Fans (and possibly casual movie goers) may have noticed a trend in the superhero film genre; that the third entry in any trilogy (or quadrilogy) ends up being noticeably weaker than its two predecessors. It’s a strange phenomenon that can possibly be explained by the fact that either ideas run thin by the time these franchises reach their third film, or that the studio executives backing the projects decide that they want more influence in the final product. Whatever the case, here is a list of nine films that prove that such a pattern is real (and a little scary).
8. Superman III
The first Superman was heralded as revolutionary both for its reintroduction of the Man of Steel into mainstream culture and for making us believe that a man could fly (i.e. it’s visionary special effects). While the great writing and direction were major complements to the effects, it was primarily star Christopher Reeve’s performance that many cited as the source of the film’s success.
The large success of Superman led to the already filming sequel receiving a green light. However, budget problems and conflicts between director Richard Donner and the producers led to his removal and replacement by Richard Lester. Superman II proved to be a near-equally compelling film to its prequel, though it received some criticism for its depiction of slapstick humor.
Unfortunately, these criticisms proved to be foreshadows for what would become the precursor to many poor threequels. Superman III returned with both Reeve and Lester, but ended up becoming a campy film relying too heavily on famed comedian Richard Pryor. The immature changes to the series’ formula were a turn off to many fans, culminating in low box office returns. Even though the fourth entry ended up worse than the third, the curse had established itself in the industry and was here to stay.
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III
Okay, so the first two TMNT films weren’t exactly good. The fact remains that they were two cult classics exploring a popular comic book team. They blended silly humor and over the top action well enough that franchise had at least established a standard, no matter how low.
Unfortunately, tired ideas found their way into the script of the third film, including a poorly executed time travel gimmick. The result was a TMNT movie that lacked the same childlike appeal the first two had. Still, there is a good chance that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III will still be better than the upcoming 2014 Michael Bay reboot….
6. Batman Forever
Eleven years after Superman hit the big screens, Batman made his cinematic debut (okay technically not debut, but we’ll be ignoring the theatrical Adam West picture). Though some creative decisions such as combining the Joker with Joe Chill and Alfred letting Vickie Vale into the Batcave were met negatively by fans, director Tim Burton’s gothic take on the character made the film a critical and financial success.
The sequel, Batman Returns, featured Tim Burton and Michael Keaton returning to the series with newcomers Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, and Michelle Pfeiffer joining the cast. Even though the film was met with greater reviews than the first, the lower ticket sales and what was considered “too dark” atmosphere of the film led to the start of the demise of the film series.
For the third film, the producers wanted to take a more family friendly approach to the Batman character, causing them to remove Burton as director which soon led to Keaton dropping out as well. Joel Schumacher was hired as director and brought along writer Akiva Goldsman. No words need to be wasted on the bat nipples and cod pieces that were somehow perceived as appealing to kids, but the end result was a very cheesy film equal in campiness to Superman III. The third film curse had continued, leaving the Batman franchise to be destroyed with Batman & Robin.