I’m declaring this sequel month for the High Five, so every week my list will have something to do with film franchises (or at least attempted franchises). This week we tackle the age-old belief that making a sequel to a great movie will ruin the original film itself. Now, there are a lot of terrible sequels to some very good films, but it takes a certain kind of sequel to actually make the original somehow worse. I don’t believe that a great movie can magically become a bad because of another flick, but you can definitely take something away from the original if you make particular mistakes in a sequel, usually concerning plot and characters. The sequel doesn’t even have to be terrible to achieve this effect, as you’ll see below. Here is my list of five films that suffer just because of their sequels/franchises.
Spoiler Alert: I have to spoil the films to prove my point, so this is your warning.
The Matrix (1999)
The Sequel(s): The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
What’s so great about the first film: The first movie introduced us to a future world that was gripping and hard to imagine. Machines take over the planet and use people as batteries. To keep them alive, the machines create a fake world, called the Matrix. Only a few humans live outside of this world. The film ends with Neo (Keanu Reeves) finally releasing his potential as “The One”, who is meant to save humanity from the machines.
The damage caused by the sequel(s): Sure, the rest of the trilogy is lackluster compared to the instant sci-fi classic, but the real damage was in how it ended. Neo and the head of the machines strike a deal that is basically a temporary ceasefire, and Neo (arguably) dies. That’s it. That’s the end of the trilogy. Three films of humans fighting the evil machines, and it ends in a truce that might not even last? Thanks for wasting my time.
The Terminator (1984)
The Sequel(s): Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Terminator 3 (2003), Terminator Salvation (2009)
What’s so great about the first film: In the future, John Connor leads a resistance against machines (again) taking over the world through more conventional methods of just killing all the humans. The machines, created and organized by Skynet, send back in time a Terminator to kill John’s mother Sarah before John was born, so John sends back the man who is unknowingly his own father. Awesome action and plot, with just enough time paradoxes and confusion to make you think it’s smart.
The damage caused by the sequel(s): The sequels, especially numbers two and three, blow shotgun holes into the overall plot and time travel explanations. Skynet is run by machines, so at the very least, it should be run efficiently and intelligently. What’s efficient about sending just ONE Terminator back in time THREE times in a row? And how is it better to send a Terminator to kill a teenage John Connor than to just kill him as a baby, or as a fetus even. The times they go back are completely arbitrary. The newest film in the franchise doesn’t have time travel, but Skynet is just as dumb. Why would you allow John Connor into your facility and only use ONE Terminator (again!) to try to kill him? Is Skynet on a budget or something?
The Sequel(s): Die Another Day (2002)
What’s so great about the first film: Well, it’s not just one film, it’s the series that was so great, especially with Sean Connery at the helm. The franchise had the perfect mix of action, suspense, romance, and gadgetry, not to mention captivating story lines. This all helped 007 become not only the coolest spy ever, but one of the greatest movie characters of all time.
The damage caused by the sequel(s): When you have 19 sequels for a film, there bound to be mistakes and laughable moments (see: Timothy Dalton as Bond). However, it was the 20th film itself, 2002’s Die Another Day, that almost killed the franchise. A silly plot, more overt puns than ever before, and massive amounts of overacting were enough to put off a lot of people. The film features an invisible car, a hotel made of ice, a satellite that uses sunlight to beam a massive laser to the Earth’s surface, and Bond being chased by said laser. The franchise had officially lost it’s core. Bond was more about gadgets and keeping 007 stoic in all circumstances than about great action and plot. The final proof it ruined the original Bond? The producers had to completely reboot the franchise and the character itself, and the results were a more gritty and realistic set of films that have been wildly successful.
The Sequel(s): Saw II – Saw VI (2005-2009)
What’s so great about the first film: The character Jigsaw puts people into strictly controlled situations that require a sacrifice in order to escape and live. He wants them to cherish life, and this is the only way these people can truly be rehabilitated. I love the concept of two people stuck in a room together who have to figure out their connection and how to get out alive. Lots of drama, and some overacting ensue, as a complex story unfolds until the surprise ending. Even on repeat viewings, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.
The damage caused by the sequel(s): So, this is my example of a set of sequels that hurt the first film, but that I actually liked. The problem is, some of the allure of the first film is the mystery of how everything works. In the sequels we learn a lot more about how Jigsaw sets up his traps, along with more about his personal life. It definitely makes him less scary, especially since he has a lot more than we originally though. The simple story of the first film is treated with complexity, but each movie muddied the water more and more. The sequels beat a dead horse with the “cherish your life” message, thus making it’s introduction in the first film much less poignant.
The Sequel(s): Spider-Man 3 (2007)
What’s so great about the first film: Spider-Man revolutionized superhero movies by bringing them into the 21st century with the novel idea of good acting and story to go along with great visuals. Tobey Maguire forged the way for more serious actors to play men in tights (see: Robert Downey Jr., Ed Norton, Christian Bale, etc.). The message of “with great power comes great responsibility” is the driving force of the film, and has been repeated and mocked countless times. The film showed you could have a fleshed out origin story without boring the audience.
The damage caused by the sequel(s): The second film is arguably better than the original, so hopes were high for the third installment of the franchise. Unfortunately, despite financial success, the film was horrendous. Venom was finally introduced to the film series, but not given a proper showing. We get an emo Peter Parker dancing and overacting so badly, it completely takes you out of the film. However, that’s not really enough to put a damper on the original, other than destroying the integrity of the character. What is enough, though, is introducing the “real” killer of Uncle Ben. In the first film (similar to the comic series), Peter’s guardian Uncle Ben is killed by a thug moments after Peter chooses not to stop him during a robbing that occurs right in front of him. It’s because of this that Peter realizes he needs to use his powers for good (the whole power/responsibility thing). But in the third film, we learn the Sandman actually killed Ben, thus negating the entire reason Peter became a superhero. Nice going. Oh, and in case you need a reminder of how bad this film is, check this out:
That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong. This was definitely my toughest list yet, so what do you think of it? Disagree on my choices? Think I left something out? Leave a message in the comments below.