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Terrible Sequels That Almost Ruined The Franchise

Countless things have to go right in order for a film to be truly successful, but every once in a while, moviemakers catch lightning in a bottle more than once by producing a sequel that's just as good—or even better—than its predecessor, like The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, or The Dark Knight. Usually, however, sequels are just...okay, straining to be bigger and better but all too often settling for a rehash. And then there are some sequels that were so bad, they almost completely destroyed a once-promising movie franchise.

Cars 2 (2011)

Over its first decade, Pixar put together an impressive streak of classics. Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles, Toy Story 2every movie the studio produced was a well-made smash.

Set in a human-free world of anthropomorphic vehicles, Cars continued the tradition with the story of arrogant race car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), who learns some important lessons about himself and his fellow cars when he winds up stranded in a sleepy town called Radiator Springs. A sequel was inevitable, if only because the very-merchandisable Cars had moved $10 billion worth of stuff, but Cars 2 felt more like a spinoff than a sequel—a lot of the story was about country-fried tow truck Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) having a James Bond-esque spy adventure. 

Cars 2 was the first Pixar movie to be panned by critics—it's got a shockingly low 39 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps seeking to restore the legacy of the Cars series and the Pixar brand—or maybe because Cars 2 still made more than $560 million worldwide—Cars 3 was released in 2017. It picks up where Cars 2 should have: with Lightning McQueen continuing to learn lessons about how to be a good person (or car).

Batman and Robin (1997)

In the late '80s and early '90s, every couple of summers moviegoers could count on a new Batman movie. Substituting out original franchise star Michael Keaton for Val Kilmer didn't put a dent in the series' box office dominance, but things ultimately fell apart with the fourth installment, 1997's Batman and Robin. 

Under the direction of Joel Schumacher, (who'd helmed the third film in the series, Batman Forever, the movie reached cartoonish heights not seen since the campy 1960s Batman TV series—Clooney's Batsuit had nipples, and villain Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) rattled off endless, lazy puns. ("Ice to see you!") 

Batman and Robin earned $107 million in the U.S.—a respectable number, although far below the standard set by its predecessors. Lukewarm reception from fans aside, Batman and Robin is almost universally reviled: it "earned" 11 Razzie Award nominations, and even Clooney himself later apologized. A fifth Batman movie, Batman Unchained, ultimately went unmade. The Dark Knight put the franchise in development hell for nearly a decade, until Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins launched a whole new trilogy.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

Superman and Superman II are fantastic movies. The first is a fun and sunny superhero origin story (starring a perfectly cast Christopher Reeve), and the second features Terrence Stamp as the gleefully evil General Zod. Superman III was a misstep, spending precious screen time on Richard Pryor as a computer hacker and Clark Kent attending his high school reunion. 

Reeve wasn't eager to go up, up, and away again for Superman IV, but producers ultimately lured him back by promising him story input; he ultimately shared story credit with screenwriters Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. They were aiming for a product more like the first two films; unfortunately, according to Rosenthal, they were stymied by Cannon Films' deep budget cuts, which led to recycled footage and bargain-basement special effects, and the end result was a disaster: Desson Howe of the Washington Post called it "More sluggish than a funeral barge, cheaper than a sale at Kmart." 

Box office receipts indicate audiences shared the sentiment: Superman IV brought in just $15 million domestically, which didn't even meet its minuscule $17 million budget. (That's far less than the $134.2 earned by Superman, or even the $59.9 million that Superman III mustered.) It effectively killed off the Reeve-era Superman franchise, and although luminaries like Tim Burton and Kevin Smith attempted to reboot it in the '90s, it wasn't until Bryan Singer's Superman Lives hit theaters in 2006 that Superman movies were a thing again.

Hannibal Rising (2007)

The types of prestigious, artistic films that win the Oscar for Best Picture don't usually get sequels—but The Silence of the Lambs isn't like other movies. It won Best Picture at the 1992 Academy Awards, the only horror movie ever to do so, and took in nearly $275 million worldwide. Audiences were clearly hungry for more of Anthony Hopkins as charismatic, cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter; Thomas Harris, author of the novel Lambs was based on, had written a few more Lecter books, so on came the sequels. 

In 2001, Hannibal earned nearly $350 million, even though Jodie Foster was replaced by Julianne Moore as FBI agent Clarice Starling. Reviews were unkind, but another sequel, Red Dragon followed—and critics responded positively, giving it a 69 percent Rotten Tomatoes score. It raked in more than $200 million worldwide, but there were no more Harris novels to adapt, so the next Hannibal Lecter adventure was a prequel written expressly for the movies. 

Hannibal Rising was the least successful movie of the post-Silence films, earning just $27 million in the U.S. and a miserable critical score of 15 percent. It seemed like the world had finally had its fill of Hannibal Lecter—until Bryan Fuller rebooted the franchise with the critically acclaimed 2013-15 NBC prequel series Hannibal.

Rocky V (1990)

Sylvester Stallone was a down-on-his-luck actor when he wrote the screenplay for the original Rocky so he'd have a movie to star in. It worked—he became a household name, thanks in part to a seemingly endless series of hit Rocky movies. 

Some of them have their moments of greatness, such as Rocky fighting Clubber Lang (Mr. T)  in Rocky III, or fighting Soviet super-boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in Rocky IV. But there's little that's good about Rocky V, a depressing movie about a retired, broke Rocky trying to build a relationship with his son (played by Stallone's real-life son, Sage Stallone), and, of course, plotting a boxing comeback. That film was the knockout punch for the Rocky saga...but then, didn't Rocky always have a comeback in the making? 

With his career stagnant in the early 2000s, Stallone once again wrote a movie for himself: Rocky Balboa. A surprisingly sweet story about getting older and coming to terms with one's legacy, it earned praise from critics like NPR's Bob Mondello, who chuckled, "I know, I know, you're thinking, oh please, not Rocky again. I was thinking that too." Rocky Balboa in turn led to the critically acclaimed 2015 film Creed, in which Michael B. Jordan starred as Adonis Johnson, son of Rocky's old friend Apollo Creed. Rocky trains the kid for a big boxing match, and Stallone earned an Academy Award nomination for his trouble.

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)

The Alien saga began with two different but great movies: Ridley Scott's 1979 Alien, and James Cameron's 1986 Aliens. The next entries faltered, both in quality and performance—Alien 3 (1992) took in $55 million domestically, and Alien Resurrection (1997) earned $47 million. Critics were unimpressed, too. Of Alien 3, Geoff Andrew of Time Out said that "good acting has salvaged many a poor script in the past, but not here." Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle said that Alien Resurrection should have been "an amazing thrill ride, but it has the emotional impact of a bowling ball at rest." 

Rather than let the franchise die, filmmakers took the series in a bizarre direction in 2004 with Alien vs. Predator, in which an alien from Alien squares off against the Predator from Predator. It raked in $80 million in the U.S., so it was followed by Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, in which Aliens and Predators come to Earth. The film took in about half the cash that the first Alien vs. Predator did, and was terribly reviewed. Scott Tobias of the A.V. Club warned, "The door is left open for another sequel; if someone would kindly shut it and board it up, that would be much appreciated." The Xenomorph, it would seem was finally dead...until Ridley Scott revived the franchise with the ambitious 2012 prequel Prometheus.

xXx: State of the Union (2005)

The first xXx was a shamelessly fun (if dated) action flick about Xander Cage (played with stoic toughness by Vin Diesel), an extreme sports athlete recruited for a super-secret spy mission. xXx was a hit, and so a sequel definitely had to happen...even without Diesel, who turned down a payday that was reportedly upwards of $20 million to reprise his role in two more xXx movies because he didn't like the script. 

Undaunted, producers lined up the eminently likable Ice Cube to headline xXx: State of the Union. He played a new character, a disgraced Navy SEAL named Darius Stone who busts out of prison to stop a coup. Without Diesel, audiences and critics alike were considerably less interested—it earned $26.8 million domestically (against the first film's $142 million) and racked up a lowly 16 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. (Peter Howell of the Toronto Star called it "so devoid of craft, it looks as though it were filmed by robots.") The xXx series looked to be a film footnote and 2000s relic, until Vin Diesel decided he wanted to return with 2017's logically titled xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.

A View to a Kill (1983)

The sheer volume of James Bond movies made a misstep inevitable—and it came with the franchise's 14th official installment, 1983's A View to a Kill. The plot is fairly silly: Bond has to stop an evil baron of industry (Christopher Walken) who aims to become the world's only microchip dealer by leveling Silicon Valley with an earthquake. '80s pop star Grace Jones plays his henchwoman, and it all comes to a head with a blimp-based fight over the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Adjusted for inflation, it's among the lowest-grossing Bond movies of all time. It's also the worst-reviewed, outranking only Casino Royale, a 1967 James Bond parody. In addition to the at-times ridiculous plot, 55-year-old Roger Moore was singled out for seeming too old and tired to play Bond anymore—Paul Attanasio of the Washington Post quipped that "It's not double-oh-seven anymore, but double-oh-seventy." A massive shakeup was necessary to save the Bond franchise— A View to a Kill was Moore's last outing as 007, and Timothy Dalton replaced him in 1985's The Living Daylights.

Terminator Salvation (2009)

The Terminator (1984) is a tough and gritty sci-fi classic; Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) is even better, what with its thrilling chase sequences and dazzling "morphing" effects. The story of time-traveling robots attempting to either cause or prevent technology's takeover of the human race still had life in it, with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines hitting theaters more than a decade after T2. The machinery ground to a halt, however, after Terminator: Salvation. 

Earning less than the second or third installments, Salvation focuses on the time-traveling saga's human-robot battles, and broke with the tradition of Terminator films being critical darlings. New Yorker critic Anthony Lane echoed many of his peers when he called the movie "a confused, humorless grind, with nobody, from the stars to the set designers, prepared to prick its self-importance." It was also the first Terminator movie to not star Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

That, coupled with the brief 2008-2009 run of Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, spelled the end of the Terminator series...until the 2015 reboot Terminator Genisys. The franchise's future has been called into question since Genisys underperformed, but Schwarzenegger has vowed he'll be back.