So far, the biggest money-making film this year is “Beauty and the Beast”, a Disney film that is a live-action remake of Disney’s own animation film. It’s basically a carbon copy of the original film, but with inferior musical renditions of the songs on the original soundtrack.
We live in a time when Disney can just remake their own movies and people still flock to see it. Every year Disney also releases a sequel to the Marvel franchise and then the Star Wars franchise and soon the Avatar franchise too. It’s depressing, I know. But it’s the way things work now.
This is why it’s a good idea to look back at some of the franchise sequels that didn’t just remake the original. Sequels filled with bold, even imaginative choices. Sometimes this works beautifully, and sometimes these choices were hilariously misguided, as we will see. But whether or not you like any of these films, at least the filmmakers tried something different.
In this day and age, that’s something very special.
10. Alien 3
The behind the scenes struggles of “Alien 3” are well known. Many fans have heard about the constant bickering, script changes, the fact that sets were being built without a fully realized script. The fact that the film turned out to be so coherent is a miracle.
The film has both detractors and fans and both sides are equally understandable. As a sequel, it’s bizarre and even offensive to its core fans. After the action thrill-ride of James Cameron’s “Aliens”, we move onto a gloomy and depressing “Alien 3”.
It starts by killing the three of the four survivors of “Aliens”, leaving Ripley stranded in a prison colony full of religious rapists and murderers. It’s not something many fans wanted and their frustration is justified. After everything they went through, only to kill them off screen in the beginning (with the added bonus of hearing that Ripley’s surrogate daughter drowned), it’s incredibly frustrating and mean-spirited.
It’s weird that after everything that went on behind the scenes, that this unconventional, gloomy horror film was the end result. You’d expect something closer to “Aliens”, something with more heart-pumping action. You wouldn’t expect to be having to root for a bunch of inmates with all manner of hideous crimes in the past. In the end, it does work, and you manage to even care for much of the cast due to the great performances involved.
Sigourney Weaver gives perhaps her best performance of the franchise as the tortured Ripley who again has to come face to face with her demon, the Xenomorph. The inmates are played by the likes of Charles Dance, Charles S. Dutton, Danny Webb, Brian Glover, Paul McCann, and the late great Pete Postlethwaite. They all do a splendid job and you really do feel the connection that many of the inmates have with each other. Lance Henriksen also returns in a role that confused many fans.
If you care to see this film, it’s better to see the Assembly cut, which is still not perfect but certainly superior to the theatrical cut. The film still has many problems. The effects don’t hold up, the alien looks particularly bad. It’s never really scary. And it’s a depressing film compared to the crowd-pleaser that was “Aliens”.
Viewing it as a separate film, it’s a daring and unrelenting science-fiction horror filled with religious symbolism and moving performances. In that sense, it’s a great film, as long as you don’t consider it a sequel to “Aliens”.
9. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Technically this film is a prequel to the first film, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, but this hardly matters and most people probably forget this fact. This follow-up received some controversy for its depiction of Hindu culture and graphic violence, and even Spielberg admitted that this was his least favorite of the original trilogy (a comment made before he made the dreadful fourth Indy film).
It’s certainly darker than “Raiders”. George Lucas admitted that it was darker than intended, but seeing as he was going through a tough divorce, his mood shaped the eventual product. While Lucas was getting a divorce, Spielberg met his future wife Kate Capshaw, who plays Indy’s love interest.
In this film, Indiana, his sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan), and his love interest find themselves in India after escaping Chinese gangsters. The threesome encounter a village with people who speak about sacred stones as well as the missing children of their village. They decide to help and they discover an underground temple led by the high-priest Mola Ram (Amrish Puri), who uses the children as slave labor and murders dissidents with magic.
One dreadful consequence of this film was the PG-13 rating. The film received many complaints for its violence and Spielberg himself was dissatisfied with the rating. Thus came PG-13 to bridge the gap between PG and 12 rating. The most troublesome scene was when the film’s Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) pulls the heart out of one of his victims.
In time, however, the film received some slack, though it could never be made here. The stereotypical depiction of the Hindi culture (complete with monkey cuisine) will trigger many of its sensitive audiences. It’s admittedly a weird follow-up to the original due to its extreme nature; aside from the violence and cultural stereotyping, the child slave labor is not something you’d expect in a light-hearted adventure film.
The appeal of this film has only grown over the years, despite some of the negative feedback. It’s a far darker film, sure, but it’s still filled with great set pieces that are the hallmarks of the Indy franchise. As Roger Ebert perfectly stated: ”’Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” makes no apologies for being exactly what it is: exhilarating, manic, wildly imaginative escapism.”
8. Crank: High Voltage
If you thought the original was too over-the-top, then this movie ups the insanity to an unconscionable level. The original concept of having to boost your adrenaline constantly or else you will die was neat, but it obviously didn’t lend itself to a sequel without being derivative. Luckily, the film’s directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who also directed the first film, were aware of this and made a film that mocks its own premise by making it as ridiculous as possible.
It begins right where the first film ends: with Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) nearly dying from his fall of a helicopter. Chinese gangsters scoop him up and save his life by giving him an artificial heart. He escapes but he needs to pump his heart with electricity in order to live. This prompts him to do all sorts of crazy things on his journey as tries to find out what’s going on.
Dwight Yoakam returns as his doctor, giving the necessary exposition again having more to do this time. Amy Smart also returns as Chev’s love interest. The late Corey Haim is also in this movie with a role that is far removed from his 80’s glory. Bai Ling plays a demented hooker who falls for Chev Chelios. If you are concerned about whitewashing, you’ll probably won’t like seeing David Carradine playing a horny old Chinese gangster.
The film also has tons of cameos from Ron Jeremy, Lauren Holly, Glenn Howerton, and the God of Troma films itself, Lloyd Kaufman. Kaufman’s appearance proves the film’s inspirations as this is probably the closest Hollywood will ever come in producing a big-budget Hollywood film.
The film revels in its vulgarity. It’s not for everyone but for those who can stomach it, they will have the time of their lives. It’s a film so brash and unconcerned with the audience’s sensitivity that it ends with a fourth-wall breaking of a burning, smirking Chev Chelios giving us the finger.
7. Gremlins 2: the New Batch
There was no way the sequel to “Gremlins” wasn’t going to be on this list. This film is infamously wild and crazy, and even Key and Peele made a sketch about it.
Joe Dante returns to the director’s chair, but like Hooper, he didn’t feel like retreading familiar ground. Instead, he made a hilarious meta-satire on the previous film and the concept of the sequel itself. It’s filled with amazing animatronics, the quality of which we will probably never see on screen. There are cameos from the likes of Bugs Bunny to Hulk Hogan and countless references that any movie buff will enjoy.
The setting is now a huge skyscraper run by Daniel Clamp (a hilarious John Glover), who is like the kindhearted Donald Trump we never had. The original cast members return: Zach Gilligan and the wonderful Phoebe Cates.
It wouldn’t be a Joe Dante film if Dick Miller wasn’t in there somewhere, and even though he definitely died in the first one, his character is now alive and well again. Naturally Gizmo returns and is as cute as ever. As expected, Gizmo unwillingly spawns the Gremlin creatures again who create havoc all over the skyscraper. Christopher Lee also appears as a mad scientist. What more do you want?
Dante obviously got a lot of creative freedom in this big studio picture, something that doesn’t happen very often. It sadly didn’t make enough money at the box office but it has received the recognition it deserves. Also, Leonard Maltin gets mauled by the Gremlins for giving the original film a bad rating. How genius is that?
6. Jaws: The Revenge
This is a terrible film, for sure. For its sheer weirdness, however, it deserves to be on this list. One wonders what went on in the heads of its producers: ”Hey, let’s make another Jaws sequel. Let’s get Roy Scheider back. Oh, he doesn’t want to return? Okay, then let’s kill him off-screen and focus on his wife’s character instead.” If that sounds stupid, remember that the film’s star, Lorraine Gary, was also the wife of the studio’s chief executive officer.
As the title suggests, a great white shark wants revenge on the Brody family for having killed his fellow white sharks. Brody is killed off-screen (because that’s what you do with such a great character) and the shark also manages to devour one of his sons. The story thus focuses on his wife who flees to the Bahamas (the shark naturally following her) where she befriends a dashing pilot (Michael Caine).
In retrospect, it could have been a lot weirder. Instead of a shark with a personal vendetta, which is moronic enough, the shark was under the influence of a voodoo witch doctor. Scheider was actually asked to return but he declined when he knew that he was going to be killed off in the film’s opening.
Caine only said yes to the film because it gave him a free holiday in the Bahamas, and admittedly I would star in a terrible Jaws film too if I could party in the Bahamas (and I wouldn’t need that extra $1.5 million either). Also, if you thought the shark looked fake in the first film, wait until you see this.
The film’s ending was reshot with the shark exploding when impaled with a pole, for no other reason other than having a neat explosion to please the masses. It’s wonderfully stupid.
The late great comedian Richard Jeni mocked this film to hilarity on stage and the film has received some notoriety for being so bad it’s good. You be the judge of that.