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Two and Done: First Sequels that Killed the Series

Captain America: Civil War is on deck, poised to take the worldwide box office by storm. It’s the third Cap movie, following The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier—and, with its padded roster of myriad Marvel players, it is also technically the third Avengers flick.

As a trilogy capper, it reminds me of all the lesser (or less fortunate) Chapter Twos to hit movie screens that never earned a Part 3. In some cases, the death of a franchise is a blessing; in others, the failure of a specific Part 2 to generate a legitimate Part 3 remains a cinematic head scratcher.

Here are some of the more glaring examples, encompassing the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

The Good:

  Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

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Maybe six years and too many inferior imitators between Gremlins and Gremlins 2 was simply too much for fans to justify, and the box office burnout of this gonzo sequel—funnier, hipper, and way more self-aware than the first one—remains one of moviedom’s most mystifying misfires. Plans for a flat-out reboot are reportedly afoot, nixing any hope of a genuine Gremlins 3 to ever grace—and mock—the silver screen. As Stripe would say, “Kaka!”

Tron: Legacy (2010)

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It took nearly thirty years for Disney to produce a sequel to 1982’s Tron, but its glossier production design and exponentially superior visual effects are undermined by a weak story and boring characters. Still, it succeeds as gorgeous eye candy and boasts a terrific techno score by Daft Punk.

While Tron 2 was hardly a dud, it didn’t exactly set the world on fire and its box office gross must’ve been seen as a disappointment by Disney shareholders. The proof: Disney has pulled the plug on Tron 3, maybe permanently. Perhaps that’s for the best.

U.S. Marshals (1998)

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One of the more unlikely sequels on this list, because it ignores the main star of the original movie The Fugitive and focuses instead on the continuing adventures of the dedicated Fed Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones).

Without the star power of Harrison Ford, the film relies mostly on the Oscar-winning cachet of Jones, though Wesley Snipes acquits himself nicely as the new wrongfully accused man on the run. Some nail-biting action set-pieces elevate the picture above the level of the typical cash-in retread, but none of the characters here are as interesting as last time.

One exception: Robert Downey Jr. co-stars as a turncoat agent, a decade before Iron Man would resuscitate his flagging acting career.

Fantasia 2000 (2000)

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Walt Disney’s wish to constantly revisit, reinvent, and reshape 1940’s Fantasia seemed to finally come to fruition sixty years later, but the failure of “F2K” to catch on has put those plans back on mothballs, probably forever.

Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)

 

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Maybe it’s because the series’ target of satire shifted—the first movie takes dead aim at Top Gun while Part Deux mercilessly skewers Rambo—but this silly and frequently hilarious sequel never gained the traction needed to keep the series running.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)

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Though this flick is among the rare instances where a Part 2 is lightyears more entertaining than Part 1, the sequel failed to generate the equivalent box office heat of the original. Plans for a third romp with Angelina Jolie are now permanently entombed, as the studio just announced it will make a ground-zero reboot starring Alicia Vikander.

The Two Jakes (1990)

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It’s perhaps no surprise that this long-gestating follow-up to the seminal private eye film noir Chinatown doesn’t have the impact of the original, but what makes this instance so frustrating is knowing screenwriter Robert Towne envisioned the Jake Gittes saga as a full-blown trilogy.

The third chapter, reportedly titled Gittes v Gittes, has long been drafted but a third film will likely never see the light of day.

The Bad:

Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)

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The mother of scrappy follow-ups that completely dishonor their predecessors despite recycling all of the best gags, and my first life lesson in how egregiously a sequel could suck—especially when none of the original filmmakers bother to return.

The end-credits stinger teases an “Airplane! III” but thankfully it never happened.

Grease 2 (1982)

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Yeah, I know this one has a devout cult following, and there are a few moments of risqué fun, but it just doesn’t compare to the 1978 classic: none of the T-Birds or Pink Ladies are as charismatic as last time and none of the songs are as catchy. Worst missed opportunity: the jukebox soundtrack of background period music used so marvelously in the original Grease does not carry over here.

The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

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When 1984’s Romancing the Stone became a breakout hit, the studio fast-tracked this follow-up. Despite reuniting the principal trio of Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, the spark of fun and the specter of danger are missing here, proof that Stone director Robert Zemeckis was the crucial ingredient—his absence here is painfully obvious, especially during the decidedly dull “action” set pieces.

When this sequel failed to set off the same box office fireworks as the first one, plans for a third movie, The Crimson Eagle, were duly scrapped.

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995)

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Here be another example where the studio cashed in on the surprise success of the first sleeper hit and rushed out a sequel without the original director’s involvement. The result, while bawdy and appropriately juvenile, is a hit-or-miss affair that did not warrant a third case for Jim Carrey’s butt-talking and ludicrously coiffed pet detective.

Instead, a direct-to-DVD threequel has Ace’s son taking over the reins. Nobody will blame you if you’ve never heard of it.

The Ugly:

Sex and the City 2 (2010)

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Not since the Highlander sequel has a Part 2 reunited all the original key players and principal filmmakers yet stumbled so horribly and embarrassingly in every conceivable way. Did they even watch their own HBO series or their first movie?

After the initial big-screen adaptation in 2008, I was prepared to watch Carrie and her Manhattan pals frolic in the Big Apple well past menopause. After their mean-spirited and melodramatic road trip to Abu Dhabi in Part 2, the honeymoon is definitely over.

The Fly II (1989)

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This fantastically gory but emotionally vacuous follow-up to David Cronenberg’s 1986 classic remake is a real stinker. The director’s genius is sorely missed. So too are Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.

Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)

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The world was shocked when Keanu Reeves opted out of this sequel, but that was nothing compared to the gasps of horror from audiences unfortunate enough to sit through this listless, witless and pointless cash-in.

As with Sex and the City 2 and also Highlander 2, the original director is back in charge, making the utter failure of this sequel to recapture the same spark all the more alarming.

Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993)

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As with Airplane II, recycling the same gags and reuniting the principal players does not inherently assure a repeat of the lightning-in-a-bottle success of the first movie.

Basic Instinct 2 (2006)

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A sequel so gosh-awful I had honestly forgotten all about its existence until I started to dig deeper to research this article. Sharon Stone’s breasts hold up okay, but there’s no mystery here, no spark of danger or eroticism, and definitely zero charisma between the boring characters.

Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (1996)

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Brand recognition alone ought to pre-sell a third chapter in this anthology film series. It’s somewhat shocking that it’s remained dormant, especially in the wake of so many other inferior—or, at the very least, equally mediocre—horror/comedies.

Take Scary Movie for instance: that lame horror spoof series now officially outnumbers the original Scream series. (And remember, both Scary Movie and Scream are owned by the same studio, and also recall that Wes Craven’s original Scream is itself an homage to and reinvention of the scary movie genre the late filmmaker helped to shape in the ’70s and ’80s, so in its own way both series comment on the same cinematic mythos, and also on each other…and when you think about all the exponential levels of reference and satire being juggled and how a snake could eat its own tail and then ask for seconds, it makes the head hurt.)

There’s no end in sight: potential future targets of whatever mockery Scary Movie 6 will manage are probably now playing at your local gigaplex. All this to say I see no reason why the masters of the Crypt Keeper oughtn’t to give the decrepit old puppet a few new dreadful puns to screech while bookending some sort of horror/comedy frat-house spook-fest packed with old-school gore, creative cuss words, and really big boobs.

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