The only thing Hollywood banks on more than sequels are comic book movie sequels.
The recent box office success of Iron Man 3, which currently sits as the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time, ensures that we will continue to see moves ending in 2s and 3s for a long time. The next Marvel title hoping to cash in on our allowance money is Thor: The Dark World. While few expect Chris Hemsworth’s reunion tour with Asgard to scare up as much coin as Tony Stark’s latest adventure, it’s all but a sure thing that Marvel has another crossover hit on their hands.
With The Dark World’s November 8 release approaching, Fandango ranks and files Marvel’s direct sequels – only the Part 2s, from worst to best.
By Phil Pirrello
8. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
The first Ghost Rider film took itself way too seriously, given its inept story and bloated set pieces. Vengeance embraces its badness while not quite being in on the joke, resulting in a very guilty pleasure that isn’t worth the curious even thinking about taking the trip to the Redbox.
It’s not the worst sequel ever made. But it’s definitely its cousin.
The only thing this movie gets right – which the first film got so, so wrong – is showcasing the titular team working together to save the world, instead of in-fighting all the time. FF2 is guilty of many things, but high on its list of offenses is turning the iconic villain Galactus into a big bad (sigh) cloud thing.
This bloated sequel goes off the rails quickly, somewhere around the time Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash bonds with his exotic bird. It continues further into head-scratching territory when Tony Stark pointlessly fights Rhodes at his birthday party. And it completely becomes the movie equivalent to a face palm when the heroes defeat the villain by, essentially, high-fiving him with their laser hands.
There’s a lot going on in Thor’s second trip to Midgard, but not much of it connects on any real emotional level – and what does is drowned out by the thud of too many world-building scenes.
Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) finds many ways to make Thor’s universe more cinematic that Kenneth Branagh did in the first film; unfortunately Dark World’s story can’t keep up with the impressive production values supporting it. The movie doesn’t know what to do with its villain – other than make him say vaguely threatening things in between CG battles. And if Thor as a hero fares slightly better, it’s due to two things: His scenes with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Chris Hemsworth’s addictive screen presence. A very inventive third act almost makes up for the disappointing two acts that precede it, but unlike most Marvel films, it’s not enough to justify the cost of your movie ticket.
Before he pit 30-story mech warriors opposite kaijus, director Guillermo del Toro cut his teeth (er, fangs) on this sequel to Wesley Snipes 1998 hit.
Blade II owes much of its sensibility to James Cameron’s Aliens, with the story centered on Blade teaming up with a badass team of vampire special forces to take down a new threat that feeds on both vampire and humankind. The CG is late-'90s video game bad in sections, and the infusion of wrestling moves into final fights is campy fan-service, but Blade II succeeds mostly for the way it embraces its comic book roots. In doing so, the film delivers the R-rated goods in a way that Punisher: War Zone and Spirit of Vengeance never could.
Before he pit 30-storey mech warriors opposite kaijus, director Guillermo Del Toro cut his teeth (er
Marvel’s pseudo-reboot of Ang Lee’s Hulk also plays like a loose sequel to that much-maligned film, possessing enough sequelitis to warrant placement here. Of Marvel’s batch of Phase One films, it’s the least showy and (arguably) the most grounded… until that Abomination vs. Hulk battle royale. But Incredible’s take on Bruce Banner by way of The Fugitive gives the movie some much-welcomed dramatic weight, more so than most of Marvel’s early blockbusters.
At the time of its release, director Bryan Singer’s sequel to his 2000 hit was praised as The Wrath of Khan of comic book movies – and for good reason.
Singer’s second trip to the X Mansion grounds the action in thematic territory similar to that of Trek II, as the X-Men are forced to team up with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants to take down a very human threat to mutantkind.
From the opening set piece, depicting a teleporting mutant’s assassination attempt at the White House, to an inventive sequence pitting the X-Jet vs. military fighters, X2 surpasses X1 in every way. The emotional stakes are much higher, the narrative never runs out of ways to challenge our heroes and the performances – especially Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan – are some of the genre’s best. And no, that’s not dust in our eyes when a certain X-Man pulls a Spock to save her friends. That’s pure, unabashed nerd tears, deservedly shed for one of the best comic book films ever.
Despite all of the impressive web-slinging action and CG spectacle, Sam Raimi’s first – and best – Spidey sequel is more interested in the emotional toll being a hero takes on young Peter Parker than it is in the physical one.
The film’s last shot, a haunting image of a conflicted Mary Jane watching her lover’s alternate identity swing into yet another crisis, still delivers more dramatic impact in a few moments than most entries into the genre can muster during their entire running time. While Christopher Nolan surely raised the bar that all modern comic book films now must meet, with Spider-Man 2, Raimi did it first.