What Is the Ideal Amount of Time Between Superhero Sequels?

It’s been three years since the last Avengers movie, so it’s about time we see another epic collection of superheroes taking on a larger-than-life villain powered by at least one Infinity Stone. That got me thinking: Is three years the ideal amount of time between superhero sequels? If not, what is?

There’s no magic formula that says superhero films have to come out a certain number of years apart, but it is worth noting that actors don’t live forever, and it’s not easy for them to stay in ridiculously good shape for years on end to embody their roles. Let’s see if we can spot a pattern in the amount of time between superhero sequels and the quality of those sequels. We’ll discuss good and bad examples and then tally them up in the end to see which number of years is ideal.

1 Year

There has yet to be an example of a good superhero film coming out just one year after its predecessor. The first one I can think of is 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. It’s not a terrible film and it has a special kind of charm to it, but it’s a major step down from the 1990 classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Then there’s 2017’s Justice League, which arrived just a year after 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both films are bad in their own ways.

2 Years

The Good

Superman II debuted in 1980, just two years after the original Superman: The Movie in 1978. These are two amazing films, so I have a hard time saying which one is better. Both were shot at the same time, though a lot of Superman II was reshot by Richard Lester, so it makes sense that it was able to be completed so quickly and that it followed in the first film’s footsteps so well. They are the original standard for a superhero origin story and follow-up.

For a long time, 2004’s Spider-Man 2 was my favorite Spider-Man movie. It continues the story from 2002’s Spider-Man seamlessly while adding a lot of new material and putting its own spin on the character. Also, I like 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. It’s not a perfect film, but I don’t see any reason to come close to hating it. It does a fine job continuing the story started in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man.

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. It’s got plenty of cringeworthy moments at the start, but it’s an improvement on 2005’s Fantastic Four, and it’s actually pretty fun. I’ll throw it into this category because it’s a guilty pleasure.

2016’s Captain America: Civil War debuted just two years after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s a tough act to follow. There are a lot of things about it that I love, even though it’s not as good as The Winter Soldier. But all things considered, it’s a solid film, and it introduced us to the best Spider-Man yet.

The Bad

1993’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and 2016’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows both debuted two years after their respective predecessors. And they’re both quite bad.

1997’s Batman & Robin is the only Batman film to come out just two years after the previous installment. And it shows. It’s just a retread of 1995’s Batman Forever, but in a way that insults the audience’s intelligence.

I saw Blade many years ago, and I barely remember it. I’ve heard the 2002 sequel is great, but the third film really dropped the ball. So based on what I’ve heard, 2004’s Blade: Trinity belongs in this category.

Do I even need to say anything about 2003’s Daredevil or 2005’s Elektra, which is a quasi-sequel/spinoff? They’re both really hard to sit through.

2010’s Iron Man 2 is one of the few Marvel movies I never care to revisit. It’s a big letdown after the amazing Iron Man, which was a game changer back in 2008.

I have tried to watch 2013’s Thor: The Dark World a few times, and I have never been able to finish it. So I can’t comment on its quality, but from what I hear it is a step down from the already mediocre Thor, which came out in 2011.

2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse is the first film in the series to debut just two years after the previous one. It tried to equal 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past in its spectacle and emotional impact, but it just couldn’t live up to expectations.

3 Years

The Good

Batman usually does well when his films are three years apart. 1995’s Batman Forever is a perfectly decent sequel to 1992’s Batman Returns, and, of course, 2008’s The Dark Knight is one of the best sequels of all time, deepening the story begun in 2005’s Batman Begins.

The X-Men started strong with 2000’s X-Men and 2003’s X2: X-Men United. 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past also debuted three years after the equally excellent X-Men: First Class. When the filmmakers take their time on these films, they usually craft good stories.

As I noted a long time ago, 2013’s Iron Man 3 is what 2010’s Iron Man 2 should have been. It’s a solid movie, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the original.

I love all of the Captain America movies, so it’s no surprise that 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Solider belongs here after the strong debut of the character in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger.

2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is not as good as 2012’s The Avengers. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. I doubt any sequel could have topped such an amazing original. But maybe I’ll be proven wrong. Hopefully 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War will also deserve to be here.

I’m astonished that 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t as beloved as 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. I know it doesn’t have the same surprise factor as the original, which came like a bolt of lightning, but it’s still a great film from beginning to end.

The Bad

Even though I’ve gained more respect for 1983’s Superman III over the years, it’s still disappointing compared to the first two films in the series. It’s like Lois Lane said at the end of 1980’s Superman II, “You’re kind of a tough act to follow.” Oh, and 2013’s Man of Steel was bad enough, but nothing could prepare me for 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

I’ll probably anger a lot of people by saying this, but I think 1992’s Batman Returns is a bad film. It’s certainly nowhere near as good as 1989’s Batman. I’m sorry, but the climax involves a bunch of penguins with rockets strapped to their backs waddling down the streets of Gotham City. I can’t take this film seriously after that.

2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand failed for many reasons, most notably because director Bryan Singer left to make Superman Returns.

2007’s Spider-Man 3 is awful. What a lackluster way to finish the story of 2004’s Spider-Man 2.

4 Years

The Good

Again, I have to admit I’ve never seen the Blade sequels, but from what I can gather, 2002’s Blade II is a solid sequel to the 1998 hit Blade.

Hellboy came out in 2004, and it surprised a lot of people. It had no right to be as good as it was. It got a sequel in 2008 called Hellboy: The Golden Army. I liked it, but it just felt like more of the same. I would have liked to have seen a third film to finish Hellboy’s story, but I guess I’ll have to settle for a reboot somewhere down the line.

2012’s The Dark Knight Rises isn’t as good as 2008’s The Dark Knight, but I can’t bring myself to call any Christopher Nolan film bad outright. It’s ambitious, and it definitively concludes the story. That’s admirable in a world of seemingly endless comic-book movie sequels.

2013’s The Wolverine is an improvement on 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It has a consistent tone for about 90 percent of the movie, but then the ending descends into ridiculousness. So it barely deserves to be included in the good category. 2017’s Logan unequivocally belongs here, though. By the time that film debuted, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart had been playing Wolverine and Professor Xavier, respectively, for 17 years, so they deserved to finally put their characters to rest in a dignified way.

2017’s Thor: Ragnarok is the only Thor movie I thoroughly enjoy. It’s actually fun, unlike 2013’s Thor: The Dark World or the original film. It took four years to bring this sequel to the screen, but it was worth the wait.

The Bad

Are there any defenders of 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace out there? I didn’t think so. It’s sad to see the Man of Steel descend far below 1983’s Superman III.

I never saw either of the Punisher movies from the 2000s, but from what I hear, 2008’s Punisher: War Zone is a far cry from 2004’s mediocre The Punisher.

I avoided 2007’s Ghost Rider and 2011’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance like the plague because I heard they bore at least some resemblance to the Daredevil trainwreck.

Final Tally

For those of you keeping score, that’s:

  • 1 Year: 0-2
  • 2 Years: 5-8
  • 3 Years: 8-5
  • 4 Years: 6-3

The longer the gap, the better the odds of making a good movie. In my opinion, three or four years between superhero sequels is ideal. I didn’t include X-Men: First Class in this calculation because it came out five years after X-Men: The Last Stand, and it’s a prequel with an entirely new cast. But that would definitely be in the good category, and it further cements my case that more time leads to better consequences. Also, the sequel to 2016’s Deadpool is due out this year, as is the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man. And 2004’s The Incredibles is getting a long-awaited sequel in a few months, as well. We’ll see how those sequels turn out, and if they tip the scales one way or the other.

It’s better for superhero films to take their time, think things through, and give filmmakers a chance to do something special instead of churning out a new film as quickly as possible. The latter strategy is what Marvel seemed to be trying to do early on. But it’s matured into a nice rhythm since then, giving its characters room to breathe. Putting out sequels every three or four years might mean having to cycle through actors fairly frequently, but as long as the spirit of the characters remains intact, it’s worth it.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.

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About Robert Lockard, the Deja Reviewer

Robert Lockard has been a lover of writing since he was very young. He studied public relations in college, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 2006. His skills and knowledge have helped him to become a sought-after copywriter in the business world. He has written blogs, articles, and Web content on subjects such as real estate, online marketing and inventory management. His talent for making even boring topics interesting to read about has come in handy. But what he really loves to write about is movies. His favorite movies include: Fiddler on the Roof, Superman: The Movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, The Fugitive, The Incredibles, and The Dark Knight. Check out his website: Deja Reviewer. Robert lives in Utah with his wife and four children. He loves running, biking, reading, and watching movies with his family.
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