This week, Milla Jovovich's sci-fi horror series Resident Evil reaches a mark few film franchises have hit: the fivequel. Hollywood is routinely in the trilogy business, occasionally resurfacing older properties for a fourth film comeback event, but rarely pushing their luck with more. There was no question if 2010's Resident Evil: Afterlife would spawn another sequel — with added 3D prices, the fourth film became the highest grossing entry to date. Now the franchise's fifth film, Resident Evil: Retribution, steps up to the plate to serve up a mess of zombie monsters and Jovovich-approved action. The diehards can crave more of the same, but the question remains if the film can entertain the casual fan.
History proves that fivequels haven't been the most successful creative endeavors, especially in the world of horror (Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, Final Destination 5, Saw V, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child are passable late night entertainment, but a far cry from their originals). But it's not unprecedented either. Here are the fivequels Hollywood.com can safely recommend:
Instead of sticking with the whimsical tone of the original, producers of the Harry Potter wisely invigorated the series with maturity and evolving aesthetics. Director David Yates grabbed the reigns of the blockbuster franchise after the action-packed one-off Goblet of Fire and took a hard right into dark, dreary territory. It was a fresh start for the series (helpful, when you're on movie number five), the beginning of the end that drove Mr. Potter to the thrilling conclusion.
Another instance of a series (Tokyo) drifting away from the mood and plot set up of its original incarnations to find a new, exhilarating angle. The only thing Fast Five has in common with its predecessors is the main cast (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and the rest of the gang) and its inherently dopey nature. Just to ensure that the fivequel's Ocean's 11-inspired plot was as ridiculous as possible, they even added The Rock to the mix. Brilliant.
Early Bond movies were smaller-scale than what we're familiar with today, closer to thrillers than action movies. You Only Live Twice felt like a perfect blend of the two, taking 007 to Tokyo for a mission that's full of colorful locations, explosive set pieces, and classic gadgetry. As Bond continued to use this mold for future installments, the franchise became waterdown, too obsessed with over-the-top secret agent gimmicks. The fivequel was a sweet spot.
Can we consider the 2006 Superman movie to be part of the original series? Bryan Singer sure did. Fitting cozily into 1978 Superman director Richard Donner's established mythology, Superman Returns attempted to recreate the majesty and thoughtfulness of that '70s big screen incarnation, opting for existential questioning and a few moments of superhuman strength over Man of Steel clobbering time. Audiences didn't love the approach, hoping Singer would bring Superman into the 21st century instead of nodding to the past, but unmet expectations play a bigger part in the negativity towards Superman Returns than the films actual quality. Give it a second chance!
The last hurrah for the original Planet of the Apes franchise and easily the series' lowest note, Battle for the Planet of the Apes is worth a watch just for the science fiction ambition on display. By this point, Apes have destroyed Earth with a nuke, traveled back in time from the first film's original setting, and then inspired a revolt in 1991 (where Apes were used as slaves). Battle continues building on the previous films, focusing on the war brewing between humans and primates and Caeser's (Roddy McDowell) quest to bring them together in peace. Somehow, producers also nabbed 10-time Oscar nominated actor John Huston for a key role. You won't find another fivequel with that kind of gravitas.
After a string of original features, the Muppet gang decided to take a cue from the Disney animated oeuvre and adapt classic stories with their own wacky sensibilities. Muppet Christmas Carol is a true gem. Muppet Treasure Island less so, but it's hard to take too much issue when the Muppets are giving it their all alongside the likes of Tim Curry.
If you think Resident Evil: Retribution is director Paul W.S. Anderson's first venture into fivequels, think again. The man behind RE, Mortal Kombat, and Event Horizon revived the Alien franchise by colliding it with Predator for a genre-lovers dream come true. Completely gone from Anderson's vision is the tension and slow-pacing of previous Alien films, but as a standard-issued action flick using well-known iconography, it's a winner. There are even people who think Prometheus is derivative of Alien vs. Predators — do you?
And fivequels seem to be all the rage in the near future: Twilight has Breaking Dawn — Part 2, Tom Clancy gets a fivequel with Jack Ryan, John McClane returns for A Good Day to Die Hard, Scary Movie 5 is now in production, and fifth installments of Pirates of the Caribbean, Mission: Impossible, and the Bourne series are all rumored. Five is the new three.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Screen Gems, MGM Studios]