There once was a time when movie sequels could never live up to their predecessors, no matter how much they tried, and anything beyond a Part 2 was not only low budget and cheesy, it definitely never saw the inside of a movie theater. This decade, however, has seen the rise of big-budget multiple-sequel blockbusters with franchises like Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Bourne hitting the “threequel” mark with great box office success and more sequels on the way.
But with the steady stream of big-budget sequels in the works, it could be a daunting task for the average moviegoer to catch up with a preexisting multi-movie franchise. Here’s a list of this year’s movie franchises and a guide to how to jump on.
Director: Sylvestor Stallone
Cast: Sylvestor Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze
Release date: January 25, 2008
Vietnam veteran John Rambo leads a band of mercenaries into a Burmese war zone to rescue a group of human rights missionaries captured by the Burmese army.
- First Blood
- Rambo: First Blood Part II
- Rambo III
Jump On With: Rambo: First Blood Part II
First Blood introduces us to Vietnam vet John Rambo, a former POW who uses his Green Beret training to outsmart and disable a small Washington town’s sheriff’s department after he’s wrongfully harassed and arrested. But, it’s really the second movie, Rambo: First Blood Part II, that establishes Rambo as the fearless machine-gun-firing one-man army he still is in this latest movie.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett
Release date: May 22, 2008
Set against a Cold War background, the adventure hero Indiana Jones heads into the jungles of South America to find the mystical Crystal Skull before his Soviet adversaries get their hands on it.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Jump On With: Raiders of the Lost Ark
While all three films are definitely worth watching, Raiders features Karen Allen as Indy’s former love interest Marion Ravenwood. Crystal Skull marks the return of Marion and the possible introduction of her father Abner Ravenwood (this is the character John Hurt is rumored to be playing), as well as that of a rumored Indy/Marion love child (Shia LaBeouf).
The Dark Knight
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Release date: July 17, 2008
Batman, Lieutenant Jim Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent form a pact to rid Gotham City of its local criminal menaces. It’s all going well until a mysterious criminal mastermind known as The Joker arrives in town to unleash a reign of chaos throughout the city. Based on the Batman graphic novel, The Long Halloween.
- Batman Returns
- Batman Forever
- Batman & Robin
- Batman Begins
Jump On With: Batman Begins
Batman Begins left behind the campiness of the previous films in an effort to reinvent the Batman character as the serious, dark superhero typically portrayed in the comic books. Begins is the first film with Christian Bale as Batman, who returns along with Begins director Christopher Nolan for the direct sequel, The Dark Knight.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Director: Rob Cohen
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Jet Li
Release date: August 1, 2008
- The Mummy
- The Mummy Returns
- The Scorpion King (spin-off)
The adventuring O’Connell family (Rick, his wife Evey, their son Alex, and Evey’s brother Jonathan) face an ancient resurrected Emperor Mummy who threatens to plague the world with the unstoppable, otherworldly force of his 10,000-undead-soldier army.
Jump On With: The Mummy Returns
Alex appears for the first time in Mummy II as a young boy tagging along on his parents’ dangerous adventure. The intelligent, resourceful little boy proves to be a benefit as well as a hindrance to his parents’ quest. In Dragon Emperor, Alex is an adult (played by Luke Ford) and is reportedly the featured “action hero” of the film.
Director: David Hackl
Cast: Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson
Release date: October 24, 2008
Plot details for this fifth installment of the horror movie franchise, which centers on the mind-playing games the serial killer Jigsaw sets up for his victims, have not yet been revealed, but according to Wikipedia, the origins of Billy the red tricycle-riding puppet will be revealed; also, the film will explain what happened to Corbett, the daughter of Lynn Denlon and Jeff Reinhart, following the end of Saw III, when she was left in danger.
- Saw II
- Saw III
- Saw IV
Jump On With: Saw & Saw III
The first Saw film, which is by far the best of the series and most original, introduces us to the twisted mind of serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and the elaborate deadly games he imposes on his victims. The tricycle-riding puppet also makes its first appearance here, helping to deliver some of the cryptic messages to the victims, which makes a Saw viewing essential for jumping into this franchise. The remainder of the films in the series are basically from the same template, but since this latest film is set to pick up where Saw III ended, it’d be helpful to check out the third film as well.
Quantum of Solace
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko
Release date: November 7, 2008
Secret agent James Bond returns to Her Majesty’s Secret Service to investigate a mysterious criminal organization and also come to terms with the betrayal and death of his former lover, Vesper.
- Dr. No
- From Russia with Love
- You Only Live Twice
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
- Diamonds Are Forever
- Live and Let Die
- The Man with the Golden Gun
- The Spy Who Loved Me
- For Your Eyes Only
- A View to a Kill
- The Living Daylights
- Licence to Kill
- Tomorrow Never Dies
- The World Is Not Enough
- Die Another Day
- Casino Royale
Jump On With: Casino Royale
While there were 20 prior Bond films, Casino Royale was a reboot of the franchise and the first to star Daniel Craig as James Bond. Royale serves as a prequel to the previous films, focusing on Bond’s early less-experienced years as an agent. Quantum of Solace is Royale‘s direct sequel, seeing the reprisal of Craig as Bond dealing with the consequences of events that took place in Royale.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Release date: November 21, 2008
A potions book belonging to “The Half-Blood Prince” is at the center of Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry learns more about the evil Lord Voldemort’s past, as the young wizard and his friends prepare to face the Dark Lord’s minions — the Death Eaters.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Jump On With: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Throughout all the movies, Harry is constantly in danger, but in the first two movies, he’s still just a child and his adversary Lord Voldemort has not regained full power. In the next two, he’s grown a bit physically and mentally, but it’s really in Phoenix that Harry emerges as a mature, true-born leader. Phoenix is also the first to in the series to focus on “The Order of the Phoenix,” an organization of good wizards dedicated to stopping the evil forces of Lord Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters. The Order and its efforts against the Death Eaters will feature prominently in Half-Blood Prince.
Star Trek XI
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy
Release date: Moved to May 8, 2009 [was December 25, 2008]
Based on characters from the 1960s TV series (referred to now as “The Original Series” or TOS), this prequel chronicles the early years of James T. Kirk and his future crew of the Starship Enterprise during their time at Starfleet Academy and their first mission into outer space.
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
- Star Trek: Generations
- Star Trek: First Contact
- Star Trek: Insurrection
- Star Trek: Nemesis
Jump On With: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Of the ten previous Star Trek movies, only the first seven star members of the original series, with the seventh film also featuring the cast of The Next Generation. To catch up for Trek XI, the film to watch is Wrath of Khan, which is considered by fans to be the best of the series. In Khan, Captain Kirk explains how he handled the “Kobayashi Maru,” a no-win scenario test given to cadets at Starfleet Academy. A storyline in the prequel is Kirk’s controversial taking of the test and the consequences he faces once his method is discovered.
Here’s a list of first sequels for 2008.
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Director: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Cast: John Cho, Kal Penn, Eric Winter, David Krumholtz, Neil Patrick Harris
Release date: April 25, 2008
In this sequel to 2004’s Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, John Cho and Kal Penn return as the lovable title stoners, but this time around, they are chased by the Department of Homeland Security for being suspected terrorists after boarding a plane to Amsterdam. Neil Patrick Harris reprises his role as himself.
The Incredible Hulk
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt
Release date: June 13, 2008
Dr. Bruce Banner continues to search for a cure for his gamma radiation-induced affliction, in which anger causes him to become the giant, green-skinned Incredible Hulk. Although this is the second Hulk film, it won’t be related to events in the first film, 2004’s The Hulk, which starred Eric Bana in the title role. For The Incredible Hulk, all of the roles have been recast and this will be a new starting point for the franchise.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, Luke Goss
Release date: July 11, 2008
The first film, 2004’s Hellboy, introduces us to the big red-horned Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his cohorts at the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.), which include his closest confidants — his pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair) and the aquatic empath Abe (Doug Jones). In this sequel, humankind’s ancient truce with an invisible fantastical realm is broken, causing a ruthless dictator to awaken an unstoppable army of creatures to create Hell on Earth. This time around, Hellboy, Liz, and Abe are joined by B.P.R.D. Agent Johann Krauss, a disembodied ectoplasmic spirit psychic who resides in a containment suit.
Punisher: War Zone
Director: Lexi Alexander
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Wayne Knight, Julie Benz
Release date: September 12, 2008
Rome‘s Ray Stevenson takes over the role of ruthless vigilante-hero Frank Castle, based on the Marvel character, previously played by Thomas Jane in the first film, 2004’s The Punisher. In War Zone, waging his one-man war on the world of organized crime, Castle sets his sights on overeager mob boss Billy Russoti. After Russoti is left horribly disfigured by Castle, he sets out for vengeance under his new alias: Jigsaw. With the “Punisher Task Force” hot on his trail and the FBI unable to take Jigsaw in, Frank must stand up to the formidable army that Jigsaw has recruited before more of his evil deeds go unpunished.
While this is the second Punisher film, it won’t be related to events in the first film, and along with the recasting of the Frank Castle character, this second film will serve as a reboot of the franchise.
Madagascar 2: The Crate Escape
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Cast: (voices) Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Andy Richter, David Schwimmer
Release date: November 7th, 2008
A gang of Central Park Zoo animals that have spent their lives in captivity make a great escape and find themselves in the wild of Madagascar in DreamWorks’ 2005 animated hit Madagascar. In this direct sequel, the New York animals repair a crashed plane, which then lifts off of Madagascar and flies into the vast plains of Africa, where the zoo-raised crew encounters species of their own kind for the first time.
X-Files 2 (still untitled)
Directors: Chris Carter
Cast: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Billy Connolly, Amanda Peet
Release date: July 25, 2008
Little is known at this time about this follow-up to 1998’s X-Files, except that it’s a stand-alone supernatural thriller which will take the complicated relationship between Agents Mulder (Duchovny) and Scully (Anderson) in new directions. As with the first film, Chris Carter (who created the long-running TV series) co-wrote the screenplay with Frank Spotnitz (who also wrote for the TV show).