THIRD TIME’S THE HARM
When Number Three Seems More Like Number Two
Article by Matteo Molinari
This Summer we will welcome the return of Iron Man in his third adventure, cleverly titled “Iron Man 3”, as well as the conclusion of the Wolfpack’s misadventures in “The Hangover Part III”. Will they be good movies?
Probably yes — even if the man of iron has a different helmer behind the camera and the gang of friends this time won’t attend a wedding of any sort. Anyway, both movies have good characters, a good pedigree, great actors… What could possibly go wrong?!
The history of “third chapters” (known as “threequels,” thanks to those people who love to invent new terms while butchering English) is filed with good examples — “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, “Toy Story 3”, “Return of the Jedi”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”, just to name a few — and an outstanding series of atrociously bad ones.
Uh-oh! I feel the urge to do another one of my nonsensical lists that nobody cares for! Well, then — since you don’t insist, here we go, in chronological order:
The Creature Walks Among Us (1956): Oh, those geniuses at Universal. They had a great monster, The Creature from the Black Lagoon which was, upon closer examination, a creature coming from a lagoon that was black. Now, the definition of a lagoon is, “a stretch of salt water separated from the sea by a low sandbank or coral reef” — bottom line, it’s a water-based environment. So what did they come up with, for the third part of the story of the creature (a.k.a. the Gill-Man)? They remove the black lagoon altogether, and thanks to a surgical operation they give the creature the chance to breathe air and, as the title suggests, to walk among us. So now it’s just “The Creature.” And somehow the Gill-Man-Sans-Gills lost part of its charm and the series simply sputtered and died, taking the Creature with it.
[NOT-SO-FUN FACT: The Creature DID resurrect in an abysmally awful show at Universal Studios Hollywood — by the time you finished reading its advertisement, it was already gone. If you don’t believe me about its abysmality, see for yourself HERE]
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982): John Carpenter’s finest creation, Michael Myers, has sliced, filleted, diced and minced quite a good number of people in the first two movies, so what’s the next step? Rid the franchise of him and give the fans a story about a villain who’s selling Halloween masks which will kill all the kids who wear them and will turn their head into a bunch of snakes. No, really. Oh, the villain is also building robots. “Why?”, you may ask. “Not a clue”, I may answer. To make things worse, if you find yourself watching this train wreck, you won’t be able to get out of your head the overly annoying jingle, “Three more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween…” Not even Rob Zombie could have concocted a more horrible “Halloween”. No, wait. I take that back. I saw his first “Halloween”.
Jaws 3D (1983): Granted, it’s impossible to top Spielberg’s “Jaws”. They tried to go back to Amity with “Jaws 2”, but the comparison was unavoidable. So for this third chapter they boldly decided to remove Amity from the equation, remove any actor from the original series, and as a good measure, remove also any tension and scare. This time we’re in Florida, at Sea World and its vast lagoon for waterskiers and new serpentine of underwater tunnels. For the first hour of the movie, nothing much happens. When it starts happening, you wish you were back in the first hour. So there’s a shark who kills people mostly off camera; then it dies; its angry and excruciatingly slow mother swims in and wrecks havoc of some sort. All of it with not a smidge of tension. Even the soundtrack, penned by Alan Parker (yep. I didn’t know him, either) sounds more like Fantasy Island than any man-eating fish’s movie. All of this, also, in magical 3-D!
[NOT-SO-FUN FACT: This movie features the first Pinocchio-cam, when a scuba diver is shot being eaten by the shark…from inside the shark!
NOT-SO-FUN FACT #2: This movie was followed by Jaws: The Revenge. For Heaven’s sake, stay away from it!]
Superman III (1983): The movie starts with a Rube Goldberg-like series of gags that I suppose the filmmakers all thought were hilarious. Then Richard Pryor shows up, being pretty much… Richard Pryor. Then they almost immediately ship Lois Lane away, and Lex Luthor is nowhere to be found — replaced by a power-crazy billionaire and his equally power-crazy sister. They build a supercomputer which will do everything it’ll be asked to, and when not asked, it’ll do things the same because, you see, it’s not only a computer: it’s a SUPERcomputer. Oh, yeah: there’s also Superman. But he seems almost relegated as — well — a comic book figure. Granted, this piece of fertilizer has been followed by “Superman IV: Quest for Peace”, but at least in the fourth chapter they had Lex Luthor and Lois Lane!
Poltergeist III (1988): So long, Cuesta Verde, and welcome, sky-high building in Chicago! After being chased by hordes of spirits to be guided toward the light, little Carol Anne finds herself in a humongous skyscraper with her Uncle and Aunt, and she’s still chased by ghosts — whom she can see in mirrors. Needless to say, the whole building is wallpapered with mirrors. Or it’s mirrored with wallpapers. Whatever — everything is reflective, in there! And so the ghosts arrive, and everybody runs away, and screams, and they are attacked, and it’s over, but no, it’s not over, it was a false ending… Ho-hum. Something lacks in this third and final installment of the supernatural saga. Like a plot. Or characters who are even vaguely interesting. Or a sense of caring for these people. You know, minor things.
[NOT-SO-FUN FACT: The name “Carol Anne” is mentioned in this movie over 120 times. It actually chafes your ears]
Rambo III (1988): The second novel about Rambo written by David Morrell opened with a disclaimer that said, roughly, “In my first novel, ‘First Blood,’ Rambo died at the end. But then Hollywood gave me a truckload of money so he’s back in business and screw my integrity.” Well, maybe these weren’t his exact words, but you catch the drift. So they resurrected the character for a sequel which was kind of interesting, and then they rehashed him once more for a third chapter that really was uninspired, tired, unoriginal and the only emotion it provided was to plump Sylvester Stallone’s bank account. The more recent “Rambo” is far superior than this one. So you can skip Part Three and jump straight to Four and live happier.
The Karate Kid Part III (1989): Wax on, wax off. The titular “kid” was 27 at the time of this flick, so there goes part of the premises (probably The Karate Almost 30 Guy Part III would have not been a good title). Then there is a Xerox copier somewhere, because the script is pretty much identical to the previous two movies of the series. Oh, no: they added a bonsai tree that looks like a fake bonsai tree, but all the rest is pretty much routine. Nothing new under the Sun. Then again, this chapter is magnificent, compared to “The Next Karate Kid”, which is the same thing all over again, except this time the “kid” is Hilary Swank in pre-“Million Dollar Baby” form.
Alien 3 (1992): This may not be the movie David Fincher wanted us to see, so I won’t hold it against him. And, lucky for him, “Alien Resurrection” came about a few years later.
RoboCop 3 (1993): The part-human, part-machine cop is back (with a different actor under the armor), and does what a third movie titled “RoboCop 3” is supposed to do: it functions as a commercial to keep alive the line of toys and action figures generated by the first two movies. This flick was also toned-down in the violence department so more kids would go see it, but this didn’t help much, either. And the cop flies, too! Or tries to — if memory serves, he crashes on the ground more times than he stays up in the air. Either way, this is a pedestrian third chapter which has nothing new to say aside from, “Go buy more toys!”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993): Okay, the “cowabunga dude” amphibians not only are back, but this time… they are back in time! (Oooooooh, I hear you say) Yup, the turtles wind up in 17th Century China to fight some samurais and such — with cartoonish violence and less wisecracks that made popular the reptilian fighters. Then again, this might be a masterpiece compared to the next incarnation – Michael Bay’s foray in the universe of turtles that are not only teenagers, but also mutant and even ninja! I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But for the time being, do yourself a favor and just skip this one.
Beverly Hills Cop III (1994): Axel Foley is back! Well… Almost. I mean, he looks like Axel Foley and talks like Axel Foley. He even dresses like Axel Foley… but Axel Foley he ain’t. Which is a pity. Because in this movie, which could have been called “Die Hard in an Amusement Park but With Less Deaths and Funny Zingers” is really a huge disappointment. The story about a counterfeit gang that acts in the bowels of the beloved park Wonderworld is murky and not particularly engaging, the jokes are not funny, everything looks uninspired. If the only smile a movie gives you is because of a cameo by Bronson Pinchot, we’re in trouble. Thank God Murphy went on with much more entertaining and amusing and memorable movies like “The Adventures of Pluto Nash”. And “Daddy Day Care”. And “Norbit”. And “Meet Dave”. And “Imagine That”. And “A Thousand Words”.
Batman Forever (1995): Tim Burton is too dark for Batman? Great! Let’s just go the opposite direction and bring the franchise back thirty years! Bright colors, new cast members (Batman included), campier than campy, bat-suit with nipples and an extremely confusing storyline. Is there something worse than this? Yup — it’s called “Batman & Robin”.
Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001): Yes. It does exist. Nope. Nobody saw it. But if you really want to know, it’s harmless, good-intended and forgettable.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003): Talk about a letdown. The Wachowski brothers had created a truly genuine, original movie with “The Matrix”. They followed it with a bunch of incoherent scenes — and a terrific highway chase — with “The Matrix Reloaded”. And then there is this one. Ask anybody to sum it up, and they’ll most likely tell you, “There’s a huge fight of robots and men… I think.” But they won’t remember anything else, except that the ending is probably one of the biggest, saddest, pathetic ending of a saga that started in the theatres with a BANG and concluded with a, “Isn’t there another reel of film after this one?” I haven’t seen a downbeat ending like this one since… Oh, no, wait: “Spider-Man 3” came after this one.
Terminator 3 — Rise of the Machines (2003): He said he’d be back. Or at least, a copy of the model that said he’ll be back is actually back. Either way, twelve years after his last adventure, the Terminator is back to protect (once again) John Connor from the evil killers sent by the eviler SkyNet. Besides the fact that it’s interesting how technology has developed a robot that can age (Schwarzy is not Dorian Gray), we face a story that somehow negates the previous movie; Judgment Day is indeed about to happen, and the Terminator has to prevent the death of John Connor in that very conflict — conflict that will start as an “innocuous” computer virus. Besides SkyNet, the enemy to face this time is the T-X, a not particularly engaging enemy, and everything pales in comparison with the two previous installments of the saga. The only reason why this movie isn’t considered an atrocious catastrophe is that it was followed by the deplorable “Terminator Salvation” (2009), which has its place in history because of two facts: it suggested a pretty cool roller coaster at Six Flags, and it gave us an amazing and famous tirade by the master of classy soliloquy, Christian Bale.
Final Destination 3 (2006): “The Final Destination” saga is a pretty fun one, and follows the same blueprint over and over again: a kid has a premonition of a horrendous accident; he/she convinces friends and occasional bystanders in not partaking in the activity that will result in the aforementioned horrendous accident; Death, feeling cheated, will take, one by one, the survivors in the order they were supposed to die — and will do it in the most elaborate and spectacular way ever conceived, demonstrating that the Grim Reaper needs to have fun, too, every now and again. Now, when going to see these movies, you don’t expect Shakespeare. Although the first chapter of this series came up with some philosophical themes, mostly you go see teenagers who die. However, in this movie, every single character is so despicable and so annoying, that you hope, you pray for them to die. There is not one single redeeming quality in any of them, which kind of defuses the purpose: if you don’t care for the victim, you can’t be invested in the movie. Well, in this one, you’re rooting for the Reaper all the way through. Which probably is the point of the movie, but just taking the cast and pushing them down a ravine would have saved us a lot of time.
X-Men — The Last Stand (2006): There are a lot of mutants in this movie, all with different powers, and they all seem in desperate need for a script. This flick had a different director from the previous two of the saga (yeah, Bryan Singer left to do “Superman Returns” — and we all know how well that one turned out), so the new guy in town — Brett Ratner — pretty much gave us a movie rich in spectacle, but drained in human (or mutant) emotions, and the result is quite disappointing, especially coming from the second, powerful chapter of the saga. Here’s the story, as much as I can summarize: there are the mutants; then there are more mutants, some good, some bad; one strikes the most ridiculous pose when he shows that, like Red Bull, he has wings! and then they all fight. Some wins, some losses. And Cyclops is killed off screen. Not good.
Rush Hour 3 (2007): Chris Tucker should always come with a warning label, “To be taken in moderation.” He’s funny for five minutes, mildly amusing for ten, but after fifteen or more minutes exposed to his motormouth, you are ready to drill a hole in the back of your neck to make the sound of his voice leak out of your head. The first “Rush Hour” was fun; the second one was okay; the third is the same thing all over again (but in Paris, this time), and so it tastes like you’re eating for lunch the microwaved leftovers of yesterday’s dinner which was the re-heated lunch you made the day before (but in Paris, this time). The story is blah, the situations are trite, and you know that saying ‘When you have nothing to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all’? Well, it should apply to sequels, too.
Shrek the Third (2007): They should have stopped at Part 2. But do they ever listen?
Spider-Man 3 (2007): Things I’ve learned watching this movie:
– Peter Parker is a whiny douchebag who can’t comb his hair
– Mary Jane could do much better and doesn’t seem to be a good actress
– Harry Osborn is a spoiled, vengeful kid
– Gwen Stacy shows up just to create chaos and then vanishes
– There is enough material crammed in this movie to make at least three more sequels
– When a crane goes awry and literally slices the corner of a building, the priority is to save Gwen Stacy and that’s it — let the town and the Police deal with a possible collapsing building, debris falling over the people and a crane that spins uncontrollably over the town
– Tobey Maguire can’t dance
– A sunset apparently is more relevant and important than the death of a best friend.
The Mummy — Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008): This is not a bad movie per se; it’s here simply because, if you go to someone who isn’t Brendan Fraser and ask him or her about this movie, the answer you’ll get it, “What? They did a third one?”
Transformers — Dark of the Moon (2011): Yes, there are robots. And they are big and fight. The plot is vague as ever, but this time it drags endlessly. There is a battle in Chicago that lasts about five of the three acts of the movie, and the only scene I remember is a building tilting on its side — because the shots inside of the building were practical and the stunt people did an amazing job in rolling and falling and crashing through stuff. All the rest, the CGI battle, the CGI good robots, the CGI bad robots, the CGI characters — sorry, I got distracted: the paper-thin characters… They are just a blur. A noisy, chaotic, endless, unmemorable blur.
So there you have it! I’m sure your life will be much better now that you’ve learned about these masterpiece-wannabes. And remember: When a Number Three hits rock bottom… Sometimes there’s a Part IV coming along and taking its place in our memory as “one of the worst sequels ever made.
But that would be another article.