12 disastrous movie sequels we wish didn't exist to spoil series we love

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Rick Klaw
Dec 15, 2012

After watching the first two Terminator movies for the first time, my excited nephew told me, "There's a Terminator 3." I contradicted him, "No there's not." In response to his confusion, I explained how there are movies so disappointing that they can ruin the enjoyment of their predecessors.

Best to forget they ever existed. I then shared my pain with him.

King Kong (1976)

One of the greatest giant-creature movies, the original King Kong (1933) revolutionized special-effects film making. Dino De Laurentiis' atrocious 1976 remake falls far short of either claim. Not only did this clunker rely on a man in a gorilla suit rather than the far superior stop-motion technology used in the first film, it lacked any of the charm and excitement of its predecessor. Plus, for whatever reason, dinosaurs were replaced by a truly terrible sequence with a giant snake that looked a lot like a big stuffed sock.

This wasn't the first disastrous attempt to return King Kong to the big screen. The Japanese were responsible for the five previous: Wasei Kingu Kongu (1933), Edo ni Arawareta Kingu Kongu (1934/38), Kingu Kongu Zenkouhen (1938), King Kong vs Godzilla (Kingu Kongu tai Gojira, 1962), and King Kong Escapes (Kingu Kongu no gyakushû, 1967). Unlike the Japanese movies, the '76 Kong continues to punish the geek nation ad nauseam on American cable networks.

Superman III (1983)

In 1978, we believed a man could fly. In 1980, we watched that same man protect the world from three superpowered menaces. In 1983, we witnessed our hero helpless to stop Richard Pryor eviscerating the beloved series.

On the heels of two superior superhero movies featuring the villainy of Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor, the Superman brain trust inexplicably opted to employ Pryor to portray the new film's criminal mastermind. My question is why no one thought this was a bad idea during the development stage. Superman III drove a stake through the film franchise, though it shuffled lifelessly through two more utterly forgettable movies (Superman IV: Quest for Peace [1987] and Superman Returns [2006]).

Additionally, Superman III delivered the first evidence of this important truism in superhero filmmaking: The third film in any superhero series is awful. Other examples include Batman Forever, Blade: Trinity, X-Men: Last Stand, and Spider-Man 3.

Conan the Destroyer (1984)

While a flawed interpretation of Robert E. Howard's popular character, Conan the Barbarian (1982), transcended its deficiencies by providing plenty of action and thrills, Arnold Schwarzenegger returned as the titular character in the vastly inferior Conan the Destroyer. Instead of veteran actors James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow, Grace Jones and Wilt Chamberlain joined the cast. Grace Jones has appeared in 18 films and, outside of her first one (Gordon's War, 1973), none of them are any good.

Director Richard Fleisher, whose previous credits included Tora! Tora! Tora!, Soylent Green, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), followed up this clunker with Red Sonja, yet another movie that geeks would like to forget.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

The first Ghostbusters (1984) installment spawned a pop-culture frenzy. Everyone knew who you were gonna call. The soundtrack and the theme song both made it to the top of the Billboard charts (this was back when such things mattered). Items adorned with the logo and characters appeared everywhere. The excitement had barely waned when Ghostbusters II finally appeared in 1989.

Sadly, the new movie delivered nothing new creatively or artistically, rather relying on the same jokes and similar scenes from the original but in a far more exaggerated and ultimately less funny manner. The latter film diminished studio interest in future series movies, though rumors of a Ghostbusters III continue to this day.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The lone big-screen directorial outing of William Shatner (he has several small-screen credits), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier suffered from an inane story, insipid dialogue and uninspiring visions straight out of the very worst of the original series. It didn't help that after the false start of the first picture, installments II and IV delivered some of the finest and most successful Treks ever, and III was an above-average outing.

Unlike other movies on this list, The Final Frontier neither killed the series nor heralded future disasters. The venerable Star Trek continued for another five movies, two of which (including the very next film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) rank among the best of the series. Following the disappointing Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), the Trek universe lay dormant until J.J. Abrams and company dusted off the concept with the hugely successful 2009 relaunch/re-imagination.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

Throughout the movie Highlander (1986), characters (and the Queen soundtrack) declared that "There can only be one!" If only creator Russell Mulcahy had heeded his own advice. The initial tale of immortal beings struggling to gain the ultimate power ended in a conclusive and satisfying manner. Sure, the story suffered from plenty of flaws: Scotsman Sean Connery as a Spaniard, Frenchman Christopher Lambert's wooden portrayal of a Scotsman, and often nonsensical plot elements. But the fantastic swordplay and intriguing concept elevated the movie to a beloved cult status.

For the sequel, Mulcahy decided to set his tale some 500 years in the future, relying on ideas not out of place in the most dismal sci-fi comics of the '50s. Without the originality and flair of the original, Lambert's abysmal acting, Connery's obvious boredom and Mulcahy's hackneyed direction dragged Highlander II: The Quickening into the depths of sequel purgatory. Incredibly, two more movies, two live-action TV shows, an animated series and a TV movie based on the first TV series followed.

Batman & Robin (1997)

As mentioned previously, Batman Forever (2005), the first helmed by Joel Schumacher, continued the tradition of the third film in a superhero series sucking. Largely due to the film that immediately followed, fandom shines a more favorable light on Forever than it deserves. Batman & Robin brings Schumacher's fetishist, über-absurdist, bombastic vision of the 1960s Batman TV show hinted at in the previous film to full fruition. This embarrassment stripped any pretense of seriousness and social relevance evident in the superior Tim Burton Bat endeavors. It would be another eight years before Christopher Nolan's relaunch restored the character to cinema respectability.

"It's not the worst movie ever. No, indeed, It's the worst thing ever. Yes, it's the single worst thing that we as human beings have ever produced in recorded history. Batman & Robin is an act of cold cynicism, reckless incompetence, and unbridled hate." --Michael J. Nelson, Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese

Planet of the Apes (2001)

As with the 1976 King Kong, this ill-conceived remake strips the concept of the original film of its charm, relevance and enjoyment. In its place, director Tim Burton delivered a boring, special-effects-laden feature complete with contrived scenes and hinted bestiality. Akin to a Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Fantastic Four, the flaws and inadequacies of the 1968 Planet of the Apes actually heighten the film's enjoyment. Like a Kirby story redone with computer coloring, all the pieces are in place, but Burton's Apes just feels wrong and ultimately fails to achieve its promise.

Matrix: Reloaded (2003)

Perhaps the most disappointing sequel of the young century, Matrix: Reloaded returned to the twisted dual realities of the surprise 1999 hit The Matrix. In the first film, the Wachowskis hinted at a complex, intellectually nuanced universe, shrouded within a dizzying array of dazzling Asian-cinema-inspired activity. Reloaded amped up the action, both creatively and in content, to such an extant that it actually inures the viewer to the spectacle—an orgy of beautiful combat and magnificent visions devoid of meaning. Reloaded revealed the empty, ultimately forgettable Wachowski shell. Upon further review, the emperor truly wore no clothes.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

The second unfortunate sequel from 2003 and the third Schwarzenegger film on this list, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines returned to the popular series 12 years after the previous installment, sans creator James Cameron and star Linda Hamilton. This time, a female Terminator travels from the future to kill a now-adult John Connor. Because there are truly no new ideas in Hollywood, a T-101 also journeys back to save John.

Director Jonathan Mostow lacks Cameron's vision and originality. Who'd have thunk that a beautiful, gun-toting android could be so boring? As evident further by the follow-ups Terminator: Salvation (2009) and the short-lived TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-09), a non-Cameron outing only promises a dud.

X-Men: Last Stand (2006)

Director Bryan Singer accomplished the seemingly impossible by translating the complex X-Men mythos into a pair of socially relevant, critically acclaimed and financially successful movies. Singer littered X-Men (2000) and X2 (2003) with elements of the popular and acclaimed X-men storyline the Dark Phoenix Saga, but he left the project before beginning work on the finale, leaving it in the hands of Brett Ratner.

Last Stand displayed none of the subtlety or nuance of the previous films and actually neutered the promising premise. Underdeveloped, poorly utilized and uninteresting mutants appeared for no clear reason. Character motivations made little sense and often ran counter to those displayed in the previous chapters. Character deaths made little sense beyond mere shock. Ratner's inferior vision destroyed what should have been a powerful conclusion. The recent X-Men: First Class restarted the series.

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Unlike many of the previous, Spider-Man 3 didn't suffer from directorial changes. Sam Raimi helmed the first two outings, both ranking among the finest superhero movies. According to rumors, Raimi originally selected the Lizard as the villain for the third movie, a tale he had been developing throughout the first two films. The producers had other plans. Wrongly deciding that more is better, they opted for a trio of villains: Sandman, Venom and Green Goblin II. Any fan could have foretold the doomed outcome.

The pressured Raimi failed to deliver his usual innovative direction. Stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst seemed bored by the whole thing. Combining these elements with the convoluted script led to a tedious, boring mess. Hoping to follow the recent X-Men movie success, next summer's The Amazing Spider-man re-envisions the character.

Concerned readers will be glad to know that after our talk, I stowed the recollections back in my personal vault and told my nephew that he and I need never talk about this again. But don't let that stop you. Which installment of your favorite film series would you like to forget?