Considering the world of today that is ripe with remakes, sequels, and reboots, we should be hardened against them. Impervious. Nothing is sacred and if something disappoints on a large enough scale, chances are good that it’ll get redone in a few years anyway. With that in mind, there are few cases where they should have left well enough alone.
James Akinaka on The Neverending Story
In 1979, West German author Michael Ende wrote a children’s fantasy novel that climbed to the top of his country’s bestseller lists. That novel was The Neverending Story. Five years later, producer Dieter Geissler and director Wolfgang Petersen adapted Ende’s vivid story to film. However, the result was less than spectacular.
Geissler and Petersen’s The NeverEnding Story strayed far from its source. Despite the book-within-a-book setting, the film failed to harness the compelling themes of Ende’s meta-novel. Ende was so irate with the film that he sued Geissler’s company, saying, “The makers of the film simply did not understand the book at all.”
Still, Geissler always intended to adapt Ende’s novel into a trilogy of films. After defeating Ende’s lawsuit, Geissler went ahead with The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter, which came out in 1990. Yet, the sequel received an overwhelmingly negative reception, as did The NeverEnding Story III (1994). The The Washington Post even likened the films’ setting to a cheap knockoff of The Wizard of Oz.
After Ende’s outrage at the first film, Geissler should have seen the writing on the wall. Instead, Geissler refused to end The NeverEnding Story — and paid the price when both sequels tanked.
Danielle Ryan on Pirates of the Caribbean
The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie was a rip-roaring adventure on the high seas. Johnny Depp was fun as the Keith Richards-esque Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom was riding high off of his time as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings, and Keira Knightley hadn’t made Domino yet. For a movie based on an amusement park ride, it was pretty entertaining. It was a great popcorn flick with lots of action, a bit of romance, and some well-placed humor. It did very well at the box office, and Disney decided to milk the film’s success for every penny.
What resulted was several horrible sequels. Dead Man’s Chest was unnecessarily morbid. At World’s End was a CGI-laden trainwreck with an exceedingly complex plot. On Stranger Tides was less ham-fisted but otherwise forgettable. The first film worked because it was fun and different, a swashbuckler with the right cast at the right time. With Johnny Depp’s career in the toilet and U.S. moviegoers starting to get sick of sequels, 2017’s Dead Men Tell No Tales doesn’t look like to be a chest of gold, either. [Danielle Ryan]
Drew Dietsch on Jaws
Jaws is the best film ever made. Naturally, that’s an opinion but it’s one that many film fans wouldn’t argue. The Steven Spielberg classic changed the entirety of the cinematic landscape in ways that are still being felt to this day. The original film was a cultural atom bomb that will never be far away from our collective consciousness. It’s too bad that such a success was seen as something worth capitalizing on.
The idea of making sequels to Jaws is ridiculous. How to continue to make stories about abnormally vicious sharks? There’s no real logical through line you can follow without things seeming unbelievable. Still, that’s what the series did. All three sequels focus on the Brody family and their bizarre ability to attract deadly great white sharks. Each successive sequel becomes increasingly cartoonish, capping off with a shark that is actually stalking the Brody family with purpose.
It’s a testament to Jaws that the sequels haven’t desaturated that film’s power. Even though we have pontificated on what a new Jaws film would need to have, it’s probably better to leave this one alone.
Nick Nunziata on An American Werewolf in London
An American Werewolf in London is exquisite. In a genre clouded with opportunists and wannabes, it reigns supreme. Much of the credit must go to Rick Baker’s transcendent special effects. With that said, director John Landis never forgets to pepper the film with warmth, chuckles, and brutal gallows humor when the need strikes. There’s a very special balance in the film that grants it the timelessness so few projects are allowed. It’s also perfectly cast, with all three leads (living, dead, and undead) in on the joke and at the peak of their abilities.
An American Werewolf in Paris, however, is an aluminum bat to the face. It is a sequel in name alone, charmless and unspectacular. It also boasts CGI effects at a time when the tools could not match the ambition. The film could have been named anything but an ill-conceived effort to link the two films together only cheapens the legacy of the Landis masterpiece.
Ryan Aday on Teen Wolf
The original Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox presents a classic 1980’s high school sports story. The average, underdog high school kid finds a way to beat the odds and “Win In the End” (as the classic track from the film voices). However, the way he beats the odds involves an otherworldly transformation into a teen werewolf which also increases his basketball skills. Great music, hot leading ladies, and an epic group dance sequence add qualifying credentials as a true 80’s film. Furthermore, Fox shines as the mild-mannered Scott Howard, son of a tool shop owner and part of a long line of humans who transform into wolves that dominate sports.
Then they made Teen Wolf Too. They chose to move the “teen wolf” character to university and they center the film on college boxing. Once again, college boxing. Few people know college boxing exists much less care anything about it. High School basketball is relatable to virtually everyone. I love Jason Bateman, who played Scott’s cousin Todd. Unfortunately, he clearly hadn’t reached the level of stardom he has today. James Hampton plays the father/uncle in both films. He represents the only positive aspect of the first movie that continued into the second film. Overall, Teen Wolf Too never needed to exist.
Andrew Hawkins on The Matrix
The Matrix should have stayed as is. Nobody needed the bloated, overhyped mess that follows the original film, and fans of the first installment practically felt like the sequels were like a slap in the face. The film that kicked off the trilogy promised us way more than what we got, and honestly it would have been better if it had been left alone.
The Wachowskis let fans down. In 1999, The Matrix was a gothic cyberpunk revolution and a near perfect film. It changed the game with its dynamic special effects and managed to set the bar for over a decade and a half of science fiction and action films. Revisiting the entire trilogy is tough even for an apologist, but the original is always worth watching despite what followed.