Sloppy Seconds: The 16 Worst Superhero Movie Sequels
Superhero movies are not immune to bad sequels, and we’ve found the worst of the worst!
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Is there anything more disappointing in life (well, when it comes to movies anyway) than a bad sequel? You, like many others, love a movie so much that it makes enough money to prompt a follow-up, but when it truly comes down to it, there’s no way of catching lightning in a bottle for a second (or sometimes even third) time. What’s worse is that a lot of the time, a story doesn’t even need a sequel; that one perfect unit of film stands on its own fine and the only reason to make another is to make a quick buck or two.
RELATED: Number Two: The 15 Worst Marvel Sequels
You would think that comic book movies wouldn’t suffer from that same fate. After all, superheroes live in a perpetually serialized narrative, a soap opera in spandex with endless stories to draw inspiration from. While this is true, for whatever reason, the ability to produce a second good movie using a decades-old character eludes most studios, and it seems like every comic book franchise has had its fair share of stinkers, be they sequels, threequels or more. We here at CBR have suffered through the 16 Worst Comic Book Sequels Of All Time so that you don’t have to. You’re welcome!
16 X-MEN: THE LAST STAND
The X-Men movies always had an uphill struggle. Taking such a complex continuity densely packed with dozens and dozens of main characters over decades of storytelling, and condensing that into 90-minute chunks was never going to produce anything even remotely similar to the original product. For two movies, though, Fox made it work.
The original X-Men movie hasn’t exactly aged well, but it’s still enjoyable. X-Men 2 managed the rare movie feat of being a sequel superior to its predecessor. It was perhaps this success that had so many people excited for a third installment, but sadly it was not good. Based on perhaps the most seminal X-Men story — The Dark Phoenix Saga — only meant this movie had further to fall, and with terrible casting (Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut? Really?) and severe deviances from an amazing story meant this was a truly awful film.
15 BLADE TRINITY
Much like the X-Men franchise, the Blade movies went from strength to strength. This was the first real comic book movie franchise, but it wasn’t until it was joined by Spider-Man and the X-Men that the industry started paying attention to superheroes. It’s not surprising really, as the Day-Walker was no one’s first choice for the initial superhero franchise. Nevertheless, Wesley Snipes embodied the character well and starred in two decent movies.
Blade: Trinity was — as the name suggests — the third entry in the franchise, and on paper, it sounds great. Snipes teams up with Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds to defeat Dracula himself. Great right? Actually, no. If you’ve not watched it for a while, it is not even as bad as you remember: it’s worse. Reynolds is as charming as ever, but Snipes has mentally checked out, and the whole thing feels like a parody of better movies.
14 SPIDER-MAN 3
Perhaps the worst offender on this list, the hype for Spider-Man 3 was unreal. The previous movies had catapulted the superhero genre into the stratosphere, and along with the X-Men movies had legitimized comic books as a viable franchise commodity. Spider-Man 2 is still considered one of the best superhero movies of all time, even if the dialogue is corny as hell.
Spider-Man 3 is the textbook example of overcrowding a movie. Sandman, Green Goblin 2, Venom and Gwen Stacy all get introduced in this movie, as well as attempts to resolve already hanging plot threads such as Harry and Peter’s friendship, MJ and Peter’s relationship and introducing new ones such as just who killed Uncle Ben. All that pales next to emo Peter Parker, however. His manipulation by the venom symbiote is the definition of cringe, resulting in a bloated, sad and disappointing low point for Spidey.
13 BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
The newest entry on our list, Batman v Superman was gearing up to be the comic book cinematic showdown of the century. For years, fans had been begging to see these two superheroes come face to face, and it was finally going to happen. You can’t blame the hype for this movie being poorly received, however. From start to finish, this film is a missed opportunity.
Not only does BvS tie-in as a sequel to Man of Steel more directly than anyone expected, but its name extended to include “Dawn of Justice,” changing this from a legitimate standalone movie to a mere prelude to another film. The movie itself is just bad, twisting the characters into a confrontation that both should be too smart to fall for. Not that there’s anything wrong with the character, but when the best part of a movie about Batman and Superman is actually Wonder Woman, you’ve failed the concept.
12 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Say what you will about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, but at least those movies (the first two anyway) were colorful, fun takes on Marvel’s most beloved superhero. Amazing Spider-Man was a decent, if a little bland attempt at a rebooted Spidey franchise, with inspired casting of both Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). The sequel, however, robbed this fledgling series of any joy and doomed the franchise to yet another reboot.
Not learning any lessons from Spider-Man 3, ASM 2 threw too many villains into the pot, not giving any of them the breathing room they deserved. Despite some interesting ideas touched on using Jamie Foxx’s Electro, a poorly conceived mystery involving Peter’s parents and a rushed attempt at seminal Spider-Man story, “The Death of Gwen Stacy,” turned this reboot series sour before it had even begun.
11 BATMAN AND ROBIN
There’s something to be said about movies so bad that they’re good, and for many people, Batman and Robin has become a bit of a cult favorite, becoming so truly terrible that it spins around the entire wheel of quality and almost — almost — becomes good again.
The overtly camp nature of the Batman franchise that started with the excellently self-aware TV show ended here, with George Clooney as Batman, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. The villains chewed so much scenery there was almost nothing left by the end but terrible one-liners and those infamous Bat-nipples. Even Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl cannot redeem Batman and Robin as one of the major low points for Batman, but it did lead to the Christopher Nolan reboot, so for that, we’re grateful.
10 THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Despite the praise heaped onto Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, not even his success rate could save The Dark Knight from receiving a poor quality follow-up. The third entry in the series, The Dark Knight Rises, was a deceptive movie, in the sense that it was probably liked by a lot of people when they first saw it, only to not stand up to further re-watches.
Tom Hardy played a good Bane. He was menacing in a way that neither Scarecrow or even Joker was in previous films. The unfortunate and unavoidable absence of Heath Ledger and his masterful performance was missed of course, but more than that, this movie was riddled with plot holes and inconsistencies, and ended in a strange, un-Batman-like way that felt like it was a last-minute decision to conclude a franchise rather than end a Batman film properly.
9 FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
When the original movie isn’t that great to begin with, is it really the sequel’s fault if it’s bad? Aside from some inspired casting choices, what did Rise of the Silver Surfer have to work with, really? Despite the first movie being cheesy as all get-out, Fantastic Four did well enough to spawn a sequel, and for multiple reasons it was way, way worse.
Terrible scripting and gaudy costumes aside, everyone involved really seemed to give their all to these movies. The four actors playing the FF were all well-cast, Chris Evans and Michael Chiklis embodying those roles really well. What no comic book fan can get past, however, is the decision to turn Galactus — that truly brilliant Lee/Kirby creation — from a 100-foot purple dude that eats planets, into a lame storm of nanites. There really is no forgiving that.
8 THOR: THE DARK WORLD
For the most part, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a brilliant job of faithfully recreating its most beloved characters on the big screen. What’s even more impressive, is that it’s taken characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor and made them household names that sit alongside Spider-Man and Wolverine as fan-favorites.
The MCU is not without its stinkers, however, and Thor: The Dark World is one of them. The sequel to the surprisingly good Thor, Dark World attempts to take a darker, more serious look at the Nine Realms of Asgardian legend. The result is an overlong movie with a boring villain and a lack of anything that made the original — namely humor — so great. The only saving grace is that it appears that they’ve learned their lesson with the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, which looks superbly bonkers.
7 SUPERMAN III
Superman is the original comic book movie franchise. Most would consider the first movie one of the best and most beloved superhero movies of all time, and most of this praise is thanks to Christopher Reeve’s masterful performance as what has come to be considered the definitive version of the Man of Steel. By Superman III, however, not even Reeve could save a franchise losing itself in camp, almost parodic moments.
The use of an evil version of Superman was the best part of the film, and Reeve’s excellent performance as a bad guy gets lost in the criticism, but really it gets lost in the movie itself, which uses Richard Pryor poorly, replaces Lex Luthor with Ross Webster and reduces Lois Lane to a glorified cameo. All of this makes this a bad film that, unfortunately, was a sign of worse things to come for the franchise.
6 THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS
The original Crow movie will forever be entangled with the tragic news regarding the on-set death of its lead star, Brandon Lee, killed by the blank bullet casing a gun accidentally fired. Despite that, the first film captures a goth aesthetic well and embodies a certain melancholic charm that’s seen it attain cult status over the years.
The Crow: City of Angels loses all of that charm and replaces it with a lackluster, practically nonexistent plot, manic, over-the-top performances, and visuals that feel more suited to a bad music video than a gothic superhero movie. It’s not all bad though: Iggy Pop commits to the role of a drug dealer called Curve so well that his manic performance is almost worth the price of admission.
5 TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III: TURTLES IN TIME
By far the worst of the original trilogy, Turtles in Time is a franchise pushed to its limits. Those modern fans more familiar with the excellent retro video game with the same subtitle will be disappointed, as will anyone who watches the film, come to think of it.
Attempting to ditch the humor of the second movie in favor of the more serious tone of the original, Turtles III at least succeeds in being grander in scope. The Turtles are lost in 1600s Japan, which is a fun nod to the comics, but overall everything about the Turtles themselves is terrible, from the voice-acting to the costumes, right down to the scripting. Splinter has been turned into a whispering muppet and not even Casey Jones can save the film from anything but a death knell for the franchise. It would be a decade before another attempt at a Turtles movie hit the big screen.
4 SUPERMAN IV
Widely accepted as not only the worst Superman movie but one of the worst comic book movies ever made, The Quest for Peace was a flop when it came out and still only commands a score of 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. A mixture of dull action, forgettable villains, and a bad script meant a poor end for the Christopher Reeve Superman movies.
Everything that was once enjoyable about the franchise felt forced or missing entirely from this movie, that centered around Superman throwing all of the nuclear weapons into space, and Lex Luthor creating his own version of Superman called Nuclear Man. It was a script very much of its time, but not even that can save it from a cast that all look like they’d rather be somewhere else.
3 GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE
Despite even the first film not receiving the greatest criticism upon its release, there’s at least a certain amount of charm to Ghost Rider. Nicholas Cage, woefully miscast, appears to be having a lot of fun in the role he so badly wanted to play, and there’s an attempt at creating a fun popcorn experience. The law of diminishing returns hits hard for its sequel, however, as a lackluster plot and dodgy CGI still don’t hide the bored looks on the actor’s faces.
There’s less humor this time around, and the whole affair feels very much like a cheap attempt at cashing in on a movie that on its own wasn’t amazing, but is dragged down even further by a poor follow-up. There’s a sense that this movie was trying to intentionally trashy in a way that would make it enjoyable, but it ends up being unironically bad instead.
2 IRON MAN 2
The original Iron Man movie had a lot of pressure riding on it. Not only was it the first movie in what was hoped to be an expensive shared cinematic universe, but it was hanging its hopes on a character that was a relative unknown to the non-comics-reading public. Robert Downey Jr’s tour de force performance and the tight, engaging script catapulted the MCU into the stratosphere, and a sequel was almost inevitable.
Not even Downey Jr could save the muddled, mediocre Iron Man 2. The script is aimless and messy, and while Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash is an impressive looking bad guy, there’s not much more to him. Sam Rockwell is great in anything, but Justin Hammer is entirely forgettable, and rather than being a vital addition to an expansive world of movies, becomes a muddled film that can be ignored entirely.
1 KICK ASS 2
Your mileage may vary on whether or not you enjoy the Kick Ass franchise. Mark Millar is undoubtedly a very divisive creator, and that also applies to his work when it hits the screen. The original Kick Ass movie, however, captured the imaginations of moviegoers and provided a different take on superheroes not yet seen at the movies.
Fast forward to the sequel, and all of the charm of the original is gone, replaced by a slew of increasingly violent plot points that seem to have been made by people who saw the first film but didn’t get why people liked it. Kick Ass 2 tries to survive on the shock value that has already been used up by the original, and while Moretz’s Hit Girl is still fun, the movie itself is not.
What was your least favorite superhero movie? Let us know in the comments!
Born and raised in Birmingham, England, when Matt’s not reading comics he’s writing about them and hosting podcasts about them. From reading The Beano and The Dandy as a child, he first discovered American comics with Marvel’s Heroes Reborn and, despite that questionable start, still fell in love and has never looked back. You can find him on Twitter @MattLune
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