Sequels are under tremendous pressure to be both bigger and better than the first one. That’s really hard to do, since the first one was so successful because the filmmakers managed to catch lightning in a bottle, so how can they be expected to do it all again? So many things had to work to make the first one a hit – it’s difficult to do that again. Well, unless you just copy everything about the original and do it all over again. Sometimes it does work, sometimes it doesn’t. These 10 sequels are just a rehash of the first movie.
10. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Michael Bay’s spectacular sci fi action movies adapted from the mythology of a line of Hasbro toys have never been particularly well received by critics. The warmest reception that they ever got was in the first couple of movies, but at least the later ones have followed their own plots (even if those plots hinged on the characters traveling to the Asian countries that funded production and robots fighting in front of giant billboards telling viewers to take a vacation there this summer). The second movie followed the exact same plot as the first one, but with the names of the things replaced. In the first one, the characters are tasked with finding the AllSpark in order to protect the Earth from Megatron. In the second one, the characters are tasked with finding the Matrix of Leadership in order to protect the Earth from the Fallen. It’s the same thing! They pretty much just did “Find and Replace” on the original movie’s script to change the names of all the MacGuffins and the villains and the locations in order to churn out a sequel in the easiest way possible. At least the Moon one followed a plot of its own.
9. Paranormal Activity 2
This movie actually isn’t that bad. As far as sequels go, it is a frightening horror movie and fans of the original will enjoy it. But while the first one was sort of groundbreaking as it brought back the found footage horror genre that had been pioneered with The Blair Witch Project, the second one felt far less new and original. Again, it was a found footage horror movie, and again, it was about a haunted house, and again, the people who live in the house decide to set up some cameras to see whether or not what they think are break-ins are actually ghostly events. Celebrated film critic Owen Gleiberman was a huge fan of the sequel. He wrote that it was a “shivery skillful, highly worthy fear factor sequel.” He added, “The images all point down, which is subtly disquieting, and each one is composed with enough wide angle space and distance, and enough nooks and crannies, so that even when nothing is happening, the often dead silent shots tend to grow scarier the more you look at them…It made me jump, sweat, and chew my fingernails.” It is a good movie, there’s no question about that – it’s just a rehash of the first one, that’s all.
8. Final Destination 2
A horror movie franchise about people who have to avoid their deadly fate after dodging the Grim Reaper’s scythe sounds like a good idea – it sets up ample opportunity for terrifying set pieces and a good setup to get an ensemble of characters together to be picked off one by one by a supernatural force. But after the first movie established the formula of a bunch of people dodging death and then being pursued by Death himself until a seemingly happy ending before the survivors’ inevitable deaths leave the movie on a haunting cliffhanger, that’s what every one of the sequels has done. Craig Perry, one of the producers of the first movie, said about the second one, “We could have made no other movies and the first one still would have been a satisfying experience. But when we were given the opportunity to make a sequel, we jumped at it.” So, basically, he’s saying that he would have been happy if Final Destination was left as just one movie without turning it into a franchise, but then when the studio offered him a lot of money, he quickly changed his mind and gave us four rehashes of the first one.
7. Jaws 2
This sequel is best remembered for its poster tagline, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” It’s a good tagline, and it made fans of the original want to watch the movie, but it also encapsulates exactly what it is: a rehash of the first one. The plot sees Martin Brody suspecting that another great white shark is terrorizing Amity Island. So, this sleepy seaside town where nothing bad had ever happened until a great white shark came and started eating people was suddenly the site of regular great white shark visits. This one is generally considered to be the best of the three sequels that followed Steven Spielberg’s suspenseful 1975 aquatic thriller, but that’s not really saying much, since the third movie relied on shoddy 3D effects and the fourth movie has a rare 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roy Scheider might look like a sell-out for appearing in the movie, but he actually only did it to settle a legal dispute that he was having with the studio at the time. He knew that the movie would suck and he didn’t want to do it at all. Spielberg decided not to return, saying that “making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick.” The guy is currently working on his fifth Indiana Jones movie.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
George Lucas’ seminal 1977 space opera came completely out of the blue as a monster hit. What the studio had thought was a weird little space movie that would fail at the box office and just sort of go away went on to become the highest grossing movie of all time, and a pop culture phenomenon that has continued to be relevant and beloved for more than forty years. In that movie, Luke Skywalker is whisked away from his home on a remote desert planet to fight alongside the Rebel Alliance, aided by a wise old mentor named Ben Kenobi, and bring down Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire by blowing up their planet destroying weapon, the Death Star. When J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2015, although the movie was highly acclaimed by critics and became the third highest grossing movie of all time, he pretty much just copied the same plot, doing a “Find and Replace” on Lucas’ script. In Abrams’ movie, Rey is whisked away from her home on a remote desert planet to fight alongside the Resistance, aided by a wise old mentor named Han Solo, and bring down Kylo Ren and the First Order by blowing up their planet destroying weapon, Starkiller Base. Where Luke’s character development into a hero came when Vader killed Kenobi, Rey’s came when Kylo Ren killed Han. It’s the same movie!
5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
This is a very controversial inclusion on the list, since this sequel is a prime example of one that is both bigger and better than the first one. The first one was a small, intimate piece, and then when James Cameron went to make a sequel – by which point, Arnold Schwarzenegger had become one of the biggest movie stars on the planet – he went all out. He demanded one of the largest production budgets in film history at the time and used it to craft a gigantic, epic action extravaganza. The sequel’s plot and character dynamics just shift everyone up the chain of command. In the first one, Kyle Reese travels back in time at the same time as Schwarzenegger’s T-800 to protect Sarah Connor from it. With Kyle Reese dead, a reprogrammed T-800 is sent back in time at the same time as Robert Patrick’s T-1000 to protect Sarah Connor from it. It’s the same thing! The main difference is that, in the first one, John Connor has yet to be born, and in the second one, the kid is there. He’s a tween played by Edward Furlong. He and the T-800 develop a sort of father/son relationship over the course of the movie, and that’s new and interesting and fun, but other than that, as great as it is, it is just a rehash of the original.
4. Taken 2
At one point during his 2016 solo movie, Deadpool says to his girlfriend Vanessa in the middle of the night, “Liam Neeson nightmare. I dreamed I kidnapped his daughter and he just wasn’t having it. They made three of those movies. At some point, you’d have to wonder if he’s just a bad parent.” He’s right – if Neeson’s character Bryan Mills keeps letting his daughter get into dangerous situations, then maybe he’s not such a great father. In the first movie, his daughter travels to Paris and gets immediately kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. Like, seriously, she doesn’t even have time to unpack her suitcase before she is kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. Then Neeson heads down there and tracks her down. In the second movie, the family members of one of the Albanian sex traffickers that Neeson killed in the first one aren’t too pleased with him, and so they track him down in Istanbul and kidnap him and his wife, leaving the daughter to save them. But it’s the same kind of thing – it’s all based on kidnapping. The first movie was a visceral, gritty, thrilling moviegoing experience. The second movie, sadly, was not.
3. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Peter and Kate McAllister really need to keep a closer eye on their kids. Leaving their son Kevin at home while they go on vacation once is a strange, yet understandable mistake, especially given how many kids they had with them. But for cripes’ sake, how could they go and let it happen a second time? You’d think that if they ever went on vacation ever again after abandoning their son to almost be murdered by two criminals, they would keep a close eye on him. They’re terrible parents! Chris Columbus returned to direct the movie after helming the first one and the great John Hughes also returned to write the script. They were his characters and his storylines, so it only made sense that Hughes would come back to honor them properly in the sequel. And yet, he decided to just repeat the same plot all over the again, with Kevin stranded in a different place, meeting a different weird old person, and setting slightly different booby traps for the Wet Bandits. It was an interesting difference to have Kevin be stranded in New York after getting the wrong flight, rather than being left at home again, which would truly be a rehash.
2. The Hangover Part II
The Hangover still stands today as a modern comedy classic. Almost a decade later, it’s still just as funny. The gags are timeless and will never fail to get a laugh. That’s probably why it became such a hit, even though it had a cast of relative unknowns. Bradley Cooper was known mostly for supporting roles back then, Zach Galifianakis was only big on the alternative standup comedy scene, and Ed Helms was known only as Andy “the ‘Nard Dog” Bernard. When the movie grossed over $400 million at the worldwide box office in 2009, you could almost guarantee that a sequel was on the cards. The studio was going to get that cast back together at all costs. The sequel is not a terrible movie. It has some funny gags, particularly involving Alan and Mr. Chow, who get a stronger focus in the sequel after they were the characters that the fans of the first movie most responded to. But the main problem lies in it being a rehash of the original. Again, the guys are in a party town to celebrate one of them getting married. Again, they wake up with no recollection of the night before. Again, one of them is missing. Again, they have to find him before the wedding. Again, it turns out they were all drugged by Alan. It’s the same movie all over again. It’s fun, but it would’ve been more fun if they’d gone with a whole new plot – as they did with the superior third movie, a sort of dark action thriller with laughs.
1. Die Hard 2
In the first Die Hard movie, a New York cop named John McClane travels to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his family, and then must save his wife from terrorists when they take over the Christmas party in her office. In the second one, McClane travels to Washington Dulles International Airport on Christmas Eve to pick up his wife from her inbound flight from L.A. when he uncovers a terrorist plot and has to thwart it before his wife plane, which is circling the runway, runs out of fuel. John McClane even makes a meta reference to the fact that this sequel is the exact same as the first one. During one of his signature monologues, which are known for expressing his sardonic wit, he says, “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” Seriously, how can it? Luckily, the three other sequels that followed would ditch the formula of a terrorist takeover on Christmas in favour of exploring wider reaching stories. And anyway, the second one is still a pretty good movie. It may follow the same formula as the first one, but it has an engaging plot and some thrilling action sequences set in the airport.