Were in a world where sequels are both the best and worst thing in cinema. As the year moves towards summer audiences are quick to bemoan the high number of films based already existing successes, but mere months later theyre eagerly anticipating the latest Iron Man, Star Trek or X-Men. Talk about flippant. Even though we crave originality, a sequel is dependable and have in recent years proven to be as strong as the original; The Godfather: Part II and The Empire Strikes Back are no longer the only good sequels. And as time goes by, more money is put into the follow ups the the original and its really showing on screen. Well, in most cases. Sometimes the money wont make it on screen and youre left with a damp squib. Nowhere is this better shown than with the special effects. Typically here quality directly correlates to budget, but as with any rule it ends up broken. Here are ten follow ups that for some bizarre reason ended up with visual effects worse than the original. As youll see this isn't just reserved to CGI. I'mtsha going to be looking at all sorts of effects across the past fifty years. Theres budget cuts and technology misuse galore in this article, as well as some very light spoilers.
Honourable Mention - Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
The sequel that immediately comes to mind when you think of shocking special effects has to be the fourth Indiana Jones. Forsaking the original trilogys focus on traditional effects, this is CGI overkill in the worst possible manner; theres painfully enough real sets to hint at a promise of a realistic film. The thing is, the effects in Raiders, Doom and Crusade were equally as outlandish and unbelievable; extravagant face melting and poor compositing are rife. But while the effects aren't perfect, the film was just so interesting you didnt care. The real crime of Crystal Skull was that it was so mundane all you could do was focus on the special effects. Which is much, much worse.
10. The Thing
John Carpenters The Thing is one of the touchstones of practical effects. Every single shot of the creature was created in real life and it shows; it always feels like its in there with the actors, helping amp up the claustrophobic unpredictability of the film. In 2011, we got The Thing (confusing I know). Despite in concept being a prequel to the 1982 classic, the regurgitated plot (someone actually thought it was a good idea to recreate the blood test with flashing a torch in peoples mouths) and identical title made it clear this was a reboot in the vein of Halloween and Friday The 13th; i.e, crap. Initially the preboot was going to use practical effects to throwback to the original - throughout shooting real models were used - but this was rejected when the director thought it looked a bit like an 80s movie. Thats genuinely the reason Matthijs van Heijningen gave.
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but if youre making a prequel to an eighties movie, isn't having it look like an eighties movie a good thing? Clearly Heijningen was working more on the remake side of his brain that day. In that interview claiming his CG additions only enhanced the existing footage, they actually removed all the practical effects, making a film that looked like an early naughties animation fest.
9. Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
The CGI in the Harry Potter series was always as good as youd expect from a movie with such a high budget. I recently rewatched Goblet Of Fire and was blown away by how well the visuals in this eight year old film stood up against the modern fare; the underwater lake sequence remains breathtaking. Wanting to keep going with the series, I was shocked by the fall in quality for Order Of The Phoenix. With his first mainstream feature David Yates clearly overestimated just what CGI could do. New to the technology he threw everything he could at the screen, recreating the Hogwarts we loved, accentuated with unconvincing magic and stupid flying things. In the past I've talked about the death of Sirius Black
, which ruins one of the books strongest moments, but theres loads of scenes with stupid, faux-magical accentuations. Christmas opens with the camera following a little Santa flying round Grimmauld Place, the speaking letter looks like a poor knock off of the one in Chamber Of Secrets five years before and any flying scene makes the greenscreen painfully obvious. All these moments are doing are artificially trying to create wonder and padding out an already long film. Yates got his act together for Half Blood Prince and even though Deathly Hallows was stupidly split, the CGI was top notch.
8. The Ring Two
Kicking off the early naughties fad of remaking atmospheric Japanese horror, The Ring was a oddly good adaptation. Sure, it didnt have the same personal impact as Ringu, but it brought a genuinely chilling story to a wider audience, something its imitators struggled with. The sequel lost much of the smarts that had made the original so chilling. Not taking any inspiration from any of Ringus spin-offs and jarringly spelling out the number of its installment (a trick Iron Man Three repeated this summer, at least on the BBFC card) it told its own story. A story that, it turns out, was both painfully generic and well beyond the current tech. After a pretty fresh first film the second stuck close to genre conventions, including animals sensing something was amiss with the haunted long before humans did. But instead of using birds or dogs as is traditional, Hideo Nakata, shockingly director of the Japanese original, chose to go for something grander and high octane. And so we got the scene where a bunch of deer that look to be straight out of the toy packet suddenly attack Naomi Watts car. Intended to top the first films horse death, the fake looking animals only further the ridiculousness of a silly scene.
7. Jaws III
For all the jokes about a rubber shark I always found the effects in the first Jaws quite convincing. We dont see it properly until an hour and a half in and even then it's sparing shots that only serve to build the tension. Those who say it looks too rubbery with lifeless eyes have clearly never seen a real shark. If you doubt me, just cast your eyes forward a decade to Jaws 3. There the shark is so unbelievably fake it makes the wooden acting from the whole cast appear animated. Released during the red and blue 3D resurgence of the early eighties, the film has plenty of typical jump out moments that viewed in good old 2D (theres no stereoscopic version available on DVD) show off the limitations; fish guts and deadly great whites listlessly slump towards the screen. But you can make fun of 3D in any era; its the general effects that are so damning. Despite a poor model, theres no subtlety in showing the shark, instead there loads of guts thrown everywhere to try and cover it up. Despite imagery like the shot above, he series wasn't fully dead. Jaws: The Revenge hammered in the last nail and while the shark was far from passable, it was a damn sight better than what happen in 3D.
6. Psycho II, III and The Beginning
Any follow up to Alfred Hitchcocks masterful Psycho was always going to risk having lacklustre effects. Show any more than that one flash of a knife going into Janet Leigh and you've lost; even with the best effects money can buy youre not going to beat the horror that Hitch planted in the audiences imagination. Coming over two decades after the horror classic, Psycho II, III and TV movie The Beginning hit during the eighties love affair with slashers, so naturally had a rather heavy amount of knife action; people get impaled, stabbed through the mouth and have their hands lacerated (and thats just in the first sequel). In concept seeing Norman Bates in full killer mode (oh, spoiler) seems cool, but the execution is awful. The models of the victims that get butchered all look so fake and its all accentuated by amateur cinematography. Its not the flashy CGI effects most of this list has dealt with, but is still a visceral disappointment. I guess this is an easy one to pin on budget, but Psycho itself didn't have high sums of money to play with; its black and white because Hitch used his TV production crew to keep costs down. So really, its uncreative direction.
5. The Mummy Returns
A mainstay of lists on bad CGI, I couldn't write this article without mentioning The Rocks career making role as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns. The films sort of big bad, he spends most of its run time showing off his wrestling muscle, before the film jumps the shark (a big deal when its the story of a resurrected mummy) and has him become a literal scorpion. If you've only ever seen stills of it you may just think its just a couple of stray moments that everybody dives on, but check out the Scorpion King in action and youll realise how wrong you were. Not only in the recreation of Johnson so lacking in life thanks to poor rendering, the abomination moves so stiltedly its like its controlled by people from the inside. This was meant to be the centrepiece of the whole film, which makes it all the more shocking; it cost almost $100 million to make. For comparison, it was more expensive than The Two Towers, which hit a year later with tonnes of visual splendour and a believable, fully CGI character. Unbelievably, the character was brought back for an origin tale, which itself spawned two more films. These were toned down affairs, in both effects and plot; both a good and bad thing.
4. Star Wars Special Editions
Heres an interesting question; are the Star Wars Special Editions different to the unedited trilogy? Lucasfilm would have you believing only the latest versions of the films count (everything else was a work in progress), but in the eyes of many fans theyre completely different from the versions to fans fell in love with. So call it tenuous all you want, but these are following up a series, so can be dubbed sequels. I've defended some of George Lucas changes to his films
in the past, but the astute of you out there will have noticed very little praise went on the CG additions. When scenes were touched up (Sandtroopers hunting the droids) it worked, but for the most part it was scenes that were perfectly sufficient already that had CGI monsters put in. People love to jump on Jedi Rocks, where Jabbas band was now led by two obnoxious plastics, but from A New Hopes Jabba not matching what was done in The Phantom Menace (or, obviously, Return Of The Jedi) to the new sarlacc gob the special editions are full of computer generated moments that jar with the traditional efforts. This is essentially the age old debate between computer and practical effects. As you can probably tell I'm not a big fan of full on CG but there should be no argument here; the early days computer imagery are clearly not as accomplished as real models. It looks fake to extent the originals never did.
3. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
In Man Of Steel you certainly couldnt believe a man could fly. At best you could believe an animator unconvincingly composited a model of Henry Cavill into over the top CG destruction. But back in 1978 with Superman: The Movie, when effects needed to be a lot less impressive to blow audiences away, youd be forgiven for not noticing the models and strings. The first two films had impressive acting talents and a gripping plot. Produced at the same time, the effects didn't differ that much (despite all the directorial hiccups), but when Superman III flew in a couple of years later things were different. The tone slipped lighter and the effects were no longer cutting edge. Although compared to what happened next it looks spectacular. The Quest For Peace was already hampered by Christopher Reeve's insistence the film should have an overt anti-nuclear stance and wasn't at all helped by Cannon Films taking over the production. Notorious for producing low budget films and oddly glowing praise from the esteemed Roger Ebert, they severed the films budget, leading to a plot far overreaching its financial means. That image above is from a clip of Reeves flying used countless times throughout the film. Cannon also held the rights to Spider-Man for most of the eighties, so lets be thankful they only managed to kill one superhero franchise.
2. An American Werewolf In Paris
Theres a few sequels on this list come at the time of the CG rise. After the original became a touchstone of practical effects, a sequel reared its head the filmmakers were keen to take advantage of this new fangled tech. An American Werewolf In London, for all its black comedy and creepy ghost make up, will be remembered for the transformation sequence. Despite setting out to subvert, the moment when the moon comes out and David turns into a werewolf has become a highpoint of the genre. Waiting over fifteen years until the original became a cult classic, calling An American Werewolf In Paris a sequel is tenuous at best; none of the actors or crew returned and the plots completely unrelated (aside from the plot point of the mysterious Serafine being Davids daughter shoehorned in). One connection is a transformation sequence that attempts to show off the best modern technology has to offer. The key word in that sentence being attempts. Ignoring how unsettling it is seeing Serafines breasts saggy with CG shine above unrealistic abs, the whole thing is so cartoony. The body bends in ways that even in gothic worlds is unreal and the hair looks like just another computer layer. Such a terrible example of a film overreaching its capabilities.
1. Beneath, Escape From, Conquest For And Battle For The Plant Of The Apes
The first Planet Of The Apes was an incredibly progressive film. In 1968 Stanley Kubrick showed how extremely realistic futures could be achieved on screen with 2001, but the other sci-fi classic from that year bested him in one aspect; convincing ape effects. Franklin J. Schaffner took Pierre Boulles novel (grippingly memorable in its own right) and made a piece of cinematic history. But while its gone down in history for that depressing twist (funnily enough not in the novel), at the time the main talking point was the ape make up. Incredibly convincing, its what allowed audiences to believe in this backward world to make the final reveal so shocking. Then, in the exact opposite of how the movie industry currently works, the sequels got a lot less money and the effects dropped in quality significantly. As the series progressed the apes began to look less and less impressive; first the extras were given simplistic masks, then slowly more important characters devolved motionless face. Eventually even franchise stalwart Roddy Mcdowall succumbed to the severe budget cuts. Thankfully the upcoming Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes doesn't look set to repeat the trend - the CGI apes promise to be as impressive as there were in surprise hit Rise. Any more sequels with shocking effects? Let us know in the comments down below.