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In Honor Of 'Riddick:' 10 Of The Most Unnecessary Sequels Ever

Features
by Drew Taylor
September 5, 2013 2:11 PM
15 Comments
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If popcorn cinema in 2013 has been defined by one thing, it's been "Sharknado." But if cinema in 2013 has been defined by two things, it's "Sharknado" and... a glut of unnecessary and unwanted sequels. Think about it: "A Good Day to Die Hard," "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," "RED 2," "Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters" "Despicable Me 2," "Kick-Ass 2," "Planes," "The Smurfs 2," "Grown Ups 2." These aren't just movies that are creatively unnecessary, they are movies that it's hard to imagine anyone wanting (though in the Sandler movie's case people bizarrely did actually show up, to humanity's shame). Even "Monsters University," arguably the year's best sequel/prequel/spin-off, wasn't one that seemed that creatively in demand—it was better than expected, but hardly essential. This week sees yet another sequel few were clamoring to hit theaters: "Riddick," the third movie in the series started by 2000's "Pitch Black" and continued with 2004's "The Chronicles of Riddick" (you can read our review here). And it got us thinking about other egregious examples through the years.

A couple of qualifiers: one, there are no direct-to-DVD releases here, so that means "Road House 2: Last Call," "Another Midnight Run," "Christmas Vacation 2: Uncle Eddie's Island Adventure," "Cinderella III: A Twist in Time" and "Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia" are all disqualified (yes, those are all real movies). Also, tv movies are discounted, so sorry, "The Birds II: Lands End," "Splash Too," "Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby" and "Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House." Maybe, just maybe, we'll have an unnecessary sequel to our unnecessary sequel piece and talk about some of these movies; there has yet to be a truly great analysis written about "Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die" and we think we're up to the challenge. But enough about what's not on the list, here's what is...

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” (2004)
Wait, What? Yes, “Anaconda,” the marginally enjoyable creature feature that starred a before-her-prime Jennifer Lopez and an after-his-prime Jon Voight (also: Ice Cube) got a full-fledged theatrical sequel. The producers of this culturally insensitive mess adopted the “hey, if it’s a sequel we should just pluralize the title” angle taken by James Cameron’s “Aliens” and the goofy subtitle approach taken by things like, oh, “Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams.” If only the movie was as pleasurably nonsensical as the title (it’s not). Directed by Dwight H. Little, a kind of Orson Welles of unnecessary sequels (having also directed “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and “Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home”), ‘Anacondas’ is completely free of even the most bargain-basement charms, with a plot that’s cobbled together from a dozen other movies (including everything from “The African Queen” to “Deep Blue Sea”) and performances so wooden and self-serious that it makes the literally winky performance by Voight in the first movie seem like a perfectly calibrated feat of refined subtlety. The plot involves a crew of ragtag scientists and roughnecks who travel deep into the jungle to retrieve the titular flower, thought to have unheard-of medicinal properties. Guess what else the orchids do, though? Make really big fucking snakes (yes, this is the “explanation” for the first movie’s giant reptile). Maybe the “Sharknado”-obsessed cultural climate would be kinder to 'Anacondas' than audiences were in 2004, but it’s tough thinking anyone would love such a boring, gloomy, Tara Reid-free affair. Possibly even more shocking than “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” itself is the fact that it spawned two additional direct-to-television sequels: “Anaconda 3: Offspring” (2008) and “Anacondas: Trail of Blood” (2009), both of which directed by a man named (I shit you not) Don E. FauntLeRoy.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? No. Not at all. The teaser poster for the movie, featuring a swarming mass o’ snake, is way more effective and memorable than anything in the actual movie.

More American Graffiti” (1979)
Wait, What? The tagline for the first “American Graffiti,” George Lucas’ unexpected, pre-“Star Wars” smash about young kids drag racing and carrying on, was “Where were you in ’62?” If you were to ask someone, “Where were you in ’79?” The answer would undoubtedly be: Not watching “More American Graffiti.” Released after Lucas’ success with “Star Wars” (this was in between the first film and “Empire Strikes Back”), the movie is sour from the start, with a Vietnam-set sequence set to Martha and the Vandellas’ “(Love is Like a) Heat Wave.” The sequence is shot like one of the racing sequences from the first film, with two helicopters speeding along a river. Whoever thought that the perfect way to recapture the loose, hangdog fun of the first movie was to set it against the atrocities of the Vietnam war was sorely mistaken and the filmmaking (it's written and directed by bit player Bill L. Norton, with Lucas, by then running his own empire, relegated to producer) is just as horribly tone deaf, going as far as to recreate the boxy, television presentation of the war for added realism/horror. Because, you know, watching Charles Martin Smith bumble through entrenched combat is the height of hilarity. “More American Graffiti” is the anti-“Before Midnight,” where we revisit characters that we wish we were never, ever around again. Take, for instance, the aggressively sexist stuff that Ron Howard, who was so charming and lovable in the first movie, says to his now-wife Cindy Williams. At one point he assures her that, “You’re more than a mother, you’re a wife.” Immediately after he tells her she can’t go to work. Yeah: ick. If the first movie was about the power of nostalgia, this movie is about the dangers of it.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? If you bought the special edition of “American Graffiti” DVD that has the sequel on the other side of the disc (yes, that’s what it’s been relegated to), then you might want to throw it on one night just to see how bad it really is. Also, the music is pretty good if you cover your eyes.

Blues Brothers 2000” (1998)
Wait, What? Nothing screams “unnecessary sequel” like a prolonged period of time between installments. And yet the nearly 20-year gap in between “The Blues Brothers” and “Blues Brothers 2000” is arguably the least of the film’s worries. The movie is dedicated to three members of the original cast who died in between (notably one of the original Brothers, John Belushi) and feels like a film displaced in time, less edgy and contemporary than the original and way, way worse for wear. The plot, taking place immediately after Dan Aykroyd gets out of jail, involves everything from Russian gangsters to an adorable orphan, careening from one sequence and musical number to the next with little in terms of narrative or character arcs. The movie just kind of ambles along, not in the cool, jazzy, free-associative way that everyone hoped, but in the Jesus Christ is this ever going to end?? way. Director John Landis, who also helmed the original, has been outspoken in recent years about how much the studio monkeyed with the project, but he has to take at least part of the blame—for the slack pacing, for the '70s-variety-show staging of the musical numbers, for the atrocious performances (John Goodman tries admirably to fill in for John Belushi but never quite pulls it off). Maybe most baffling is the subplot involving Joe Morton from “Speed” as the illegitimate son of the Cab Calloway character from the first movie, who regularly places phone calls to find out Dan Aykroyd’s whereabouts, until he finally joins the band for some reason. Just awful.
Is It Worth Watching, Like, At All? We say no, although Landis is adamant, even when bashing the movie, in saying how great the musical numbers are. The music might be great but the numbers themselves are just as clumsily staged as the rest of the movie. If you want to see Aretha Franklin perform “Respect” in a Mercedes dealership, though, this is the movie for you. We repeat: just awful.

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15 Comments

  • Ryan O. | September 7, 2013 12:10 AMReply

    I feel since Diesel was the one who helped get the new "Riddick" up and running, another unnecessary sequel that should have been mentioned - for at least following a similar path to the big screen - is "Escape From L.A." Kurt Russell had wanted to return to play Snake, and that helped get the sequel made, and though it is kind of fun, it did not need to be made.

  • rotch | September 6, 2013 11:12 AMReply

    Five words: An American Werewolf in Paris

  • cljohnston108 | September 6, 2013 8:18 AMReply

    Just because you weren't waiting for a new 'Riddick' movie doesn't mean that nobody else was.

  • Northern Star | September 5, 2013 10:19 PMReply

    If no-one else will, then I'll stand up for 'The Godfather Part III'... is it as good as it's two matchless predecessors, absolutely not, but is it unnecessary, I would say again absolutely not! It gives Michael Corleone's story a proper (if tragic) conclusion, and it shows that despite gaining the highest in both wealth and power, that crime does NOT pay in the end... and it's invariably the innocent that will pay the ultimate price for the sins of others! Paramount didn't give Coppola and Puzo the time or the release date they wanted to make the film as good they could, and they treated Robert Duvall like dirt, meaning Tom Hagen was missing from the final film when he was originally to be one of the two most important characters in it... and THAT'S why it wasn't as good as it could or indeed should have been, but despite those flaws, it's still a very good and worthy film, more so in comparison to the junk the studios put out nowadays!

  • MitstaTMason | September 6, 2013 12:04 AM

    I think Part III was so unnecessary because we didn't really need to see some explicit loss of family for Michael. He finished Part II having murdered his brother, losing the love of his wife, and seeing his moral compass entirely fade away. In Part I, he was grappling with good and evil, which he presumably lost the battle to when he had his brother-in-law killed. Throughout the second film, we constantly see his descension into evil until he is completely consumed and becomes a psychopath. We also get the beautifully horrific vision of the American Dream with Vito's rise to power. Considering the Catholic symbolism of the entire series, with the distinction of good and evil, the third film just seemed like overkill to explicitly beat us over the head with all of the moral messages and symbolism implicitly conveyed in the first two. It stuck a trivial exclamation point on the intelligently placed period ending the first two films.

  • Josh | September 5, 2013 6:00 PMReply

    Leonard Part 6

  • Sean | September 5, 2013 4:11 PMReply

    If its unnecessary, I would take that it's not worth watching. Seems pointless to mention that.

  • J.K | September 5, 2013 3:48 PMReply

    the whole ten yards.

  • TC Kirkham | September 5, 2013 3:29 PMReply

    You forgot one of the WORST sequels of all time - how could you do this article and NOT mention one of the most terrifying titles of all time - "Grease 2"...AAHHHHHHHHHHH!

  • jean vigo | September 5, 2013 2:59 PMReply

    What about every 'mumblecore' film after "Funny Ha Ha?" Would they all count as sequels, or would they be part of some deft exercise in an ongoing episodic in which the directors and actors (sometimes) rotate?
    Imagine splicing them all together into one giant epic. You could walk in and out of the 30 hours without having missed anything critical to understanding the recycling proceedings, imho.

  • Sean | September 5, 2013 4:09 PM

    That's like saying the French New Wave is a franchise or series instead of a movement/sun genre.

  • Ignacio | September 5, 2013 2:24 PMReply

    ''marginally enjoyable'', that just made my day. Anaconda is the first feature I saw by myself in the movies, i was...8? or something. creepy. Great 90s exploitation, Owen Wilson is in it! that's a plus for ANY movie.

  • fadoka30 | September 5, 2013 2:21 PMReply

    Hilarious feature.

  • DUC | September 6, 2013 11:37 AM

    @JSHR
    Hellboy 2 was good. Nuada was an awesome villain.

  • Jshr | September 6, 2013 4:27 AM

    More unnecessary examples: Boondock Saints 2, Green Street Holigans 2, Saw II-III-IV-V-VI-3D, Schumacher's Batman series, Jurassic Park II-III, American Pie 2-3-4-5-6, Hellboy II, Blade II-III, a dozen of Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Piranha, Predator, Alien, Scary Movie series.
    Not sure to add Resident Evil series as unnecessary sequels, because the 1st movie is also unnecessary :)

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