Creating a sequel that lives up to the original while simultaneously expanding the story in new and exciting ways is a challenging task and one that many film studios have failed. While no two sequels are the same, studios often make the same mistake: they try to go bigger.
Whether they include more villains, plot points, or action set pieces, many sequels have disappointed audiences by simply aiming too big.
The following entries contain spoilers for the films discussed.
‘Spider-Man 3’ (2007)
Spider-Man 3 is so stuffed full of ideas and villains that it could easily be split into two separate movies. The third entry in Sam Raimi’s beloved superhero franchise disappointed audiences and critics alike because it failed to focus on one plot threat. Instead, it shifted Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker between underdeveloped and mostly uninteresting storylines.
The decision to include three villains resulted in each of Spidey’s foes feeling hollow and shallow, with Venom, in particular, being a huge disappointment. Beyond the villains, however, audiences had to contend with Peter and Mary Jane’s relationship drama and, believe it or not, an amnesia storyline. Despite this film’s shortcomings, fans are still desperate for Spider-Man 4, a sequel we nearly got to see.
‘Son of the Mask’ (2005)
Arriving eleven years after the beloved comedy, The Mask surprised and delighted audiences with its wacky set pieces and offbeat jokes; when most fans had lost interest in a potential sequel, Son of the Mask flew into theaters to astonish audiences in all the wrong ways. Despite boasting a budget of $84 million, almost four times the budget of The Mask, the sequel looks worse in nearly every department.
The special effects, of which there are many, are incredibly dated and, in the case of the baby, often rather unsettling. There are huge dance numbers and whacky fights, but no scene holds a candle to any Jim Carrey zaniness that came before.
‘Halloween Ends’ (2022)
Halloween Ends was an odd conclusion to the epic horror franchise that began back in 1978. Rather than focus on the two iconic characters battling against one another to settle their brutal rivalry once and for all, the film instead introduced a new character who took up a huge amount of the plot.
Michael Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) became background characters in their movie, with the movie instead focusing on Corey, a new character who slowly began to emulate Michael Myers. This was even more bizarre because Corey died before the final act. In the case of deranged serial killers, less is more.
‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ (2008)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is one of the biggest offenders in terms of a movie biting off more than it could chew. The long-awaited sequel took the mythic elements of the previous films and blew them out of the water by introducing aliens. Yes, that’s right. Aliens.
It wasn’t just the otherworldly visitors that audiences found hard to stomach, however. The film gave Indy (Harrison Ford) a rather unlikeable son and often pushed the boundaries of what we’d be willing to accept. Maybe we could forgive watching Mutt swing through a forest on vines surrounded by monkeys, but we can’t forgive Indy surviving a nuclear explosion by hiding in a fridge. Hopefully, the much-anticipatedIndiana Jones 5 will send the iconic hero on a high note.
‘Iron Man 2’ (2010)
Iron Man was such a roaring success because it told an isolated origin story with the occasional subtle nod to the larger cinematic universe being built in the background. Iron Man 2, however, focused far less on the titular hero and far more on working towards assembling the Avengers.
Beyond the two underdeveloped villains, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) spends a huge amount of the movie on a random side quest that only serves to introduce Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Thankfully, this underwhelming sequel did not prevent the MCU from going on to become the cinematic juggernaut that it is today.
‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ (2022)
After five dinosaur-focused films that wowed audiences and all took a huge bite out of the box office, Universal decided to change focus for the final installment in the Jurassic World franchise. Though there are dinosaurs in Jurassic World: Dominion, a large part of the plot revolves around the returning legacy characters investigating giant locusts. That’s right, in a world filled with dinosaurs, they chose to focus on bugs.
This was incredibly disappointing, considering the ending of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom teased a chaotic next installment in which humans would have to live to co-exist with dinosaurs, something which was hardly explored final film.
‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ (2014)
Unfortunately for Spider-Man fans, Sony didn’t learn its lesson from Spider-Man 3. While The Amazing Spider-Man told a focused origin story with nods to a larger universe, the sequel dived head first into sequel teases and spin-off hints.
In addition to The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s three villains, we also spent a significant amount of time investigating the truth surrounding the death of Peter’s parents, the shady happenings at Oscorp, and the strained relationship between Peter (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen (Emma Stone). What’s most baffling about this is that scenes were cut that would have introduced Mary Jane too.
‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ (2009)
Transformers was an unexpected thrill of a film, combining nostalgia from people’s childhoods with some truly revolutionary CGI. This made a sequel inevitable, and rather than focusing on telling a simple yet entertaining story, director Michael Bay threw everything at the wall to see what stuck.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is so overstuffed it’s hard to believe it didn’t pop. The sequel submitted audiences to a variety of crazy additions, including a Decepticon who turned into a human and seduced Sam (Shia LaBeouf), a tiny Autobot that humped Mikaela’s (Megan Fox) leg relentlessly, and, to top it all off, a variety of ball jokes. Yes, it’s a nightmare.
‘Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ (2016)
It’s easy to forget that Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is actually a sequel to Man of Steel, which makes the epic scope of BVS all the more jarring—following on from a Superman origin story that operated largely as a standalone film, the sequel thrust audiences into a world filled with heroes, villains, and a drawn-out subplot about the origins of a bullet.
The divisive sequel introduced audiences to Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, the other members of the Justice League, and Doomsday while also hinting at the Joker’s involvement in Robin’s death, the upcoming Justice League movie, and the other planned origin stories the studio was developing. It’s all just a little exhausting as if all the new world-building arrived at the expense of fun.
‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ (2016)
A sequel to Independence Day was in development for twenty years before Independence Day: Resurgence flew into cinemas in 2016. Although the film brought back most of the core cast, it felt incredibly far removed from the beloved 1996 movie that had come before.
Having adopted the aliens’ technology, the sequel finds humanity using the moon as a base of operations and piloting super high-tech fighter jets that wouldn’t look out of place in a Star Wars movie. This took away some of the underdog spirit of the first movie, resulting in a film that didn’t appeal to fans of the original or attract casual movie-goers: a real misfire and a waste of huge potential.