Features

Best and worst movie spin-offs

Writer: Casey Chong



How will "Fantastic Beasts" fare against the "Harry Potter" franchise?

Spin-offs are a common sight on television, with notable examples such as "Frasier" (from "Cheers") and "Better Call Saul" (from "Breaking Bad"). The same also applies to Hollywood movies, where we often get to see a spin-off based on an established movie franchise, a comic-book property or a novel series.

Speaking of novel series, one of the most popular ones out there is the "Harry Potter" franchise. With a total of eight "Harry Potter" movies from "Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone" (2001) to the two-part finale of "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows" (2010-2011), the beloved J.K. Rowling's creation is so popular that Warner Bros. finally decided to expand the mythology by releasing their first "Harry Potter" spin-off: "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them".

To coincide with the upcoming release this 17 November, let's take a look at our handpicked best and worst movie spin-offs below. (Note: the list is based on the year of release)

The Best

 

1. "U.S. Marshals" (1998)

Tommy Lee Jones in "U.S. Marshals".

Sure, no matter how you look at it, "U.S. Marshals" is no match to the much superior predecessor of "The Fugitive". But as far as a spin-off goes, this movie remains effective enough as a Hollywood blockbuster. In "U.S. Marshals", Tommy Lee Jones reprised his Oscar-winning role as Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard as he and his team are assigned to track down a runaway fugitive (Wesley Snipes). The tone of the movie is more or less the same formula that we've seen before in "The Fugitive", with the exception of an added government conspiracy that somehow feels heavy-handed. Likewise, Jones gives a solid performance as Sam Gerard while editor-turned-director Stuart Baird is no slouch when it comes to delivering great action set-pieces (the plane crash is worthy of a mention here). Then there is Wesley Snipes, who may not be as good as Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive", but is competent enough as the movie's new fugitive.

2. "Puss In Boots" (2011)

A scene from "Puss In Boots".

First introduced in "Shrek 2", the swashbuckling orange cat Puss in Boots became such a popular character that Dreamworks ended up giving him his own animated spin-off. The result is "Puss In Boots", which traces the cat's origin all the way to the beginning as well as his adventure of his own. Blessed with a great voice cast (including Antonio Banderas' iconic role as the titular character himself) and a fun-filled adventure story, "Puss In Boots" proved to be such a hit among many critics and audiences that this animated spin-off is far superior than any of the "Shrek" sequels (minus the second one) combined.

3. "Creed" (2015)

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in "Creed".

To date, there have been six "Rocky" movies and this is the first time that the beloved franchise is given a spin-off. Titled "Creed", the movie sees Sylvester Stallone himself reprising his role as Rocky Balboa who takes the late Apollo Creed's (Carl Weathers) son Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) under his wing as both boxing trainer and mentor. Despite playing a supporting character this time around, Stallone delivers one of his best performances ever seen for a long time. Michael B. Jordan, in the meantime, proves to be a solid protagonist while the story packs a fine balance of emotional punches and great boxing scenes. In fact, there is a particular scene worth mentioning here: director Ryan Coogler ("Fruitvale Station") and cinematographer Maryse Alberti manage to rival some of the memorable boxing choreography (e.g. "Raging Bull") by shooting the fight scene inside the ring in an uninterrupted one take.

4. "Minions" (2015)

A scene from "Minions".

The very reason that the first two "Despicable Me" movies became so successful at the worldwide box office was mainly due to the childlike personalities of the cheeky yellow minions. Thanks to their mass popularity, it's no surprise that they were granted their own animated spin-off. In "Minions", we get to learn their backstory as well as their subsequent first adventure in a quest to search for a new master. From the vibrant animation to the energetic direction by co-directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, "Minions" is packed with lots of silly fun associated with these yellow little fellas' antics.

5. "Deadpool" (2016)

A scene from "Deadpool".

After "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" ruined the Deadpool character the first time around, it finally took star Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller to get the iconic Merc With A Mouth right with their own "Deadpool" movie. Reynolds was definitely born to play the eponymous protagonist. The movie itself is thankfully faithful to the comic-book character right down to his signature red-and-black costume. Best of all, Reynolds and Miller were given creative freedom to turn "Deadpool" into a rare (anti) superhero blockbuster laced with lots of profanities and violence. Also thanks to Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's witty script, the movie is packed with enough memorable quips and in-jokes referencing every pop culture from Sinead O'Connor to movies like "Taken" and even "X-Men" franchise.

The Worst

 

1. "Supergirl" (1984)

Helen Slater in "Supergirl".

After the first two critical and financial successes of "Superman" (1978) and "Superman II" (1980), it looks as if the franchise was going strong. But then came "Superman III" in 1983, a superhero movie that was unbelievably campy for its own good. By the time the "Superman" spin-off, "Supergirl" arrived the year after, all hope was lost. The story, which centres on Supergirl (Helen Slater) travelling all the way from planet Argo to Earth to retrieve an orb from an evil witch named Selena (Faye Dunaway), was downright cheesy. The special effects were laughable while veteran actors like Faye Dunaway and Peter O'Toole were all wasted here. Not surprisingly, "Supergirl" flopped so bad at the box office that the studio's (Warner Bros.) initial plan to release more sequels were quickly scrapped.

2. "Catwoman" (2004)

Sharon Stone and Halle Berry in "Catwoman".

In 1992, Michelle Pfeiffer was unforgettable as Catwoman in Tim Burton's otherwise divisive "Batman Returns", but in this 2004 spin-off, it was a total disaster (and thankfully, it has nothing to do with Pfeiffer or Burton). First of all, the movie doesn't bother to reference anything related to Batman or Gotham City. Then the Catwoman character herself, who is traditionally white, turned out to be African-American instead. And instead of the original Selina Kyle, we got a brand new character that goes by the name of Patience Phillips. Played by Halle Berry, her role turns out to be a shy woman who works as a graphic designer for a big cosmetic company called Hedare Beauty. Long story short, she is murdered by her boss (Lambert Wilson) after accidentally discovering a shocking secret about the company's best-selling beauty product and is later resurrected as a Catwoman to seek revenge. It's hard to believe that an Oscar winner like Halle Berry would agree to play such an atrocious role. Not that she didn't try to make her character worthwhile. As a matter of fact, she did manage to pull off an unglamourous yet sympathetic performance as Patience Phillips, but once she turns into Catwoman, everything goes downhill. Unlike the previously filmed incarnation of Catwoman played by Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer, Berry's version of Catwoman is more like a dominatrix with her skimpy leather costume akin to an S&M outfit. If that's not insulting enough, Pitof's direction is downright amateurish who doesn't have a clue on how to shoot the movie in a proper manner. His questionable choice of using roving camera angles induce motion sickness. The special effects are among the worst ever seen for a high-profile blockbuster that carried a US$100 million budget, while the action is poorly edited altogether. Even the supporting cast with the likes of Lambert Wilson, Sharon Stone and Benjamin Bratt are all forgettable.

3. "Alien vs. Predator" (2004)

A scene from "Alien vs. Predator".

The "Alien" and "Predator" movies are both iconic movie franchises loved by millions of fans and moviegoers around the world. So, when 20th Century Fox (who owned the rights to both franchises) decided to mash them together into "Alien vs. Predator", it was every fan's dream come true. Except that, the movie turned out to be a nightmare. Served as both loose prequel to the future-set "Alien" quadrilogies and a loose sequel to the two "Predator" movies, "Alien vs. Predator" sees Lance Henriksen reprising his role from the "Alien" movies as Charles Bishop Weyland (the creator, not the android) as he led a team of scientists and archaeologists on an expedition to Antarctica. Upon discovery of a mysterious pyramid, they soon find themselves caught in the middle of a centuries-old war between the Predators and Aliens. On paper, it sure sounds like fun. But Paul W.S. Anderson (yes, the same director who made the much-maligned "Resident Evil" franchise) botched everything by turning his movie neither scary nor particularly entertaining. Thanks to the studio's ill-fated decision to trim "Alien vs. Predator" into a mainstream-friendly PG-13 rating, all the gore effects and violence are sadly reduced here. Even the action looks disjointed and terribly shot in a murky manner. As for the following sequel, "Alien vs. Predator: Requiem", the less said the better.

4. "Elektra" (2005)

Jennifer Garner in "Elektra".

As if the 2003 Ben Affleck-led stinker of "Daredevil" wasn't bad enough, here comes a spin-off: "Elektra". Headlined by "Daredevil" co-star Jennifer Garner, "Elektra" sees her character brought back to life by a blind martial arts trainer known only as Stick (Terence Stamp). Upon recovery, she is assigned to kill her two targets: Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic) and his teenage daughter Abby (Kirsten Prout). But since both of them are actually her friends, she ends up protecting them instead from a group of supernatural assassins led by Kirigi (Will Yun Lee). The only good thing about this movie is Jennifer Garner herself, who looks terrific in her character's signature scarlet bustier as well as her two sais. The rest is just beyond repair: Rob Bowman's ("Reign Of Fire") direction is flat and uninspired; the action is clumsily staged with lots of cheesy special effects and the plot is awfully generic. Not to mention that the movie is b-o-r-i-n-g.

5. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009)

Hugh Jackman in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine".

The first three "X-Men" movies were all huge financial successes at the worldwide box office (yes, even for the highly divisive "X-Men: The Last Stand"). So it comes to no surprise that an "X-Men" spin-off is greenlighted. Naturally, the studio (20th Century Fox) picked the most popular X-Men character of all time to lead the first movie in an intended series of spin-offs. Titled "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", the movie looked promising enough. With Hugh Jackman reprising his iconic role as Logan/Wolverine and Oscar-winning "Tsotsi" director Gavin Hood on the helm, what could possibly go wrong? Too bad, there are plenty of them. First, David Benioff and Skip Woods' screenplay of Wolverine's origin story was haphazardly put together. The dialogues are mostly cheesy and the special effects are spotty. Not to forget the way Ryan Reynolds' appearance as Deadpool is a far cry from what we've seen in the comic book (but thankfully, Reynolds gets to make amends by re-introducing his character in the "Deadpool" solo movie). The only redeeming value about this otherwise half-baked movie is Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber's (who played Sabretooth) dramatic acting chops while some of the action sequences are equally noteworthy.

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" opens in cinemas nationwide on 17 November 2016.

Cinema Online, 10 November 2016


Related Movies:
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (17 Nov 2016)
Logan (02 Mar 2017)
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (29 Apr 2009)
Deadpool (11 Feb 2016)
Minions (18 Jun 2015)

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