Some strong language here…[Ed]
There are several ways to kill a potentially successful franchise before it even starts, or once success has been established, piss it all away in the last reel. There are the obvious ones (“Are you kidding? Hayden Christensen is perfect for this!”), the not so obvious (“She directed Green Street? Sign her up!”), and the downright bizarre (Well… Ang Lee). Some attempts at starting (or re-starting) a franchise make you wonder who pays for some of this crap, whilst others make you scream at the screen in utter disbelief. So here are 10 franchises that prove Hollywood doesn’t always get it right.
10: Jumper (2008)
There may still be a listing for Jumper 2 on IMDB, but critical reception to the first instalment didn’t exactly set review columns alight. Sure, a worldwide box office of over $200 million is good business for an original property, but unless they shift the focus from Hayden Christensen to someone more interesting for the next movie (a brick wall perhaps), then they might not repeat the trick.
9: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
So, after all the goodwill brought on by the fact that the first two instalments are science fiction classics, somebody gave the franchise to Jonathan Mostow and paid Arnie $30 million for a movie that has its fans (I for one think its under rated), yet ensured we’d be waiting another 6 years for fucking McG of all people to bring us a fresh instalment. The ending was pretty ballsy and all but saved the picture, but it just wasn’t enough for some fans. It still made a shit load of cash, though.
8: Hulk/The Incredible Hulk (2003/2009)
Two swings, two misses. The latest incarnation starring Edward Norton may have been a slight improvement on Ang Lee’s 2003 snooze-fest, but with fan patience surely running out, there might not be too many more chances coming Marvel’s way on this one.
7: Men in Black II (2002)
Whilst the first instalment wasn’t exactly a classic, it was still vastly superior to the sequel. Recycled plot, unfunny, kid-friendly humour (a singing dog for fuck’s sake), and what seemed like sub par effects this time around. A third instalment is inevitably on the way since the money rolled in for both outings.
6: The Punisher (1989)/The Punisher (2004)/The Punisher: War Zone (2008)
What do Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson have in common? They all tried their damndest to make sure The Punisher never got his own franchise (although three failed attempts is a sort of franchise!). Heck, Stevenson’s latest instalment was a virtual death-knell of R-Rated comic book movies. Each instalment has its fans (well, maybe not the last one, unless you’re really pissed, or me, as you will read here), yet none created a big enough spark to really set the screen alight.
5: Bad Boys II (2003)
Will Smith and Martin Laurence returned, after an 8-year gap to the characters that made them action heroes and shot unknown director Michael Bay into the stratosphere. The second time out, whilst running a tidy profit, was over-long, overblown and held none of the charm of the original. Arguably the gap didn’t help and it might have been a different story (possibly yielding further sequels) had the film gone into production a little earlier.
4: xXx: State of the Union (2005)
Swapping Vin Diesel for Ice Cube was as pointless as Paris Hilton’s acting ‘career’, yet someone decided that, after launching a successful first chapter to a potential new franchise, it was a good idea to rewrite the lead role for a rapper and basically re-trace the steps of the original, resulting in the dullest sequel since Leprechaun 4: In Space.
3: Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
Arguably the most confusing film of all time, Highlander II added to the already ridiculous notion of a Frenchman playing a Scot and a Scot playing an Egyptian by taking everything that happened in Highlander and pretending it never did, without any explanation whatsoever. Since then the franchise has languished in TV movie oblivion, yet ironically refuses to die.
2: Star Wars Episodes I/II/III.
This one might sting a bit for some, but let’s face it, to the millions of children and adults who regard The Holy Trilogy as the pinnacle of sci-fi on film, the prequels served as nothing more than a hard slap in the face. Three words sum up what’s wrong with The Phantom Menace: Jar-Jar Fucking Binks. Annoying little shit. And as if that wasn’t enough sand in the eye, they decided to cast Hayden Christensen as the most iconic sci-fi villain of all time in the next two, picking up where Jake “Yippee” Lloyd left off. So utterly unconvincing was his descent into madness in Revenge of the Sith (which still remains the more bearable of the three) that I literally sat, arms crossed shaking my head in the cinema in an attempt not to shout obscenities every time he was on screen.
1: All of the sequels to Superman (1978)
Here it is then, the most frequently shafted movie franchise of all time. How hard is it to make a sequel? Well, if you’re James Cameron, you could make them for fun, making classic sequels to both your own work (Terminator 2) or someone else’s (Aliens). If however, you are either Richard Lester (Superman II and III) or, God forbid Sidney J. Furie (Superman IV) then you’ll have no problems taking a guaranteed money-maker, based on possibly the most iconic superhero of all time and taking a huge, steaming shit all over it.
Richard Donner’s cut of Superman II, even unfinished, is light-years ahead of Lester’s inferior release, and part III was just a complete shambles, taking a comic book character and making him even more cartoon-like, in the worst way possible.
Now, all the wrath and venom in the world, all of the crushed childhood dreams, all the broken promises came out in a flood of unparalleled anger at the franchise’s most horrific instalment: Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. Oh My God. I have never in my life seen such an abomination allowed onto the screen. Some things are so bad they’re good, or even slightly laughable, but this is the kind of movie made to make children cry. This was the movie that destroyed my perception of Superman, taking everything I ever loved about the character and just throwing it away. With such an incredibly low budget, it’s any wonder they bothered trying, and with Nuclear Man’s villain spreading the Cold War paranoia – as was the norm at the time – the message was preachier than ever. Shoddy effects, shoddy plot, shoddy acting and shoddy directing render the film almost unwatchable and able to be summed up in two words: Fucking Awful.
Honourable Mentions: Batman and Robin (1997): Awful beyond belief, but what happened next was so good, that everyone stopped caring and rightfully begun worshipping Christopher Nolan.
The Godfather Part III (1990): OK, Sophia Coppola might have tried her best to ruin this unnecessary sequel but it wasn’t that bad.
Superman Returns (2006): the only reason Bryan Singer’s re-boot was spared from the list of Superman sequels is because I was far too angry at Superman IV to care what happened next.