08 April 2009

Superest Sequels - The Sequel

I ran this list last year over at ServeWithChips with the top 10 choices. But now, with The Dark Knight, Hellboy 2, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine in the running, the list has been revamped , now including the top 15 choices. There has been a little shuffling in the list as well due to my mind being constantly in flux. Read 'em and weep. Also, I get to make the rules for inclusion. Prequels count as sequels, but clear reboots do not. Unfortunately, both Batman '89 and Batman Begins being firsts in a sequence of films, are ineligible regardless of the fact they were preceded by Batman films. Don't worry, Batman gets his due on this list.

15. Batman Returns

This movie took a big drop from last year's 8th place, mostly because I watched it. Now I know that some people praise this movie as being the greatest Batman movie ever made (or at least they did until The Dark Knight came along) but there are a lot of things wrong here. Its just a little too goofy thanks to Tim Burton's "wild imagination." The 1989 Batman set up a great world, but this movie seemed to slip into an alternate fantasy dimension. Also, pretty much every Penguin related subplot was awful. I mean, why are Emperor Penguins living in the Gotham City sewers? I have to admit though, I think Penguin is one of the worst supervillains ever made, so I am a bit biased. On the other hand, Catwoman (Meow) was great, and in my mind is the definitive portrayal of the character. Her inclusion is what makes this a worth watching film. (Better than Batman '89? - No)

14. Batman Forever

For today at least, I will rank Batman Forever above Returns, though over the years they have switched places a number of times. I guess what gives this one the edge for now (giving it the oh so prestigious 14th spot) is that it at least rings truer to the Batman character. The Robin origin in particular is not bad. Now, the Two-Face portrayal was both awful, but all things considered Robin turned out OK. Val Kilmer as Batman was also not bad, at least he was no Clooney. I also thought the riddles themselves were fair, and the Riddler's take on being a mirror image of Bruce Wayne is interesting - though pink haired Jim in spandex is a bit yikes. Also, I could do with a tad less neon. (Better than Batman '89? - No)

13. Superman 3

Although Superman 3 really doesn't have any business being on any Top anything list, there really aren't THAT many superhero sequels. Besides, the movie is not completely devoid of redeeming moments. After 2 films focusing on the relationship between smoker-teeth hag Lois, it was great to see Superman going for the upgrade in Smallville with Lana Lang. The main villain of the film being a plain old computer as opposed to Brainiac is a let down, but when the computer turned the villainess Vera into a cyborg... that was some scary stuff. The fight between Clark Kent and Evil Superman in the junkyard was also one of the great Superhero clashes in any movie - even if it doesn't really make sense. When that Superman theme chimes in at the end, you can't help but feel excitement! (Better than Superman? - No)

12. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

The Silver Surfer did all he could to save this sequel from disaster. I am not sure he was successful, but the character was easily the greatest part of the film "steel"ing every scene he was in, and looking "fantastic." If only the Fantastic Four had had someone to fight other than a cloud or a Ferris wheel, this movie may have been better received. I must also admit to enjoying the power swapping scenes, and the super powered Johnny that takes out Dr. Doom. In spite of everything, the movie gets marks for improving on the original - even if the bar was set awfully low. (Better than The Fantastic Four? - Yes)

11. TMNT

Kind of a bizarre sequel, coming 14 years after its predecessor, and also being animated as opposed to man-in-suit. But this is clearly a sequel as opposed to a reboot. The animation actually suits the film, as turtle ninjas are much more believable when they are toons (believe it or not). The film has a good balance of light and dark, and is not goofy. Leo and Raph have a fantastic rooftop fight in the rain. This incredible sequence really stood out and showcased some fancy animation and cinematic camera movements. I also really enjoyed the films take on the vigilante Nightwatcher. The films weak point was the bad guy(s). TMNT could have benefited from a familiar and established foe ala The Shredder. I know they have been there before, but the cosmic statue / monster plot was a little generic with not too much real danger. The surprisingly strong character moments make up for some of the weak plot, but really the overall story is pretty forgettable... if not slightly convoluted. Still, those fight scenes were pretty cool. The action gives this a slight edge over the first Turtles film. (Better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? - Yes)

10. Superman Returns

What a gorgeous movie this was. It plays homage to the first two Superman films and includes the memorable Superman themes. The airplane rescue was jaw dropping, but unfortunately, one amazing scene does not a great movie make. All of the Super-stalking and [EXPLETIVE] child subplots sullied the hero. The lack of a superhero throw down was also disappointing. Sure, we saw plenty of heavy lifting, but zero punches and that is criminal. After Superman 3 and 4, this was a pretty good return to form for Superman, but they probably should have freed themselves of the 30 year old film baggage and gone for a reboot. (Better than Superman? - No)

9. The Incredible Hulk

This might be a bit of a cheat because Marvel call this a reboot, but to me it seemed like it could just as well have been a sequel. Hulk end with Bruce Banner speaking Spanish in Central America, and The Incredible Hulk opens with him a bit farther south, still on the run from Thunderbolt Ross and the Army. Finally, we got to see the Hulk fight a real enemy. Watching him thrash tanks was also fun, but once the Abomination showed up, Hulk actually had a non-canine challenge. Though I enjoyed the dark, slow, physiological build of Hulk, a lighter more action packed follow-up is just what audiences wanted. (Better than Hulk? - Yes)

8. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

The sole prequel on the list (perhaps because its the only prequel in the genre?). My expectations for the movie were not high, but I am predicting the movie will be OK. It may lack the epic feel of your X2, or Dark Knight, but it may also lack any embarrassing moments that often rear their heads in Superhero sequels. I do not expect any lame dance club sequences (a reference to BOTH Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four 2), costume nipples (Batman Forever and B&R), or not so subtle political statements (Superman 4). The movies biggest offense, I fear, much like X3 will be the missed opportunities. Deadpool, Gambit, even Emma Frost could add a lot to a movie, but I predict not so much here, especially in the case of Deadpool (getting the old Angel 2 scene treatment). It will be nice though to see Sabretooth redeemed from his previous portrayal. There should be plenty of fight sequences and some fair relationships established. I don't know exactly how faithful all of Wolverine's past will be to the comic origins, but overall I hope this origin works. The main thing missing might be a grand Magneto scale villain, Weapon XI, William Stryker, and Sabretooth just wouldn't quite cut it for me. (Better than X-Men? - Maybe Not)

7. Spider-Man 3

Though this film had far too many coincidences and handled Venom poorly, it was overall pretty good. The Sandman character was handled great, and I even enjoyed the dark Peter Parker, who try as he might, would never be cool. Venom wouldn't have been that bad either except Eddie Brock's face kept popping out. And while this chapter could have been stronger, the movie resolved elements from previous films, such as the Goblin story, and wrapped up a strong Spider-Man trilogy. (Better than Spider-Man? - No)

6. X-Men 3: The Last Stand

Even if it had been better than this, no X-Men 3 movie could ever have been as good as people were hopping - which is a testament to the brilliance of X-Men 2. Having said that, this film is greatly under appreciated. The additions of Beast, Shadowcat, and Juggernaut were excellent and the whole ending sequence with Jean / Phoenix was pretty amazing. Maybe it could have been better, but this movie avoided the steep decline in quality that befell other 3quels (see Batman Forever, Spider-Man 3, and Superman 3). (Better than X-Men? - Yes)

5. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

I can't smile without Hellboy 2 getting some much deserved recognition. What an odd choice of a song for the movie, and yet it worked so well. This movie really upped the ante on a solid first movie. The art department did an amazing job designing the troll market and even the actual golden army and the story was pretty interesting and atypical even. Its just goes to show you that some quirkiness never hurts when combined with polished effects and good action. (Better than Hellboy? - Yes)

4. Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 2 kept it simple. It didn't try and give us twice the villains or twice the explosions, it just built on the foundation of Spider-Man. We got to see the characters grow and Doc Ock was a better villain than the original's Green Goblin. The clock fight / train sequence stands out as an action highlight. But the best aspect of this film is that we can really identify with Peter Parker. Spider-Man 2 stole a page from Superman 2 with the hero finally embracing his powers and responsibility. When Peter finally catches a break from MJ at the end, we get to cheer for him. and not just for his alter-ego. (Better than Spider-Man? - Yes)

3. Superman 2

Call it nostalgia, but this year Superman 2 jumped past Spider-Man 2 on the list. This movie is just so much fun and shows what a good Superman movie can be. General Zod and his crew were a viable threat for the Man of Steel. They easily stole the show from Lex Luthor and gave audiences a reason to cheer for dude that is practically perfect in every way. The movie has an interesting story as well with Superman deciding if he really wants to be a the hero. The fight on the Streets of Metropolis was high stakes and my vote for the best Superhero fight on film. "Kneel Before Zod" is an all-time great movie line and seeing Zod bested is a delight every time. (Better than Superman? - Yes)

2. X2: X-Men United

X-Men was good, but no one was prepared for the epic X2. The film seemed like it could be overstuffed like many sequels are, but the additions of Nightcrawler and Lady Deathstrike did not rob the other heroes of their moments. The opening scene of Nightcrawler's White House infiltration is a perfect action sequence and Magneto's plastic prison escape was also awesome. Though the subtitle "X-Men United" is awfully cheesy, seeing the X-Men have to team up with Magneto, and then be betrayed by him, was great. The film's cliffhanger ending was a perfect final note for this near flawless sequel. (Better than X-Men? - Yes)

1. The Dark Knight

What an outstanding movie. It goes without saying that the Joker was amazing, as was Harvey Dent, both pre- and post- Two-Face. Batman was again great, and Rachel Dawes got a much appreciated upgrade. While the action in the film may not be quite up to par with some other Superhero films, the characters really make this one great. That is not to say the action is bad, there are some classic sequences, especially the Bondesque Honk Kong abduction. Small problems like the misuse of Scarecrow and questionable bullet reconstruction forensics are minor detractors from the best superhero sequel of all time. (Better than Batman Begins? - Yes)

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