These days it seems like any remotely successful film can land a sequel — I’m still blown about sitting through “Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde” — but a third film indicates that people can’t get enough of the characters and have bumped the movies to franchise territory.
“The Expendables 3” came to theaters Friday and it got me thinking about some of my favorite third films in a series and inevitably the ones that had me questioning what the heck happened. So I decided to do what I always do when I get inspired, write up a list! Here’s my Top 10 Best and Worst Three-quels.
I didn’t want to go after typical three-quel punching bags like “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and “The Godfather Part III.”
For one, I actually enjoyed both movies and secondly because it’s ridiculously unfair to bash “The Godfather Part III” as one of the worse three-quels because it’s not at the same level of two films IMDB.com users rank as the #2 and #3 greatest movies of all time.
I was torn whether to include “Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” on the list as yes, it’s the third film of a trilogy, it’s moreso the sixth film in a franchise. Ultimately, I decided to leave it out, but I would have placed it very high on my Best list.
Anyway, with those caveats out of the way. It’s time for the list!
Top 10 Worst Threequels
10. Superman III – Thirty-four years since its release and “Superman II” remains one of the best comic book movies and would easily be in my all-time Top 10 favorite films if I had to cut down my Top 20 list. As a kid, I remember being so excited about the follow-up to “Superman II.” Who was Superman gonna fight next? Parasite? Brainiac? Ross Webster and Gus Gorman? The Evil Superman subplot is a bit too cool for this movie, which is equal parts Superman action/part Richard Pryor comedy and the absence of a cool villain since Gene Hackman wanted nothing to do with this made the film seem all the more inferior. The result is a jumbled mess, but for nostalgia sake, it’s the best of the worst.
9. The Matrix Revolutions - The original film legitimately inspired hundreds of movies in the decade following, but by the third film it was becoming obvious that The Wachoswki Siblings didn’t have enough ideas to stretch the series to a third film. Granted there’s some very fun action scenes – The Battle of Zion and Neo vs. Agent Smith in the rain, but Col. Sanders’ revelation that Neo is in essence the Chosen One in an endless rerun,
8. Austin Powers in Goldmember - Austin Powers was probably a franchise that would have been better off with just one film, but Mike Myers was able to crank out two more movies — each with more diminishing returns than its predecessor. “Goldmember” has some laughs, but suffers from an at this point, very tired formula and a wooden performance by Beyonce Knowles as Foxxy Cleopatra.
7. Batman Forever – The first stick of dynamite that nearly destroyed the Dark Knight’s chances of a long legacy on the big screen. Were it not for the even more abysmal “Batman & Robin,” this cartoonish effort featuring Jim Carrey in his ham it up worse as Riddler, an embarrassing Two-Face by Tommy Lee Jones and a seemingly comatose Val Kilmer as Batman, this would easily be the worst Batman film ever. Plus side? It did have a pretty cool promo poster.
6. Spider-Man 3 – With an overload of villains, romantic interests, sub-plots and baffling song and dance numbers, fans completely loathed this uneven final outing for the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst “Spider-Man” series. There’s so much that didn’t work right here from a sympathetic Sandman to Topher Grace’s Venom, but the real villain is Tobey Maguire’s dance routine. Fans of Rami’s “Spidey” films would just as soon act as if this one didn’t exist.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – Walt Disney was making too much money on the “Pirates” films to stop at two, but like the second, “World’s End” was another bloated, uninspired effort that reduced all the original’s charm to simply letting Johnny Depp act goofy. And at 169 minutes, one thing the film never seemed to want to do was end.
4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon - The only reason this isn’t higher is because neither of Michael Bay’s previous Transformers films were any good so there was absolutely no reason to expect anything differently. The biggest compliment can give it is that at least it’s not as bad as “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.” So is being shot in the face, but no one wants to do that either…
3. Alien 3 – This movie gets off on an absolutely horrible note by killing off the few remaining survivors from “Aliens” and then it only gets awful from there. Director David Fincher has seriously cut all ties with the film thanks to studio interference, refusing to do the final edits or even a Director’s Commentary for the 2004 DVD release. I wouldn’t want my name associated with this one either.
2. The Hangover Part III – Here’s a novel idea. Turn your outrageous comedy series into a dark, twisted drama with all the emphasis on the obnoxious supporting characters and completely change the tone of your beloved franchise. That’s the third outing of “The Hangover.” After the first two films earned at least $250 million, director Todd Phillips responded to complaints that the sequel was too similar to the original and subjected viewers to a demented experiment to illustrate how to kill off a franchise.
I’ve reviewed movies for two decades now and while I’ve seen my share of awful films, none have had me so close to walking out and leaving midway through than “Last Stand.” Bret Ratner replaces Bryan Singer to the regret of anyone who remotely liked the series. Ratner ditches themes of acceptance and finding one’s place in society for crazy, hair-brained action and crams the film with more characters that are poorly developed (Angel) or realized on the big screen (Juggernaut). Worse, Ratner wastes The Dark Phoenix saga, arguably the best X-Men story of all time in a stupid, mind-numbing battle royal. Because he is clearly a miracle worker, Kelsey Grammer somehow was able to make Beast a fan favorite despite the insanity going on around him. Don’t even watch this on a bet.
And now that we’ve gone through the worst, it’s time to check out the best!