Wednesday, December 21, 2011

More Sequels I Pretend Don’t Exist

After my last sequel article, I received a lot of feedback on what was left off the list. (The feedback wasn’t on this site. It was on a site in Canada. You wouldn’t know it.) The observations were fair; there are plenty more bad sequels that aren’t just mediocre follow-ups we tolerate, but movies that ruin the franchise.

You'd think that movie-makers would know why we loved the movie the first time and give us more of what we want. You'd be wrong, and a lot of these sequels jettisoned what we liked and replaced it with truly awful dreck.

It's also possible that this was supposed to be the script of another movie entirely and they wound up taking that script and making it the sequel. Or, the studio just didn't care about the integrity of the franchise and just saw dollar signs, figuring that the general public would pay to see an awful sequel.

Sadly, that last one has proven itself true again and again, which is why we can't have nice things.

 While some sequels are actually really good, these are so bad that they ruin the franchise, which is why it's better to just pretend they never happened. Join me in my further sequel denial.

The first item on this list was the most suggested:

If there’s any sequel that is deserving of being ripped from the canon and tossed into the memory hole, it’s this one. The first Highlander is pure, low-budget camp. It’s about the last two immortals duking it out because, as you may have heard, “there can be only one.” At the end of the movie, there was just the one. Connor MacLeod The end. Roll Credits.

Someone had the bright idea for a sequel. You might be wondering how that’s possible. The premise of the first movie pretty much eliminated the possibility of a sequel, but that didn’t stop anyone. Not only did they have no respect for the first movie, they threw away the canon and revealed that these weren’t just immortals, they were aliens. Aliens who, for some reason, were sent to earth and punished with immortality. (Talk about a life sentence.) And you thought DC’s retcons were bad.

As the so called “story” goes, Connor MacLeod is living in a miserable future as an old, pathetic man. (His “prize” for being the only one apparently.) He’s fighting against an evil corporation led by another of the aliens. And because not enough of the first movie was disregarded, Sean Connery’s character, killed in the first film, magically comes back for no reason to help Connor (suddenly young for the same inexplicable reason) take out this evil corporation. Yeah, that makes sense.

Now, for some this film falls into the so bad it’s funny category, but fans of the first one won’t touch this one with a ten foot broadsword, and owning it is an act of heresy. Fortunately, it seems that the Highlander franchise decided to write this movie off, as the next few movies and television shows pretty much ignored the second film entirely.

But for true fans, when it comes to Highlander movies…(come on, do I really need to say it?)

Cars 2

Mark it. 2011 is the year Pixar produced a dud. Their films fall into one of two categories: stories that will make grown men weep and inspire generations, and Cars.

Now, despite the obvious plot straight out of obscure early 90’s Michael J Fox movies, I liked the first Cars. It had a charm to it that made it grow on me with multiple viewings. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a well done tribute to vanishing small towns, and that makes it a well-meaning if far too telegraphed film.

The shining moment was the credits sequence at the end in which the characters attend a drive in theater to see the Pixar films in the Cars universe. Featuring cameos from all the great Pixar stars, it was most notable for finally acknowledging the fact that John Ratzenberger is in every Cars movie. The epic in joke, complete with obligatory “Mickey Mouse Operation” line was just enough to charm me.

Then they made Cars 2. Aside from a touching moment paying tribute to the late Paul Newman, this film was just obnoxious. Every sequel pothole that the Toy Story movies so deftly avoided, Cars 2 struck dead-on. The jokes were forced and trite. Mater went from charming, in his own, way to annoying. Even the voice actors seemed to be phoning it in. While the film looked pretty, it didn’t do a thing for me and ruined some of the good vibes from the first film.

I’m a huge Pixar fan, and while this movie made a lot of money (and I don’t begrudge Pixar the ability to finance more ambitious movies) I think that I’m just going to pretend that it ended with Cars. Besides, everyone is allowed one Mulligan, and this is Pixar’s. As long as their Monsters Inc. prequel is a much better film, then Pixar and I are still cool.

Matrix Reloaded
Matrix Revolutions

In 1999, geeks expected to have their minds blown by the first new Star Wars film since 1983, but what they got was almost as bad as the Ewoks films. Instead, we rallied around a little film called The Matrix, declaring it the next generation of Star Wars. Of course we were excited about the sequels.

Instead, the final two movies turned out to be soul-less CGI fests that forgot why we loved the first movie so much. The biggest sin was a replay of the same kind of action scenes we got in the first Matrix. While the highway chase had its moments, a lot of the fight scenes had a “been there, done that” feel to it. The story, too, got far too convoluted, and after we met “The Architect” and learned that Neo was part of a cycle that kept repeating and repeating for some reason, we just didn’t care anymore.

The first movie promised us an epic fight of man versus machines, an analysis of what it means to be human. We saw the hero’s journey and marveled as Neo became “The One.” And then we never saw Neo’s true potential, never saw him become this demi-god he was supposed to be in the Matrix. He just flew and could fight really well, and not much else.

The movie also featured a few other characters who we never, ever cared about. Can you name them? No, you can’t, because you probably already forgot that there was anyone in the movie besides Neo, Trinity, Morpheous, and Agent Smith.

This is why I just stick with the first one. I want to stick with what might have been instead of what was.

Grease 2

The first Grease is a classic. It’s got the good girl who dresses like a tramp to impress the bad boy. It’s a good message for the kids. The songs are catchy as well, and there’s never a Karaoke night that doesn’t feature Summer Nights.

No one sings a song from Grease 2 on Karaoke night. Ever.

The main problem with this second movie is that it tried to re-tell the story of the first. It had all the elements: T-Birds, Pink Ladies, Scorpions, and the few supporting actors whose careers didn’t quite take off after the first one. Unfortunately, while the first movie (and stage show it was based on) succeeded by transposing the sexual mores of the 70’s onto kids in the 50’s, this one failed by being incredibly boring. The songs weren’t edgy or even interesting, and by comparison, it makes High School Musical look like, well, Grease.

To be fair, it did feature a very young Michelle Phieffer, She went on to do many great things, and if you ever mention Grease 2 in her presence (and I’m pretty sure I’m making this up) she will rip your still-beating heart from your chest and eat it in front of you.

Jurassic Park III

The first Jurassic Park was great in every respect. My favorite part of the movie was when parents brought their very young children to see it because it was about dinosaurs. Good times.

The second movie was your typical mediocre effort, but it had its moments. What I liked was the premise of the animals escaping the island. It was part of the sequel’s climax, and while it didn’t go as far as it could have, I kept expecting the third movie to completely jailbreak the dinos and unleash them upon a human population woefully unprepared to deal with formerly extinct predators.

Instead, we just went back to the island and had to suffer annoying characters that didn’t get eaten. We saw this already when it was called Jurassic Park, and that one at least had Samuel L. Jackson in it. This movie was a huge step backward, and as a result, what should still be a profitable franchise has been DOA for a decade.

If anyone wants to reboot this franchise, I’m all for it. What’s J.J. Abrams doing after he finishes the next Star Trek? Dinosaurs plus lens-flares? I’m there.

Blues Brothers 2000

The least offensive thing about this movie is that it was actually released in 1998. I could have forgiven it that much if it was a great follow-up to the 1980 classic.

Instead, this movie needed to be beaten severely by a nun.

The problem with sequels made so far after the original is that the makers often forget what made the movie so special. Thus we get a superficial sequel that has all the elements –crazy car chases, singing and dancing, Dan Akroid- but we lose the spirit of the first one. And let’s be honest, the fact that John Belushi was no longer with us should have been the first clue that a sequel would be awful.

The other big clue: they bring in a kid. This isn’t that actor’s fault, but rather the result of years of hackneyed Hollywood notions about what sells tickets. They always want to throw a kid in there, even when it’s only going to make the film worse. Except in very rare cases, adding a kid takes away a film’s edge, and the first movie had that edge. This one had a kid.

This sequel banked on the nostalgia factor, and while that might work for Brady Bunch reunion movies, when it comes to the Blues Brothers, you have to do better than that. Fortunately, it seems that I am not the only one who pretends this never existed. I never see this movie on television, even on Saturday afternoons when they fill the hours with the cheapest material they can find. Our society has made a pretty good effort to block out this travesty (and my apologies for bringing it up, again) and I think a lot of people these days would be very surprised to learn there was a sequel. (And not at all surprised about why we just never talk about it.)

Son of the Mask

So Jim Carrey didn’t want to do the sequel? I get it. When this movie came out, Carrey had moved on to bigger and better roles. He was trying to distance himself from his cartoony persona, one that made In Living Color great. I get it, and it’s not a terrible idea to find someone else to take his place. Furthermore, there’s still a lot of juice in The Mask story. (It was a comic book and a cartoon series, after all.) And since this mask belonged to Loki, lets bring him on board. This could be fun.

After all, what’s not to love about a magical Mask that brings out your inner id and turns you into a cartoon with superpowers?

And instead, what was an even worse travesty than Blues Brothers 2000 was born.

First, let’s look at the character of The Mask. This time, it was Jaime Kennedy. He’s got some chops, but it was hardly inspired casting, more like flavor of the month. Furthermore, his few scenes as The Mask were almost identical to the first movie, only more insipid. Remember in the first movie when The Mask gets into the exclusive club and performs a musical number? It happens in this one, and it’s awful. Just awful.

But that would just make it mediocre. No, finding that the lowest common denominator was too highbrow, this movie found rock bottom, turned into a giant spinning drill, and dug deep. After his nightclub performance, The Mask goes home to his wife. Still in Mask mode, they make a baby. Now we have a super powered infant running around, all the powers of The Mask without the mask.

There has never been a good movie about a super-powered baby. (See the awful Baby Geniuses franchise, or don’t. Yeah, I‘m going to say don’t.) The jokes are the same: the baby laughs and giggles as it causes all the adults to go crazy trying to chase it down and keep the neighbors from finding out. Burps and other bodily functions are, of course, greatly magnified. And the adults are idiots when they aren’t boring. It’s a terrible movie on its own, but that it’s a sequel to a great movie makes it guilty of a hate crime against humanity.

There’s a story in here about Loki wanting his Mask back and trying to get his hands on the baby, but I just don’t care.

The worst sin this movie commits, of course, is a complete waste of the one good thing it has going for it: The Mask! A lot of people were very excited about a follow-up to The Mask. We loved the first one, we thought there was still a lot of story left to tell, and then for some moronic reason, someone decided to ignore The Mask and instead make it about a baby. Congratulations, whoever you are, you ruined a franchise. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

This movie is just bad, and not even in the fun kind of bad as Highlander 2. This is just a complete embarrassment to all of humanity and best forgotten.

For something that might purge your memory, may I humble suggest my book? It's a great read, and you can even read it for free if you go here. What do you have to lose?

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