Top 10 most outrageous sequel patch-ups
Sometimes you need to get back to the box-office trough even when you've burnt your bridges. Hollywood can make it happen…
10: Alien Resurrection (1997)
Problem: We killed the leading character by dissolving her in boiling lead at the end of the previous film.
Ye cannae change the laws of biology: if you end up cloned, there's nothing in DNA that will reproduce your footballing scars - or any other post partum event, such as a woman's pregnancy. Therefore the notion that a fifty year-old Ripley clone would still have the alien queen embryo inside her from Alien 3 is pretty barmy, but Jean Pierre Jeunet approaches his underrated entry in the Alien franchise with such eccentricity and imagination that it doesn't hurt the film.
9: The French Connection II (1975)
Problem: Sequel needed but real-life story is already told.
William Friedkin's original was based on real-life tough-line drug cop Eddie Egan, and compressed a bust that that took nearly a decade into the composite time-frame of the movie. Far greater licence was taken with John Frankenheimer's sequel, which effectively took Popeye Doyle - a real-life (if renamed) character researched vigorously by Gene Hackman when he and Roy Scheider went on patrol with Egan and his partner for a month - and put him into a totally fictional time-line, continuing his pursuit of dapper drug-lord Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), another real-life character who is shot dead by Doyle in the thrilling conclusion of the film, but who actually died many years later of old age.
8: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)
Problem: Nimoy changed his mind. Again.
Having held up Star Trek: The Motion Picture with years of executive-teasing, Nimoy was only coaxed back to Wrath Of Khan with the actor's dream-gift: a death scene. He was lured back to this second sequel - which spends two hours undoing Spock's death-scene in Khan via a lot of newly-invented Vulcan mysticism - by an invitation to direct, and the knowledge that Spock himself would not be required until the closing minutes. It is probably not the intention of Vulcan Katra-lending that the subject eventually be reincarnated in their late fifties, but Nimoy used the disruptive influence of the dying Genesis planet to get round that in order to live long and prosper again.
7: Die Hard 2 (1990)
Problem: It couldn't happen twice.
Part of the fun of Die Hard was the happenstance element of John McClaine being in the wrong place at the right time; far fetched, but you buy it and enjoy the ride. But it's Christmas, a time of magic - even black magic, as our hero finds himself going through the entire Die Hard scenario again at an airport. Willis's post-modern irony can't save this clunker of a concept (if we can call it that much), but luckily the outrageousness of the coincidence is completely eclipsed by the 'ejector seat' stunt later in the film, which is perhaps the most unbelievable stunt scenario outside of Sam Elliot's plane-mounting antics at the end of Blue Jean Cop.
6: Back To The Future Part 2 (1990)
Problem: We need to lose the chick.
Having put the world to rights at the end of Back To The Future, Doc Brown rejoins Marty just as he is surveying his new kingdom with Jennifer (Claudia Wells), and whisks the couple off to 2015 to sort out some cobbled-together idea about their kids needing help in the future. It's a cute ending - actually it's a great ending, but to match it up for a sequel five years later, Robert Zemeckis had to actually invent a McFly kids plot - which he was able to do - and contend with the fact that Jennifer (now Elizabeth Shue) was going to be a bit of a fifth wheel. Therefore Brown lays some radio wave-chloroform on her in the first few minutes and our heroes leave the sleeping girlfriend hidden in an alley. She does enter the plot later, when she is picked up by a couple of cops and returned to her future home based on her fingerprint ID, but she's not central to the action.
5: The Lost World (1997)
Problem: We need a brand-new dinosaur island to play on. We need a traumatised previous character to go back for more trauma.
In this sequel to the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park, everything that happened on Isla Nublar has been improbably hushed up and chaos-theoretician Jeff Goldblum has been branded a looney for trying to tell the world about it. Meantime jolly old Richard Attenborough has gone green and wants to send a documentary party to a spare dinosaur island that he has apparently pulled out of his arse. Additionally he once again wants - for some unearthly reason - to send a maths expert along. The same maths expert who was nearly killed the first time round. Luckily for the plot, Goldblum's girlfriend is exactly the right kind of scientist for the expedition and has already been sent, so off he goes to get her away from the genetically engineered nasties.
4: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Problem: It really REALLY couldn't happen twice
With star McCauley Culkin due to be dropping his voice - amongst other things - any day, no time was wasted in trundling out a follow-up to John Hughs' kid-in-peril comedy blockbuster. Doing this film required the crossing of a credibility gap that would have daunted Evel Knievel, and the only way to strand Culkin again was to do it boldly and quickly move on with the plot, such as it was. Not only was he again besieged by burglars, but it was the same burglars, even though in a different city.
3: Jaws 4: The Revenge (1987)
Problem: We need to return to the roots of the franchise after Jaws 3D.
Chief Brody (Roy Scheider, who made a wise exit at Jaws 2) has died of a heart attack and his widow Ellen (Lorraine Gary) is left brooding that it was fear of 'the shark' that killed him. Before you know it, said shark is laying waste to Gary's family left right and centre, and clearly it's a conspiracy: a shark (the cousin of the first, brother of the second, perhaps…?) is on a vendetta against the Brody clan. You'd think that moving away from coastal areas might occur to someone possessed by this notion, but I guess if you're mad enough to think it, you're mad enough to stay. The shark has such facile access to anyone that Gary cares about that you wonder if he's going to pop up in the bath like Freddy Krueger or follow one of the Brodys into a lift in a hat and sunglasses.
2: Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966) and all other Hammer Dracula films
Problem: We need another hit Dracula movie, but Peter Cushing burnt Christopher Lee to ashes in the previous one. There's nothing in vampire lore to date that says there's any way back from that.
Well, there is now. Ultra-pragmatists like Hammer Studios weren't going to let an over-rigid invented mythology get in the way of filling their coffers, so it transpired here that even the ashes of a vampire could be revived with enough fresh blood. This effectively makes Hammer's Dracula - and all other Hammer vampires - unkillable by any means other than poor box-office returns.
1: Weekend at Bernie's 2 (1993)
Problem: We made a comedy about two guys pretending a corpse is still alive and we need a sequel.
Weekend At Bernie's (1989) was the one to which there could be no sequel. Trouble is it did well enough to get one. Having used the body of their dead boss Bernie Lomax as a meat puppet to convince various parties that he has not been murdered, Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman now need him to get hold of some buried treasure in the Virgin Islands. The solution? Revive the eponymous stiff with some voodoo spell that gets zombie Bernie sentient enough to locate the loot.
Honorary mentions: Speed 2 (wow, guess relationships formed under pressure really don't work and that lightning does strike the same person twice); Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End (let's bring back Geoffrey Rush with some magic that's far-fetched even by the standards of the Pirates films, and then give him no jokes for a whole movie). The Empire Strikes Back (Ah, so destroying the Death Star wasn't quite the end of empire suggested in Star Wars, though it would have read like that if the film had tanked); Highlander 2 (beheadings not as permanent as we thought, then); Men In Black 2 (Wow, another anodyne chick to get rid of, so we can tempt Tommy Lee Jones back to the trough).