My Top-10 movie sequels which were good (but could have been better)

transformers 2 posterI just recently posted my Top-10 favourite movie sequels and now I want to follow on this trend of sequel-lists. I’ll admit that there are some obvious flaws and problems that a sequel may run into but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the sequel is bad. It’s always hard to follow-up a movie, especially if the first movie managed to have a powerful arc. Still, I want to believe that people who make sequels made them out of genuine love for the first one and the problems were simply the result of them not paying enough attention to the source material or maybe because they fell into the sequel traps I outlined in a previous list.

So what makes a sequel weaker than what it could have been. Repeating too many things from the first film, not developing the characters enough, changing the mood or setting so much that it doesn’t feel like a sequel so much as it does a completely different movie. Or sometimes, the film just isn’t as memorable or entertaining as the original. However, with this list I want to stress that I didn’t feel let down or disappointed with the films and, in fact, I can still enjoy them despite their flaws – but flaws they have none the less.

There’s a rather long list of honourable mentions that could go here, so just as with the prior list I’ll just mention them real quick: For a Few Dollars More, X-Men 2, Transformers 2, Home Alone 3, Kill Bill Vol. 2 (although I don’t really consider it a “sequel”) and Tomorrow Never Dies.

Let’s get on with the list…

Mummy 310. Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The long-belated third instalment of Universal’s Mummy-series sees Brandan Fraser’s dysfunctional archaeological family fall apart. His son has become wannabe Indiana Jones like his mom and mysteriously switched accents. He finds the Dragon Emperor’s tomb and accidentally allows the release of an evil, shape-shifting kung-fu fighting Mummy to return in the form of Jet Li. Lots of CG-action ensues as the adventuring family has to make-do without Rachel Weisz or Imhotep.

Okay, Mummy 3 honestly wasn’t a bad movie. In fact, its action scenes were really cool, especially the ones up in the mountains. I really liked the Yetis and I even wanted to like the heroes’ new adversaries. The first two Mummy movies were also excellent with a blend of horror and action that worked really well. The Mummy Returns was maybe a little weaker (due to being toned down slightly for its family appeal) but still really funny and enjoyable. I even enjoyed The Scorpion King spin-off starring Dwayne Johnson. Unfortunately Mummy 3 lost something in the production phase.

Maybe it was the sheer fact that the movie came out so late after the second one or maybe it was just the dramatic shift in setting, but it simply didn’t feel like a Mummy movie anymore. With only Brendan Fraser and John Hannah returning from movies 1 and 2, this makes the shift all the more jarring. I honestly would have expected, at least, a cameo from Arnold Vosloo or better yet a Mummy vs. Mummy battle at the finale. Instead, the film slightly repeats elements of the second movie but doesn’t manage to add anything substantially cool or interesting to the mix. The Chinese setting wasn’t a terrible idea, it just wasn’t as novel as the Egyptian original.

Like I said, the movie is pretty good on its own merits, it just doesn’t feel part of the same series as the first two.

shanghai_knights9. Shanghai Knights

Along with the Rush Hour films (which I discussed in my prior list), Shanghai Noon was one of Jackie Chan’s most successful Hollywood outings. Chon Wang (Chan) and Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) leave the Wild West for England to save Wang’s sister and recover the Imperial Seal which has been stolen by a power-hungry despot, plotting a joint takeover with the Queen of England’s cousin of the Chinese and British Empires.

Shanghai Knights at least deserves credit for trying to do something new with its characters, but it completely neglects the character development that the two of them, especially Roy, experienced at the end of the first film (the film-makers seemed to intentionally ignore the fact that Roy’s real name was revealed as being “Wyatt Earp” at the finale).

Whereas Shanghai Noon played around successfully with the tropes of the Western genre and managed to fuse them well with the martial arts story, Shanghai Knights tried to do the same with England. Everything from Arthur Conan Doyle to Charlie Chaplin, Spotted Dick to Haggis and a ton of other Americans-in-Britain clichés get thrown around. Sadly, this makes the movie way too self-aware to the point of being almost cringe-worthy (though who am I kidding, “spotted dick” is always funny). Unfortunately, this all ignores the best part of Shanghai Noon which was that it worked well as a story despite referencing many Western clichés, since they weren’t as self-aware. The most annoying part is that the film is actually entertaining. The fight-scenes are still humorous, fast-paced and awesome.

If the scriptwriters would have shown a bit of restraint and added a bit more character development, the sequel would be way better. Now, it’s just a little hacky. Fun, but hacky.

SpiderMan28. Spider-Man 2

In the second instalment of Raimi’s Spidey trilogy, Parker gets to meet his idol Dr. Octavius. While attempting a fusion-experiment, his mentor becomes permanently fused with a set of bionic tentacles. Obsessed with his work, he starts a rampage to continue his experiments. At the same time, Spidey begins losing his confidence and his powers.

In the previous list, I mentioned how I wasn’t a huge fan of the Raimi Spider-Man movies since they dispensed with a lot of the things I liked about the comics. Also, I really didn’t like the first movie because of Green Goblin and because half of the film was just origin story. Spidey 2 was immediately much better with more action and it got to the meat of its respective storyline much faster. Also, with Dr. Octopus being my favourite Spider-Man villain, I really enjoyed the storyline involving him and also Alfred Molina’s performance.

However, the reason Spider-Man 3 made my favourite sequels list and this one didn’t is for one thing only. Spidey 3 literally didn’t have a single boring moment. Spider-Man 2 does, a really bad one, right in the middle of the film. I always hated that we never heard Spidey’s inner monologue in the film versions since they would have honestly filled the hole in the film’s audio-world created by a lot of the quiet moments in the film. The scene where Peter just sits down to eat with his landlord’s daughter, sweet as it may had been, was just a load of deadweight.

Spider-Man 2 didn’t need much for it to have been my favourite film in the Raimi trilogy, just being a little tighter with its story-telling.

X-Men 37. X-Men 3: The Last Stand

I still feel that in the realm of X-Men films, the original has yet to have been topped. The third film kicks into gear with the discovery of a serum that can reverse mutations. Magneto gears up for a war against humanity and Jean Grey comes back from the dead, more dangerous than ever. Much like with Spider-Man 3, the fans disliked this movie because it tried to cram so many story-elements into itself. Like with Spider-Man 3, that’s actually the reason I personally liked it but at the same time, the fact that it made this list probably should let you guys know that there were things about it that could have been done better.

Firstly, I loved the inclusion of the Juggernaut, the Beast (played by Kelsey Grammer) and the closure of the Scott-Jean-Logan love triangle. I felt that the movie also brought full circle to a lot of story elements introduced in the previous two films and I felt it was an epic way to close off this run of three movies. I particularly enjoyed how dark the movie got with Jean Grey’s storyline, showing the full extent of her powers.

However, my biggest gripe is that the film tried so hard to wrap up everything in a nice big bow. Lots of people lose their powers and a lot of central characters are also killed off. At times, the film seemed to turn into a roadshow of mutant best ofs and that was a little annoying. I feel that the strong plot points built up at the start went a little out of focus by the end. And sure, some mutants didn’t maybe get to shine quite the way I hoped (Cyclops just pretty much disappears after the first 20 minutes) but I was more annoyed that some others introduced in prior films like Nightcrawler didn’t come back for this film. And then some elements started to feel like they were referencing real life just a bit too much (Magneto somehow managing to appear in scenes mirroring both Osama Bin Laden and Hitler).

I still enjoyed the film. I just hate that Fox decided it was time to hit the reboot button on the franchise after this because I honestly wanted to see what was going to happen after the events of this film.

6. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3

pirates of the caribbean 2 and 3

There are going to be quite a few double-entries on this list. What I’m about to say is probably going to get some people to flip their shits, but I honestly thought On Stranger Tides was a much better film than either Dead Man’s Chest or At World’s End. Principally because the film actually stood on its own two feet (much like the first movie). It had an original story, it finally shined the spotlight brightly on the character who was always the true star of the film series to begin with and had just enough callbacks to its predecessors that you could enjoy it without having seen them.

And as their placement on this list should indicate, I didn’t hate POTC2 or 3 but felt that both movies suffered from the “trilogy bug”. Mainly, Deadman’s Chest was made intentionally to end on a cliffhanger so that the story could be completed by POTC3. By comparison, POTC3 was the superior film simply for expanding the film’s mythos, revealing lots of previously unknown information and for featuring Keith Richards in the most f***ing epic cameo in the history of cameos. Conversely, the second movie was much better as an action set-piece film and it did feel that the action and comedy were at the forefront of this film (despite its occasionally bleak story).

My biggest annoyance is that you can’t really watch either film without having seen the other because the stories are so inter-connected. And despite being interconnected and getting quite intricate in POTC3, these movies also suffered from a slight over-abundance of CG (namely POTC3) and for having a really lame villain, Cutler Beckett. Seriously, who wants to see an evil mastermind named Beckett!?

Together these movies are actually really enjoyable and gave a nice closure to the story of Will and Elisabeth. Individually, they are hampered by their very nature as the second and third instalments as a trilogy.

Alien 35. Alien 3

The third film in the Alien series sees Ellen Ripley stuck on a prison colony after she and the other survivors of the previous movie crash-land on it. Ripley is the only one to survive and unfortunately a face-hugger survives aboard the ship and impregnates a dog on the colony, unleashing an alien on the facility that has no weapons with which to fight the creature.

Alright, at this point everyone probably knows the story of Alien 3’s problematic production and if you don’t, I highly recommend reading about it. Basically, Alien 3 was a flawed film from its inception but I honestly feel it’s a movie that deserves more recognition than it gets. And I’ll say this, the cast and atmosphere in my view are way better than in the Ridley Scott original which I personally find drawn out and filled with boring characters.

I feel Alien 3 commits its biggest sin at the start by killing off the likable support cast of the second film. Although, Bishop survives to at least give us one really creepy dialogue scene, it’s not really the same thing. I also find the premise of there being only one alien, honestly, a little underwhelming. I even find the inmates’ inability to defend themselves against a single alien problematic. Although the one alien in the first movie was enough to slaughter the crew of the Nostromo, the prisoners aren’t trapped in a space-ship and therefore I feel the situation isn’t as dire as the film-makers try to make it seem.

Having said that, the film has an awesome, almost defeatist mood. Ripley goes bald and the final showdown with the alien is fairly intense. And of course the final scene kicks ass. It’s just a shame that the movie is so far removed from its predecessor since by taking a few key cues from it, Alien 3 could be a classic in its own right.

4. Police Academy 3 & 5

police academy 3 and 5

I’m a huge fan of the Police Academy series and generally like most instalments of the series. The original, Their First Assignment, Citizens on Patrol and City Under Siege have always been my top-favourite films. The third and fifth instalments conversely stand out as being rather weak, both for different reasons. However, I still think both instalments have their hilarious moments and therefore I don’t really hate them (I will not defend Mission to Moscow in this blog though).

The third movie, Back in Training, I felt failed to really build on the characters introduced in the first two instalments. There’s a lot of potential, especially with Sweetchuck and Zed joining the Police Force, but beyond these two the rest of the new cast members just aren’t as funny. Mauser, who was moderately entertaining and a threat to Mahoney and company in the second film, is really reduced to a clown in this film. Even Nogata doesn’t get to really shine here (wait till PA4). Still, incidental scenes here and there were good, but there isn’t a strong core narrative to the two Police Academies’ competition (especially, since everyone knows the outcome). I felt this was the first time the quality of the series dropped and it really didn’t need to since most of the classic crew were still around.

Assignment Miami Beach, wasn’t quite as weak though it didn’t feature any new faces aside Sgt. Nick Lassard, the new leader of the gang after Mahoney’s exit. The film definitely lacks a good chemistry between the main crew which finally did come together for the sixth film. Here however, the jokes surround mostly Commandant Lassard who’s the real star of the film as well as the lovable bungling duo of Harris and Proctor. Unfortunately, it feels like the main cast was held at bay on the comedy front which is why this instalment failed to impress me despite its many hilarious scenes with Lassard, Harris and Proctor.

In the case of both of these films, I feel the main cast of Tackleberry, Hightower, Hooks, Callahan, Jones and Mahoney could have done more to keep them alive. With PA5 the fact that so many classic characters from the prior three films left the series definitely left a bit of a void, but the movie at least compensated somewhat with the comedy triumvirate I discussed before. Like I said, I don’t dislike these movies (in fact some of you may find these to be your favourite instalments), I just feel they don’t match up to my four favourites.

3. Terminator 2 & 3

terminator 2 and 3

The original Terminator has always been my favourite film of the entire series. Though some people felt it was a let-down, I can at least praise Terminator: Salvation for the fact that it tried to do something new and fresh with the series even if it didn’t whole-heartedly succeed. Although T2 and T3 are both really good movies they have individual flaws as well as sharing a pretty big one. Both movies concern a time-travelling cyborg which is sent to assassinate the leader of a human resistance in a future war between men and machines. And both movies feature a time-travelling cyborg sent to protect that leader.

Terminator 2’s biggest flaw in my view has always been that it’s way too long. The film focuses more on action than chilling atmosphere like the first movie and I do think this is a good thing since it helps distinguish the film from its predecessor. However, for an action-movie it’s just criminally long with a whole big segment of nothing in the smack middle of the movie (much like Spider-Man 2). I also feel the movie dwells into a bit of corniness with the learning computer aspect of the Terminator trying to fit in and understand human emotions. There’s a lot of good things with this movie but I feel the original is just much tighter story-wise.

Terminator 3 more or less repeats T2’s formula but adds a lot of comedy into the mix. Honestly, this is the reason I love T3 because it’s so unafraid to poke fun at the T-800, which has been built up as an unstoppable juggernaut up to this point. However, the comedic approach might have unnecessarily lessened the impact of the film’s rather grim finale, which is another thing about T3 which I actually loved. But the most obvious flaw of the film is the fact that it borrows so much from T2, turning practically into a repeat of the film.

However, the same is true of T2. Both of these sequels essentially repeat the premise of the first movie and that’s something I’ve always had a problem with. Neither can truly surpass the original because they are essentially the same movie. Now, this ultimately does give these movies a chance to play around with expectations (not unlike another film-series referenced on this and the prior Top-10), but this is also why neither stacks up to the original in my eyes.

Both are good movies though. I’m waiting anxiously to see what Terminator: Genisys will do for the series, since from the trailers it seems that the film is basically taking a sledgehammer to the continuity. However, I’ll reserve judgement until the movie comes out.

Godfather 22. The Godfather Part 2

The second instalment of the Godfather trilogy picks up from where the first movie left off and follows Michael Corleone’s growing crime empire, his marital problems and his escapades in Cuba around the time of the revolution. The other half of the movie follows the story of his father, Don Vito Corleone (played by Robert DeNiro) from his departure from Sicily and his growth into the mafia boss we saw in the prior film.

I’m gonna cut to the chase on this one, Godfather Part 2 should have been two different movies: a sequel and a prequel. My dislike of this film actually stems more from Michael’s storyline. Admittedly it has a lot of cool twists and turns and probably the single darkest finale of all three films (which is saying something). However, the early 60s setting is really not as iconic as that of the first film and the movie feels a little unfocused. And obviously, a lot of the cool support cast is no longer present, having died in the first movie.

Even so, it’s actually the story of Michael’s father which I find way more interesting. How Vito grows from a boy escaping the massacring of his family, grows up a criminal in the New York slums, does favours for his fellow immigrants and eventually has his revenge. All of these are far more novel elements and work better than the main storyline, which (just like Part 3) repeats the structure of the first movie. Admittedly, it’s fun how the movie plays with the similarity of plot points and how different the outcome is for Michael, but I honestly don’t feel the story is as interesting.

This is one of the reasons I enjoyed Part 3 (which was its own single story) more but also because it was much more interesting and had a killer finale.

Men-in-Black-2-poster1. Men in Black 2

Men in Black 2 sees Agent J having to bring his old mentor K back into the agency when a hot, evil alien from his past comes back to take down the entire MiB on the hunt for “the Light of Zartha”. We have lots of fun with K being completely out of it at the start, J acting cool when he’s really not and the general level of character development is also nice.

Honestly, MiB 2 doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The film admittedly repeats a few cues from the original and maybe gets a little cheesy at times. But then again, so did the original and no-one seems to mind. The whole point of MiB seemed that it was supposed be a high-budget “low-budget” scifi film and the sequel follows this idea. The chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones is still great and I even thought Lara Flynn Boyle was a great villainess.

It honestly seems MiB2 gets hated on for no other reason than because it was a sequel. MiB3 was definitely better but only for the reason what I think is this film’s problem. MiB3 had a good closer, a great scene that capped the movie off. MiB2’s biggest flaw is the very final scene in the locker room which unnecessarily draws out the final moments of the film. Spoiler: The film’s perfect capping point is when K uses the Statue of Liberty’s torch to neuralize all of New York city and make them forget all the strange things that happen during the film’s final scenes.

Were it not for this minor flaw, MiB2 would actually be on par for with the first and third films.