5. S. Darko
“Donnie Darko” may be considered the quintessential cult film from the early 2000s. It launched the career of Jake Gyllenhaal, who gave a very convincing performance as the troubled titular character.
The film, written by Richard Kelly, smartly walks the line between teen drama and science fiction, and ends up being both a believable portrayal of teenage angst and an haunting tale of the supernatural. The film left many questions unanswered, but ended on a satisfyingly melancholic note, and there was certainly no need for a sequel. Continuing the story would have meant ruining the unique atmosphere of the first film.
Of course, someone still did. Without involving original writer-director Richard Kelly, “S. Darko” was released in 2009, and was a critical and commercial failure. The story follows the sister of Donnie as she gets involved, similarly to her brother, into a mysterious series of events regarding impending death and time travel.
The film is uninspired and clumsy in its execution, and does not reach even a small amount of the original’s magic. Interestingly enough, Kelly, who has never seen “S. Darko,” has said that he actually has an idea for an original and bigger film sequel set in the same world of “Donnie Darko.” If he ends up making it, he may give “Donnie Darko” a more deserving continuation.
4. Basic Instinct 2
If being an iconic film is reason enough for getting a sequel, then the producers were right in their attempt at giving “Basic Instinct” a continuation. Unfortunately, the development of the film was stuck for such a long time that “Basic Instinct 2” only came out in 2006. Michael Douglas was gone, and the setting was moved (without any real reason except trying to freshen up the story) to London.
The main thing to note about the pointlessness of the film is the fact that the original was gratuitous and at times pretentious, but Paul Verhoeven’s directing style gave substance to the film, and smartly investigated the sordid side of Joe Eszterhas’ script. “Basic Instinct 2” lacks any of the artistic value of the original, and is incessantly embarrassing both as a crime story and as an erotic thriller. A faux pas for Stone and everyone involved.
3. Grease 2
How pointless can a sequel be? “Grease 2” is evidence that the answer can be “a lot.” “Grease” was full of unforgettable musical moments, and its naive approach to 1950’s nostalgia made for a truly entertaining watch.
Everyone knows at least one tune from the film, and many still associate John Travolta with the film, despite his subsequent career (the same can be said of Olivia Newton-John, of course). Lazily, the producers decided to make a sequel, trying to recapture the charm of the first one. The cast was completely renewed, and the original writers did not work on the film.
Interestingly enough, the film was scripted by Ken Finkleman, who went on to be tasked with writing another unnecessary sequel, “Airplane II – The Sequel.” Little is to be said about “Grease 2,” a pointless collection of forgettable musical moments and low-quality acting.
The only notable thing about the film is without a doubt Michelle Pfeiffer, who would go on to star in “Scarface” the following year. Her charisma was already there, but movies like “Grease 2” give actors little material to work with.
2. Speed 2: Cruise Control
“Speed 2” can be considered the epitome of the “bad sequel.” “Speed” had been an unexpected success, becoming one of the action movie staples of the ’90s. Its premise, while kind of ridiculous, was effective from a cinematic point of view, and the two lead actors did their job well.
With “Speed,” Keanu Reeves started his path toward his status of action hero, and Sandra Bullock became a known face to the public. When it was decided to make a sequel, director Jan de Bont and the two stars were to return, but Reeves eventually left the project, and he was smart to do it. The director made the laughable decision to copy everything about the first movie, except for the setting, which was not a bus anymore, but a cruise ship.
Of course, the concept of “speed” was not well represented with an ocean liner. If that was not enough, the replacement for Reeves (Jason Patric) lacked any real charisma, and Willem Dafoe as the villain is completely wasted. The film, appropriately, feels like a shipwreck, and could be studied as a “what not to do when you make a sequel” compendium.
1. Staying Alive
“Staying Alive” is one of the worst sequels ever made, and has quickly fallen into oblivion, except for a sort of cult status among disco enthusiasts. It is a sequel to “Saturday Night Fever,” the legendary film that featured a breakout performance by John Travolta (who even got an Academy Award nomination for it) and proved that disco music was the defining genre and cultural phenomenon of the ’70s.
Who would have thought that making a sequel in 1983, five years after the first one, was a mistake? Perhaps everyone except for the producers, Travolta, and Sylvester Stallone, who directed the film after his success with the Rocky and Rambo franchises. Hollywood has rarely seen such a bizarre combination of film and director, and it shows: the film seems a sort of “Rocky: the Musical” with the same clichés of the underdog who eventually triumphs.
More importantly, “Staying Alive” dismisses the best aspect of the first film – the realistic approach to Tony Manero’s background, which gave a smart balance to the dancing scenes. Grounding the film into reality gave it a value that it would have lacked, had the movie been just the story about a guy wanting to be the best at dancing. Which is exactly what “Staying Alive” is. The insane amount of kitsch of the film make it a hard watch, and a particularly misfire of a sequel.