Sequels are big in Hollywood, but trilogies are bigger. Whether the movies are shot individually or back to back, whenever an original product rakes in the cash you can bet there’s a studio honcho sitting somewhere writing up plans for a trilogy. However, it’s a pretty safe bet that the people involved in making a movie a success won’t stick around for all three entries. Apparently, it’s an unwritten Hollywood rule: The revolving door of trilogy movie making. Personally, if somebody were paying me tens of millions of dollars to make repetitive sequel after sequel, I’d happily do it and retire to my private island in the Caribbean once the well started to run dry. I’d populate it with hookers, 24-hour gambling, more hookers, and hookers that gamble 24/7 while hooking. Also, I’d have a place to breed my Emus.
Despite earning more money than the guy who bottled Charlie Sheen Tiger Blood, directors and actors can’t seem to muster any enthusiasm for the third entry in their respective franchises. Is it a lack of imagination? Franchise fatigue? Studio interference? Or a general sense of I’m-filthy-rich-now-and-therefore-don’t-give-a-crap-ism? My own theory is that creators regularly hold back their best ideas when making the first movie in a series, whether by design or due to lack of budget and/or studio confidence in their product. Thus, once the sequel rolls around, they have so much good material sitting around gathering dust that they’re practically guaranteed a crowd-pleasing hit. Inevitably, the demands of making a bigger, better product the second time around appears to sap all of the creativity out of filmmakers. By the third movie, they’re going through the motions or just collecting a paycheck.
Thus, in the spirit of things, let’s retire your faithful reviewer, TheMatt. Let’s also skip over TheMatt II: Matt Harder. We’ll assume he was bigger and better than last year’s model. More handsomer too. Instead, this Top 10 Disappointing Threequels list will be written by TheMatt III: TheMatt Who Loved Me. This is’s list of third movies in popular franchises that just couldn’t be bothered to give a crap.
As per the above mentioned rule, here’s a franchise that’s never been visited by the sametwice, giving it a rather serious case of multiple personality disorder. Series progression is a simple formula: bigger and better. Apparently, nobody informed director of this fact. Ridley Scott’s classic Alien is a taut, claustrophobic, haunted-house . James Cameron’s sequel takes things to their logical next step by upping to the alien count from one to hundreds, adding new elements to the creature’s reproductive cycle and moving from to action. Logic dictates that Alien 3 take things even further, perhaps by a trip the titular creature’s home planet?
Speculation passed around the idea that the next entry would take place on Earth and would be more “war movie” in tone. Instead, scrapped scripts started piling up. Writers were hired and subsequently fired. Elements from different attempts to write a finished screenplay were mashed together, thrown in a blender, doused with Holy water and good intentions and, in 1992, we ended up with the franchise killer known as Alien 3.
The end result was a catastrophe. Downsizing the alien threat from hundreds back to just one was a ridiculous backward step for the franchise. Going from well-armed space marines to weaponless protagonists was essentially repeating the plot of the first movie. But the true crime here was the wasted potential of two beloved characters, Michael Biehn’s Corporal Hicks and Carrie Henn’s Newt, who were both unceremoniously killed off screen. (Fun bit of trivia: Biehn was actually paid more money for the use of his likeness in this movie than he was paid for the whole of Aliens.) Cameron crafted believable, tangible relationships between Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and these two characters that to simply discard them in so reckless a manner irks fans to this day. Alien 3 left a sour taste in my mouth for the entire Alien franchise, almost as if it retroactively affected the quality of the previous films.
And yet, my boner for this scene remains unaffected.
No.9 X-Men 3: The Last Stand
Bashing fanboy lightning rod Brett Ratner is a popular pastime on the Internet, second only to proclaiming yourself “First!” on message boards and making thousands of nerds wish cancer upon you. I know, I do it often and my cancer-wishing muscle is so well developed at this point that I could psychically murder a Korean kid from halfway around the world just by frowning. Ratner (or RATtner, as he’s unofficially known) has taken the blame for everything from putting the final nail the cinematicLecter’s coffin (Red Dragon) to the more atrocious crime of inflicting Chris Tucker upon an unsuspecting world, a deed for which a very personalized level of Hell is currently being prepared just for him.
Since no hack’s resume is complete without running a franchise into the ground faster than an LAPD officer arresting a minority, Ratner set his sights on the X-Men series. Directed by Bryan Singer, the first two X-Men movies featured well-directed action sequences, yes, but it was the allusions to the Civil Rights movement and homosexual alienation that pushed the flicks into deeper, more thoughtful territory. Ratner’s direction, however, is like a sledgehammer compared to Singer’s more intellectual thesis. Themes of alienation be damned, we’ve got special effects to throw at the screen! All speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!
Unless Juggernaut was supposed to represent the alienation of S&M enthusiasts?
Cyclops gets killed for no good reason, despite featuring prominently in the comic book arc the movie was largely based on. The mutant cure, a thinly veiled analogy for curing homosexuals, is painfully obvious. And although we all love Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, (especially my mother), The Last Stand is so thoroughly The Logan Show, even more so than previous movies, that every other character gets the short end of the stick. It’s a shame that Last Stand is perhaps the last we’ll ever see of these characters, with the franchise having now been rebooted in this summer’s First Class. And Ratner should get double Tucker rations in hell just for: “I’M THE JUGGERNAUT, BITCH!”
No.8 Blade Trinity
Having already made an appearance on our Top 10 Movie Franchises That Should Be Rebooted list, it’s not surprising to find our old friend Blade here. Launching the current comic book movie phenomenon, Stephen Norrington’s initial entry, 1998’s Blade, was a gritty, blood-soaked affair. It introduced Wesley Snipes’ titular hero, a take-no-prisoners, all attitude, fascinating vampire killer. While it was undoubtedly a comic book movie, Blade had just enough of a bloody, noir edge to leave fans wanting more. Blade 2 used its experience points wisely and leveled up as far as directors are concerned, enlisting the visionary Guillermo Del Toro, who delivered everything a sequel should: bigger action, better gadgets, more characters, and a sense of progression in the overall mythology of the series.
So what could possibly go wrong? Well, they let the writer sit in the director’s chair, for starters. Blade Trinity was directed by writer David S. Goyer. I personally adore Goyer as a writer. He went from penning such B-movie Full Moon Pictures classics as Demonic Toys and Arcade to writing some of my favorite genre flicks, such as Dark City and both of Christopher Nolan’s revamped Batman movies. I give the man huge props. But for the love of God, don’t hand the reins of an action franchise over to somebody with no action movie chops. The energetic, martial-arts-heavy sequences of earlier films are replaced by badly choreographed slow-motion battles. And some bright bulb thought Blade needed some 13-29 demographic-friendly sidekicks in the form of Jessica Biel, best known for playing Jessica Biel, and Ryan Reynolds, best known for playing Van Wilder as played by Ryan Reynolds.
We went from this…
The movie’s only enduring contribution to popular culture? Cock-juggling thundercunt. When you absolutely, positively want to hear a pin drop at the office party.
No.7 A Better Tomorrow III
The original A Better Tomorrow is better known as the movie that introduced audiences to two modern giants of action filmmaking: John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat, who later collaborated on the reigning champion of action movies: Hard Boiled. While A Better Tomorrow is not the first film to feature a slow-motion, trench-coated protagonist dual-wielding pistols like it was going out of style, it certainly popularized this action movie staple. Woo and company returned for the sequel, which produced one the most enduring, amazing and orgasm-inducing shootouts in movie history.
So with the entire cast now either dead or shot full of holes, what is Woo successor Tsui Hark supposed to do for chapter three? Uh-oh, my prequel sense is tingling something fierce! Or it could just be the rash I picked up from Bambi the rhino horn snorting hooker, last seen in our Top 10 Shark Movies list. I wonder whatever happened to her, she’s been in the bathroom over a month now? And something sure smells in here… Ah well, it’s nothing a little Febreze won’t fix.
So the previously deceased Mark Gor (Chow Yun-Fat) is brought back to life via a hefty dose of prequel pills for a brand new series of adventures in the distant past. A Better Tomorrow 3 attempts to give the legendary gunman an origin story of sorts, but it soon degenerates into the hilarious origin of his trademark coat and penchant for two-fisted gunplay. It’s less about how Mark became a complete and utter badass and more about how a change of clothing and overall look can do wonders for one’s badass quotient. Shirt and jeans? Wussy. Wicked coat? Instant badassdom.
On the violence front, while Hark would go on to direct better action movies, at this point in his career he comes off as a pale John Woo imitator. Oh well, maybe the inevitable Hollywood remake will kickstart the franchise all over again.
No.6 Spider-Man 3
Sony’s billion-dollar-earning Spider-Man franchise is known for two things: making audiences believe a man can swing on a web and redefining the word “blockbuster.” Each entry in the series broke more records than Koko the talking gorilla at a spelling bee. Koko, can you spell banana?
Eff. Yuu. Cee. Kay. Yuu. Banana.
When rumors started spreading that every single person associated with making the Web-Slinger’s series a success was jumping ship after the third movie, a dark cloud began to gather over the production. With an eye toward leaving Spidey behind, nobody seemed very interested in bringing their A-game to Spider-Man 3. Unhappy stars and directors make for a bad combo and an even worse movie. Star Tobey Maguire clearly couldn’t be rid of the franchise fast enough to focus on more serious acting, costar Kirsten Dunst seems to be overdosing on Zoloft throughout the entire picture and the quality of the villains took a serious dive. Also: Emo-Parker still haunts my dreams.
Hitler just hasn’t been his usual perky self since he shaved the mustache.
Ultimately, Spider-Man 3 feels like an attempt by a tired, beaten, older boxer to stage a comeback in the 10th round. Sure, he might throw a few good punches here and there, but at some point you begin to realize you’re only cheering out of respect for his prior achievements rather than for the current bout.
Find out which disappointing threequel ranked in at number 1 on the next jump…