We all know how the entertainment industry works. A movie gets released, makes a ton of money, and as a result everyone wants to go back and milk the cash cow yet again. We’ve seen it a thousand times for a thousand different movies, and generally the sequels are never as good as the original tales. Either there’s a ‘been there, done that’ feeling or things have changed somehow to turn the audience against the very same characters they once loved.
I'm not counting straight to video sequels, movies that shouldn't have been made in the first place, bad remakes, or bad spin-offs attempts. If I did, this list would quite possibly take up the entire Internet (and I’d be denying myself future post ideas). These are all movies that were approved by major motion picture companies and given budgets in the tens of millions of dollars.
I’m focusing on the cream of the crap, scraped off the bottom of the shoe and smeared onto mainstream cinema screens.
Not all sequels are bad. Some are good, but not as good as the original. Then, there are the sequels that are so terrible they effectively ruin (or severely damage) the good name of the original movie. Sadly, these are fairly common.
Blues Brother 2000 (1998): Let’s examine a classic film. This was the first movie launched from Saturday Night Live characters, and still one of the best. The Blues Brothers (1980) is famous for John Belushi’s incredible wit, sharp writing, one-liners, memorable cameos, and one of the greatest car chases in movie history, and one hell of a soundtrack. John Belushi, who played Joliet Jake Blues (the film’s comic heart and soul), dies tragically in 1982. John Candy, who stole every scene he was in as Burton Mercer, dies in 1994. Cab Calloway, who played the Brothers’ mentor Curtis, also dies in 1994.
So let’s take a film with three key characters dead and do a sequel! And in the beginning of the film, let’s make a couple of awkward jokes about two of the three dead characters not writing back to the formerly incarcerated Elwood Blues and thoroughly depress the audience. What could possibly go wrong here?!
Try everything. The car chase falls flat (because it fails to obtain the insanity of the original film). The transition from a centralized setting to a road picture made the film lose focus. There’s an unnecessary orphan in the form of Buster, and an unnecessary tagalong in the form of John Goodman’s Mighty Mack McTeer character, which the plot quickly makes irrelevant.
As I watched the film, I couldn’t help but feel just how much John Belushi’s presence was missed. There was no edge in this film, no sense of rawness or danger that Belushi filled the Joliet Jake character with. The magnetic and captivating presence of a comic actor of Belushi’s magnitude can’t be replaced with an obnoxious kid, Curtis’ illegitimate son, and a new designated fat actor. Dan Ackroyd, as this movie makes painfully clear, was not the star of the original Blues Brothers.
Teen Wolf Too (1987): At least Blues Brothers 2000 had the decency to have one of the original Blues Brothers (and the original Blues Brothers Band) back for the second film. Teen Wolf Too, despite all the major players being still alive, went a different route. Essentially, they took Teen Wolf and remade it into a movie that lacked anything close to charm, grace, or watchability. They changed the setting to college, changed the sport to boxing rather than basketball, and made the star of the film Teen Wolf’s cousin, Jason Bateman (who has never been the star of a successful venture in his entire life, and I will argue with anyone who claims he had anything to do with the critical success of Arrested Development when he played the least interesting character in the show).
Other than that, Teen Wolf Too is a groundbreaking film destined to be remembered as a masterpiece.
Batman Forever (1995): Critics complained that Tim Burton’s vision of Batman in Batman Returns (1992) was too dark and serious. Batman Returns failed to meet the financial heights of the 1989 Batman, so of course that means it’s time for a complete redesign of the franchise. Gone is Tim Burton and his sense of gothic darkness, gone is Danny Elfman’s moody and inspiring score, and gone is Michael Keaton’s brooding Bruce Wayne and doughy, short Batman.
Scrap the whole mess and bring in… uh, Joel Schumacher. Replace the talented but ill-cast Michael Keaton with the physically-fit but wooden Val Kilmer. Change the tone from serious and dark to brightly coloured and dumb. Take everything that made the first two Batman films good and throw it out the window to try and sell more toys! Put a lime-green leotard on Jim Carrey! Put Tommy Lee Jones in terrible makeup and give him awful one-liners! Add in Chris O’Donnell as Robin, and to further increase the unintentional homoerotic undertones, give the Batsuit nipples! Give everyone stupid quips and blow lots of things up!
Let’s not even discuss Batman & Robin.
Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997): Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter starred in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Alex Winter and Jason Patric starred in The Lost Boys. So of course it only makes sense that you replace Keanu Reeves with Jason Patric when you need a new piece of man-candy for Sandra Bullock. Err, right.
This is the same story as Teen Wolf Too, except Sandra Bullock really needed money, so she agreed to reprise her role as Annie Porter. Jason Patric manages to be worse than Keanu Reeves (that’s an impressive feat). The excellent Willem Dafoe replaces Dennis Hopper as the film’s mad villain, and is unable to make his role even slightly interesting (an even more impressive feat). Toss in terrible dialogue, worse jokes, a flimsy premise, and the world’s dumbest plot, and you’ve got yourself a world-class awful movie that even the good folks at Mystery Science Theater 3000 couldn’t redeem through mockery.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003): While I don’t believe that The Matrix (1999) was the world’s best science fiction movie, or even a particularly original film, at least it was a good amalgamation of Blade Runner and Terminator. The special effects were particularly epic, the film spawned many obnoxious catchphrases, and everyone wore a big black coat for Halloween that year. Needless to say, when sequels were green lighted, everyone was excited about the possibility of seeing where Neo and the gang ended up next.
Unfortunately, Neo and his flunkies ended up taking the stink train to Lousytown. The Matrix Reloaded was everything the original Matrix was not: boring, entirely too long, technologically dated, and stupefying pretentious. I didn’t even bother seeing The Matrix Revolutions.
The movie talks endlessly in unnatural, pseudo intellectual catchphrases in an attempt to sound smart (always a mistake when your lead actor is Keanu Reeves). The sequel’s lynchpin action sequence (Neo versus multiple Agent Smiths) could not look any more cartoonish if Mickey Mouse and Popeye jumped into the fray to help out. The Wachowski Brothers (well, one brother and one sister these days) even managed to make fight scenes and car chases stultifyingly yawn-inducing and I’m a fan of any movie with explosions. Add in an absolutely disgusting sex scene involving a skeletal and decrepit Carrie-Anne Moss, and you have a film that made the original Matrix unwatchable.
It could have been worse, I guess. They could have replaced Keanu with Jason Patric.