We all have moments in our lives we’d prefer to forget, and so too do filmmakers. So what do you do when a movie franchise starts to go off the rails? Simple, just forget that the lesser films in the series never happened.
News recently broke that director Neill Blomkamp’s taking this approach to the Alien universe. Recent interviews with both he and returning star Sigourney Weaver have revealed that Blomkamp’s forthcoming sequel will not necessarily follow the events of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, and pick up the story from Aliens instead (although he has since given a brief update on that).
Of course, we’ll have to wait and see exactly how all this pans out. But it’s by no means the first time in history that a film’s been struck out of series’ canon. While this is by no means a definitive list (the Bond and Godzilla franchises are notoriously thorny, to name but two), here are 10 sequels that ignored at least one of their predecessors. Note, too, that we haven’t included reboots or those in-name-only sequels which we often see in the horror genre.
So let’s start with one of the most well-known and recent franchises where films were shot out of the canon…
Ignored: Superman III and IV
We can’t exactly blame Bryan Singer for ignoring the events of Cannon Films’ catastrophic (yet oddly entertaining) Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, since just about everyone else turned a blind eye to it back in 1987. Instead, his 2006 sequel served as a loving homage to the first two films, casting Brandon Routh as the successor to Christopher Reeve’s mantle, and even bringing the Marlon Brando back from the dead as a digital Jor-El.
The campy excesses of Superman III and IV were conspicuously absent, as was any mention of their events. The result was a handsome-looking and solemn kind of superhero drama – perhaps too solemn for movie goers, since Superman Returns was considered something of a box-office disappointment by Warner. Talk of a sequel was dropped as a result, and Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel rebooted the franchise with a new, more buff and gung-ho incarnation of Superman at its centre.
Jaws: The Revenge
Ignored: Jaws 3-D
Released in 1983, soggy sequel Jaws 3-D saw its titular shark turn its toothsome attention to a Florida branch of SeaWorld. Saddled with gimmicky stereoscopy and some hilariously bad miniature effects, the sequel had even less reason to exist than Jeannot Szwarc’s pleasantly entertaining Jaws 2.
Then came the risibly awful Jaws: The Revenge, which returns to Amity Island for yet more shark-related antics. This time, the sequel suggested that the Brody family – the brood at the centre of the franchise from the very beginning – is being targeted by a great white with a personal vendetta.
Weirdly, Jaws: The Revenge completely ignores Jaws 3-D, where Mike Brody (played by Dennis Quaid) was an engineer working at SeaWorld. In The Revenge, Mike’s played by Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter), who’s now a marine scientist. Universal even went as far as ignoring Jaws 3-D in a 1987 press release, which described The Revenge as being the “third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy.”
The sniffiness wasn’t exactly justified; panned by critics, The Revenge made far less cash than its predecessor. It does, however, have some wonderfully quotable lines courtesy of Michael Caine: “I need a couple of boats fast, and someone who can kill a shark. A big one…”
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later
Ignored: all the Halloweens after Halloween II
By the time the 20th anniversary of John Carpenter’s Halloween rolled around in 1998, it had already been built into a long and decidedly uneven franchise. Halloween H20 attempted to cut through the thicket of increasingly disappointing sequels, with its events tying back to Halloween and Halloween II while completely ignoring the fourth, fifth and sixth films. (The unrelated sequel Halloween III: Season Of The Witch was a financially unsuccessful attempt to take the franchise in a new, non-slasher direction.)
Bringing back the original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, H20 ignores several elements from the three previous films: most conspicuously, Laurie’s daughter Jamie, and Michael Myers’ antics during those sequels. Laurie’s apparent death in Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers is quickly dealt with, however: it’s revealed that she faked her death in a car accident and moved to California in the hope of starting a new life. Fat chance of that – Myers soon shows up again with his mask and flashing blade, and begins slashing through another generation of unsuspecting teens.
A box office success (if not exactly a smash) thanks to the renewed interest in the slasher genre, H20 received a single sequel – 2002’s Resurrection – before Rob Zombie stepped in with his 2007 reboot and a further sequel.
Ignored: the American Pie Presents series of spin-offs
For years, the American Pie franchise lived on thanks to a string of direct-to-video spin-offs, released between 2005 and 2009. When the franchise returned to cinemas in 2012 with American Reunion – which as the title suggests, reunited such stars as Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott and Alyson Hannigan – it ignored the DTV films and carried on the story from the previous cinema outing, 2003’s American Wedding.
This made perfect sense, in a way, since the DTV films only had a loose connection to American Pie (or each other) aside from Eugene Levy, who’s played Noah Levenstein in every franchise entry so far.
Highlander III: The Sorcerer
Ignored: Highlander II: The Quickening
As we recently reminded ourselves, Highlander II: The Quickening is a cautionary example of how not to do a sequel. Blithely turning immortals into aliens and raising characters from the dead, it generally ignores everything that was entertaining and likeable about its predecessor.
Unsurprisingly, then, Highlander III (known by a range of subtitles, including The Sorcerer, The Final Dimension, and The Final Conflict) chose to politely ignore the second film altogether. Rooted instead in the events of the first film, it reintroduces Christopher Lambert’s Connor MacLeod as a Highlander (and not an alien from the planet Zeist, as the original cut of Highlander II tried to tell us), and even makes a stab at explaining why a Scotsman would have such a strong French accent.
It’s by no means a great film, and it was a damp squib at the box office, but most would agree that it still represented an improvement over its predecessor. After several films, TV shows, comics, novels and videogames, there’s been talk, over the past six years of so, of a Highlander reboot. If it does ever materialise, we’re willing to predict that it will also ignore every wrong-headed idea thrown up in Highlander II.
The Exorcist III
Ignored: Exorcist II: The Heretic
Directed by John Boorman, Exorcist II: The Heretic has to be one of the most adorably bonkers sequels yet made. But while it was fun to watch Richard Burton sweating and shouting, James Earl Jones wearing a series of magnificently outlandish hats and Linda Blair performing a vaudeville song-and-dance number, it’s fair to say the fear factor in William Friedkin’s original had long since departed.
The Exorcist III, first released in the US in 1990, traded heavily on the reputation of Friedkin’s first film, and the movie itself made no mention whatsoever of The Heretic‘s events. To be fair, this was all a little bit of a cheat: writer-director William Peter Blatty originally shot the film under the title Legion, adapted from his 1983 novel of the same name. A murder mystery thriller with demonic possession in it rather than a true continuation of The Exorcist, the film was renamed and reworked to strengthen its (more commercial) ties to the 70s horror classic. Blatty even consented (after much brow-beating) to go back and shoot an exorcism scene to justify its new title.
The resulting film can only suffer in comparison to The Exorcist, when it’s actually a decent supernatural thriller when viewed on its own merits. In fact, both The Heretic and The Exorcist III are infinitely preferable to the thoroughly dreary prequel, Exorcist: The Beginning.
A Nightmare On Elm St III: The Dream Warriors
Ignored: A Nightmare On Elm Street II: Freddy’s Dead
After the huge success of Wes Craven’s genre-reviving slasher A Nightmare On Elm Street, New Line hurriedly made 1985’s Freddy’s Revenge in just seven weeks. Craven had nothing to do with it, and the film itself largely ignored the reality-bending dream sequences of the original.
Craven was lured back to write co-write a screenplay for the third film, which, although later reworked by Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell (who also directed) is much more respectful to the first A Nightmare On Elm Street than Freddy’s Dead was. Heather Langenkamp returns as Nancy, as does the original’s theme. Ignoring the events of Freddy’s Dead altogether, Dream Warriors instead takes place six years after the first film, as Freddy Krueger starts terrorising the young inmates of a psychiatric hospital.
An even bigger hit than its predecessor, it was The Dream Warriors that really established Freddy Krueger as a wise-cracking, pop-culture hero.
Universal Soldier: The Return
Ignored: Universal Soldier II: Brothers In Arms, Universal Soldier III: Unfinished Business
Having first appeared in cinemas in 1992, the Universal Soldier franchise went into the made-for-cable wilderness for its next three movies. Although they continued the sci-fi action story about revived super soldiers, none of those cable movies starred Jean-Claude Van Damme (though Brothers In Arms did feature Gary Busey).
Van Damme was back in 1999 for the $45m theatrical film Universal Soldier: The Return, which, as our look at the changing fortunes of the franchise pointed out, was quite weird. Van Damme reprised his role as soldier Luc Deveraux, except now he’s just a normal, slightly annoying single parent. This places it at odds with not only the cable movies, but even the original which inspired it. A box office failure, The Return led to the Universal Soldier franchise being put on ice for almost a decade.
When Universal Soldier: Regeneration revived the franchise in 2010, both it and its 2012 sequel Day Of Reckoning ignored The Return, as well as its made-for-cable predecessors.
Ignored: Rocky V
When Rocky V came out in 1990, it seemed to spell the end for the Italian Stallion – and not just because its box office was unexpectedly low compared to its predecessors. The film saw poor old Rocky badly brain damaged following his brutal fight with Ivan Drago in Rocky IV; forced into retirement, he instead agrees to train a promising young fighter named Tommy Gunn (Tommy Morrison). When Gunn turns out to be an ungrateful little brat, Rocky gets into a lively punch-up with him outside a drinking den.
It was a strange, slightly depressing end to the franchise – though not as gloomy as the ending originally written, where Rocky would have died – and Sylvester Stallone seemed to think so, too. So it was that 16 years later, Sly returned to write, direct and star in Rocky Balboa, which restored the feel-good atmosphere to a now 30-year-old series.
The film sees Rocky once again step into the ring as an underdog fighter, seemingly ignoring the perilous physical state he was said to be in back in 1990. Stallone later explained that Balboa wasn’t as injured as we previously thought, and that he was suffering from severe concussion rather than life-threatening brain damage. Nevertheless, it’s surely significant that the film never mentions Tommy Gunn, his street brawl with Balboa, or any of Rocky V‘s events. Balboa was still okay to box, it seemed, but the years had left him with a conveniently selective memory.
Ignored: Alien Vs Predator and Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem
It’s probably fair to say that the two AvP films don’t exactly have a particularly large following of ardent fans, which would explain why there wasn’t a massive outpouring of sadness when Prometheus came along and, at least by implication, snuffed them out of canonical existence.
Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel reveals that the Weyland Corporation was founded by Peter Weyland in 2012, a billionaire who bankrolled the Prometheus mission to the farthest reaches of space. This flies in the face of Alien Vs Predator, which had the company founded by Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) many years earlier.
This potential clash was actually brought to Scott’s attention by Damon Lindelof, who rewrote Prometheus‘s screenplay. “I said to him, ‘You know, Weyland was a character in one of those Alien Vs Predator movies,” Lindelof later recalled. “He just sort of looked at me like I had just slapped him in the face. That was the beginning, middle and end of all Alien Vs Predator references in our story process.”
Of course, it wouldn’t take much to explain away this conflict in a future film. But with AvP: Requiem‘s infamous reputation, it might be some time before we see the Predator face off against the Starbeast in any case.