When we see a great film, especially when it's a popcorn genre movie, it's practically guaranteed that a sequel will come down the pike in a year or two. Sometimes those extra installments maintain the spirit of the original, delivering another entertaining cinema experience. Others seem hell-bent on running a good idea into the ground, cashing in on an otherwise respectable project or even making the original seem like a waste in itself. While I'll gladly go see the next in Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations and there will always be room in my life for more James Bond, the following are a few sequels that never should have seen the light of day.
If there's one example of squandered goodwill, it has to be the risible Star Wars prequels George Lucas unleashed on his rabid fans over the course of several years, beginning in 1999 with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Lucas managed to take what is without a doubt the most beloved science fiction franchise in history and cram it full of bad actors, empty spectacle and some of the most annoying (not to mention somewhat racist) characters ever projected onto the silver screen. All of the darkness and subtlety of the original trilogy had been replaced with what amounts to a long list of bad ideas. Now it's pretty much impossible to watch those timeless classics without thinking about Jar-Jar Binks and how the symbol of evil and corruption started out as an irritating little boy with lines like "Woo-hoo!"
Science fiction seems to attract this kind of ill-advised sequel construction. The Matrix Trilogy is widely regarded as two terrible movies sprouting from one downright revolutionary film. But where the Star Wars movies actually had a reason to explore the expansive story surrounding the original trilogy, there's really no more story to tell after the closing credits of The Matrix. This fact becomes increasingly apparent as the scripts of its sequels scramble for depth and come up with utterly nonsensical garbage instead. Loads of boring, cryptic exposition bookend each comically over-the-top action scene as the most shallow characters in cinema history fight for what everyone keeps reminding us is a forgone conclusion. Just like spoon from one of the most memorable scenes in the original, it's best to just imagine that the Matrix sequels don't even exist.
While only the most intense fans have anything good to say about the Matrix series after the original, the relative quality of the now four Die Hard movies is a more hotly contested topic. The 1988 action masterpiece is untouchable (unless you don't dig guns and explosions, in which case you ought not to watch action movies), but the same can't be said for the three sequels that followed it. 1990's Die Hard 2: Die Harder is as silly as its subtitle, but it's painfully earnest in its efforts. Fans usually place it in either third or fourth place, often giving the #2 spot to Die Hard With A Vengeance, the third film in the series that does a much better job of creating tension thanks a more bitter, socially conscious edge. 2007's Live Free or Die Hard doesn't even attempt an any seriousness, instead going for as much action movie bombast as possible. It isn't even a true spiritual successor to the original, the once frail hero turning into an unbreakable machine who kills helicopters with motorcycles.
The movie business is often shameless in its pursuit of cash cows, sadly to the detriment of otherwise interesting stories. If you love a movie, wait for other fan reviews before you potentially tarnish the original with its sequels.