Sometimes sequels come out a long time after the release of the original film. This weekend, “Tron: Legacy” will come out a full 28 years after Disney’s 1982 groundbreaking digital effects extravaganza “Tron.” Now that computer-generated VFX and virtual realities are commonly accepted in the world of film, this belated sequel must prove it has the goods in the story department as well. Will it live up to 28 years of hype? The odds aren’t good—not every movie franchise can pick up where it left off after so many years away. For every “Terminator 2” and “Aliens,” there’s an “Odd Couple II” or “Texasville” (the 1990 sequel nobody asked for from Peter Bogdanovich for 1971’s “The Last Picture Show.”)
Here are the Top 10 Worst Belated Sequels. If you have a list you’d like to contribute, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This one’s tricky, I know because it’s technically a prequel. Who cares? In terms of hype and goodwill towards a movie that hadn’t even come out yet, nothing can touch George Lucas’ re-entry into the world he created so vividly in 1977 and wrapped up in 1983. Hell, my band Ultimate Fakebook was so excited for this movie that we recorded a song called “Far, Far Away” about how badly it needed to be good for the sake of an entire generation’s imaginations. Needless to say, it was a huge letdown. Was it because the movie sat there like a lump of stagnant Jedi poo, or was it because we could never return to the feeling that “Star Wars” gave us when we were kids? Probably a little of both. But without a Han Solo character cracking wise, “The Phantom Menace” was the worst kind of young adult sci-fi adventure out there—a boring one.
10 years after “The X-Files: Fight the Future” and right smack dab in the middle of the sensation caused by ABC’s “Lost,” the time was ripe for the triumphant return of Chris Carter’s equal parts brilliant and disappointing TV series to the big screen. It was a pleasure to see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson slip into Scully and Mulder one more time and it was also nice to see the new movie so focused on their relationship. What wasn’t so welcome was the lame, undercooked “mystery” at the heart of the movie. While our heroes debated the validity of a psychic and Scully spent time with a young terminal patient, the plot just sort of happened around them. Ever want to see how not to put a suspense thriller together? Watch this movie—it was devoid of both.
When the studio decided it wasn’t scary or gory enough, this underwhelming prequel was retooled by Renny Harlin, who took over the production after Paul Schrader was fired by the studio. Here’s the rub: Schrader’s version, “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist,” came out anyway the year after on home video. “The Beginning” purports to tell the backstory of Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow in the original, Stellan Skarsgard here) and the demon he encountered in 1973’s “The Exorcist,” but it’s really just a setup for a rehash of the first film’s memorable moments. Let it be known: Telling the same kind of story in a different setting (Kenya) and suggesting the old film at every turn (including lines from the original) is not a good strategy. Nobody wants to see an undercooked, uninspired version of a movie they already love.
Nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, the sequel to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 masterpiece “The Godfather Part II” had lush cinematography, an impeccable pedigree, and was set against the epic backdrop of a Papal banking scandal. It also featured an overwrought sense of importance that ultimately didn’t deliver the goods. Sofia Coppola’s strained performance is hard to watch, especially since her character is so key to the story. (On a sidenote, she’s a terrific director, so maybe this movie was the best thing for her at the time.) Andy Garcia doesn’t bring the weight to his role as the scheming new Don of the Corleone family, and George Hamilton is no replacement for Robert Duvall. Not only that, the story just isn’t compelling. Watching Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) atone for his sins for almost three hours just isn’t enough to keep snoozefest afloat.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror thriller “Psycho” broke new ground all over the place—in its use of montage in the infamous shower scene, by killing off its star in the first 40 minutes, by pushing the limits of what could be shown (although not really shown) in a movie, and by giving an audience an inside look into the mind of a crazed killer. 23 years later, all “Psycho II” had to offer was Anthony Perkins returning to the iconic role of Norman Bates. Oh, that and director Richard Franklin reminding us all over the place how much better Hitchcock’s version was by parodying scenes and reusing dialogue from the original. Adding gore and nudity was certainly in the spirit of the 80s horror marketplace, but it also just served as a reminder that this was nothing but a cheap knockoff. The sad thing is that Perkins himself didn’t want to reprise the role initially, but after the 1983 film was a box office success, he hitched himself permanently to the Bates bandwagon by actually directing 1986’s even worse “Psycho III” and then starring in 1990’s made-for-Showtime “Psycho IV: The Beginning.”
In 2003, James Cameron—the man who himself resurrected “Aliens” seven years after Ridley Scott’s 1979 film—found his movie franchise rudely resurrected 12 years after he closed the book with “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” features some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s worst acting on film (and that’s saying something) and rehash of the “T2” plot with Arnie protecting John Connor yet again. Christian Bale and Sam Worthington jumped in last year to try to make something out of Connor’s post-apocalyptic fight for the future (like “The Road Warrior 4” maybe?), but “Terminator Salvation” was even more trying and more insulting than “Rise.” With a complete lack of any more original ideas and a timeline that is impossible to follow, this franchise is officially spent. Please stop resurrecting it.
With this movie, Oliver Stone also proved that money never stopped anyone from making a needless sequel either. The timing was perfect this year for a biting, nasty condemnation of all the Wall Street crooks who pillaged our economy and got this country into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Instead, the sequel to Stone’s 1987 “Wall Street” is another cautionary tale about a young trader sucked into the lies of “reformed” financial criminal Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). What’s worse, he’s about to become family, and after screwing his daughter over for millions, Gekko gets a last-minute change of heart and all is forgiven. Seriously? It isn’t enough to tarnish Douglas’ best-known screen role, but you have to insult our intelligence as well, Stone? For a clear, fascinating moral condemnation of the millionaires who played with our financial futures like Monopoly money, see Charles Ferguson’s exemplary documentary “Inside Job” and leave Gekko well enough alone.
Well, at least Michael Douglas had the good sense to stay away from his one, which appeared 14 years after the original, and about 8 years after the demise of Sharon Stone’s career. I’ll let J.D. tell you all about it from his original review: “Basic Instinct 2” is excruciating. It is little more than a tawdry sex romp, of the variety that might have been shown only on late-night Cinemax in the 80s. If the astonishingly bad screenplay and laughable acting were to become engaged in some contest to see which of the two was, in fact more ridiculous, it would be a close race for the prize. Stone gets very naked in the film. She also spends the majority of the movie wearing what should be provocative clothing, but is instead… just vulgar. Getting naked on the way up in the original may have helped her career, but the nudity and her embarrassing performance in this film may mark her stalled career’s ultimate decline.
If it’s any indication of the state of mind of its creators at the time of release, let me point out again that “Blues Brothers 2000” came out in 1998. Written by Dan Aykroyd and John Landis, two-thirds of the team responsible for 1980’s blockbuster comedy “The Blues Brothers,” “Blues Brothers 2000” is nothing like its predecessor. A foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, anti-establishment road comedy with tons of great American soul music, “The Blues Brothers” proudly thumbed its nose at the Disco generation. “Blues Brothers 2000” is nothing more than a lame, calculated excuse for Aykroyd (who since founded the successful music club chain House of Blues) to get out his old harmonica, put on the shades one more time, and “get the band back together”—again. Remember everything I’ve been writing about how these movies just rehash the old stuff? Hard to believe: There’s actually another white power group (like the one headed by Henry Gibson in the original) in this movie! Since John Belushi cannot be replaced by one Blues Brother, Aykroyd adds three—count ‘em—three to the mix. And one of ‘em is an adorable little kid! Check out this limp scene where Elwood Blues learns an important lesson from the cute little white kid and delivers a DOA musical lecture to his band. The only thing worse than watching this humorless, self-righteous movie would be seeing the reconstituted Blues Brothers (with Jim Belushi, God help us all) live.
Make no mistake, readers: We have left the realm of bad movies and entered into outright travesties and crimes against film. In 1995, “Get Shorty” was a breezy, witty Elmore Leonard adaptation starring John Travolta that revolved around the Mob and Hollywood. 10 years later, Travolta reprised his role as mobster Chili Palmer, who’s now breaking into the record industry. To put it simply, “Be Cool” is a soul-crushing experience. There isn’t one moment of truth or an ounce of charm in the entire pained film. It’s meant to be a music biz satire—like “Get Shorty” was a movie biz satire—where Travolta and Uma Thurman discover a hot young talent who’s got “it.” (There’s a catch—she doesn’t—she’s a lame Alicia Keys rip-off played by Christina Milian.) Travolta and Thurman try to help this “artist” out while an all-star cast including Harvey Keitel, Vince Vaughan, James Woods, Cedric the Entertainer, Dwayne Johnson, Andre 3000, and Steven Tyler parade embarrassingly around spouting racist lines and endless clichés. If this is what the music industry was like, I’m glad it’s dead.
The worst insult? Thurman and Travolta pay homage to their “Pulp Fiction” dance while The Black Eyed Peas play an awful, generic, stupid song called “Sexy.” Ugh. It takes a pretty powerful movie to be worse than “Blues Brothers 2000,” and “Be Cool” is that movie. Honestly, I can’t believe human beings actually put this movie together. For the good of mankind, production on all commercial releases of this movie should cease. If aliens discover our time capsule thousands of years into the future and a DVD of “Be Cool” is in it, we can only hope that they don’t have any way to play it.
Only the Dark Lord Satan himself would allow this to happen: