As far as I can tell, 1990 had more series-destroying sequels than any year before or since. And most of these sequels to popular films didn’t exactly go out on a high note, like, say, Return of the King. Most of them deserved their fate.
Of course, not every sequel was poorly received in 1990. Die Hard 2: Die Harder made more than its predecessor and led to other successful sequels. Child’s Play 2 still made a decent amount compared to the original Child’s Play, and it even had a few popular sequels of its own. And, while Back to the Future Part III made significantly less than the first two films in its series, it’s still a fantastic film.
With that said, here are 16 sequels that either outright killed or significantly hobbled their popular film series in 1990. I separated them into six categories.
Two movies came out in 1990 that I bet you didn’t even know were sequels to popular films.
Remember 1984’s Purple Rain, Prince’s breakthrough hit movie? Me neither. But apparently that non-classic made enough money to warrant a sequel, even if it didn’t have enough of a story to warrant one. The result, which was written and directed by its star, Prince, is so bad it couldn’t even recoup its $6 million budget. Oh, and the bridge it was named after was torn down shortly after the film was made, just to add insult to injury.
The Two Jakes
Chinatown – the epitome of ‘70s cinematic cynicism – got a sequel 16 years later in the form of The Two Jakes. The film was directed by its star, Jack Nicholson, and it was supposed to be the second in a trilogy of films, but those plans were frustrated by The Two Jakes’ inability to find an audience. That’s Chinatown, Jake.
The 1980s spawned a lot of scary yet funny movies. But the sequels to those films couldn’t recapture the magic of their predecessors, despite all the effort that went into them.
Bride of Re-Animator
1985’s Re-Animator is a quirky horror-comedy that blatantly ripped off the score from Psycho while its characters were ripping off people’s heads. Its sequel was pretty good, but not enough to get out from under the original’s shadow. Oh, and in 2003 they made another entry in this series, but it hardly qualifies since it debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel and it barely even got a theatrical release.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
This movie is crazy. The original Gremlins took people by surprise with its sudden shift from family drama to violent comedy. Its sequel ups the ante so high it becomes a live-action cartoon. Everything you could want from a movie about homicidal puppets is stuffed into Gremlins 2: The New Batch with plenty of zaniness to spare. Why did this film fail? Maybe they waited too long after the first film or maybe its release date was to blame. It came out the same day as Dick Tracy and just two weeks after Total Recall. Whatever it was, maybe it’s a good thing they never tried to top this movie. I don’t know if that’s humanly possible.
Follow-ups to 1987 Action Classics
Talk about tough acts to follow. Predator and RoboCop deserved better sequels than what they got.
Predator 2 was doomed from the start. John McTiernan was busy directing The Hunt for Red October and Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t interested in reprising his role as Dutch, so the two best things the original had going for it were out of the picture. The filmmakers tried to make a decent action movie out of what they had to work with, and they succeeded in some ways. But the sequel is a major disappointment after the first film’s brilliant simplicity. Years later they made a few quasi-sequels in the forms of Alien vs. Predator, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, and Predators. But the first sequel hobbled the series and it never recovered the same level of quality as the original Predator.
This film is just a shadow of the first RoboCop, especially in light of the fact that the first film is an almost perfect chiasmus. I haven’t looked at RoboCop 2’s structure too closely, but I think it’s safe to say this movie didn’t achieve anything as aesthetically pleasing as its predecessor. You just can’t top greatness sometimes, even if you’ve got the director of The Empire Strikes Back at the helm. RoboCop 3 came out three years later, but Peter Weller wisely bowed out of the titular role. That movie comes across as a silly kid-friendly version of the original. I’ve heard the same criticism of the 2014 remake, too.
1990 saw the resurrection of many long-dormant movie series. Unfortunately, they all came back to life just long enough to see themselves be killed again.
The Exorcist III
It had been 13 years since the last Exorcist movie came out when this little gem came along. Unfortunately, time hadn’t made people forget how horrible Exorcist II: The Heretic was, nor had it led fans of the original to clamor for another sequel, so this movie fell below most moviegoers’ radars. That’s too bad because it is a genuinely frightening film with great performances by George C. Scott and Brad Dourif.
The Godfather Part III
Much has been written about The Godfather Part III’s place as the black sheep of its series. To sum it all up, Paramount made Francis Ford Coppola an offer he couldn’t refuse, Coppola made Robert Duvall an offer that the actor flat out refused, and the resulting film feels tired and lacking creativity when it should have been an epic conclusion to the Corleone family legacy. It’s not a terrible movie, but it could have been so much more, especially if they had included Duvall’s character in the story.
The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter
1984’s The NeverEnding Story is a wonderful children’s movie. It speaks to the destruction of children’s imaginations as they forget about old books and good storytelling and instead turn to mindless entertainment. Unfortunately, the sequel traded these deep ideas for shallow characters and contrived situations. They made an even worse third film, but hardly anybody saw it after they saw this sad excuse for a sequel.
The Rescuers Down Under
The Rescuers came out during Disney’s forgotten era of animation. They hadn’t made a great film since 1967’s The Jungle Book. The Rescuers introduced some interesting characters, but didn’t take time to develop them. Fast forward 13 years and Disney is back on top, having just made the hit film The Little Mermaid. Their next project? A sequel to The Rescuers. But this time around they fixed the original film’s pacing issues, lame music, stilted dialogue, and other problems and turned out a truly great film that ranks as one of my favorite sequels. But tragically, few paid attention to The Rescuers Down Under when it arrived in theaters. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should definitely check it out. You are in for a treat.
At least these filmmakers had the decency to hurry up and pump out a quick sequel that never pretends to be anything good.
Look Who’s Talking Too
Just one year after the sleeper Look Who’s Talking came out, its sequel hit theaters. And it was terrible. While the original had a funny voiceover by Bruce Willis, the sequel adds Roseanne Barr’s grating voice into the mix and focuses a lot of attention on potty training and the whole thing goes south awfully quick. Five years later the filmmakers tried to squeeze a few more dollars out of this dead series, but audiences were smart enough to stay home from Look Who’s Talking Now.
Three Men and a Little Lady
Leonard Nimoy’s 1987 blockbuster Three Men and a Baby is an enjoyable, if dated, comedy of errors. It certainly didn’t need a sequel, but the smell of money was just too much and thus Three Men and a Little Lady was born. And it’s about as fresh as a three-year old used diaper. There’s basically nothing that this film does that the original didn’t do better, and all of the new elements it introduces, like the evil fiancé and the last-minute race to stop the wedding, have been done to death in other better movies.
Young Guns II
1988’s Young Guns had an all-star cast, including Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Palance, and Terence Stamp. Critics didn’t care for it, but it made a decent amount of money. The sequel added a few new faces, like Viggo Mortensen and Christian Slater. Critics disliked it even more, but it made an almost identical amount of money as the first one. Luckily, the filmmakers knew when to quit and they ended up ahead.
Trying to Regain Former Glory
By the end of the ‘80s, some actors could sense they were starting to enter a downward spiral in their careers, so they tried to relive the glory days by making a sequel to their past successes. But it proved to be too little, too late.
Another 48 Hrs.
The early ‘90s were not kind to Eddie Murphy. Not only was the wildly successful comedian from the ‘80s experiencing the lowest point of his career, but he was also suffering from severe depression. Apparently he thought it would be a good idea to return to his old successes to try to rekindle the magic from his early film career. Unfortunately, Another 48 Hrs. was not the answer. Its title sounds lazy, the chemistry between Nick Nolte and Murphy is gone, and it’s just a very forgettable film. This movie made more money than the original 48 Hrs., but it cost Murphy his audience for many years to come.
Delta Force 2
With his Missing in Action series coming to a close two years earlier and his other films underperforming at the box office, perpetual B-list action star Chuck Norris tried returning to the Delta Force franchise in 1990. It didn’t end well for him. The film earned a paltry $6.7 million, $11 million less than the original. They did make a third Delta Force movie, but it was so bad that Chuck Norris didn’t even appear in it.
Poor Talia Shire. She had starred in the first two Godfather films and the first four Rocky films and she saw those popular series through to the bitter end in 1990. Rocky V majorly underperformed, earning about a third of Rocky IV’s worldwide gross. The movie tried to emulate the original Rocky in many ways, but it wound up being a major embarrassment for everyone involved. The Rocky series was brought back for one final farewell for the beloved boxer in 2006, but Shire was a no-show that time around. It’s hard to blame her.
A Cautionary Tale
As Hollywood tries to milk every recognizable franchise they can with remakes, sequels, prequels, and reboots, it’s important to keep in mind that that isn’t always a recipe for success. Not every year is going to be as bad as 1990, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never see a repeat of that year’s string of disasters. The focus should always be on the quality of the product and not just its marketability.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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