Last week, in Sequels to classic 80s movies: should they have been made? pt 1, I, well, discussed whether sequels to classic 80s and 90s movies should have been made or not. It got to be longer than I anticipated, so I decided to split it into two parts. The criteria I use for judging said movies are:
Did the writers come up with a good transition to bring back the movie and make it fit with the previous movies?
Was the movie true to the spirit of the previous movies?
Did the movie enhance or detract from our image of the previous movies?
Did the movie enhance or detract from our image of the heroes and villains of the previous movies?
And finally, but most importantly, was the movie good as a stand-alone movie, or was it too reliant on previous movies for its' appeal?
For the first criteria, how did the writers fare in bringing back the franchise after such a long time. Much was made of the fact that there have been so many superhero movies come out since the last Christopher Reeves-starred Superman movie and would the writers be able to bring Superman back in a way that made us care about him? The writers for Superman Returns did a very good job in writing a story that matched the real-life situation the movie was in. Superman's been gone a long time, we've lived without him, now he's back, how do we feel about that? Superman was brought back in such a way that took us back to the last time we'd seen him and reminded us all that even all these years later, Superman is still the most boring superhero out there.
From the Christopher Reeve look-a-like they cast as Superman to the almost corny action and dialogue it felt like this movie could have been written immediately after the last Superman movies. The only difference this time around was Lex Luthor seemed a lot more evil.
While Superman Returns wasn't on par with the first one or two Superman movies, it was a hell of a lot better than the very forgettable sequels, so it probably raised the series' average grade a little bit.
With Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey stepping into the drivers' seats this time around, it seems like they are employing the same strategy as before when they cast Gene Hackman opposite Christopher Reeve. They apparently want you to root for Lex Luthor. Seriously, they picked a perfect pair to inherit the two prime roles. They picked the no-talent hack Brandon Routh to fill the shoes of no-talent hack Christopher Reeve. And it's a short list of people who can hold their own with Gene Hackman, amazingly they got someone from that list with Kevin Spacey.
And finally, was the movie good as a stand-alone movie. For this one I'm going to have to give it a big old .....eh. Not something I'm going to buy on DVD, but I didn't fall asleep watching it either.
Should they have made it: ...........eh.
Frankly, by Rocky V, I don't think people really gave much of a shit anymore about Rocky, so the transition wasn't too important anyway. Which is good because they did a shitty job of it. They basically just picked up with Rocky's life 20 years later and made up a bunch of shit that seemed to not fit with the Rocky story whatsoever. In movies 1-5 his life was all about boxing. Twenty years later he has nothing to do with boxing and instead somehow owns a restaurant when twenty years before, he couldn't even manage his own money, let alone a business. Also his son, who seemed to want to follow in Rocky's footsteps at the end of Rocky V, instead became a skinny, dorky, office worker trying desperately to disassociate himself from his father. Oh and of course Adrian randomly died of something to make him sad. Ever notice how movie wives all die before their husbands and they all die in their 40s?
True to the first five movies, they made Rocky the underdog and couldn't decide how smart they wanted him to be. Those were two things I never did understand about the Rocky movies. First, how do you make the same guy the underdog every single time? The first time he fought Apollo Creed it made sense for him to be the underdog. That I follow. But then the second time he fought Apollo Creed he was the underdog because Apollo Creed was pissed off. Then he beat Apollo Creed and a bunch of other guys to defend his title, yet in the third movie he was still the underdog. Apparently Apollo Creed pissed off was nothing, Mr T pissed off is the real test. So then he beat Mr. T and in the fourth he was STILL the underdog, because the Russian dude could punch really really hard. Even though it was evident just from watching him stand in the ring that he didn't know the first thing about boxing. But he could punch really hard so Rocky was still the underdog. Then in the fifth movie he was the underdog because he was old and retired, even though movies two through four had all talked about how he was old and was going to retire. Which is another thing. Every single movie they talked about how old he was, how poor his health was, and how he needed to retire before he died in the ring, yet he never retired, and by the next movie they had forgotten about whatever the hell his last major life-threatening injury had been.But apparently they meant it in movie five. This time he really was old and retired, so he was the underdog to the hillbilly he had trained who then turned his back on him.
The second thing that bugged the piss out of me about these movies was that they could never decide just how dumb he was supposed to be. Or maybe he was supposed to be dumb in all of them and Sly is just a fucking terrible actor. In I, he was fucking stupid. In II, he was a little smarter, but still dumb as a bucket of pig shit. In III, he was a lot smarter and was pushing average intelligence. In IV, he was smarter than he had ever been before. In V, though, they decided to give him permanent brain damage, which made him about as dumb as he had been in the first movie. However, as the movie went on he got smarter, and by the end he seemed almost as smart as he had been in III. Then in Rocky Balboa he started off really dumb again (although somehow he was smart enough to own a restaurant despite his permanent brain damage) and again he got smarter as the movie went on. That shit drove me nuts about the movies. Anyway, I digress.
I can't really say this one enhanced the franchise because it was pretty painful to sit through. On the other hand, I can't say it hurt the franchise either because by Rocky V, they were getting pretty unwatchable anyway.
This one didn't really make the Rocky character look any different, but I do have to say it made the current heavyweight champion look pretty fucking awful to barely squeak by in a 10-round match against an old man who hadn't stepped in the ring in 20 years. And how the hell did he get a boxing license in the first place? What happened to his irreversible brain damage that meant his next boxing match could leave him a vegetable? And what happened to the eye problem he had that meant his next boxing match could also leave him blind?
And finally was the movie good as a stand-alone movie? Um, no. This was so bad that even tagging it as a "Rocky" movie couldn't save it.
Should they have made it: Hell, they shouldn't have even made Rocky II, let alone Rocky VI.
Much like with Rocky Balboa, Sly's other attempt at resurrecting his career with sequels to classic movies pretty much just finds the character older with very little explanation of anything, though to be fair, I don't think much is needed for Rambo. He always was a solitary character who just wanted to go somewhere remote and keep to himself.
Lots of guns, lots of fighting, and lots of ass-kickery, and an attempt at getting people's attention about an issue somewhere outside America, seemed like a natural fit for the Rambo franchise.
I have to say Rambo was a lot better than I expected it to be and a lot better than the third Rambo movie was. Not sure about it being better than the first two, but it did nothing to lessen the Rambo legacy.
I was afraid that a middle-aged Rambo would just kill the image of Rambo as film history's ultimate badass. I'm please to say I was wrong. He's just an older ultimate badass. The only un-Rambo-like thing from the whole movie was the end where we're led to believe that after decades of life as a loner in and out of the country, Rambo is going home. Just a bit too corny for me.
Finally, I have to say that of all the recent sequels to old movies, this one was the most pleasant surprise. Yes, it was a Rambo movie, but even without Rambo it was still a very solid acton movie. As I said earlier, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Rambo Sr. or from an action series that had 20 years' worth of catching up to do. I was wrong on both counts. Sly can still kick some ass and I've had a lot conversations with people about how graphically violent the new movie was. Kind of surprising for such an old franchise. But then again, it was Rambo after all.
Should they have made it: Yes, but stop here. I don't want to see Rambo's next adventure be rescuing his meds from the pharmacy.