It’s not always the case, but it seems that fourth movies often follow a similar trajectory. The third movie represents a letdown for the franchise, and the filmmakers — in their effort to reboot it — ultimately drive the franchise into the ground. Yet, in some cases, the fourth movie still manages — despite incredible mediocrity — to gross enough money to revive the franchise, ultimately forcing a fourth film (see X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Fast & Furious. In other instances, where the moviegoing public doesn’t give into the advance hype, the failed fourth movie is so bad that it actually kills the franchise. Let that be a warning: Sam Raimi is adamant that he’s going to correct the many mistakes he made with Spider-Man 3. Let’s hope he doesn’t overshoot.
There are a few exceptions — the fourth Die Hard movie, for instance, wasn’t great, but it was better than the third, though I don’t think we’ll see any more of that franchise until the reboot a decade hence. The fourth Harry Potter movie was also decent, though it represented a disappointment following arguably the best of the series so far, Alfonso Cuaron’s Prisoner of Azkaban, but barring a complete meltdown, there was nothing stopping Harry Potter from finishing out the series. Moreover, many consider Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home the second best of the original series, behind Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Still and all, it’s hard to find a single fourth movie in any franchise that actually stood out as a great movie. Hopefully, the next Bourne film will buck that trend.
Anyway, here’s a look back at the worst fourth movies of all time, excluding horror franchises because if I included those, they’d dominate the list:
7. Lethal Weapon 4: A lazy, mindless, tired and meaningless retread that wasted the talents of Jet Li and pretty much led to the pseudo-retirement of Joe Pesci, a once annoyingly minor character in the series used to the point of brain contusion.
6. Terminator Salvation: See Dan’s review. A hamfisted, hokey sequel that came too long after the first three movies to rely so heavily on their mythology and yet managed to add little new. Completely witless and unimaginative, McG tries only to out-Bay Michael Bay and forgets to include the emotional center that made the first two movies so good.
5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: A misguided and unacceptable return to one of the best trilogies of all time. The magic was sucked out of it, its cleverness stripped, and a once iconic character was rendered second rate.
4. The Next Karate Kid: A poor excuse for a film, basically a really bad and overly silly remake of the original with a female character (Hilary Swank) in the lead. It was a bad 90s movie that was too cheesy even for the 80s.
3. Rocky IV: The one with Dolph Lundgren. Overly jingoistic, even for the Rocky series, this unrealistic, overblown fourth movie completely wore out an already worn out Rocky formula.
2. Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace: George Lucas ruins the most beloved trilogy of all time, transforming the series into a cold, dispassionate kids’ movie, ironically ruining the childhood memories of millions of adults. A disgraceful embarrassment to the series that really should’ve been the end of it.
1. Batman and Robin: A campy Batman replete with homosexual innuendo, bat nipples, and not only the worst fourth movie, but the worst blockbuster movie of all time.