Anyone who is a fan of film and television has surely heard the term “jump the shark,” named after how in an episode of the sitcom Happy Days when Fonzie jet skied over a shark on water skis. This phenomenon is when a television or film series becomes so silly that it has killed all of the series’ credibility and officially ruined it. Although Happy Days ended many years ago, it seems Hollywood never learned the moral of the story by making sequels that tried to top the previous films, only to fall flat on their face.
Film series have had to start from scratch with reboots, which are becoming more and more common these days. Sometimes it’s because too much time has passed since the previous film in the series, but it is often because the previous film was terrible and irredeemable to fans. Fans can have an intense hatred for an entry in a series they love for being a cinematic insult to its beloved predecessors.
Below are 15 films that tarnished the reputations and the box office success of the series to which they belong. It just goes to show that it really does only take one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch.
15. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (McG, 2003)
The Charlie’s Angels TV series in the 1970s was very successful, and Hollywood being Hollywood, wanted to recapture its success by remaking it as a film series. The first film was released in 2000; it was an over-the-top action/comedy and was a big hit. Naturally, they made a sequel, but it went too over the top to the point of being nauseating.
With all of its three very popular leading ladies returning, this sequel should have been a big hit as well. However, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle seemed more concerned with adding pop culture references, celebrity cameos, and sexual innuendos from the female leads than having a cohesive plot. While the film was not necessarily a flop, it did not make as much money as the first film. That fact, combined with the film’s generally mixed reception, ensured that a third Charlie’s Angels film was not made.
14. Halloween 2 (Rob Zombie, 2009)
The original Halloween made in 1978 is considered to be a milestone in horror films, and is credited as creating the slasher genre. It also launched the career of its director John Carpenter, something movie buffs should be thankful for. When news hit that rock star Rob Zombie wanted to write and direct a remake of Halloween , many people were skeptical about doing a remake to such a beloved film.
Although Rob Zombie’s first Halloween film was not well received by everyone, especially purists who insist the original should not have been remade, it was a commercially successful film. The second film takes a more mystical approach and does not have Michael Myers in his iconic burnt William Shatner mask.
Many fans considered the lack of the famous mask to be sacrilege, as this film forgoes the main factor that made the Halloween series stand out from other slasher films. Both of Zombie’s Halloween films have more focus on the warped psychology behind Michael Myers’ bloodlust and how it tore the Myers family apart, whereas fans simply did not want this.
13. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (Pete Hewitt, 1991)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was indeed excellent; its goofy but loveable lead actors were a delight to watch as they traveled through time in a phone booth to collect historical figures to pass their history class. It is quite simply one of the most entertaining movies of the 1980s. Unfortunately, its 1991 sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey does not have the same appeal.
This was not necessarily a bad film, and it has some interesting ideas with having evil robot versions of Bill and Ted, and having the boys experience the afterlife. But the fact is this sequel was not that funny and it had a forgettable plot. It also contradicts the first film’s premise, in that world peace was said to have been achieved in the utopian society set up in the first film, but there is a villain in this film who wants to wreak havoc.
There has been talk over the years about Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reuniting for a third Bill & Ted film, but with so much time having passed since its so-so sequel, that is unlikely to ever happen.
12. Speed 2: Cruise Control (Jan de Bont, 1997)
Speed was one of the biggest action films of the 1990s and launched Sandra Bullock’s career, so naturally a sequel starring Bullock once again was in order. However, the only thing that the sequel did was speed up the series’ use by date.
This sequel tried to top the original film’s premise of a bus with a bomb on it by having a huge cruise ship with a bomb instead. In theory, as a cruise ship is obviously much bigger than a bus, that there would be more at stake. But because cruise ships naturally go so much slower than buses do, the thrills were minimal at best.
The overall plot was criticised for being bland and too similar to the first film. Although the acting was decent, and Jason Patric and Willem Dafoe were great substitutes for Keanu Reeves’ and Dennis Hopper’s characters, respectively, their time with Bullock and a vehicle rigged with explosives did not go out with a bang.
11. The Next Karate Kid (Christopher Cain, 1994)
The Karate Kid series was huge in the 1980s, but the idea simply did not work in the 1990s. Its titular kid Ralph Macchio was well and truly an adult by then, and did not appear in the fourth film, The Next Karate Kid. Its other star Pat Morita returned as the wise teacher Mr. Miyagi, but this time he has a female student, played by Hilary Swank.
Although the film basically has the same plot as the previous films, in that Mr. Miyagi teaches karate to a teenager and passes on his wisdom, it is simply a boring film. The subplot regarding the school security fraternity is just plain silly, as they take their role way too seriously, and their leader even instructs one of them to kill someone. It is a very ridiculous movie.
As this was one of Hilary Swank’s earlier films, it makes sense that an up-and-coming actress would want to star in the latest entry of a successful film franchise. However, now it is just another one of her early films that she would surely rather forget about.
10. RoboCop 3 (Fred Dekker, 1993)
The original RoboCop film, and to a lesser extent its first sequel RoboCop 2, are known for their gory violence and brilliant social satire. While those films still pack a wallop today, the same could never be said for RoboCop 3, neither in 1993 or now.
Since RoboCop 3 was co-written by Frank Miller of Sin City fame, in theory this should have been a dark and edgy film. However, the film was also co-written and directed by Fred Dekker.
RoboCop 3 was more family friendly, as opposed to the previous two films being aimed purely at adults for its bloody violence, stark nudity, and for being a dark satire on capitalism and consumerism. The film also suffered from poorer special effects due to a smaller budget than its predecessors, and also silly plot devices such as the samurai robots.
The film’s lack of critical and commercial success ended the series. The 2014 reboot received mixed reviews, and its incarnation of RoboCop bears no resemblance to the classic design of the original series, which is a shame.
9. Grease 2 (Patricia Burch, 1982)
Nearly 40 years after its release, the original Grease is still one of the most popular musicals ever made. Its storyline and characters are very likeable, and who could possibly forget its catchy songs? The same cannot be said for Grease 2, its unsuccessful sequel.
Grease 2 is considered by many to be a poor imitation of the first film. The songs are lame, the characters are not memorable, and more than often it is simply a boring film. The “plot” is simply a repeat of the first film, except the gender roles are reversed.
There were plans to have more Grease sequels and even a television series, but the poor reception for Grease 2 ruined those plans. Grease 2 was the first and only feature film Patricia Burch ever directed, and it is clear why that is the case.
8. Conan The Destroyer (Richard Fleischer, 1984)
Whenever one watches an Arnold Schwarzenegger film, viewers know they are going to watch a film made purely for entertainment. However, sometimes these types of action films even fail at that, and Conan The Destroyer is certainly guilty of that.
Compared to its predecessor Conan The Barbarian, this sequel is quite tame compared to the first film. This was intentional as the studio wanted to make the film more family friendly, therefore generate more ticket sales. This meant that the violence was less bloody and there was less sex and nudity. In his autobiography, Schwarzenegger has said this is what killed the Conan franchise.
This film is also guilty of introducing poorly-placed slapstick comedy and having bad casting. Although the film made a profit, it was so disliked that no further Conan films were made.
7. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (John R. Leonetti, 1997)
The first Mortal Kombat film was a surprise hit, especially as it was based on the popular video game series, so naturally a sequel was in the works. The result was Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which is considered both one of the worst sequels and generally one of the worst films ever made.
The film has a very rushed feel to it, and there are too many characters from the games that are in the film just for the sake of having fight scenes and having characters from the games appear. With the exceptions of Robin Shou and Talisa Soto, the rest of the first film’s cast was recast, giving the film a disjointed feel. The special effects are bad and look low budget, despite the film actually having a bigger budget than the first film.
The first Mortal Kombat film was a fun, entertaining martial arts movie that many of the game’s fans enjoyed, so the sequel’s failure is extra disappointing in that sense. There has been talk about a third Mortal Kombat film and even a reboot over the years, but so far none of that has come into fruition. It seems that all of these factors have given the series a fatality from which it cannot come back.
6. Scream 4 (Wes Craven, 2011)
The first Scream film started a new era of teen slasher films upon its release in 1996. The fact that its success spawned similar films like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend, as well as Scream 2 and Scream 3, shows what an impact the first Scream film had in the late 1990s.
Horror maestro Wes Craven was the man responsible for the Scream trilogy, which he decided to make a quadrilogy when he decided to make Scream 4. However, the fourth film added absolutely nothing to the series, making this bland film completely unnecessary, and was a poor film for Wes Craven to end his career on before he passed away.
Scream 3 ended the series perfectly, so Scream 4 is just pointless. It relies on the nostalgia viewers have for the series. But despite the nostalgia factor, the film feels odd as well for including modern technology like the Internet, live video broadcast, and even more meta humor, whereas the original films are set in the late ’90s when these things did not exist. The fact that Scream 4 was made 11 years after Scream 3 strongly suggests this film was made purely for the money.
5. Alien: Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997)
Another reviled fourth entry of a film series is Alien: Resurrection, where its previously dead protagonist Ellen Ripley is cloned, along with the queen alien she was carrying, to spawn a new breed of Xenomorphs for use in combat.
Besides the far-fetched premise in order to create a new Alien film, there were many problems with Alien: Resurrection. The serious tone of the script did not match the artsy and zany direction of the film (although there are some interesting visuals, the type for which director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is known). The film is often criticised for being silly and over the top, and ultimately an unnecessary entry in the series.
Alien 3 (or arguably Aliens, depending on who you ask) ended the series perfectly where Ripley died and killed the very last Xenomorph. Alien: Resurrection was made purely for money, not to continue a great story, and a fifth Alien film was never made. However, Prometheus, the prequel to Alien, was made, and a second prequel, Alien: Covenant, is on the way. The less said about the two Alien vs. Predator films, the better.
4. Rocky IV (Sylvester Stallone, 1985)
The progression of the Rocky series is fascinating to look at in hindsight. The tales of beloved fictional boxer Rocky Balboa started with the gritty first film that won the Oscar for Best Picture, and through a combination of Sylvester Stallone’s turn toward playing tough guys in action films, and the weird and wonderfully cheesy decade that was the 1980s, Rocky IV was born.
Rocky IV is very much a product of its time, with a Russian villain who is heartless and does not care if he kills someone, with lines delivered with pure coldness like “If he dies, he dies” and “I must break you.” With such a lack of emotion in his performance, Dolph Lundgren could not have possibly felt drained from acting in this film (with the exception of the fight scenes, to be fair). The film is so ‘American’ that it could be understandably be considered a perfect piece of American Cold War-era propaganda.
Aside from the Cold War aspect of the film, Rocky IV also suffers from simply being a very cheesy 1980s action film. It took what made the first Rocky film so great, mainly Rocky’s determination to prove his worth, by bastardizing it as he is now fighting to prove America’s worth against one of its biggest opponents, the Soviet Union. The robot at Rocky’s mansion and the training montage in the Russian mountains are also signs of the film’s excessive nature.
Although there have been a few Rocky films since, Rocky IV is where everything went downhill until its revival with 2006’s Rocky Balboa when it focused on the drama rather than the action, just like with the first Rocky film.
3. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (Sidney J. Furie, 1987)
Although these days the aforementioned Batman & Robin gets more hate, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is by far a worse film. While the fourth Superman film was incredibly cheap looking, at least Batman & Robin looked like the millions of dollars it cost to make.
The rights to the Superman franchise were brought by Cannon Films, owned by the notorious Golan brothers. This fact in itself was a sign of the beginning of the end for the series by becoming total shlock. The film’s special effects and production values are incredibly poor, with the presumption that much of the film’s budget went into hiring Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman to reprise their roles.
But what made Superman IV especially bad was simply how stupid and lame it was. The main villain of the film is Nuclear Man, who uses nuclear power to live and is the antithesis of Superman. The action scenes, which are supposed to be the highlight of any action film, are silly and laughable, which is worse considering there are now two “super men” rather than just one.
The Christopher Reeve era of Superman ended with this daft film, and rightfully so. Although Bryan Singer made a failed attempt to revive the character with “Superman Returns”, it was not until Man of Steel in 2013 that got Superman flying around Metropolis again.
2. Batman & Robin (Joel Schumacher, 1997)
When Tim Burton’s Batman series was handed over to Joel Schumacher, it seemed like a fresh, new start thanks to the success of the very entertaining Batman Forever. That film took the series into a lighter and less gothic direction, but the money it made suggested to Warner Bros that the public liked this.
So like any studio behind a sequel, they overcompensate by making the sequel have even more of what supposedly made the previous film successful. In this case, it was campiness and a family-friendly tone, and more “toyetic”, as Schumacher himself said.
Batman & Robin was universally hated upon its release and is now synonymous with bad sequels, and is considered one of the worst films ever made. Besides the film’s general over-the-top and campy nature, the dialogue is what really makes the film bad. George Clooney was miscast as Batman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman are both in over-the-top villain mode, and his Schwarzenegger’s ice puns are cringeworthy. Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone can be quite whiny and unlikeable characters as Batman’s sidekicks.
It was clear that this Batman series could not go any further, despite its planned sequel. Both the careers of its director and its stars were affected by Batman & Robin, and it is not a proud moment in their careers. But if there is proof that every cloud has a silver lining, it is the fact that the failure of this sequel led to the excellent Dark Knight trilogy.
1. Spider-Man 3 (Sam Raimi, 2007)
Sequels by nature aim to be bigger and better than the film before it, but “Spider-Man 3” is just bigger and cluttered, and definitely not better. There are too many villains for Spider-Man to fight against, and there is far too much going on in the plot, making Spider-Man 3 an almost incomprehensible viewing experience. It is very easy to forget certain plot points as many of them do not get addressed for quite some time in the film.
Spider-Man 3 is also just plain silly and over the top, such as the notorious dancing scene in the bar. Although the film was a success commercially, its very poor critical reception was so bad that the series was rebooted. Since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films ended, there have been two new eras of Spider-Man films.
Originally published here at tasteofcinema.com on Thursday 9 March 2016