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15 Superhero Sequels Way Better Than The Original

by  in Lists Comment
15 Superhero Sequels Way Better Than The Original

“The sequel is never as good as the original” is an axiom oft-repeated by casual film fans, the ever-more-toxic “Film Twitter,” and painfully self-aware sequels themselves. Sure, film follow-ups, particularly in tentpole franchises, rarely receive the warm reception bestowed on the originals. But how much of that is unrealistic expectations? How is, say, Kingsman 2 meant to be both totally original and give us more of what the last film did? It is a paradox in terms, but it’s not like we fans are above asking for the downright impossible — that’s kind of our thing, actually.

RELATED: Sloppy Seconds: The 16 Worst Superhero Movie Sequels

Yet, every once in a while, a miracle happens. Like a middle child who becomes valedictorian, these films can overcome unrealistic expectations and constant comparisons to what came before, and manage to be universally more beloved than their predecessor. And while the reviews for most superhero sequels are bogged down by bemoaning baby boomers claiming comic book movies are killing cinema, we’ve culled a collection of modern classics that even they couldn’t help but applaud. These films prove that sometimes the first outing can be just a warm-up.


The dark, gritty hit that was Blade set the stage for a new age of superhero movies, but it was Usual Suspects mastermind Bryan Singer who brought superheroes into the new millennium with the groundbreaking X-Men. Unafraid to redesign the iconic costumes, simplify the convoluted universe and lean hard into the social commentary, the first X-Men was a bonafide hit in its day. But admittedly, it hasn’t aged quite as gracefully as its leading man Logan.

Its gripping follow-up, however, still holds up remarkably well more than a decade after its release. Singer saw what worked in his previous installment and went full throttle. X2 gave us a Wolverine full of berserker rage and tortured backstory, and dazzling action scenes that focused as much on cinematography as choreography. Best of all, X2 adapted the politically charged God Loves, Man Kills to actually challenge its viewing audience instead of resting on pure entertainment.


Mr Wink the troll in Hellboy II The Golden Army

With the news that the newest Hellboy film would be a reboot rather than a continuation of the Guillermo Del Toro-helmed franchise, some have applauded the decision, claiming that Del Toro’s vision failed to be “dark enough” for the material. And while it’s undeniable that the films weren’t as dark as Mignola’s jagged artwork, they also made no attempt to be. Del Toro passed on the dark elements in favor of being dazzling, which is no more evident than in his sequel, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.

Given a larger budget and more creative freedom, the absolutely stunning, more humorous and more human follow-up makes the original Hellboy look like a demo reel. It’s here that Del Toro gives in to flights of fancy as he had two years earlier with Pan’s Labyrinth, and we’re all the better for it. He may not have made the gritty, grounded work the Hollywood higher-ups demand, but with this superior sequel, he undeniably made art.

13. TMNT

TMNT Animated Movie

There are some fans who will claim that the original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, with their rubber suits and early ’90s humor, are classics. But they likely also say the same about the musical We Wish You a Turtle Christmas. Overall, any argument as to the quality of those films died around the time the VHS format did, and the mediocre box-office of this under-seen animated follow-up did little to revive the film franchise, resulting in a Michael Bay produced reboot.

TMNT is actually the crown jewel of the franchise, with quality writing, a complex plot and a great cast including Patrick Stewart, Chris Evans and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Though animated, unlike the previous films, director Kevin Monroe made clear the film was a sequel, even placing the TCRI canister and Time Scepter (among other easter eggs) in the film’s final scene.



Whoops. If you somehow managed to avoid, well, the entire nerd internet for the last half a year, we might have just spoiled the most shocking twist of 2017. Yes, the bonkers, ballsy M. Night Shyamalan is back, and he hit us with the biggest twist since Cole saw dead people. The seemingly solo-film thriller Split was actually a secret sequel to his ahead-of-its-time superhero film Unbreakable.

Where Unbreakable lost audiences with its too-ambitious decision to devote an entire film to the first act of a superhero story (resulting in what felt like an unsatisfying resolution), Split played like a straight thriller/horror film for the bulk of its run time, and a thoroughly captivating one at that. It wasn’t until the final shot, with Unbreakable’s David Dunn watching a news report about James McAvoy’s now-dubbed Hive that it became clear that Split was a covert Act Two: the origin of the villain.

11. IRON MAN 3


There’s been a lot of hate for Iron Man 3, undeserved but understandable. The marketing sold The Mandarin as a Bane-like mastermind. But in one of the few truly unpredictable twists in contemporary comic book cinema, noir auteur Shane Black made him into a bumbling stand-in. Die-hard fans were outraged, and even Black himself had the epiphany on the Writer’s Panel podcast, by noting, while bemoaning Robert Altman’s treatment of Phillip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye, that “that’s how {people} felt about The Mandarin.”

But don’t write off Iron Man 3 because of misdirecting marketing. If you leave your expectations for a repeat of the first film, which admittedly sets the MCU template but falls apart in the third act with a bland villain, you’ll love this film. Iron Man 3 is the only MCU film that dares to swap action beats for character study, and we’re all the better for it.


Were you a kid in the ’90s? Did your parents routinely take you to Blockbuster, renting you anything that remotely resembled Power Rangers in the hopes of keeping your MTV-addled mind quiet for a few hours? Then you’ve definitely seen The Guyver, a misguided manga adaptation with perhaps the worst lead actor in superhero history, and an unnecessary amount of Good Times reference thanks to the casting of Jimmie Walker.

Its follow-up, Guyver: Dark Hero, stands as proof not to scoff at direct-to-video sequels. What it lacks in notable names like its predecessor’s Mark Hamill, it makes up for in capable direction, a more faithful to the source material script and an infinitely more compelling lead. Dropping f-bombs and slicing throats, Guyver: Dark Hero is everything its predecessor should have been but wasn’t, and sets itself apart from anything of its era.


X-Men Days of Future Past Movie Poster

Look, we love X-Men: First Class. Even though the marketing didn’t drum up much excitement, Matthew Vaughn did the Lord’s work by crafting one of the most unique Marvel adaptations to date, reviving interest in the franchise while creating what seemed like his own continuity. Seemingly intended as a reboot, original X-Men helmer Bryan Singer saw an opportunity to make the most ambitious comic book movie to date.

Singer saw what no one else could; that the perfect storm was brewing to take on the unadaptable, the iconic Days of Future Past. Of course, the film takes massive liberties with the original work, but the sheer scope and ambition of uniting two colossal casts, combining continuities and rewriting an entire franchise’s canon is worthy of the highest admiration. That it manages to surpass almost every X-Men entry that came before is doubly impressive.


If you didn’t grow up in an Indian household, you’ve likely been missing out on the insane Krrish series. And that’s a damn shame, because India’s highest grossing superhero series is better than most films that make it to Western shores. There’s not nearly enough space to get into the nine-hour Krrish saga, but we’ll give a shot at brevity.

The first film, Koi…Mil Gaya is a whimsical family film starring Hrithik Roshan as a mentally handicapped man who befriends an alien who gives him superpowers, which he uses to defeat the town bully and win over a girl. This box-office success birthed a brilliantly bonkers sequel that totally subverts the tone of the original, creating a dark superhero thriller, with Roshan now playing his previous character’s son. Yet, the shockingly compelling action-thriller still finds time for some dazzling musical numbers. While Koi… is a curio, Krrish is a marvel that must be seen to be believed.


For four years, Spider-Man 2 held for many the distinction of not only being the best Spider-Man film, but the greatest superhero movie ever made. That title faded after an abysmal third installment killed the franchise and a certain British auteur made his sequel the new cause celebre.

But even if Spider-Man: Homecoming has become the definitive take on the character for those of us who don’t get our knickers in a twist that “they done put minorities in muh Spidey movie,” Spider-Man 2 still manages to pack more pathos than any comic book movie today. A lot of that is thanks to Alfred Molina’s nuanced performance as Doctor Octavius. Rather than fall into the contemporary cliche of “world domination-bound mastermind,” Doc Ock is a sympathetic villain, placing Peter Parker in the kind of moral grey areas only ever seen on the printed page. The original Spider-Man makes for a fine superhero movie blueprint, but Spider-Man 2 takes those plans and builds a masterwork.


Look, you either love Troma or you don’t. The company that provided a launchpad for mainstream provocateurs like Trey Parker and James Gunn has consistently churned out fringe films that push the boundaries of good taste, starting with their landmark indie game changer The Toxic Avenger.

The only character from Troma’s sickening stable to break into the mainstream, the first two sequels failed to reach the same level of success. With this fourth installment, we see a Toxie film, and a Troma, more sure of itself, more inventive and more… well, maybe mature isn’t the right word, but with social commentary as daring as it is distasteful, and cameos by everyone from Stan Lee to Ron Jeremy, Citizen Toxie cranks every element of the original up to eleven and goes for broke. While not for the faint of heart, if you dug the original film, then Citizen Toxie will absolutely satisfy.


Whether the theatrical version of Superman II surpasses the original installment is up for debate. While the original film may be sparse in terms of plot, the slapstick scenes added to the sequel by replacement director Richard Lester are damn near interminable. What’s undeniable for those who’ve seen the stunning 2006 restoration of Donner’s original vision for the film, however, is that Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut is the finest Superman adaptation ever filmed.

While the bulk of the scenes remain the same from the theatrical version, the inclusion of new scenes, including rediscovered footage of Marlon Brando’s Jor-El, create a beautiful emotional thru-line for the film. Here, one gets to see the original vision, a movie that builds upon the foundation of the first while perfecting how to create a complex, conflicted Superman who nevertheless always stays true to the values that make him Superman, a task virtually every “let’s make Superman dark” writer has claimed is impossible.


11 Blade 2 Shooting Vampires

The original Blade was a game changer. It lit the fuse for the contemporary comic book movie, became a landmark for African American representation in mainstream cinema, and alongside the next year’s The Matrix changed the face of action movies forever. Yet, with horrendous CGI and flimsy story structure, the first Blade survives more as an artifact than anything else.

This isn’t true of its sequel, however, which improves upon the original in every way. Visionary director Guillermo Del Toro leaned into the horror elements of this horror/action hybrid, crafting a macabre fantasy world in which Blade could fight alongside a memorable crew including Norman Reedus, Donnie Yen, and Del Toro regular Ron Perlman. Blade II follows the Aliens principal of making everything bigger, cooler and more kickass, and damned if it doesn’t work.


Alexander Pierce Winter Soldier

After a divisive first film, and serving as a punchline in a silly costume in The Avengers, hopes were not high for the star spangled man’s stripped down sophomore entry. Yet, even the most Marvel-maligning critics left the theatre shouting “Captain America, f*** yeah!” thanks to MCU darlings the Russo Brothers.

The hiring of Robert Redford signaled a shift in tone for the franchise, passing on colorful comic book capers in favor of a grounded, complex plot akin to the spy thrillers of the ‘70s. Tense and inventive, immersive and a little bit subversive, Captain America: The Winter Soldier fuses all the best elements of the Ed Brubaker run and the Bourne franchise to create a story of espionage and distrust that helps build to the disillusioned Captain America we later see in the weaker follow-up Civil War. The turning point for the previously homogeneous MCU, the brilliant Winter Soldier blew it all up and didn’t look back.


The Dark Knight joker

Lets face it, this is the one entry you knew was gonna be here, and were ready to unleash unholy hell upon the comments section if it was omitted. But no amount of sweet, sweet rage clicks could be worth trying to pretend that this, the Godfather of comic book cinema, isn’t far superior to its predecessor.

While Batman Begins is a fine entry into Bat-film history, its status as “great” is in some small part retrospective, benefiting from its involvement with the Oscar-winning The Dark Knight. There’s little to be said about TDK that hasn’t been said countless times over the years since its been released, with some critics declaring it the best film of its decade. Few films have had the impact it has, from redefining a genre to single-handedly changing the way the Oscars nominate films. Love it or hate it (if that’s even possible), there’s no denying the impact.


At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, whatever film you consider Logan a sequel to, be it X-Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine or First Class; its better than that. Whatever beloved comic book movie you pit against it, its better than that. Hell, put any film of its year up against it, it’s better, even if the Oscars will likely snub Jackman’s transcendent superhero film the way they did Nolan’s the year Jackman hosted the awards.

Logan has all the grounded grit of The Dark Knight, but adds a grueling degree of heart and humanity. It belongs less in the category of films like The Avengers or Man of Steel and more with those definitive American epics like The Searchers or the works of the Coen Brothers. Logan wrestles with mortality, with family, with duty and regret. Logan makes a statement, and leaves its viewer shaken and profoundly moved in a way no comic book movie has or will again.

Which sequels did we forget? Let us know which follow-ups you think trumped the originals in the comments!

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