As many movie lovers are frequently wont to complain, Hollywood’s been on a recycling binge for quite awhile now, with studios raiding the vaults for films and franchises that they can dust off for a new generation. Whether you call them remakes, reboots, or re-imaginings, they’re ever more common — but what’s slightly less common is to see one of them getting a sequel, so when Wrath of the Titans popped up on the schedule for this weekend, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at some other examples of movies whose do-overs were popular enough to warrant a follow-up. Get ready to see a lot of Steve Martin, because it’s time to Total Recall — requel style!
The first Cheaper by the Dozen, released in 1950, starred Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy in a relatively faithful adaptation of the bittersweet family memoir by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, who wrote about their large family in the years leading up to Frank Senior’s death. The 2003 remake, on the other hand, was your average wacky Steve Martin comedy, starring Martin alongside Bonnie Hunt and a passel of cute kids (including Hilary Duff) in $190 million worth of goofy slapstick. The sequel, released in 2005, added Eugene Levy and Carmen Electra, and was…well, slapstickier. Or as Desson Thomson of the Washington Post put it, “This is definitely a family trip to stay home and skip.”
Batman & Robin earned more than $238 million during its theatrical run, but it endured an avalanche of critical brickbats along the way — which was enough to send the franchise into hibernation for eight years, ultimately triggering a reboot with 2005’s Batman Begins. After reinvigorating the series with Begins, director Christopher Nolan took it to the next level with The Dark Knight — earning more than $1 billion and eight Oscar nominations along the way. Spearheaded by an Academy Award-winning performance from Heath Ledger, it won almost universal praise from critics like Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, who wrote, “Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, The Dark Knight goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind.”
With Eddie Murphy in the title role, a perfectly 1990s R&B soundtrack, and very little resemblance to the Hugh Lofting stories that inspired the movie — or the original film adaptation, released in 1967 — the Dr. Dolittle remake spoke to audiences as well as animals, earning an impressive $294 million and launching a franchise that stands at five films and counting. But only the first sequel, 2001’s Dr. Dolittle 2, made it to theaters — and despite a voice cast that included Steve Zahn, Lisa Kudrow, and Norm Macdonald, as well as a cameo from Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, it brought in over $100 million less than its predecessor, along with dismissive reviews from the likes of Sean Axmaker of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who said it “lurches from one scene to another with the grace of a pratfall and the script reads more like a skit comedy than a story.”
When Steve Martin scored a huge hit with his 1991 remake of the Spencer Tracy classic Father of the Bride, it was only natural to want a sequel — and the filmmakers didn’t have far to look for a script, because the original got its own follow-up, 1952’s Father’s Little Dividend. Sadly, the Dividend-inspired Father of the Bride Part II was less enthusiastically received by critics, including Film Threat’s impressively sarcastic Pete Vonder Haar, who quipped, “A sequel to a lousy remake? How droll.”
The original The Fly kicked off a trilogy in 1958, and when director David Cronenberg resurrected the franchise with a 1986 reboot that used modern special effects technology to heighten the drama around the story of a scientist whose teleportation experiments cause him to unwittingly splice his own DNA with a housefly’s, its rave reviews and solid grosses seemed like the foundation for another couple of films. Alas, this iteration of the series reached a dead end with 1989’s The Fly II, which starred Eric Stoltz as the original Fly’s son and added a corporate villain to the plot. Most critics weren’t having any of it, including Ken Hanke of the Asheville Mountain Xpress, who called it a “Worthless sequel to a very good film.”
After eight movies and nearly 30 years, the Halloween franchise went looking for someone to give it a reboot — and found an enthusiastic partner in director Rob Zombie, whose 2007 Halloween took the story of serial killer Michael Myers back to the beginning. Critics were unkind, but the movie made tons of money, so two years later, Zombie returned with Halloween II — and carte blanche from producer Malek Akkad to ignore the long-standing rules of the franchise’s mythology. The result? A lower Tomatometer, a lower gross, and brutal reviews from critics like Empire’s Kim Newman, who dismissed it as “In a word, ugly.”
According to legend, Sawney Bean was a serial killer who ate the bodies of more than a thousand victims with the help of his family. It’s a grisly tale, and obviously great fodder for a horror franchise: The Hills Have Eyes series stands at five films and counting since 1977, although after a non-canonical second sequel was released in 1995, a reboot was clearly in order. Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur came to the rescue in 2006, consulting with series creator Wes Craven to produce a $70 million hit; the following year, they scored another moneymaker with the sensibly titled The Hills Have Eyes 2. Despite a script written by Craven and his son Jonathan, most critics felt it wasn’t worth the effort — as Elizabeth Weitzman put it, the sequel “feels like the work of a guy who’s spent a few too many days lost in the desert.”
Before Eddie Murphy disappeared into a fat suit for Norbit, he piled on the prosthetics — to far greater effect — in 1996’s The Nutty Professor, a remake of the 1963 Jerry Lewis comedy about a socially backward scientist whose efforts to develop a serum that will cure his awkwardness unwittingly trigger a (hilarious) split personality. Four years and over $270 million later, he returned in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, which found Murphy once again playing multiple roles while buried under mounds of latex. Sadly, the results weren’t twice as nice for critics like the Boston Globe’s Jay Carr, who accused it of being “neither funny nor endearing enough to conceal the fact that, like its star, it fills the screen with a lot of padding.”
The original Ocean’s Eleven was a star-studded but mostly inconsequential trifle — an excuse for the Rat Pack to hang out and have a good time on camera. So when Steven Soderbergh convened a glitzy lineup of famous faces for the 2001 remake starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts, a sequel hardly seemed necessary — at least until the $450 million worldwide gross rolled in. Although 2004’s Ocean’s Twelve turned out to be a critical and commercial step back, the series rebounded with 2007’s Ocean’s Thirteen, which overcame all odds and went out on a high note with critics like Michael Booth of the Denver Post, who admitted, “In Hollywood’s version of Vegas, I’ll have the surf, and the turf, and the vegetarian, and anything else Soderbergh wants to serve me.”
Disney’s decision to film a live-action remake of 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians might have seemed a little curious if not for the involvement of Glenn Close, who was pretty much born to give the world her marvelously campy take on the villainous Cruella de Vil. But did that mean we needed the sequel, 2000’s 102 Dalmatians? It did not, according to critics like James Plath at Movie Metropolis, who cringed, “We can only hope that no one at Disney can count to 103.”
Stretching all the way back to 1963, the Pink Panther series encompasses 11 films — and six of them feature footage of the incomparable Peter Sellers, whose work as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau should have prevented any sane individual from attempting to carry the franchise forward after his death. Alas, it lumbered on, first with a posthumous hodgepodge of old Sellers clips (1982’s Trail of the Pink Panther), then with a pair of weak stabs at reboots (1983’s Curse of the Pink Panther, starring Ted Wass, and 1993’s Son of the Pink Panther, starring Roberto Benigni). No stranger to reboots, Steve Martin took the keys to the franchise with 2006’s The Pink Panther, which did well enough to spawn The Pink Panther 2 three years later — but that was one Panther too many for critics like USA Today’s Claudia Puig, who sighed, “Remember when Martin was funny?”
By the time it reached these shores, the Ring franchise was a certified phenomenon, shattering Japanese box office records and spawning two sequels, a prequel, and a Korean remake. Gore Verbinski brought the scary with 2002’s The Ring, which retained the basic core of the original’s plot (cursed videotape brings insanity and death to all who watch it) while adding plenty of uniquely terrifying visuals. Nearly $250 million later, a sequel was unavoidable — and sure enough, 2005 brought The Ring Two, which brought original Ring director Hideo Nakata on board to extend the first installment’s story. Critics were unimpressed — Richard Roeper called it “an unnecessary second chapter that dumbs down all the main characters and is curiously lacking in quality scares” — but it scared up more than $160 million at the box office, and rumor has it we’ll be seeing The Ring 3D someday soon.
With six grisly films over nearly 40 years — and another one slated for release (in 3D!) next year — the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise has done for chainsaws what Jaws did for sharks and Star Wars did for lightsabers. Yet the series started falling off track as quickly as the first sequel, which found director Tobe Hooper using the cannibalistic Leatherface and his horrific family for darkly comedic effect, and by the time 1994’s The Next Generation rolled around, it was time for a reboot. Director Marcus Nispel took the series back to its roots in 2003, and three years later, Jonathan Liebesman followed with a prequel, The Beginning. Unfortunately, most critics felt an origin story wasn’t what Leatherface needed; the Arizona Republic’s Randy Cordova spoke for the vast majority when he shrugged it off as “Gross and sadistic but never scary.”