The Best and Worst Fourth Episodes in a Film Franchise
So the Shrek franchise has reached its fourth episode, quite a rarity in the movie business. Franchise characters often get played out, become boring and story lines get more ridiculous with each outing past an initial sequel. But on occasion a franchise can manage to keep the crowds excited and returning to the megaplexes time and time again.
While Shrek Forever After was better than the last installment it still lacked the magic spark. So this brings up a couple of questions. One, has there ever been a great fourth episode in a film franchise, and two, what are the truly bad ones?
So here we go. But first a few rules, to qualify it must be the fourth film in the franchise and cannot be a prequel, reboot or revamp. So as awesome as Bring It On: In It to Win It was, its direct to video status disqualifies it from the running. And the always controversial Phantom Menaceis is also out, as it was the beginning of a prequel trilogy. Also no spin offs, AKA Wolverine, The Next Karate Kid.
Let’s do the bad ones first since they’re always more fun. In no particular order….
THE BAD ONES
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
There were many problems with Kingdom of the Crystal, but I say it’s biggest casualty was the brilliance of the first three films. And there could never really be a follow up to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. While in reality Crystal was not all bad, it was a huge disappointment. The alien story line was not consistent with the ideology of the first three films. There was very little story and Indy’s (Harrison Ford) new enemy, the Russians, did not add the sense of imminent danger like the Nazis. And my heart will never be soft enough to forgive the person who made Shia LaBeouf swing on tree vines with a pack of monkeys.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Christopher Reeve himself helped develop the The Quest For Peace and would only sign on if the film would preach against nuclear weapons. Reeve said “For me, it’s the most personal of the entire series. It directly reflects what Superman should be, and should be doing.” In Quest for Peace, Superman throws a bunch of nukes at the sun and fights the boring Nuclear Man (one of the lamest villains in film history) created by Lex Luther to finally take Superman out. The story was horrible, dialog worse and the amount of scientific laws they broke are practically uncountable.
I’ll fight anyone who says that Christmas Vacationis not the best Christmas movie ever. But as with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Vegas Vacation also had a great predecessor going against it. In the family fourth outing Clark takes the family to Vegas, the now “family-friendly” gambling capitol of the world, everyone goes their separate ways, only to join up again in the final minutes of the film to realize they all love each other. Clark was no longer obsessed with family togetherness or humor for that matter. The Griswold family took us along from Wally World to Europe and consistently brought down the house with huge laughs and absurd situations but Vegas Vacationfell flatter than a $10 hooker on the Las Vegas Strip.
In Alien Resurrectionscientists have cloned Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), along with the alien queen inside her, hoping to breed the ultimate weapon… Really. Also aboard are a patch of cloned Aliens. Space smugglers hijack the ship Ripley is on, the aliens get loose, run a muck and start killing everyone. Co-star Wynona Ryder could not have been more poorly cast. The script was awful and there is little to no suspense, which was the greatness of the original film Alien.
Updated 5/28/10 I totally forgot to add in one of the worst films ever.
Batman and Robin
Following Val Kilmer in Batman Forever, the fourth Batman starred George Clooney with Chris O’Donnell returning as Robin. In Batman & Robin the two try to keep their relationship together while attempting to stop Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy from freezing Gotham City. This movie was so bad, I’m not sure where begin, the nipples on the bat-suit, the horrible casting of Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze or Uma Thurman’s awful Poison Ivy, the massive plot holes or the sky surfing? Nothing worked in this film, not even the always smooth talking Clooney could save it from the disaster it was. Don’t watch this movie. In fact, this movie is so bad I heard that the government is now using it to torture terrorists. And that the ACLU has already filed a complaint.
Alright, we got through the misteps, let’s move to some great fourth episodes. That’s right, there are some really good ones!
THE GOOD ONES
Live Free or Die Hard
Twelve years after Die Hard with a Vengeance, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a few years older, not any happier, and just as kick-ass as ever. Live Free or Die Hardhad a decent story involving hackers and an attempt to cripple America by shutting down transportation, finances and utilities all at the same time. While the common complaint by fans and critics alike was that McClane was an everyday cop and not some super action hero, Live Free was a fun, action packed film that took us on a wild ride. All other complaints of franchise consistency aside, it was a really great action movie.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
The Voyage Home, better known as the “one with the whales” or “the one when they go back in time” started the belief that even numbered Star Trek films were good and the odd numbered ones were bad. A constant that was carried on through The Next Generations amazing First Contact only to come to a horrific hault with the awful Nemesis film. In The Voyage Home the crew of the Enterprise go back in time to earth in the 1980s to save the humpback whales from extinction or their future world will be destroyed. A lot of the fun came from the clashing of the crew with the 20th-century urban realities. The Voyage Home was a box-office hit that satisfied both Star Trek fans and the mainstream audience alike, much like J.J. Abram’s reboot did.
Was Rocky IV the best in the franchise? There is definitely a good argument in its favor. To start with, Rocky IV was leaps and bounds above Rocky 3 and this fourth film in the franchise vastly exceeded its hype. At the height of the Cold War, the Italian Stallion stepped up to fight the Russian machine Drago to defend the honor of his friend and the American people. The fight takes place over in Russia, where Rocky Balboa eventually wins over the hardened hearts of our red enemy. It was a tear jerking site to see Americas greatest enemy at the time cheer on one of our greatest icons.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Surprisingly, each Harry Potter film has been better than the last, a near impossibility for a franchise. In Goblet of Fire, Harry enters the Triwizard Tournament where he must take on a dragon, fierce water demons, an enchanted maze and finally Lord Voldemort himself. Goblet of Fire also signals the beginning of the young wizards’ journey into puberty and discovery of the opposite sex that balanced out the darker story line in the film.