Franchises typically run out of steam with the second or third instalment, but far more dispiriting is when the race to follow up a big success results in a glut of unnecessary sequels. Or to put it another way, when the success of Pirates Of The Caribbean led to Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End and On Stranger Tides, with more on the way.
Hollywood operates like the fast food industry, more interested in franchising and marketing than nutritional requirements, and their products seem to target the same demographic. If something worked once, why wouldn’t people want more of the same? We’re not dealing with the audience for Hamlet here.
Well, to paraphrase William Goldman, the pulse to create a sequel is always financial, so they are rarely of the same quality. There are exceptions – Aliens and The Godfather II spring immediately to mind – but most sequels are just following a formula.
There are entire franchises, as outlined in this list, where despite all the prequels, remakes and spin-offs, there isn’t a single instalment that can hold a candle to the first film.
The best comic book movie not actually based on a comic book, Darkman is exceeded only by Spider-Man 2 as a showcase for Sam Raimi’s visual style and storytelling skills. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a memorable creation, a horribly disfigured scientist who uses synthetic skin both to reunite with his fiancée and to take revenge on the thugs that left him for dead.
Neither Raimi nor Neeson returned for the sequels, which were shot back-to-back and sent straight to video. They’re pretty much what you’d expect from 1990s DTV fodder: made quickly and cheaply in Canada, they don’t have the money or the wit to match the original.
Darkman II: The Return Of Durant brings back Larry Drake as the villain (who died in the first movie) but Neeson has been replaced by Arnold Vosloo, who does what he can with the material. He returns in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, but with their rushed staging and TV movie scope, these pictures can’t hope to match the scale of the Raimi's vision.