Mother Brain’s Top 10 Movie Franchise-Killing Sequels

Mother Brain’s Top 10 Movie Franchise-Killing Sequels
By Mother Brain

With a new year just getting started, the world of cinema will be manifested by more sequels and prequels. Nearly dozens of successful franchises including Batman, Alien, G.I. Joe, and James Bond will return to the screen either to revive their respective series or to mark the end of a successful run. But when there’s hype, there’s always the likelihood of disappointment.

In my first new blog for 2012, I’ll be looking back at those not so successful installments to popular film franchises that were killed or almost killed by that one terrible installment.  While there’s plenty of films to discuss, my top 10 consists of the ones that stand out the most to me. Rounding out the top 10:

10. Terminator Salvation (2009)

The first Terminator from 1984 was an indie film classic that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name and James Cameron into an a-list director. 1991’s T2 was not only a bigger success but it was also groundbreaking for its special effects, setting a new standard for the way action films are made today. Things were not quite the same when Cameron chose not to return for T3 in 2003 and the resulting film felt more like a rehash of the previous film despite director Jonathan Mostow’s best efforts. But Terminator Salvation was a good example of how a logical idea can go bad. At this point, Arnold was out governating California and the film’s producers decided to focus on the future war between the human resistance and Skynet. The signs were already bad when Charlie’s Angels director McG was hired to direct. The soulless director basically made the film without the deeper substance of T1 and T2 and the writers put emphasis on new characters we didn’t care for. If you ask someone what the film was about, they’ll tell you it’s about how John Connor became resistance leader, met his future father, and got a scar. Beyond that, it’s just PG-13 popcorn fun.

9. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

While the first X-Men movie by Bryan Singer paved the way for Marvel Comics to bring their characters to the big screen properly, X2 proved that a summer movie can still have a compelling story. Fans got their geek on with the sequel’s big cliffhanger involving Jean Grey’s transformation into the Phoenix and eagerly awaited seeing her in full form in X3. But when a pre-occupied Singer and Fox had disagreements over rushing the film into theaters, Singer dropped out and the studio hired the Rush Hour hack himself, Brett Ratner. I won’t go as far as saying Last Stand was a terrible movie; however, there was a great deal of disappointment over the number of big character deaths as well as the Phoenix storyline being degraded to a terrible subplot. Most of all, the cerebral tone of X2 was dropped in favor of a more light-hearted feel due to Ratner’s direction. The franchise would suffer harsh criticism with the Wolverine spin-off in 2009 before redeeming itself with last year’s X-Men: First Class.

8. Another Stakeout (1993)

1987’s Stakeout was the big sleeper hit of the summer and had made more money than the first Lethal Weapon. The film was a buddy cop/romantic comedy hybrid with Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez playing Seattle detectives staking out Madeline Stowe’s place so they can nab her prison escapee ex-boyfriend. 6 years would pass before the sequel hit screens and boy was it a stinker. While it retained the same cast and crew, the romantic story with Dreyfuss and Stowe was out and Rosie O’Donnell was in as the Joe Pesci of the movie. The jokes fell flat and so did this picture.

7. Rocky V (1990)

No matter how many flops Sylvester Stallone would suffer, he could always rely on the Italian Stallion to win his fans back. By 1990, however, Stallone found himself in a dark period of his life and career, blaming the Rocky character for his lack of success outside the franchise (except for Rambo of course). He re-teamed with Rocky 1 director John Avildsen for what was the final installment of the series which focused on a brain damaged Rocky losing his riches and moving back to the old Philly neighborhood to start over. Rather than returning to the ring against another vicious opponent, he manages the unseasoned Tommy Gunn who winds up seduced by the seedy side of boxing. To see Rocky so broken down mentally turned off audiences. Stallone originally intended for Rocky to die in the street fight before studio execs said otherwise. Since its release, Stallone blamed his lack of career focus on the film’s failure and eventually made it up to the fans when he made his triumphant return in 2006’s Rocky Balboa.

6. License to Kill (1989)

This was the 2nd and ultimately last James Bond film starring Timothy Dalton. Unlike previous Bond films with fantastical locations, comic book villains, and hi-tech gadgetry, License attempted to return to the gritty roots of the Ian Flemming novels. This time, Bond pursues a Columbian drug lord to Mexico so he can avenge the attack on his CIA buddy Felix Leiter. Rather than make a traditional Bond film, the producers tried to cash in on Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and Miami Vice in hopes of making Bond relevant in the late 80s. Unfortunately, the summer sequel bloodbath of ’89 proved to be too much competition for 007 and the franchise disappeared from cinemas for 6 years until Pierce Brosnan donned the tux for Goldeneye.

5. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The comedy-driven Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home worked out so well that Paramount Pictures demanded more humor for what was to be the last installment with the original Enterprise crew. William Shatner himself took the director’s chair for the story about Spock’s half-brother Sybok taking over the ship and manipulating the crew into finding God on a distant planet. Shatner intended on making the story relevant to the rise of televangelists in the late 80s. But everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong: Sean Connery turned the Sybok role down, ILM wasn’t available for special effects work as they did previously, and the script was downright problematic. The end result was another summer sequel bloodbath casualty. Fortunately, the original crew got one last successful swan song with 1991’s The Undiscovered Country.

4. Robocop 3 (1993)

When I asked myself why the Robocop franchise suffered, I found the answer from the director of this pile of poop Fred Dekker: Robocop 1 was an open and closed story. The truth is by the end of Robocop, Alex Murphy begins to regain his humanity. That’s what the story was about. But of course toys, cartoons, comic, and video games followed and sequels were more than inevitable. 1990’s Robocop 2 just didn’t have match up to the violent absurdity and evil capitalism themes injected by Paul Verhoeven from the first film. By Robocop 3, the folks at Orion Pictures felt that the character only appealed to kids and chose to make it more kid-friendly. It was essentially the Return of the Jedi entry of the Robocop trilogy where the character sides with homeless Detroit citizens to fight back against OCP and their Rehab soldiers. While it was cool to see Robo get a machine gun arm attachment and a jet pack, everything that made the first film so special was gone including Peter Weller who passed on the role citing frustration wearing the suit. To make matters worse, the film was delayed for an entire year due to studio bankruptcy and the storyline would be spoiled in video game and comic book adaptations released prior to the film.

3. Superman III (1983)

Most people will argue The Quest for Peace killed Superman. I say go one movie back and just watch the fiasco known as Superman III. Producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind had already made bad decisions with the franchise when they fired Richard Donner from finishing Superman II and hiring Richard Lester, disgusting series stars Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, and Gene Hackman. That final film was a mix between Donner’s more respectful approach to the material and Lester’s injection of slapstick comedy. Superman III would become the true vision of its producers: Corny jokes, lame villains, and useless celebrity casting. The latter was proven true with the inclusion of the legendary Richard Pryor being cast as a computer programer who gets caught up  in a Lex Luthor wanna-be’s plan to kill the Man of Steel with a supercomputer. The film’s only saving grace: The Superman Vs. Superman fight in the junkyard. Besides that, truth, justice, and the American way was shit on by greed.

2. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

No one could imagine this series going wrong after the creative high of Spider-Man 2. Once again, Sam Raimi proved he could make an exciting blockbuster film with a great deal of character depth and emotion. That would not be the case, however, with Spider-Man 3. The initial idea by Raimi and star Tobey Maguire was for the web-slinger to face the Sandman and Harry Osborn as the New Goblin. But studio execs at Sony wanted the more popular Venom character in the mix because the fans demanded him. Raimi had no interest in the character because of his lack of interest in the comics post-1984 when the symbiote suit storyline came about. He eventually gave in and that was just the beginning of the problems. Too many characters, one too many villains, and dorky humor made Spidey fans angry. To this day, they cannot forgive Raimi for the infamous emo-Peter Parker strutting down NYC like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Whether or not the upcoming Mark Webb-directed reboot saves the franchise remains to be seen.

1. Batman & Robin (1997)

I refuse to describe this in sentences. So I’ll do with using just a few words: Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Batgirl, Bane, nipples of Batsuit, too many vehicles, too much color in Gotham City, Batcard, and Clooney as Batman. All this plus excessive merchandising equals a 90 minute gay joke. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan came along with the superpower to erase this bastard child from our memories.

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