillers ever come. A holy trinity of charismatic actors and you’re still left struggling to remember even basic plot details. So bland it’s almost impressive.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Regardless of how you feel about Johnny Depp as an actor and/or actual human being, the antics of Captain Jack Sparrow have become increasingly tiresome over the course of the past fifteen years. Depp’s original, Oscar and BAFTA nominated, performance evidently won over the hearts of the masses back in 2003 but, while he was nominated as a leading actor (and won as one at other awards shows), Jack Sparrow was really more of a supporting character. He enhanced the scenes, he didn’t make them. Being the most quotable, and memorable, character tricked millions into believing that the one thing the world needed was more Jack Sparrow and the ensuing tedium of screaming, bad jokes and memes proved all of us wrong.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was an outstanding adventure film that should have inspired Disney to create more films based around their iconic rides but financial success doesn’t inspire higher quality, it inspires higher quantity. The film’s ensuing first two sequels were filmed back-to-back, in the Back to the Future style, but were far more reminiscent of the awkward Matrix sequels; coming off more as one film’s worth of story that had been stretched across two already over-encumbered films. 2011’s On Stranger Tides went full spin-off and tried to make Jack Sparrow the full on protagonist only for Disney to attempt to reincorporate the original storyline in the heavily delayed Dead Men Tell No Tales (A.K.A. Salazar’s Revenge) in 2017.

 

Halloween

John Carpenter’s, now archetypal, low-budget slasher flick inspired generations of filmmakers. Its sequels aggravated them. The careers of Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis weren’t the only things to skyrocket after its release. Through the simple application of spray paint to a William Shatner mask, Carpenter inadvertently created a horror film icon and put the name Michael Myers on the map, soon to be joined by the likes of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. The Halloween series made one famous attempt to sever itself from the repetitive mistakes of those franchises with the third film, Season of the Witch, but it wasn’t to be. Myers simply became another hilariously immortal movie monster that’s to be revived whenever a cheap buck is needed.

 

The Terminator

Yes, we’re really going to go there. We’re going to discuss the possibility that, as much fun as Terminator 2: Judgement Day was (and still is, to some extent), it just isn’t worth the pain that it’s caused since; and I say this as one of the few ardent Terminator Salvation fans out there. Judgement Day was the film that both made Terminator as a franchise and sealed its fate. For the next twenty-seven years (and probably at least a couple more until the next one comes out and inevitably tanks or Arnold Schwarzenegger dies), various writers, directors, producers and studios would attempt to recreate the magic of T2, mistakenly operating under the belief that what made Judgement Day so special was the idea of very specific time-travelling robots.

In reality, what made the first two Terminator films so successful was the evident talent of James Cameron. Terminator 2 was really a platform for Cameron’s flair for creative action sequences and the zenith of Schwarzenegger’s gargantuan star persona. Both of which began their lives in 1984’s The Terminator, a hugely influential (and, despite copyright lawsuits, really quite original in terms of execution and achievement) slice of technophobia that would go on to define science-fiction, and particularly time-travel stories, for decades. Once Cameron left, it all went to hell. Terminator 3 is a blueprint for creative bankruptcy and what nostalgia remained was swept away by the cold-blooded murder of the original characters in 2015’s mightily confused Terminator Genisys.

 

The Blair Witch Project

Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s sleeper hit not only popularised the found footage style, a whole other thing which has taken as much as it has given over the course of the past nineteen years, it also stands as one of the most successful independent films ever made. Creating an achievable model for other indie filmmakers to follow and make creative, original, work of their own. Sadly, none of these people had much to do with the film’s sequels. The first sequel, Book of Shadows, was green lit and shot almost immediately after the sudden cultural impact of the first film; debuting in cinemas a grand total of fifteen months after the original. 2016’s Blair Witch brought back the shooting style that Book of Shadows discarded but forgot the realism and subtlety.

 

Jaws

There’s not much to say about Jaws that hasn’t already been said. It’s a landmark, comparable to Psycho in terms of both flawless execution and cultural impact. Also similarly to Psycho, and horror films in general, the higher the number in the title the worse the films become. Jaws 2, therefore, being the best sequel and coming off as, maybe, the most convincing forgery of Spielberg’s early cinematic style. But it’s still just a forgery and it’s the film that transforms the Jaws series from what Jaws actually was (a, mostly, psychological horror drama) to what pop culture parodied Jaws as (a popcorn slasher movie). Making it, perhaps, the only film series to begin with a perfect example of how to make a film and end with a perfect example of how not to make a film.

 

Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a copywriter, and lifelong cinephile, who received his bachelors in Film and Comparative Literature from the University of London. You can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

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Posted on May 9, 2018

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