Part Three: The Best, The Worst
Gabe Powers recalls his picks for the best and the worst third films of all time
This rush of threequels got me thinking about my favourite third film entries, and other times when perhaps the second time was the charm. I can't vouch for those films I have not seen, and the sheer quantity of films has made my selections tough. There are plenty of flicks out there that weren't good or bad enough to warrant mention here.
And by the way...
The best threequels aren't necessarily the best or in their series, they're just good movies that happen to be the third in a collection. It's almost impossible to not consider the precursors to a third film, and how that film expands upon the previous films' themes. Satisfaction is important, but sometimes expectations are more than simply met.
Return of the King: Extended Edition
These are in no particular order, but it's hard to top Return of the King, or The Lord of the Rings in general. It may all be bit indulgent, but Peter Jackson and crew's epic production pieces together such a wonderful quilt of image, sound, emotion, action, and drama it's really hard to complain.
As the third and final film in such a gigantic trilogy (the extended editions total almost twelve hours in all), Return of the King is nothing without its predecessors. This is not a standalone film. It’s also even more over-stuffed than the original book. The filmmakers had to cram one and a half epic films into one, due to the fact that several large sections of the previous source novel were missing from the The Two Towers. In the end, the theatrical release of Return of the King was the weakest of the trilogy.
On DVD, with an hour plus of additional footage, Return of the King becomes the wrap up the trilogy needed. Even as a lover of the series, I question a lot of the editing decisions made for the theatrical release. Once the film is bloated to what should be an impossibly long runtime it all comes together and the final extended edition product is one of my favourite films of all time.
Revenge of the Sith/Return of the Jedi
It wouldn't be my list if it didn't have a Star Wars shout out, would it? But which one is number three? Are they both number three? I like to think of the trilogies as separate story arcs concerning the same characters, so I'm counting each film as a good number three.
I spent my last editorial contemplating my affection for the prequel trilogy, and in preparation I re-watched the films. Though I honestly and truly enjoy the first two episodes, I am fully in love with Revenge of the Sith. The majority of the disappointment I found in the other prequel episodes was compounded by the fact that everything I really wanted to see concerning the plight of Anakin Skywalker happened in the final act. We all knew that this would all come down to a bummer ending, but the fact that a multi-million dollar film series ends on such a sad note is pretty incredible. Sure, we know things will get better for the galaxy far, far away, but life is pretty much over for pretty much every one of the main characters involved in these three stories.
Like Return of the King, Revenge of the Sith has the good fortune of coming down to a series of climaxes, with only the General Grievous sub-plot adding anything the audience wasn't already anticipating. The film opens on a high note, but from the second Anakin meets back up with Palpatine the dread sets in. The whole film is just so dark, and it's made even darker by the fact that we, the audience, know that the story has already been told, and that there is no hope of redemption (at least not in this two-hour sitting).
This knowing doom is cleverly played by both Lucas and composer John Williams. The entire film is physically dark in hue, and even moments of triumph are played within shadows. Every planet seems to be overcast, built into a darkened canyon, or perpetually trapped in a gothic-induced night-time state. William's score downplays many of the film's more celebratory elements, constantly reminding the audience of what has to happen in the final act. The music almost cries in melancholy minors even when the visuals are at their most bombastic. Stronger storytelling and performances, and improved special effects all help make this the most memorable of the trilogy, but it is its overwhelming sadness that harvests my affection.
Return of the Jedi is an overall weaker film than Sith, due mostly to its endlessly bland middle section populated by warrior teddy bears, but it has the strongest final act of the entire series (in this humble man's opinion). Jedi's iconic opening brought the series back to its humble serial roots, as our rambunctious heroes save Han Solo who has been condemned to life as a work of abstract art on Jabba the Hutt's wall. The rescue is also a chance for audiences to see how far fledgling Jedi Luke Skywalker has come with his force powers, as the black-gloved dare devil manages to take on the Hutt's minions almost single handed.
The Ewoks, though not nearly as cool as Wookies, serve their purpose in the historically influenced tale of resolve and bravery overcoming greater numbers and technology. Yeah they're cutesy, yeah their victory is pretty unbelievable (even in the realms of Space Opera), but they serve a purpose in the story, and they aren't entirely superfluous, not like a certain Gungan in Episode One ( ’Jar Jar Binks makes the Ewoks look like...like...fucking Shaft’).
But everything is forgiven in the film's finely tuned final act. The plights of three groups of characters are expertly edited and intercut creating a rich tapestry of action and emotion. On Endor, Leia, Han, and their rebel and Ewok forces fight to shut down the shield generator, only to discover they've walked into a trap. Above the Death Star Rebel and Imperial forces battle is what may be the finest large scale dog fight committed to film in the pre-digital age, only to discover that the Death Star itself is entirely operational. Aboard the Death Star, Luke confronts his father and the evil Emperor, and during his epic lightsaber battle with the conflicted and muted Darth Vader he begins to skirt the Dark Side. Someone heroic really should've died at some point during these multiple climaxes, but otherwise it stands as a very satisfying conclusion.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Though not necessarily the best European Western, Sergio Leone's epic Civil War era romp is easily the most recognizable, and in turn may be the quintessential Spaghetti Western. The plot follows three bandits: Blondie (Clint Eastwood), Sentenza (Lee Van Cleef), and Tuco (Eli Wallach) on the trail of a fortune in buried gold during the American Civil War. There are double, triple, and quadruple crosses aplenty as the three ultimate anti-heroes slug it out for superiority.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly really is a culmination of everything found the previous entries in the Dollars Trilogy, Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. It isn't a direct sequel plot-wise; it's more of a third reboot, mixing the finest elements of Sergio Leone's filmmaking style. It was later overshadowed by Leone’s superior work on Once Upon a Time in the West.
The story isn't anything to get too excited about, but master director Leone works wonders with his juxtaposed landscapes and close-ups, revelling in both the tiniest detail and the vastest scope. The three leads are so memorable that they have become the templates of the genre, the cool soft spoken one, the charmingly vicious villain, and the surprisingly crafty clown. Eastwood and Wallach are often played against type when on screen together, Wallach acting as the straight man to Eastwood's dry sense of humour.
Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors
Nightmare on Elm Street played its part in reinvigorating the horror genre in the late '80s, after the fatigue of one (or two, or a dozen) too many Friday the 13th inspired slashers. Part two, subtitled Freddy's Revenge, was a definitive step down in quality ( unless one watches it as a cheeky, homoerotic comedy, but that's another editorial). Though the money was still pouring in, producers knew they had to step things up if they wanted the same critical acclaim the first episode garnered. Creator Wes Craven was brought back on as a writer, and all was well once again on Elm Street.
The Dream Warriors is my favourite in the series, and with the exception of some very, very dated elements (the 'Dream Warriors' outfits aren't exactly 'cool' by modern standards), the film holds up better than even the first entry. The title concept is actually more of a set-up for future films than a concept for this one, and it's too bad the concept was dropped in the first few minutes of Renny Harlin's follow-up, but the story line is still the finest expansion the character of Freddy Kruger has ever seen.
Director Chuck Russel etched his name into underrated horror cinema archives between this film and his follow-up, the 1988 remake of The Blob (though everything he directed after was increasingly bad). The film has a pulpy look; it's both dark and colourful, and endlessly stylized without ever overdoing it. The creative death scenes opened the flood gates for kills that would become the only highlights of later episodes. Unfortunately this was also the beginning of funny Freddy, which was the bane of the later episodes.
Day of the Dead
George Romero offered up his socio-political views on the 1980s with the darkest and goriest of his initial trilogy of 'Dead' films. The film was released the same year as Dan O'Bannon's comedic and hip take on former Romero compadré John Russo's novel entitled Return of the Living Dead. O'Bannon's film was met with enthusiasm, and grossed a hefty sum, whereas Romero's film was dead in the water (pun is, of course, intended). Even fans of Night and Dawn weren't exactly ecstatic about the finished film. The irony is, of course, that the public treatment of these two films was very much in keeping with Romero's metaphor: Americans in the 1980s weren't big on being told what was wrong with them; they simply wanted to be entertained.
Day of the Dead was the result of a studio refusal to back an unrated production. Romero had written an epic script but was left to choose between toning down the production and toning down the gore. Most fans would agree that he made the right decision in going with a more modestly budgeted film that was true to the style of the previous two films. After the initial disappointment died away, not to mention the blind apathy of the '80s, Romero's third zombie opus was re-evaluated positively by viewers and critics alike. Some fans even consider it their favourite of the series.
Army of Darkness
Someday someone will write a good book about Sam Raimi and devote an entire chapter to the final act of his two trilogies. The fact that fans eventually came around to liking Army of Darkness after years of disapproval leaves me with hope for the future of Spider-Man 3. The two films, and in turn series, have a whole bunch in common.
Evil Dead 2 and Spider-Man 2 are both built upon the foundations of their predecessors, and improve on that foundation, but basically tell the same story. The third parts of both trilogies take their heroes out of their natural environments (in Spider-Man's case, he's presented with a happy life and supernatural enemies, in Ash's case he's thrown into the Middle Ages), and amp up the humour. The fan bases for both series expected darker films than Raimi and his brother Ivan (who co-wrote both films, but not the others in either series) were willing to deliver. Both films were considered massive disappointments by series fan bases, and were unfairly dismissed.
I'm young enough that I actually watched the Evil Dead trilogy out of order. I had no idea that Army of Darkness had anything to do with Evil Dead at the time I saw it. To me it was a standalone film filled with energetic visuals, funny characters, and endlessly quotable one-liners. I can understand the quelled expectations in hindsight, but the film holds a special place in my heart. It was a gateway movie, before I saw it I didn't have a taste for horror, but after Raimi's comedic ease into the genre I spent the next decade addicted to a more pure brew.
Lady Vengeance is a fantastic film. Visually it's one of the most gorgeous in years, but compared directly to its thematic prequel, Oldboy, its light fades to a glimmer. It's not fair that Park Chan-wook's previous film was so damn good. Technically it is the most ambitious film Park has attempted to date. His use of the widescreen frame is second to few, and the attention to decorative detail is astonishing. The film fluctuates between Baroque, hyper-real, impressionistic, and blatantly self-aware (including obvious digital work and characters speaking to the camera). The optical input can actually be at times overwhelming, for better or worse.
The entire film hinges on the performance of our ‘Lady Vengeance’, Lee Yeong-ae, the star of Park Chan-wook's popular break through film, JSA: Joint Security Area. Yeong-ae gives a wonderfully layered performance as a younger woman, feigning innocence, and an older woman hell bent on revenge and ravaged by guilt. Though despite all her dark and dangerous intensity, it is her intrinsic and witty sense of humour that most of us will remember her for. Yeong-ae is backed up by a rock-solid supporting cast, peppered with some of Park's favourite character actors, including Oh Dae-su himself, Choi Min-sik, as Geum-ja's mortal enemy and the cause of her imprisonment.
Continuing his ambitious streak, Park opts to deal with the moral and ethical issues presented by bloody, murderous revenge, rather than the aiming of guilt. Choi Min-sik's guilt is never in question, but Lee Yeong-ae's motives may be. These issues were the basis of the first part of his ‘Vengeance Trilogy’, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, where they were dealt with in somewhat heavy-handed and unmistakably dark manner, which turned off many viewers. Here Park tries to infuse the issues with more humour, not to mention honesty. The hands are still pretty weighted, but they're much more elegant this time around. One might even call it 'lady-like'.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I thought the first Harry Potter film, Philosopher's Stone, was a very poorly directed film with an interesting story. Chris Columbus kicked up the direction and all around quality with the second film, Chamber of Secrets, but the plot was a dull rehash of the first. I also have zero interest in reading any of the books. The only reason I even saw the third film is theatres was that I went along with my best friend and mother when they visited that summer.
I didn't know who Alfonso Cuarón was at the time, and I knew nothing of the plot of the third book (besides what the trailers told me), so I went into Prisoner of Azkaban with minimal expectations. The story of this third film is a wonderful build on that of the weak foundation set by its predecessors, and all the young actors improved exponentially between films. The clincher is Alfonso Cuarón, who's ten times the film director Chris Columbus could ever hope to be. Azkaban has a grounded realism not found in the other films, and Cuarón's control of special effects and action (something he'd perfect with his next film, Children of Men) is second to very few. All the while the previous film's greatest strengths — the art direction and set design — are not lost.
I'd like to think of parts one and two as extremely long trailers, Azkaban is the main course. Part four ended up tripping back a hair. If only Warner Bros. could get Cuarón back for another episode.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Not the best film in the series by a long shot, but a solid improvement on the weak second entry. The film's power lies in its sense of humour, something I'm hoping won't be forgotten when the ill-advised forth entry is finished.
Police Story 3: Super Cop: Hong Kong films are known for actually improving with sequels, and Jackie Chan's third Police Story film is no exception. All in all, Super Cop may be Chan's best film. The physical humour and action is multiplied tenfold and Michele Yeoh is thrown into the mix for good measure.
Alien 3: I admit I wasn't a fan of David Fincher's feature directorial début the first time I saw it, and when compared directly to James Cameron's super-charged second entry in the Alien series, the film still suffers, but I have developed a respect for the claustrophobic little recall of Ridley Scott's original. The release of a 'producers' cut on DVD, along with hours of behind the scenes footage telling us exactly what went wrong with the production only helps refine my respect. Not a great film, but not nearly as bad most of us remember. Of course, I still like Alien Resurrection, so take my opinion on this matter with the appropriate grain of salt.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: A companion piece to Alien 3, Terminator 3 is a nice spit-wad in the face of Cameron's previous super influential series. My reason for including it as an honourable mention has everything to do with the fact that wasn't entirely awful. I went in expecting the worst, and didn't get it. The performances (other than Arnold, of course) are fantastic, the bone crunching car/crane chase is amazing, and the bleak finale is a very nice touch.
Goldfinger: I'm not a huge Bond fan, but I can watch most of the Connery episodes at the drop of a hat. Goldfinger is possibly the most famous early Bond flick, and is important to the archetype power of the character, but not one of my favourites overall. It's a very solid entry that just happens to have been stuck between the two best.
The Muppets Take Manhattan: I'm not sure if the Muppets have ever done wrong on the big screen (I even enjoyed Muppets from Space), and the third part of the series is easily the finest DVD I've ever peeled off a cereal box. Manhattan is best when it focuses on Miss Piggy, who's the weakest (and most obnoxious) character in the rest of the series (all of them, and I've seen all of them), and disserves quite a bit of love for that reason alone.
Halloween 3: Season of the Witch: I didn't see Season of the Witch for years based on the bad word of mouth from series fans. The film isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but is the best of the Halloween sequels, mostly because Michael Myers isn't an interesting enough concept to build an entire film series upon. Season of the Witch is an odd little film, unlike any other, and worth at least a rent for '80s horror fans.
Exorcist III: Legion: Years after the complete debacle that was Exorcist II, Warner Bros. found the courage to revisit the series again, this time putting writer William Peter Blatty in charge direction. Blatty's picture was pretty much ignored on its initial release, but garnered more praise than John Boorman's massive flop. After its release on home video the film gained some steam and a healthy cult following. Some now consider the film on par with the original, but the truth is that like so many 'discovered on video' classics it has become a tad over-praised by a vocal minority.
Die Hard with a Vengeance: Another unfairly maligned film, the third in Bruce Willis' Die Hard series was very different from the first two (the script started life as an entirely unrelated film called Simon Says), but is an entertaining action film in its own right. The last act is sudden and poorly executed (have a look at the DVD extras), and the scenes without Willis or Sam Jackson are lacking, but the action is top notch, if not a bit daft (truck surfing indeed). At least it was R-rated.
Return of the Living Dead Part 3: Money man and horror genre enthusiast Brian Yuzna has a knack for making brainless comic book entertainment, and all his best films are sequels to series he didn't start (not including Re-Animator, which he only produced). Return of the Living Dead was a horror/comedy classic, but its immediate sequel is one of the worst studio horror releases of the era. Yuzna's teen romance follow-up, which came several years later, is something of a mini-classic, but only in its uncut, unrated form.
There are so many bad films that happen to be the third in a series we could be here all day. The real disappointment comes when a follow-up film fails to live up to the high precedent set by its predecessor. It is these disappointments that make up the worst threequels of all time, the ones you might have expected something good from, or at the very least some minor satisfaction.
Not a lot was expected from the third trip to future Detroit, but I was still unbelievably disappointed with Robocop 3. First things first: the dreaded PG-13 rating. It's very shallow of me, but the first two films revel in their raunchy violence like too few other American films anymore. One could make a pretty convincing argument that the only good thing about the second film was the fact that it's so blatantly offensive. When a film series that wears its ultra-violence with a smile is so suddenly tamed one can't help but feel a bit ripped off. There’re hardly even any of the great tongue-in-cheek commercials found in the previous two instalments.
There's a lot to be said for Frank Miller's script (yes, that Frank Miller), which was apparently originally part of his mammoth Robocop 2 script, and there are some great looking missed opportunities every which way. Like X-Men: The Last Stand, Robocop 3 gets so very close to taking the whole Robocop story to a satisfying conclusion. Alex Murphy ends up joining an underground resistance against the corporate run city of Detroit, but only after his partner and close friend is murdered in cold blood by the corrupt cops. He even takes on a genius kid as a sort of side-kick in a nice contrast to the bad-guy kid in part two, but none of this works because the filmmakers don't know how to treat the material.
Robocop, and to a lesser extent Robocop 2, is a comedy at its base. A jet black, comic-book inspired comedy. The first film deftly handles moments of over-the-top violence, with moments of genuine levity, and never forgets its pulp and pop roots. It’s a product of its time. Robocop 3 attempts levity, and has the potential for some real drama, but in the face of its neutered violence and lack of adult aspirations, not to mention the wrong kind of humour, the film fails again and again. In the end we have a Saturday morning cartoon version of the original film, complete with various attachments to Robocop's cyborg frame, enabling the film to sell more toys.
Like most of the world I left Matrix Reloaded with big reservations. The whole thing seemed so overdone, and somewhat untrue to the plucky spirit of the original film. The Matrix was the anti- Star Wars, a referential and allegorically layered science fiction yarn for adults. Star Wars simplifies its meaning, The Matrix revels in over-analyzation.
Seeing Reloaded a second time on DVD was a bit of an eye opener. I could see now exactly what went wrong—the film takes too long getting started. When you distil the forty-plus minutes of dance scenes, repetitive character introductions, and lacklustre fisticuffs, you’ll find a nice and concise set-up. When Neo meets up with the Oracle and the plot finally kicks in the rest of the film is a damn fine one. In fact, Reloaded is a film I respect a little bit more with each subsequent viewing. I honestly consider purchasing the DVD box set every once and a while, if only it wasn't for that awful third film.
I went into Matrix Revolutions with drastically lowered expectations, and I got what I deserved. I enjoyed the film the first time I saw it. But contrary to my reaction to Reloaded, I've learned to hate Revolutions with subsequent viewings.
The first problem is the fact that Reloaded ends with a gigantic, cliff hanging question mark, and appeared to be a lead-in to the richest psycho-analytical, big-budget production of all time. If the Wachowski brothers would've followed the tracks they laid they might have made a film to rival 2001: A Space Odyssey. Instead we get a substandard re-run of Return of the Jedi, minus the last act editing.
Revolution’s opening reel opens a whole mess of new and intriguing doors, revealing the fact that computer programs within the Matrix have something close to human emotions. They aren't bad guys; in fact, they may be more worth saving than the apathetic humans that started the whole war. Then we're introduced to a new character, the Train Man, and reacquainted with the Merovingian (the sequels’ second most interesting character behind Smith). Things are looking good until our heroes go to save Neo, which involves the same slow motion fighting we've seen a million times before, only this time it’s all up-side down. Oooo. Then it turns out saving Neo from the Merovingian's clutches is as easy as putting a gun to the bastard's head.
From here on out the film is divided in two, one half giant battle in the real world, and one half giant battle with the Matrix. The real world battle is pretty and all, but devolves into every other war movie you've ever seen, complete with ridiculous one-liners, and a gaggle of B-characters nobody cares about. Neo and Trinity's trip to the core is more interesting, and less numbing, but the sequence is cut separate from the human vs. machine battle, making both appear short and limp-wristed. It's fun watching Neo and Smith pound the hell out of each other, but perhaps some urgency should’ve been considered. Maybe the machines shouldn't have put down arms until Neo was victorious. Perhaps some cross-cutting was in order.
The whole mess is wrapped up in a very frustrating bow. I get that this whole thing is about choice (I saw the previous film), but had the Oracle simply told Neo all he had to do was give himself up to Smith we would've had one half a movie instead of two. That's why I sat through all of this, so that Neo the Bratty could feel alright about dying? At the very least Hugo Weaving manages to steal every scene he's in. Without him the film would be a total waste. Let's not even talk about the possibly thrilling connotations of Neo's failure at the end of part two, what that could've done to such insanely devoted characters as Morpheus, or the fact that Neo's sudden control over the real world machines is left unexplained and under-utilized. Why did this have to be a trilogy? Why couldn't it be longer?
X-Men: The Last Stand
After years of not understanding the vehement backlash against The Phantom Menace I finally got my first taste of geek-drawn crushing disappointment in 2006. X-Men: The Last Stand is my Phantom Menace. It all comes down to what could have been rather than what was, as The Last Stand is a passable film. Hell, the first half could even be mistaken for good. There are a few stand out scenes, ones good enough that I was willing to eat my Brett Ratner hating words, but the whole thing falls apart so gracelessly that the fall hurts ten times more than it would had the film been irredeemable crap.
X-Men 2 is my favourite superhero movie. It has everything important to the genre going for it. The performances are perfect, the action is spectacular without being irrelevant to the story, the characters, so thinly drawn in the first outing, where entirely three-dimensional beings, and the plot was riveting. It is the Empire Strikes Back of the series in more ways than one, even though the Empire model is a bit over-played in the royal realms of sequeldom (see Matrix: Reloaded, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, etc.). With its final image, X-Men 2 sent me reeling with anticipation for the next chapter, the tale of the Dark Phoenix.
Then the pre-production problems started. Director Bryan Singer ditched the property for Superman Returns, and took a large chunk of the creative team with him. This was followed by a series of near starts with other talented writers and directors, including Joss Whedon ( Serenity) and Alex Proyas ( Dark City), and a real start with the very talented Matthew Vaughn ( Layer Cake), whose various interviews made the project sound like a strong follow-up to Singer's coup-de-grace. When Vaughn left the project suddenly, the greedy mongrels at Fox (the same people that ruined the first X-Men by pushing production into an unrealistic timeframe, and demanding an unrealistic run-time) brought in emergency backup director Brett Ratner to pick up the pieces.
I don't like Brett Ratner's films, and began to actively hate the guy’s work when he somehow managed to make a slam-dunk like Red Dragon into the blandest film in the Hannibal Lector series (until the truly awful Hannibal Rising was released, of course), and a possible contender for this list (I'm counting it as number four). I don't, however, blame the Rat for The Last Stand's ultimate failure. I blame whoever decided to cram eight hours of material into less than two hours of runtime. I actually commend Ratner for not making a complete mess of things. This isn't a bad film, but it isn't a good film, and by all rights it should have been a great film. There are so many missed opportunities in to be found here they could fill Alkali Lake. I'll ask it again—why did this have to be a trilogy? Why couldn't it be longer?
I really enjoy Tim Burton's Batman movies. When the pale-faced neo-goth left the series I was a little too young to really care about such things, and just assumed Warner Bros. wouldn't piss in their own pool, especially when this particular pool pulled in about a bazillion dollars. I don't know a lot about the history of Joel Schumacher's boisterously bad film, but apparently the Warners didn't like the dark tone of Batman Returns, and after extensive development Burton was 'taken off' the project (apparently Marlon Wayans was going to play Robin, which I initially want to say is stupid, but on second thought may have worked).
Whatever the cause, Schumacher's film is a complete mess, equal parts boring and cheesy. The film embraces nothing; it just plods along, tripping over plot developments and hideous production design all along the way. I actually prefer Batman and Robin because it's so flamboyant and preposterous it at least elicits a reaction ( edit: it elicits a hateful reaction. I hate Batman and Robin, just not as much as Batman Forever, clear?). Batman Forever is a pale shadow of Burton's first film, one not brave enough to be its very own piece of garbage. Nipples and butt-shots are the least of this film's problems.
I really shouldn't have had any expectations for Lucio Fulci's zombie swan song, but the back-story and quashed possibilities are enough to break a spaghetti splatter fan's gory little heart. Though Zombie isn't actually a sequel to Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and Zombi 3 isn't really at all related to its predecessor, I've got to toss a very personal cheat into every editorial list I write for this site.
Lucio Fulci was pretty close to dying by the time someone finally talked him into making a new living dead flick. Needless to say, his heart wasn't in the feature. When he quit the production due to illness, the producers brought the king of crap Bruno Mattei (may he rest in peace) on board. No one seems to know how much of the footage in the final film was Fulci's and how much was Mattei’s, but it's all moot because it all sucks—every last frame.
Don't get me wrong, I've watched the flick a few times, and it could be worse. The problem isn't that anyone should've expected great quality from either filmmaker (Fulci hadn't made a decent film in something like eight years, and Mattei never made a decent film), but fans should've at least been able to expect an appropriation of Fulci's good films. There's no atmosphere to speak of, unless you count all the super obvious smoke machine work, and even the gore is weak. It'd be great if the film was something special, but it isn't even a decent rip-off. The electronic score, though repetitive as all hell, is awesome, so I suppose that's something.
Superman III: I've said before that I'm really not a fan of the Superman films on the whole, but part three is utterly abysmal. The only shining lights of redemption here are a few of the performances (no, not Richard Pryor), especially Christopher Reeve who remains ever dependable, even in the series fourth instalment, which is neigh-on unwatchable. The robo-lady did scare the stuffing out of me as a lad, though.
Godfather Part III: One of the worst films ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, but not quite as bad as history seems to remember, the final Godfather movie had a whole lot to live up to. The film's problems include a bland story, stilted and awkward dialogue, and some truly horrendous acting, but it still manages to be better than the people say. Not bad enough to make the official list, but bad enough to garner a nomination.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock: Again, I'm not a big fan of the Star Trek series, and as a Star Wars apologist I don't want to cause any unnecessary friction betwixt the tribes, but after the pulpy grandeur of Wrath of Kahn, Search for Spock was one of the more boring major motion picture experiences of my childhood. An adult re-watch didn't prove much better. Tim was right; the odd numbered ones are the ones to miss.
Friday the 13th Part 3: Some fans hold Jason's second outing in Camp Crystal Lake in high regard because it's the one where the murdering mongoloid found his head gear. I've given the movie three chances now, and it bores like no other Friday the 13th, except maybe parts seven and eight (which are the worst ones, without a doubt). We shouldn't expect much from the series, but the kills (with the exception of the eyeball squeezing) are relatively tame, and the actor playing Jason is gawky and awkward. Perhaps if the DVD was in the original 3D I'd sing a different tune, but until them I'm done with this one.
Jaws 3D: The third, and unfortunately not the final entry in the Jaws series is so bad it's almost good—almost. I never miss it when it plays on cable, and if it was available in its original 3D on DVD I might have to buy it, but this doesn't change the fact that it is a terminally awful film. What in the hell was Sea World thinking when they lent their name and likeness to this trash?
The Howling III: The Marsupials: The Howling film series may very well be the overall worst in studio motion picture history. Only Joe Dante's original is worth a damned moon beast. The Marsupials isn't the worst (that would be part two), but it's pretty bad, and unfortunately wastes a premise that actually could've made for a decent flick.
Final Destination 3: I adore the first two Final Destination films, especially the kitchen sink included, killer Rube Goldberg festival that was part two. I went to the theatre opening day to see the third entry, and though I can't claim it was particularly 'bad', it was entirely forgettable. I can't remember a single kill off the top of my head. It may sound silly, but Final Destination 3 was one of the biggest theatrical disappointments I've ever had.
Child's Play 3: Child's Play was an unexpected hit, and is an unexpectedly effective little horror film. Its two direct sequels are so bland I can rarely tell one from the other (they were released only nine months apart). I had to look up the 'plot' on imdb.com, and I still recall very, very little other than entirely un-scary images of kids running around some kind of black-lit back lot. The tongue-in-cheek reboot Bride of Chucky was exponentially better.
Scream 3: Even though expectations should've been low after the lacklustre second entry in the Scream series, this third part was such a pathetic rehash it still managed to shock with its sense of utter apathy. The celebrity cameos are the only memorable elements.
Back to the Future III: Here's the question, do I get more flack from readers for liking something as universally hated as Alien 3, or for hating something as universally loved as Back to the Future III? Only time will answer this particular query. Actually, I don't really like any of the Back to the Future series, but part three was even a disappointment when I was still an un-satiated child. How could they follow up the futuristic, time paradoxed second entry with a half-assed trip to the Wild West? Clearly the way to end the series would be a trip to prehistoric times. You can't go wrong with dinosaurs; even the damn ride had one.
I have hope for the future of threequels, though that hope may be unfounded. The Toy Story series was recently saved from a non-Pixar outing, and if part two was any indication, we should be in for a treat come 2009. I'm hoping that Warner Bros. two big comic properties, Superman and Batman produce a few sequels that are X-Men 2 sized improvements on the previous instalments, then go on to break the third movie comic book curse (though truth be told, I actually liked Spider-Man 3). Dario Argento has been on a pretty stinky roll, but his fans still hold out for the final instalment in the much delayed Mother's Trilogy, which he started with Suspiria and Inferno.
So, what did I miss? I'm sure I missed plenty of awful films. Did I miss any great ones?
Editorial by Gabriel Powers
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