Sarah Connor was raised by a Terminator (Terminator: Genisys)
The Terminator series has become such a well-beaten dead horse by now — between the Salvation semi-reboot, the already-forgotten Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, and various other iterations — that the whole notion of canon seems borderline irrelevant. And it’s not like earlier sequels haven’t flirted with ret-con before (see the debate over “the future is not set” and the first film). But it’s still sort of insane that this is actually a thing they’re doing in the new Terminator (spoilers, etc.):
Sarah Connor isn’t the innocent she was when Linda Hamilton first sported feathered hair and acid-washed jeans in the role. Nor is she Hamilton’s steely zero body-fat warrior in 1991’s T2. Rather, the mother of humanity’s messiah was orphaned by a Terminator at age 9. Since then, she’s been raised by (brace yourself) Schwarzenegger’s Terminator — an older T-800 she calls “Pops” — who is programmed to guard rather than to kill.
“Pops”? “Pops”? Gotta hand ‘em this much: they found a plot reset that’s about as stupid as that title spelling of “genesis.”
Laurie is Michael’s sister (Halloween II)
It wasn’t enough that the 1981 sequel to John Carpenter’s influential slasher smash upped the body count and gore significantly; co-writers Carpenter and Debra Hill also threw in a big plot twist for good measure. Come to find out, unstoppable killer Michael Myers wasn’t just killing babysitters (in the first film) and nurses (in the second) at random — he was purposefully targeting Jamie Lee Curtis’ Final Girl Laurie because she was actually his sister, adopted at a young age by the Strodes after little Michael brutally murdered his other sister Judith (in the opening scene of the first film). It was clearly an out-of-nowhere twist grafted onto the sequel and never even remotely hinted in the first film — though Carpenter would attempt to ret-con it into the original by shooting additional scenes for the TV version of Halloween (shot during production of Halloween II) foreshadowing the turn, and director Rob Zombie would subsequently work it into his 2007 reboot/remake as part of Michael’s origin story.
Michael’s evil is rooted in a Druid cult (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers)
The Halloween II sister reveal turned out to be par for the course for the franchise, whose wildly uneven quality was matched by an increasingly silly series of resets, do-overs, and just-kiddings. But the goofiest occurs in the sixth and most troubled (which is saying something!) film in the series, 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. In it, writer Daniel Farrands and director Joe Chappelle insist that Michael’s killing streak is not due to pure evil of his soul — which Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Loomis has gone around shouting to pretty much anyone who’ll listen for four films already — but the so-called “Curse of Thorn,” which involves some kinda mumbo-jumbo with a mystical symbol and a Druid cult. It was a reveal slightly foreshadowed by a mysterious man in black and some other unexplained business in the fifth film, but it was still mighty stupid, and rightly ignored (along with the rest of the movie, and most of parts four and five as well) in the next film, 1998’s Halloween H20.
Meet the evil spirit (Exorcist II: The Heretic; Poltergeist II: The Other Side)
As Tasha Robinson explains in an eloquent piece over at The Dissolve, one of the biggest problems with horror sequels is their need to “explain, explain, explain.” This is undoubtedly the case with the sequels to The Exorcist and Poltergeist; the original films give us a terror that is rendered all the more frightening by its simplicity (Satan and an Indian burial ground), and that’s good enough. But sequels have to tell us more, so when the dreadfully dull Exorcist II and the stunningly ill-conceived Poltergeist II have time to kill, they give us the full skinny on the motives of their evil spirits — as if anyone actually cares.
Meet our old pal Frankie Pentangeli (The Godfather Part II)
Look, no one’s arguing that The Godfather Part II is not only the greatest sequel ever made, but one of the Great Movies, period. But there is one rather glaring continuity problem: the vital role played by Frankie Pentangeli, supposedly a longtime force within the Corleone crime family who is entirely absent from — not even mentioned in — the first film. A bit of behind-the-scenes digging reveals why: his role was originally written as Clemenza, played by Richard Castellano in the original movie. But Castellano’s insane demands (he reportedly asked not only for too much money, but for his girlfriend to rewrite the script and to play his younger self in the flashbacks) got him booted from the picture, and Clemenza is explained away in Pentangeli’s first scene by an off-screen death between the two films. (Part III pulls a similar bit of “no, really, this guy’s been around forever” business, introducing Eli Wallach’s Don Altobello, who has supposedly been a Corleone family ally since at least the 1950s.)
Apollo Creed wants a rematch (Rocky II)
In the closing moments of the original 1976 Rocky, Apollo Creed tells protagonist Rocky Balboa, after their closer-than-expected climactic bout, “There ain’t gonna be no rematch.” Rocky replies, “Don’t want one.” But a funny thing happened after that: Rocky was released, won the Oscar for Best Picture, and made a bajillion dollars. And it suddenly seemed that Apollo and Rocky were the only ones who didn’t want a rematch. So the sequel conveniently forgets that exchange (since it would negate the film’s entire reason for being), to the extent that Apollo challenges Rocky to rematch in front of the press, in the hospital, later that very night.
What’s your “midichloran” count? (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
The various continuity errors and ret-cons created by George Lucas in his terrible Star Wars prequels could fill an entire post, from Leia remembering her mother to R2D2 flying. But the most egregious is probably the notion of “midichlorans,” microscopic life forms living within cells, which supposedly increased likelihood of engagement with the Force for those who had an abundance of them. (Anakin Skywalker, for example, had over 20,000 per cell.) Lucas would later claim he had this notion in mind as far back as 1977, but simply couldn’t find a way to work it into the original trilogy. (We should probably be surprised he didn’t shoehorn it into those goddamn Special Editions.) But the problem is, the original films — particularly the first one — directly contradict the idea; Obi-Wan wasn’t testing blood or talking cells when he recruited Luke Skywalker in the original films, merely teaching him how to tap into the Force. And sure, maybe this was because he knew Skywalker would have a hereditary inclination, but instead, let’s just consider it one more reason to act like the prequels didn’t happen.
Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father (The Empire Strikes Back)
And while we’re talking Star Wars, we’d be remiss not to mention (though carefully not including it among the titular seven lame examples) the most famous sequel reveal in movie history. Make no mistake — this is one of the great twists in pop cinema, a shocking moment that reframes everything that comes before and reconfigures everything after. But it is worth mentioning that this was not part of Lucas’ plotting for the original film, and if you want to look for them, there are a few issues with the — nope, never mind. We’re gonna let this one go.