Second chance sci-fi
Sequels. Love em or hate em, theres no getting around them. Where theres a sizeable box office taking, there shall be a sequel! And one such genre that spawns future instalments like theyre going out of fashion is science-fiction. From lo-fi indies to mega-blockbusters with budgets that could buy everyone in the world their own set of adamantium claws, if theres an original idea in there then theres probably another twenty hidden in some throwaway dialogue.
Since theres a shocking amount of sci-fi sequels that simply cannot be forgiven (S. Darko, were looking at you), its sometimes easy to discard the worthwhile gems that have slipped through the cracks. Whether it was initial critical backlash, or fan loyalty to predecessors, the sci-fi gods have granted us some titles that dont warrant the knee-jerk vitriol they received. So, while you dry your eyes to the sound of Tron 3s death knell, check out our rundown of seriously overlooked sci-fi.
Men In Black 2 (2002)
The sequel: The follow-up to 1997s summer smash, Men In Black 2 takes Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) on another bug hunt around New York. This time the big bad is played by Lara Flynn Boyle whose evil alien Serleena heads to our beloved rock to trace a powerful light source which, if she acquires, would cause the end of the world.
In addition to its two leading actors, Barry Sonnenfield also brought back the pint-sized pooch from the original. Frank the Pug is a frequent scene stealer, largely because of his acerbic wit.
Why its worth a watch: The recently-retired FX guru Rick Baker created an entire range of animatronic aliens called Worm Guys, whose appearance in their luxurious bachelor pad is packed with some unexpectedly cheeky gags.
Tron: Legacy (2010)
The sequel: Released nearly two decades after the original, would Tron: Legacy ever be up to snuff? Well, Joseph Kosinski gave it a go and the resulting movie was decried as an exposition-heavy, fun-lite take on the original. That movie starred Jeff Bridges as a video game developer who becomes converted into data and transferred to a digital world, in order to hunt down his stolen work while fighting off evil programs.
Legacy is the story of his son, who follows in fathers footsteps to try and solve the mystery of his disappearance. While the movie attempted to expand the universe - new additions to the canon include in-world creation Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde - it wasnt enough to spark the same fandom excitement as the first.
Why its worth a watch: Big budget spectacles such as Legacy are worth checking out for their kinetic action sequences such as the light cycle races. However, the cheeky faux-camp supporting turn from Michael Sheen steals the thunder from those bikes.
Forget lengthy character development. This balls-to-the-wall sci-fi actioner hits the ground running. Some genuinely creepy battle tactics from the Predators - a scene involving Danny Trejo warrants a mention - add a bit of dark flair to the established canon.
Why its worth a watch: Apart from the insane Predator canines (Predadogs?) the twitchy performance of Laurence Fishburne is one of his best. As a survivor from a previous game over ten years ago, his isolated soldier rants and raves before engaging in a spot of arson.
Cube Zero (2004)
The sequel: The third chapter in the franchise, Cube Zero anchors most of its running time outside of the actual Cube. Many fans of the series were unimpressed by the decision to divert audiences away from the perils of actually being inside a death trap. But like Cabin In The Woods proved - even operators can have interesting plot arcs!
The movie zeroes (ahem) in on one of those tech engineers, who struggles to carry out his duties after discovering a problem concerning a woman trapped inside the game.
Why its worth a watch: Choosing to shift perspectives was a risky move and yet it pays off by expanding the story, instead of being a mere copy of the first two. Throwing in a level of cautionary guilt into proceedings - in the shape of operator Eric - makes this more than just a series of grotesque kills.
Escape From L.A. (1996)
The sequel: Written off as a mere updated version of John Carpenters original - which went on to become a cult hit - Escape From L.A. has been unjustly given a bad rep. Early struggles with script rewrites plagued production and kept the film at bay for nearly a decade, prompting many detractors to shrug off the finished product.
Certainly, in comparison to the original its a lesser retread. The 1981 movie follows loveable tough guy Snake Plissken, whos tasked with rescuing the President from a ransacked New York, populated by convicted criminals who are carted off to Manhattan to serve their sentences. For the sequel, the same premise applies - except its in Los Angeles, which has fractured away from the mainland U.S. following an earthquake.
Why its worth a watch: In Carpenters own words, its campy and for a retro-futurist genre movie - thats exactly what you want. The trials that Kurt Russells Plissken has to endure are some of the most twisted and deranged plotting; he is forced to get a slam dunk while surrounded by armed guards ready to pump him full of lead should he fail. Crackers? Absolutely.
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
The sequel: A meaty genre pic that blurred the lines between sci-fi and horror in an Alien-esque manner, 1999s Pitch Black become a sleeper hit. The second instalment in the Riddick trilogy, Chronicles picks up with Vin Diesels muscled hero five years later as he is roped into further escapades across the galaxy.
Not quite as nuanced, or careful with its plotting, this sequel places Diesel into as many scenarios as possible where his only option is to dish out one-liners and get into scraps. And lest we forget Karl Urbans mullet.
Why its worth a watch: In the same manner that this years Jupiter Ascending has steadily risen in popularity as a so-bad-its-good way, Riddicks second outing offers the same sense of schlocky fun. In spite of much derision over its far-fetched plot, director David Twohy isnt concerned with making sense as much as he wants a ton of crazed fight scenes. That involve a bunch of zealots called Necromongers.
Robocop 2 (1990)
The sequel: The second chapter in the story of human cop-turned-cyber cop Alex Murphy. Whereas Paul Verhoevens original was praised for lining an R-rated action movie with a social conscience, its successor took a thorough critical beating for approaching those same goals with levity.
Fun fact: Robocop 2 was directed by Irvin Kershner and written by Frank Miller. Thats the director of The Empire Strikes Back and the scribe responsible for the arguably best Batman comic ever - The Dark Knight Rises.
Why its worth a watch: Lighter on social commentary, and it eases off on the satire, but an entertaining violent actioner thats way more in the Robocop tradition than the recent remake.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
The sequel: After Jurassic Park became one of the early 90s biggest blockbusters, critically and financially, the notion of a sequel was a no-brainer. The problem? Michael Crichton - the novelist whose book inspired the first - hadnt written one. Whether the pressure to write a book so that a movie could be developed drained Crichton, or caused him to pander to demand, the subsequent film adaptation failed to ignite the desired response.
Relocating the story to another island, the film enlists Jeff Goldblum as the quick-witted Dr. Ian Malcolm along with Jurassic newbies Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn. The scenery and stars may have changed, but the game remains the same: when you see a dino: RUN. Packing in more screen time for those prehistoric beasts, the spectacle gets dialled up when one particular T-Rex starts romping around San Diego.
Why its worth a watch: In an attempt to one-up the T-Rex sequence from the first, this time the tiny-armed dinos unite and manage to push a series of connected trailers off a cliff. Its a gripping scene thats never received the praise it deserved - especially that stunning shot composition of Moores character screaming inside the roaring teeth of a T-Rex.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The sequel: Sam Raimi made it easier than usual for die-hard fans to slam the third chapter in his Spidey franchise. Midway through, Peter Parker comes into contact with a nasty parasite that transforms him into a sultry emo foot-tapper, complete with eyeliner and swooping hair style. It wasnt hard to take a shot at it, especially after Raimi himself later revealed his wasnt exactly happy with the end result.
But for all of its flaws, the inclusion of too many villains being the main prickly point, its still a blast to watch. In particular for those who arent familiar with the comics, as loyalty issues arent a concern. You want a good guy going through strife? And a load of villains? A climactic final battle involving the death of a loveable character? You got it.
Why its worth a watch: Venom. While its universally acknowledged that hes not the version fans wanted, the snarled symbiote version of Topher Graces dull supporting character is a hoot to watch. Like a xenomorph in spandex.