The official release, after much delay, of director Peter Hyams' adaptation of the Ray Bradbury short story A Sound of Thunder has not exactly set the September box office on fire, nor has it garnered much in the way of glowing reviews, from professional critics or paying customers. My favorite comment, posted recently on the Internet Movie Database, said simply, "Wow, I can't believe I wasted 2 free movie tickets on this one..."
It did, however, get SLIFR regular reader Virgil Hilts wondering about something. Hyams has had a very long career directing mostly undistinguished action thrillers-- his best films are, arguably, the paranoid conspiracy thriller Capricorn One and the spirited, unashamedly cornball monster-in-a-museum programmer The Relic. He has also exposed a lot of film trying to convince us of the heroic attributes of Jean Claude Van Damme (Timecop, Sudden Death), the late-career relevancy of Arnold Schwarzenegger (End of Days) and the need for Hong Kong-style martial arts choreography to make the tales of Alexander Dumas exciting enough for modern audiences (The Musketeer). Despite other enthusiastic efforts, however, he was not able to convince anyone that Sean Connery (Outland, The Presidio) was a bad actor.
But for Virgil, and for many, I'd bet, Hyams' greatest claim to infamy may be his doomed sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Based on Arthur C. Clarke's own unnecessary novel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact attempted to answer the questions inspired by Kubrick's elliptical 1968 classic-- not a great idea in itself-- but also ended up showcasing Hyams' own simple competence in the shadow of Kubrick's imposing artistic shadow and coming off, naturally, somewhat less than impressively.
Virgil sent me an e-mail last night in which he wondered if this was the most egregiously misguided instance of a hack director following up a critically acclaimed or hugely popular film with a tepid, banal or outright awful sequel, and he threw down the gauntlet for me to come up with other similar offenses. I thought of a few pretty good ones, and so did my wife. Then I thought that this might be a fun challenge to lay before the readers of SLIFR--
In the mold of Hyams treading like a towheaded stepchild in the footsteps of Kubrick, what other critically acclaimed and/or popular hits have been followed up by clearly inferior works helmed by clearly inferior directors? Is there another instance of sequelis foolhardiosis to match 2010?
I will refrain from publishing the ones I thought of until after we've amassed a few in the comments column, if you guys haven't come up with them already. But Virgil came up with another example that we'll use as a template:
Steven Spielberg's Jaws begat Jeannot Szwarc's Jaws 2.
According to this formula, a great director doing disservice to his own legacy is not quite what we're looking for (Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part III, Peter Bogdanovich's Texasville).
No, we're looking here for instances of directorial folly from filmmakers who can usually barely be shaken from their natural inclination toward mediocrity, let alone imagine attempting to add to the legacy of an established classic. We're looking for works from filmmakers who had to have known full well the odds were stacked high and imposing against them from the outset, like those looming and mysterious monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey which, if you saw Hyams' 2010, turned out, rather anticlimactically, to be ham radio transmitters connected to really well-meaning space aliens.
So, what great, or merely popular, movies can you think of that were followed up by stinkers directed by filmmakers of less-than-stellar artistic acumen?
(Thanks for the great idea, Virgil!)
UPDATE Sept. 10, 8:01 a.m.-- On the brighter side, the flip side to this little proposition, and perhaps the more difficult task:
What sequel to a critically acclaimed or well-loved film, directed by a mediocre and/or no-name director, either surpassed the original achievement or at least can be said to be a good film in its own right?
Again, Coppola's The Godfather Part II isn't exactly what we're looking for here, nor is James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which may or may not be better than the original The Terminator but would be disqualified because it has the same director as the first film. (However, if someone wanted to post an argument suggesting that James Cameron's Piranha II: The Spawning is somehow better than Joe Dante's Piranha, I might be skeptical, but I would listen!) Also, since we're talking about James Cameron and sequels (yet another question: has any major director ever made more of them than this guy?), I would suggest that Aliens is not exactly what we're after here either, and then step aside and let the debate about who's a better (or worse) director-- Cameron or Ridley Scott-- begin.
I will instead offer my suggestion for this category to get the ball rolling, and it is Return to Oz, the critically lambasted, largely ignored, some might even say heretical follow-up (after nearly 50 years) to the beloved MGM classic The Wizard of Oz. The movie was helmed by first-time director Walter Murch who, thanks to his own trepdiation over directing and the disdainful reaction to his movie in the press, would never direct again. (He has, however, won Oscars as a sound designer and film editor for Apocalypse Now and The English Patient.) For my money, though "Over the Rainbow" is undeniably, heart-stoppingly plaintive and wonderful, Murch's movie, sans the songs that make up for a lot of the vaudevillian pitch of the 1939 movie, hews far closer, with great effect, to L. Frank Baum's template and is filled with terrors and wonders that were beyond the intentions of Victor Fleming and Judy Garland. It has long been available only on a terrible VHS transfer, and the DVD, though markedly better, still does little justice to the dazzling and dark cinematography I remember from being one of the few to see it in its original theatrtical release. But until something better comes along, it'll have to do.
I have another title on my mind that fits into this category too, one I just reencountered after having not seen it for about 12 or 13 years, but I think that one's going to get its very own post. Look for that coming soon. (Yeah, you've heard that one before, haven't you?)
Okay, time for your suggestions. Are there any other sequels, directed by unestablished or unexceptional directors, that outshine or can at least co-exist with their inspirations in terms of quality?