As a pretentious, stuffy cinephile, I make a solid effort to see as many feature films in the run of a year as possible. I also try to focus my time on what I believe to be worthwhile flicks, but somehow the sequels always sucker me in. With 2012 now finally at a close, it’s time to reflect on the cream of the franchise crap. Each of these sequels manage to completely lose whatever charm their predecessors bore and made me regret the cost of admission. I’d like to be optimistic and assume that their franchises were dead, but my pragmatic side knows better.
Men in Black III
In a sense, Men in Black III is pretty harmless. This science fiction action flick boasts special effect up the yin yang, the ever-charming Will Smith, a couple decent one-liners, and a surprisingly strong performance by the grimacing Josh Brolin. However, it also doesn’t challenge the stunted narrative formula of the previous films, plays it loose with time travel logistics, features ineffective action sequences, and ultimately serves as a really poor conclusion to a widely loved franchise. Is it awful? No, but it still comes across as a pretty lazy effort.
The common excuse I hear from fans of 3DD when I whine about its inane dialogue, idiotic action sequences, excessive gore, poor acting, and cardboard characters is that, “the original wasn’t anything different.” Well, that’s a damn lie. Piranha 3D was a legitimate horror film that actually walked the fine line between camp and fright without straying too far into the land of farce or parody. It’s only a genius film because it plays on your expectations and delivers something legitimately entertaining. Piranha 3DD teabags the legacy of its predecessor. It’s cheap and doesn’t deserve a moment of your time providing you have an average or higher IQ.
Resident Evil: Retribution
You’re probably expecting me to complain about how this film franchise differs so greatly from the video game franchise or how superfluous and self defeating a character Alice is, but those comments have all been said many times before and I honestly don’t care by this point. You’d be a fool to expect this series to improve or change by this point. These crummy action flicks keep making oodles at the box office and with each new entry they get lazier in premise and worse in execution. I don’t think any of the creative talent cares any more and by extension you shouldn’t either.
God I love the original Taken. Kinetic thrills, smart action, and a very gruff-yet-convincing Liam Neeson make the original Taken easily one of the best action flicks of the past decade. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of its sequel. Taken 2 is so poorly produced and slopped together that it borders on “so bad it’s hilarious.” The action is excessive and unconvincing, character motivations are poor, dialogue is nothing more than craptactular, and whatever charm the original Taken featured as obviously been sucked right out of the franchise.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
What do you do when your franchise is bankrupt for ideas? Go on a trip to Europe! Of course, then you’re left with the sticky situation of having to provide reasoning for said travel and feature numerous European landmarks. Unfortunately, this is still a Madagascar film and is thus predicated upon franchise staples – namely, ignoring character development almost completely and featuring a brisk, nonsensical plot with lots of inane pretty visuals. This series is broken; it’s about time people clue in.
At this point in the game, it’s hard to see this film franchise as anything more than vapid action. Like the Resident Evil films, Underworld: Awakening manages to take a vaguely interesting idea and beat the charm out of it with overly dramatic dialogue, Matrix inspired special effects, pointless action, and dull acting. Horror fans will find it lifeless and wanting and action fans will likely find it boring and pointless.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the worst comic to feature film adaptation of all time. No one at all versed with the Marvel universe or the character of Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider will question this fact. How anyone can produce something so off from its source material and manage to make it look so poor in terms of production value is absolutely befuddling. Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four laughs at this feature film and Willard Huyck’s Howard the Duck defecates on it.