Oh three, why do you seem to be so cursed? Do filmmakers run out of ideas? Do they use up their brilliance after the sequel and forget all about that that third and final film? For us pop culture fanatics, third films just never seem to be on par with that second exhilarating endeavor. I started thinking about this in my article from a few days ago about Marvel Comics’ The Ultimates 3, which you can check out here. As for the proof, just take a look at this sad list of third films that just didn’t add:
Spider-Man 3: Here’s one of the greatest disappointments in genre history. Coming off a spectacular first film, decades in the making, and then followed up with what many considered an even more amazing sequel, the third Spidey flick should have been the ultimate ride. All the pieces were in place, with stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco along with director Sam Raimi all on board, and iconic villains The Sandman and Venom making their big screen debuts. But rather than blowing our collective minds, Spider-Man 3 was a sad letdown. There were too many villains and it was clear that Raimi had little affinity for Venom, a character that was forced into the series by producers. Everybody just seemed tired and less than enthused about being in the picture, which would be the lowest grossing off all three Spider-Man films in North America (that being said, it still brought in more than $320 million so it was far from a commercial bomb).
X-Men: The Last Stand: I fell like I’m the only person out there who actually derives some pleasure from watching the third in the X-Men trilogy and, truth be told, I probably am. Director Brett Ratner took over the franchise from Bryan Singer, who directed the first two installments to increasing popularity, both with critics and fans, all of whom seemed to consider X2: X-Men United the mutant equivalent of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn. The Last Stand, not so much. While I’ve always enjoyed the action and the film’s willingness to randomly dispose of beloved characters, I grudgingly admit that this third time out suffers from poor dialogue, a lackluster script and no discernible depth.
Return of the Jedi: While far from an unmitigated disaster, I can’t imagine that there’s a Star Wars fan out there that would cite this one as their favourite. Well, maybe if they’re 8. More than anything else, Jedi suffers from poor performances from two out of our three leads. Both Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill appear totally disinterested in their roles, leaving Harrison Ford to carry the acting load from the moment he thaws out. And the less said about the Ewoks, the better.
Blade 3: Trinity: What was supposed to launch of series of spin-off films with Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds wound up being the final nail in the coffin for this vampire series that helped give comic book films some much needed credibility.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch: Here’s a bit of a dark horse pick, but this ranks pretty high on my list of failed threequels, since it has absolutely nothing to do with the original John Carpenter classic or its above average sequel. No Jamie Lee Curtis, no Michael Myers – instead, we’re stuck with an evil warlock and some cursed Halloween masks. Boo.
Psycho III: Did you even remember that people checked into the Bates Motel for a third time? This late 80’s glorified slasher flick not only saw Anthony Perkins return as Norman Bates, but he actually directed the film too. Sadly, not particularly well. Where Psycho II had solid performances and a smart, psychological script, the third flick was all about the gore. Underwhelming and entirely forgettable.
So there you go – the third time was definitely not a charm for these films. However, not every trilogy’s final chapter is a dud. Next time out, in the third and final part, I’ll take a look at some successful sequels to sequels.