And lo, was 2016 the year humanity collectively rose up and said “I don’t give a shit about the Ice Age franchise*.” Or, er, rather: 2016 has not been a good year for sequels. The law of diminishing returns is nothing new or unusual, but seriously, shit’s a little insane.
Here’s the list of sequels released in 2016—some good, some bad—that made less than their predecessors:
Ride Along 2
Kung Fu Panda 3
10 Cloverfield Lane
Barbershop: The Next Cut
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Ice Age: Collision Course (still in theatres, but it’s nowhere near on track to catch up to its predecessors)
Star Trek Beyond (ditto)
The Conjuring 2 (ditto ditto)
Finding Dory (this one will be close)
God’s Not Dead 2
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Now You See Me 2
Independence Day: Resurgence
and X-Men: Apocalypse, whose worldwide gross of $155.3 million admittedly puts it right between First Class ($146.4 million) and Days of Future Past ($233.9 million)
And here are the sequels that made more:
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Captain America: Civil War
The Purge: Election Year
Some of those “underperforming” movies didn’t really underperform, per se—they made a ton of money, or made what they were expected to, or the difference between them and their predecessor was small. But a lot of them tanked. The status quo of “people will let us shove shit down their throat as long as it’s shit with brand recognition” is on some shaky ground. There’s just too much other stuff to do—peak TV to catch up on, Pokeymans to catch, vidja games to play. The sequel curse has hit even good movies, like 10 Cloverfield Lane and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. It’s a problem. Though, taken as a whole, movies released in 2016 have earned *whips out calculator watch* a shit-ton of money, most of that money is concentrated in a small handful of films. For every Captain America: Civil War, there are half a dozen The Huntsman: Winter’s Wars.
That’s bad news for the Hollywood movie machine, as there’s a large number of sequels already in the pipeline that it’s too late for Hollywood execs to say “eh, never mind” to. Here are some of the bigger ones, ranked from “put down a deposit on that fourth yacht” to “any way we can make this one a TV movie, too?”
Star Wars: Rogue One
Rogue One might get into the Cursed Sequel Club on a technically. As in, it will probably make less money than The Force Awakens, but less because it disappoints than because The Force Awakens is literally the third highest-grossing movie of all time. We might get to the point eventually where a Star Wars movie every year starts to wear thin, but if we’re not there for Marvel (yet), we still have a ways to go before Star Wars fatigue sets in. This one’s going to be fine.
Fast Five: $626.1 million. Fast & Furious 6: $788.6 million. Furious 7: $1.5 billion. This franchise has racked up some serious goodwill. Not sure anything can beat The Rock flexing his way out of a cast, but I know a ton of people will show up to find out.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
The first two Maze Runner movies did pretty well, despite the fact that no one older than 30 knows they exist. They didn’t set any records, but they were cheap to make and turned a tidy profit. Unfortunately for 20th Century Fox, the third movie had to be pushed back a year—from February 2017 to January 2018—after its star Dylan O’Brien was injured in an on-set accident. People like this series, but it’s never generated the buzz or obsessive interest of a Hunger Games or a Twilight; by the time it finally comes out, the fanbase may have moved on.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
This one… could do OK? If only because Jack Reacher is one of those movies that didn’t do all that well originally but then built up a sizable home video following that let it sneak into sequel territory. That means you know Never Go Back was cheap as fuck to make. But honestly, this seems like it falls more into The Huntsman: Winter’s War territory and My Big Fat Greek Wedding “WHO ASKED?” territory. You’re going to throw a modestly successful movie with a small yet ardent fan following a sequel bone, and it’s not Dredd? Fuck you, Hollywood.
Bridget Jones’s Baby
Please. Just stop. No one who sat through Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason wants to go through this again.
I’d forgotten that The Da Vinci code had one sequel, never mind that it’s getting another this October. This one might manage to tap into the dad demo, but Angels & Demons already earned substantially less than Da Vinci. I don’t know even a single person who is mildly excited for this movie. Your brunette British crush object (other one. Nope, still the other one.) Felicity Jones is even in it. But do you care? Still no.
Underworld: Blood Wars
Kate Beckinsale just reminded us of how great an actress she is in Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, and now she’s donning the black catsuit yet again for a fifth Underworld movie. I know you love the black catsuit, but…. fiveUnderworld movies. Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen weren’t even in the last one! The franchise has Theo James now. The fourth movie, Underworld Awakening, made $160 million four years ago, making it the highest earner in the series so far despite the fact that Rise of the Lycans was the one with Michael Sheen running around with shirtless in leather pants, and yet it somehow still worked. Michael Sheen has some weird voodoo. We know this. Anyway, I can’t imagine too many people will give a shit about the Underworld franchise by the time Blood Wars hits in 2017, but I liked Michael Sheen running around shirtless in leather pants, so what the fuck do I know?
Bad Santa 2
Neither the director nor the writers from the original Bad Santa are on-board for its sequel. Instead, we get a hodgepodge of four writers (including one who wrote Dirty Grandpa) and a director whose film credits mostly skew towards teen/youth-targeted movies. (One of which, admittedly, is Mean Girls. Others are Vampire Academy and Mr. Popper’s Penguins.) I don’t want to say we’re definitely looking at another Zoolander 2 here, but… we’re probably looking at another Zoolander 2 here.
Pitch Perfect 3
Pitch Perfect 2 was the exact same movie as Pitch Perfect, except instead of competing in nationals the Barden Bellas tested their aca-pipes (kill me) on the world stage. This franchise is unsustainable in the long-term, right? What are they going to do next? A sing-off with aliens?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Quick question: Did you remember than Disney already committed to a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie? If so, did you only remember because it occurred to you when domestic abuse allegations against Johnny Depp by wife Amber Heard put his long-floundering career firmly in the crapper? As in, “Jesus Christ, what a shithead. It looks like we won’t be seeing much of him anymo—holy shit they have literally already filmed a fifth Pirates movie.” (Yes, the fourth one sucked. Yes, it made $650 million internationally. So it goes.) Directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg and co-stars Kaya Scodelario, Brenton Thwaites, and Javier Bardem will be the poor schmucks dragged down by this particular albatross. Orlando Bloom can’t go any lower. Geoffrey Rush will make it through just fine.