When Michael Caine came back from the Bahamas after the shoot of the dreadful Jaws IV: The Revenge, even he didn’t gloss over the fact that it was an utter turkey. “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible,” he admitted, with characteristic candour. “However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
There seems to be an unwritten law, perhaps chiselled into a tablet somewhere, that dictates a franchise will inevitably sink into the mire as the numbers rack up. It’s a law that applies to even the mightiest properties. The once revered Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies weren’t immune to being dragged slowly into the abyss by ill-advised sequels. Only a few, such as Back To The Future and Bourne, appear to have escaped the curse, thus far.
As we’re all well aware at Den Of Geek, bad films can also be enormously entertaining. As laughably awful as Superman IV was, or ridiculously inept the shark effects in Jaws IV were (just what was it with fourth sequels and terrible FX?), there’s much guilty amusement to be gleaned from these much lambasted follow-ups.
To this end, here’s a list of six badly made, blatant cash-in sequels that were nevertheless an awful lot of fun…
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
A film so shockingly low budget that it had to be filmed in Milton Keynes instead of New York, Superman IV ended Christopher Reeve’s involvement with DC’s caped hero on an unfortunate low.
But despite, or perhaps because of, its dreadful visual effects (which look awful right from the low rent opening credit sequence) and sloppy editing, there’s a weird, goofy charm to Superman IV. Its heavy-handed anti-bomb message, hammered home by the presence of blonde supervillain Nuclear Man, is worth a giggle or two, and there’s a fabulously inept fight on the moon, in which the aforementioned bad guy hammers Reeve into the lunar surface like a tent peg.
Let’s face it, Jaws never needed one sequel, let alone three, but Spielberg’s 1975 box office sensation was such that a series of cash-ins was all but inevitable. Jaws 2 was a respectable, inevitably inferior sequel, which revisited much of the first film’s events, but with added teenagers and bellbottoms.
Jaws III, meanwhile, which relocated the shark-based action from the sleepy environs of Amity Island to the coast of Florida, was seemingly unaware of its own ridiculousness.
Upping the body count while lowering the budget, Jaws III contained underwater effects that were laughably bad, with back-screen projection shots that rendered models and characters partially transparent, and some of the worst miniature effects seen in any mainstream picture of the early 80s.
Even its 3D effects, which used the old-school red and blue specs that had been doing the rounds since at least the 50s, were abortive, with all the requisite objects poking out of the screen, which included severed limbs, blunt objects and bits of fish, rendered smaller than they looked with the glasses on.
Badly shot and acted (Dennis Quaid looks uncomfortable here, as though even he can’t quite believe what he’s signed up for), Jaws III is still a fun movie if watched in the right circumstances and with the correct quantities of alcohol and take-away, its numerous and surprisingly gruesome shark deaths are guaranteed to raise a chuckle.
The Karate Kid, Part III
The original Karate Kid had at least a touch of magic to it, despite the palpable whiff of 80s cheese. Its second sequel, however, exuded about as much magic as a dusty turnip. Ralph Macchio was back in the saddle as the titular high-kicking Kid, but looked double-chinned and tired as Daniel LaRusso. Even the normally effervescent Pat Morita looks bored as Mr. Miyagi.
Having apparently draining the coffers with The Karate Kid: Part II‘s trip to Japan, Karate Kid III brings Daniel back to the US for a movie that spends far too much time worrying about Bonsai trees.
There’s considerable amusement to be derived, however, from Thomas Ian Griffith’s fantastically over-the-top turn as Terry Silver, who has a hard-hitting protégé of his own in the shape of karate champion Bad Boy Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan).
The movie’s ending’s a foregone conclusion, of course. Despite his clear lack of physical prowess, Daniel beats Barnes through sheer pluck and underdog determination, but the journey up to the end credits is at least sporadically entertaining thanks to Griffith, who’s all flashing eyes, gleaming teeth and flicking ponytail.
Jaws IV: The Revenge
I know it’s a bit of a cheat having two movies from the same franchise in one list, but Jaws IV deserves its place here, if only because it succeeds in being even more inept, and therefore, even more inadvertently amusing than its predecessor.
Michael Caine puts in an amusing by rote performance as Hoagie, while Lorraine Gary appears as Ellen, the widow of the first two Jaws movies’ Chief Brody, who was sensible enough to die before this film was made.
With an admirably straight face, Jaws IV sees its cast menaced by a shark on a mission of vengeance. Ellen Brody’s son is chomped with extreme prejudice by his fishy nemesis in the first reel, and the luckless widow is pursued across the high seas by the murderous creature for the remainder of the film.
Notable for its dreadful shark effects, which, remarkably, are even worse than Jaws III‘s, Revenge‘s climactic sequence, which (spoiler) sees a tiny plastic version of Bruce impaled on the prow of a ship, is so laughably bad that it almost warrants a round of applause.
Oh dear. RoboCop 2 may have missed the deliciously satirical point of Paul Verhoeven’s original, and concentrated on gory violence rather than slyly pointed humour, but RoboCop 3 took the cyborg law enforcer so far from his roots as to almost render him unrecognisable.
Peter Weller wisely bowed out for this picture, and it was left to Robert John Burke to squeeze himself into the shiny Robo suit.
For those with warm memories of the original film’s endlessly quotable script and creative violence, this PG-13 outing will serve as a hollow, depressing second sequel. On another level, there’s some camp humour to be gleaned among the wreckage, including ninja robots and, in what could be seen as the film’s nadir or a moment of hilarious bad judgement, a sequence in which RoboCop spreads his wings and flies. Yes, flies.
As I said, oh dear.
Speed 2: Cruise Control
Jan de Bont’s Speed was well-made and created a taut, suspense-filled thriller from a simple premise. Jan de Bont’s Speed 2: Cruise Control, meanwhile, was less well-made and created an unintentionally funny, laugh-filled disaster from a ridiculous premise.
Keanu Reeves wisely opted out of the production, leaving Jason Patric to play the hero alongside a returning Sandra Bullock on an out-of-control cruise ship.
Costing almost four times as much as the original Speed, Cruise Control entirely lacked the original’s tension, and was rightly panned when it appeared in 1997.
In its own, ridiculous way, however, Speed 2 is surprisingly entertaining. Willem Dafoe puts in a particularly weird performance as shifty hacker Geiger, its soggy ending is hilariously implausible, and there’s perhaps an interesting drinking game to be made in spotting the sieve-like number of plot holes.
Honourable mentions:Evan Almighty, Highlander III, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Fortress II: Re-Entry, any of the Starship Troopers sequels.