Pulling off a good sequel is a difficult task.
As Matt Reeves’ “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” continues to connect with both critics and audiences as one of the most creatively satisfying sequels in recent memory, CBR decided to look back at a genre that tends to be more miss than hit with regard to subsequent installments — comic book movies.
For every “Dark Knight,” there’s, well… the many misfires you’ll read below. Here’s a quick look at a few Part 2’s and 3’s that fell short or went completely bust.
“Kick-Ass 2” (2013)
Sloppy direction and an uneven plot that finds Hit Girl more engaging than Kick-Ass, this sequel only truly satisfies those actively seeking out mediocrity at the movies.
“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” (2011)
What could have been an attempt to steer the franchise toward something resembling respectable, instead turned into a very expensive guilty pleasure that you catch on Cinemax 2.
It’s not the worst-ever directed movie, but it’s definitely in the discussion. Scribe David S. Goyer made his big-budget directorial debut in a way that makes us grateful he wasn’t doing so from a paper bag, or else he’d never find his way out in time for Nolan’s Batman films.
Wesley Snipes’ Blade seems like a guest star in his own movie, as vamp hunters Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds get more screen time trying to stop the most inert take on Dracula ever from brooding through the streets of Toronto.
“Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” (2007)
Thanks to director Tim Story’s first film, no one was truly expecting greatness from his follow-up. They would have settled for “noble misfire.” Instead, they received the much-maligned Galactus as a really surly space cloud and an unfortunate misuse of the fan-favorite Silver Surfer. At least the movie, for the most part, captured the FF’s engaging team dynamic.
“Superman Returns” (2006)
Trying to be both love letter to — and big-budget continuation of — the original Richard Donner films, Bryan Singer’s 2006 film succeeds at neither.
The movie never really finds consistently effective ways for Luthor and Superman’s plots to shake hands, so we’re left watching two parallel storylines converge into one because the third act says so. And why Luthor’s real estate scheme lacks any teeth (or logic) is just confounding — instead of turning Earth into New Krypton and expecting to mint money in real estate, why not make your motive to turn it into a place inhospitable to its only savior and your nemesis? A few entertaining moments aside, “Superman Returns” misses the landing. But anyone who says the movie falls short because Superman doesn’t punch anything, remember — no punches were thrown in Donner’s much-beloved original film either.
“Thor: The Dark World” (2013)
While trading the first film’s dutch camera angles for an impressive sense of visual scale and scope, “The Dark World” falls significantly short of providing anything more than a mildly-entertaining matinee. Full of verbose exposition and too much world-building, Alan Taylor’s film is unable to deliver a villain capable of doing much outside of growling exposition while green-screen effects happen. As a result, Thor lacks any real threat or conflict to inspire tension — so we soon run out of care space for a hero who deserves a better sequel. Outside of a very inventive third act final battle, “The Dark World” is a lackluster time at the movies.
“Iron Man 2” (2010)
The final fight features Iron Man and Rhodey taking out the bad guy by basically “high-fiving” their laser hands. Not even the 1990s could get away with that, and neither does this sequel — a messy product of undercooked screenwriting and overindulgent set pieces that almost rides the goodwill of the first film into the ground. But more Sam Rockwell, please, Marvel. Thank you.
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014)
The rebooted Spidey franchise is becoming a series of increasingly diminishing returns, in terms of both quality and box office. Marc Webb’s sequel is bigger and more polished than his first outing, the webslinging CG is the best it’s ever been, but it lacks a story worth investing in — outside of scenes featuring the insanely likable Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. This sequel is too concerned with providing a launch pad to other franchises in the Spidey-verse instead of delivering a movie worth such an investment. The end result is why the future of the franchise is in serious question, and why fans should just stick with the Raimi films.
“Spider-Man 3” (2007)
Well, stick with the first two Raimi films at least.
The threequel has its apologists, and that’s fine, it doesn’t change the fact that the film falls way short of its potential in the wake of the high water mark left by “Spider-Man 2.” Emo Peter and Franco going “Full Franco” aside, a shoehorned Venom sub-plot does little to help Spidey’s storyline, leading to a conclusion where a guy who swings from webs for a living must travel on Harry’s hoverboard for some reason — while a newscaster practically describes the action as we watch it on screen. This is worse than lazy storytelling; it’s disappointing.
“The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)
There are apologists for this threequel too, which is Chris Nolan’s most uneven film.
Outside of scale and spectacle, “Rises” falls short of reaching the highs Team Nolan set with “The Dark Knight.” Most surprisingly, for a guy who grounds his films firmly in logic, the story’s logic ultimately collapses in certain parts, in ways that Nolan’s previous films do not.
In trying to model this comic book movie on a disaster epic, the script never fully succeeds at either. You can hear the plot gears turning in ways “The Dark Knight” did a better job at keeping quiet. In the end, “Rises” is a very loud, very expensive, very broken tale about Batman going from exiled to retired.Â To go from quitting to, well, really quitting isn’t an arc. It’s just frustrating, all the more so because Nolan should know better.
“X3: The Last Stand” (2006)
Brett Ratner stepped in for Matthew Vaughn to deliver a part 3 to one of the best part 2s ever. The characters, and the fans, deserved a Dark Phoenix movie worthy of all the potential “X2” promised in its final shot. Instead, what audiences received was a rushed sequel with a script so problematic, the only way co-writer Simon Kinberg could make up for it was to make an entirely new movie — “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” What hurts more than watching beloved mutants Wolverine, Xavier and Magneto come across with personalities different from the first two films is the inert story’s competing plotlines and Ratner’s “for-the-paycheck, wouldn’t it be cool if…” direction.
“X3” could have been a truly great threequel. Instead, it’s a poster child for worst ever.