Movie sequels that went their own way

Clint Eastwood himself directed only one Dirty Harry picture, "Sudden Impact"
Clint Eastwood himself directed only one Dirty Harry picture, “Sudden Impact.”

Sequels come in few flavors. Some continue a storyline. Some hit repeat. Others, like the James Bonds, help a franchise endure by shape-shifting, adapting for the times and swapping out stars as they age or move on. Very few completely change course midstream. With “The Hangover Part III” not being about a hangover, unlike parts I and II, we round up films that mess with formula — and sometimes get burned.

‘Sudden Impact’ (1981)
Clint Eastwood made his directorial debut with “Play Misty for Me” in 1971, the same year he first embodied rebel cop “Dirty” Harry Callahan. The five-film series had mostly been helmed by genre directors of varying quality. For the fourth, Eastwood — a more laid back and thoughtful breed of filmmaker than, say, Ted Post (“Magnum Force”) — took over. Though it’s the one that features the “Make my day” bit, it’s a slower and more probing film than the rest, with Harry finding unexpected empathy with a vengeful murderer (Sondra Locke) he’d historically have gunned down with his .44. Regardless of this, it’s the series’ biggest grosser.

‘Halloween III: Season of the Witch’ (1982)
John Carpenter originally envisioned his series as boasting new villains with every film. But even though the first sequel brought back Michael Myers, the third adhered to this vision, thus confusing everyone when the baddie turned out to be 62-year-old Dan O’Herlihy, playing the owner of a Halloween costume manufacturer hell-bent on a bizarre form of domination.

‘Army of Darkness’ (1993)
“Evil Dead” goes medieval! Ash, the survivor of “The Evil Dead” and its comic sequel/sorta-remake, was suddenly whisked to the Middle Ages for no reason other than, “Wouldn’t that be kind of awesome if a gorefest franchise did that?”

‘The Neverending Story III’ (1994)
It’s probably appropriate that the first “Neverending Story” film only got about halfway through the book’s events. A barely seen 1990 sequel covered, rather unfaithfully, the rest. Even fewer people saw the third, which goes with its own narrative but spends most of the time away from magical Fantasia and in the real world, including malls, where people run from the bad guy (played by a young Jack Black).

‘Babe 2: Pig in the City’ (1998)
There could have easily been endless nice films about Babe, the talking pig, on his farm with talking animals. But the first sequel killed these prospects dead by taking our pig into a mega-city and going dementedly, creepily, wonderfully dark. Parents famously freaked, but most kids would adore this.

‘Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning’ (2012)
When no one was looking, “Universal Soldier — a modest hit for Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren back in 1992 — lived on as a direct-to-video mainstay about the cyborg battler. Anyone who caught up with its sixth entry would have been shocked to see it barely resemble the original: Van Damme is the bad guy, the star is just some guy (Scott Adkins) on a routine revenge mission and, most glaringly, the film, by director John Hyams, is very well-made and a lot of fun.

‘The Hangover Part III’ (2013)
There’s no hangover. There’s no wedding. And there’s nothing of equal or even comparable invention to dudes trying to find out what they did when they were blackout crazy drunk. Still, at least they tried. (And they failed.)


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