Some people would argue that every sequel is unnecessary.
Blake takes a look at some unnecessary awesomeness.
Blake takes a look at some unnecessary awesomeness.
In yet another year full of sequels and reboots, we've seen our share of franchises coming back from the dead. The X-Files was recently resurrected to mixed praise. Jason Bourne came back for one more bout of shaky-cam espionage. Next year we will be subjected to yet another reboot of Friday the 13th. And continuing its string of phenomenal decision making, Warner Bros has announced they're bringing back Scooby Doo. Hell, a sequel to SLC Punk (do not adjust your eyes) recently appeared on Netflix. But it got us thinking: Are there some unnecessary sequels out there that kick a lot of ass? It turns out, yes there are.
Before we get into the list, we have to come up with some ground rules for what constitutes an "unnecessary sequel." There are two rules, and they must meet one or both criteria.
1) The sequel must be released more than five years after its predecessor. After enough time passes, people stop caring and the desire for a sequel dies. Robert Rodriguez would've done well to abide by this rule before he put out crap like Sin City 2.
2) The sequel must come after a franchise-destroying sequel. We're talking the worst of the worst, here. Star Trek V, Halloween III, Superman IV... movies that don't just let a series die, but takes it out behind a dumpster to beat whatever we loved about it to death with a lead pipe.
Aliens (1986) | written and directed by James Cameron
Ridley Scott's original science fiction game changer left audiences with a coda of such nihilistic finality, it was impossible to feel happy. I mean, it's kind of a happy ending, I guess, but is it really? When your Freudian nightmare monster has already killed Harry Dean Stanton and left Sigourney Weaver floating in stasis with her asshole cat, where do you go from here? Enter James Cameron, who has a penchant for crafting sequels that not only surpass their potential, but rank among the best films in their respective genres. To this day, Aliens remains the movie that Michael Bay keeps failing to make; a thriller of fever pitch intensity propelled by equal parts pulse-pounding action and heartfelt characterization (it's the last part Bay always struggles with). Over thirty years after its initial release, Aliens remains unmatched in the action sci-fi genre as a piece of pure craftsmanship... except by Terminator 2, which goes without saying, and that's is why we mention it here instead of taking up two spots on the list.
American Reunion (2012) | written and directed by Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz
American Pie is kind of the unofficial cultural perennial for my generation. It was released in 1999 to the kind of critical and audience accolades we believed to be strictly reserved for John Hughes comedies. Its success drove the producers to spit out two lackluster but adequate sequels in rapid succession. After that, the series devolved and submerged itself into the cesspool of straight to video spinoff land. Nearly a decade after American Wedding, the franchise officially had worn out its welcome. So it was without much fanfare that in 2012, the falling stars of Jason Biggs and Seann William Scott combined their finances to bring us another sequel that reunited the cast. This not only worked but downright hit it out of the park, becoming one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises on this list. Despite delivering on the series' staple promises of irreverent tits and ass and raunch, it's also the most mature and satisfying entry in the series, on a par with -- and in some ways, even surpassing -- the original. It might have taken ten years to finally give this cast the proper send off the third film failed on, but it was worth the wait.
Clerks II (2006) | written and directed by Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith was one of a select group of filmmakers who all busted out onto the scene in 1994 to put Miramax on the map as a major powerhouse champion of low budget independent movies. The original Clerks won him the Cinema d'Or at Cannes for best first feature, laying the groundwork for a career that's seen many ups and downs. Anyone else remember Cop Out? Me neither. After Jersey Girl tanked and sank like a luxury liner in the North Atlantic, who would have ever thought that picking up with slackers Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) ten years later would be so damn rewarding? Of his comedic work, Clerks II remains Smith's best feature to date. Every single running gag hits the bull's eye, and the chemistry between the leads -- joined by a very welcome and lovely Rosario Dawson -- is better than ever. Combine the laughs with a heartfelt, emotional payoff, and you have another modern classic from a director who continues to surprise just when we all thought he was out of tricks.
Dawn of the Dead (1978) | written and directed by George A. Romero
If there's one movie in the world that did not leave itself open to further exploration, it's Night of the Living Dead. Like a bullet to the head, the 1968 public domain masterpiece ends with one of the bleakest, shocking, and most hopeless denouements ever filmed. How do you follow that up? Well, you continue with the theme of sociopolitical commentary since there are no characters left to follow. Pack a small group of struggling survivors into a gift-wrapped monument to American consumer culture, and you've got low hanging fruit that's ripe for picking. George A. Romero's savage story of a world gone mad in the midst of a zombie apocalypse is flat out amazing, standing head and shoulders above even its own predecessor. It's brutal, hilarious, exciting, and is a two hour master class on social satire for the era. Dawn of the Dead isn't just the definitive zombie film of all time, it's one of the best films ever made.
Escape from LA (1996) | directed by John Carpenter
Call it cheesy. Call the special effects laughable. Call the glasses I'm wearing rose-colored with nostalgia. I don't care. Escape From LA was amazing fun then, and it's an awesome time now. Working from a recycled plot and a script boiling over with anti-Hollywood sentiment, John Carpenter's hilarious action satire takes a promising 80s icon and turns him into an anti-hero for the ages. Kurt Russell's performance as Snake Plissken, complete with his trademark Clint Eastwood growl and disdain for all things authoritarian, is the kindling that set Carpenter's imagination ablaze. The result is like a wind-up Jack in the box armed with dynamite. You expect the top to pop with gag-filled delight, but what you don't expect is the explosion that's unquestionably one of the best endings of all time, of any film, in any genre, ever. Period. When you can manage to pack surfer Henry Fonda and a transexual Pam Grier into the mix, that doesn't hurt either.
The Exorcist III a.k.a. Legion (1990) | written and directed by William Peter Blatty
Originally titled Legion and completely unrelated to the William Friedkin classic, Exorcist III is part demonic possession thriller and part crime procedural. Written and directed by Exorcist novelist Wiliam Peter Blatty, Legion became a "sequel" due to the marketing "geniuses" at Warner Bros who wanted to capitalize on the success of the original film, hoping audiences were dumb enough to magically forget how horrible Exorcist II was. Well, we didn't forget, and so Exorcist III didn't garner much interest. Over the last 26 years, the film has found a cult audience, and thanks to Shout Factory, we are finally on the verge of seeing Blatty's original vision for Legion on blu-ray. All we can say is, it's about time. This is first-rate filmmaking, featuring one of the most terrifying performances by an actor in the history of the horror genre. Brad Dourif's turn as a mental patient who may or may not be possessed by the soul of the Gemini Killer downright chills you to the bone. It belongs on anyone's list of great roles that should have been nominated for Oscars. Pair that up with the always dependable George C. Scott, and you have a criminally neglected genre classic powered by two actors at the top of their game.
Men in Black III (2012) | directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
After a string of failures following the cultural phenomenon known as Men in Black, including a subpar sequel and the Robin Williams vehicle (pun intended) RV, Barry Sonnenfeld's dive back into the well for a third MiB was seen as little more than a vain attempt at recapturing lightning in a bottle. MiB2 was proof in the pudding that this was a one trick pony and should be left alone. Right? Audiences could not have been more surprised to find that this installment was just as funny and biting as the original. Powered by Will Smith's charisma and Josh Brolin turning in one of the most shockingly entertaining supporting performances of the year, Men in Black 3 not only resurrected a dead bug, but ends with an emotional knockout punch that makes the first two films better in retrospect. This is how you do a blockbuster sequel right.
Psycho II (1982) | directed by Richard Franklin
If there's one movie in the history of films that didn't need a sequel -- or a shot for shot remake -- it's Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Members of the Blockbuster Video generation remember seeing the VHS box cover for this and thinking, "Really?" But eventually every film geek goes through a masochistic phase, during which time movies like The Stepfather 2, Texas Chainsaw 3, and all manner of Jeff Burr-directed dreck find their way into your home theater. Mixed in amongst all the unnecessary horror sequels made during the 80s, Psycho II is like a breath of fresh air. Richard Franklin's absurdly well made sequel is the kind of experience that makes you keenly aware of being alone in your house. Tom Holland's calculated script is an exercise in pure paranoid terror, balanced with discombobulating touches of surreal mind games. Beautifully shot by the legendary Dean Cundey, featuring painterly matte work from Albert Whitlock, and anchored by another iconic Anthony Perkins performance, Psycho II is a ride that no one ever forgets.
Rocky Balboa and Creed (2006/2015) | directed by Sylvester Stallone and Ryan Coogler
When news of a sixth Rocky was first announced, sixteen years after its abysmal predecessor, everyone breathed the same collective sigh. Rocky V wasn't bad enough? Then the film was released, and that scornful sigh turned into a colossal "Hell yes!! Stallone is back!!" In tandem with his fourth Rambo film, Stallone's back to back writing and directing efforts completely revitalized two dead series, not only making them kickass and relevant again, but reminding us why Stallone became such a cultural icon in the first place. Nine years later, news of a spinoff following the career of Apollo Creed's son was announced to similar skepticism. Why beat a dead horse? Is this necessary? Well, maybe not, but Creed knocked out its opponents on all levels. Headlined by award-worthy performances from Stallone and Michael B. Jordan, Creed stands as the best Rocky film since the original, and solidified its writer-director Ryan Coogler's position on the Hollywood A-list of up and coming filmmakers. They may have been unnecessary sequels, but we don't want a world without them.
Toy Story 3 (2010) | directed by Lee Unkrich
Each of Pixar's masterful Toy Story pictures could be the last. Each one feels complete unto itself, but when taken together tell an emotional story arc that only becomes more satisfying with age. Originally planned as a straight to video sequel, Pixar and Disney knew they had something special, and released Toy Story 2 in theaters. We were all ecstatic and hoped for more, but after a decade of silence, people called it good. Another Toy Story didn't seem likely. Then, in 2010, we were given Toy Story 3. Holy hot damn, we thought it couldn't get any better!! The most hysterically funny and heart-wrenching entry yet, Toy Story 3 continues to build on the limitless imagination of the world John Lasseter gave us in 1995. Like the toys themselves evolving as characters, this is a series that means more and more to us as we grow up with it. With this as its current capstone, Toy Story just may be the only perfect movie trilogy ever made.
- Blake O. Kleiner
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