OK, so we all know about Jumping the Shark and how it often happens to franchises that go on for a while.But before the shark-jumping happens, there's often a peak: a certain release or entry in the franchise that ends up standing as it's crowning achievement.There's nowhere to go but down from it, so the water skis get strapped on sometime afterward.Here is a list of such franchise peaks:
STAR WARS: "EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH"
While "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" made the most money out of any movie in the Star Wars saga, it was also the most critically panned, by professional critics and regular moviegoers alike. "Episode II: Attack of the Clone" didn't fare well either.It had only a marginal rise in critical praise (from 57% to 67% on Rotten Tomatoes), and earned less money.But "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" was so awesome that it earned alot of praise from critics (80% on Rotten Tomatoes; a dead-tie with the conclusion of the original trilogy, "Return of the Jedi") and made over 800 million worldwide. The franchise lost alot of steam after that, and it has yet to be seen if Disney can revitalize it or not.
STAR TREK: "THE NEXT GENERATION"
The original Star Trek series may be remembered with the most fondness, but it's sequel series, "The Next Generation", fared even better.It ran the longest out of any Star Trek series, was praised the most, and had consistently good ratings from beginning to end, through all 7 years and 178 episodes. The shows after that ("Deep Space Nine", "Voyager", and "Enterprise") kept getting weaker, and the franchise all but died until J.J Abrahm's 2009 reboot, and even that has gone sour with it's sequel.
SUPERMAN: "THE DEATH AND RETURN OF SUPERMAN"
"The last time you inspired anyone...was when you were dead."If you thought this was just Batman being a dick, you're wrong, because he's right on the money here.Superman has never recaptured the huge sales and widespread media attention that he did back during his death and resurrection storyline back in the early 90s. Since then, he's suffered from weak stories in his comics, less-than-flattering portrayals in other mediums, and not one but two massively disappointing film outings ("Superman Returns" and "Man of Steel") Poor Superman; he might as well have stayed dead!
BATMAN: "THE DARK KNIGHT"
How do you top universal critical praise and over 1 billion dollars worldwide? You can't. While "The Dark Knight Rises" also made over 1 billion, it received slightly less praise from the critics, and was even more divisive amongst audiences. Nothing else Batman-related has stepped up to the plate to become the next peak of the franchise: it hasn't been the comics, hasn't been the new CGI-animated TV show, and it's certainly not going to be his next film appearance...in the sequel to "Man of Steel".
SPIDER-MAN: "SPIDER-MAN 2"
While it made the least money domestically and worldwide, 2004's "Spider-Man 2" was the most critically praised film the webslinger has starred in.Everything was looking up for Spidey.But then he got several bad comic book stories culminating in the abomination of "One Day More", in the same year as the extremely profitable yet highly divisive "Spider-Man 3", no less.Since then, he's had even worse stories in the comics that have led to him dying, being replaced by Doc Ock in his body, and retroactively given the catchphrase "Crazytown Banana-Pants!", he's received an uninspired, money-grubbing movie reboot that very quickly has spiraled into a mess behind the scenes, and has had a good animated TV show get quickly canned in favor of a crappy one.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: "SEASON 3"
The show's ratings were at it's highest average during this season, and for good reason. The bar that had been raised by last season's story arc was raised even higher this time, with an excellently written story that concludes in an epic and satisfying way, and with several entertaining side-episodes as well.The ratings were never higher than this because the quality was never higher than this.
SMALLVILLE: "SEASON 2"
I maintain that this season had less of an overall direction than Season 1 before it or Season 3 after it, making it weaker.But the fact of the matter is that the ratings average peaked here, probably in part because of the success of Season 1, and probably in part to guest star Christopher Reeve.Of course, John Glover was promoted to regular this season, so that may have had a hand in it as well.
ONCE UPON A TIME: "SEASON 1"
From Fall 2011 to Spring 2012, the debut season of this show soared in the ratings.The gripping, intricately plotted stroryline of the Dark Curse, how it was brought about, and how it gets broken kept viewers' interest the whole way through.The quality in the ratings was kept during the beginning of Season 2 in Fall 2012, but it only took two disappointing episodes at the start of 2013 to drive millions of viewers away, with thousands more dropping out as the poorly written remainder of the season continued airing.While the quality has picked up again in Season 3, with a rise in ratings reflecting that, it's doubtful to me that this show will ever rise to it's original glory again. First Installment Wins!
DIGIMON: "DIGIMON TAMERS"
"Digimon Tamers" is the second-best Digimon series after the original "Digimon Adventure".If "Adventure" was one of the greatest kids' cartoons of all time, then "Tamers" is one of the greatest teens' cartoons, getting progressively darker and edgier and doing it so well.The following series, "Digimon Frontier", was such a step down that it killed the franchise for a few years. "Savers" failed to revive it, "Xros Wars" succeeded, and then a crappy sequel came along that killed it all over again!
YU-GI-OH!: "YU-GI-OH! THE MOVIE"
Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, but the fact is that this movie, made exclusively by Japan for western audiences, represents the peak of this franchise as a worldwide phenomenon.What followed it?The sequel series "GX", which got progressively weaker and killed the actual TCG, the even worse "5ds" and the even worse "Zexal"!The franchise is dead and all but forgotten by the mainstream now.
SLAYERS: "SLAYERS NEXT"
Another case where the peak of the franchise was justified by the quality of the current installment. "Slayers NEXT" took everything great about the original anime series and made it even better while fixing all the problems. It's as perfect an action-adventure comedy show as you could ever find. Everything that followed it sank the franchise, and the recent ill-advised attempt at a revival buried it.
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: "THE ORIGINAL TV SERIES"
The franchise this show spawned has always been a mess, so of course the show itself is the peak!
AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER: "SOZIN'S COMET: THE FINAL BATTLE"
One of the best animated shows in recent history got it's highest ratings in the grand finale, which aired as a 2-hour movie in July 2008. Everyone was on the edge of their seats as they watched all the conflicts get wrapped up and Aang achieve his destiny by becoming a fully-realized Avatar at last. Randomness of the Lion Turtle's spirit-bending aside, everything here was nigh perfect, so it definitely deserves the praise it gets.Pity that the franchise has been on a downward spiral ever since, what with James Cameron stealing the name away, M. Night Shyamalan ruining the live-action film adaptation, the graphic novels showing Aang and his friends' further adventures being met with controversy, and the sequel series "The Legend of Korra" continuing to flop.In the end, the words of Doug Walker are absolutely right: there's only one Avatar, and there will never be another like it again.
SUPER MARIO BROS: "SUPER MARIO GALAXY"
The Super Mario Bros. franchise had a lengthy recession during the Gamecube years only to return with a vengeance on the Wii. "Super Mario Galaxy" sold so well that it prompted other successful Wii outings: the sequel "Super Mario Galaxy 2", "New Super Mario Bros. Wii", "Mario Kart Wii", and "Super Paper Mario".Time will tell if Mario's success on the Wii will carry over to the Wii U or not.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: "THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: TWILIGHT PRINCESS"
Releasing this game on both the Gamecube and Wii at the same time may have been a gimmick, but one cannot argue with it's success.It may have flopped in Japan (where the franchise has been on a downward slope since "Ocarina of Time", the franchise's greatest game), but it was so successful overseas that it's worldwide total earnings actually surpass "Ocarina of Time's" by over a million!
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG: "SONIC 3 & KNUCKLES"
"Sonic the Hedgehog 3" and "Sonic & Knuckles" are literally two halves of the same game.They were developed as one game, but split in two due to complications.However, thanks to the Sega Genesis' "lock-on technology", players were able to connect the two cartridges to get "Sonic 3it's doubtful the long-delayed "Final Fantasy XV" can save it.
KINGDOM HEARTS: "KINGDOM HEARTS II: FINAL MIX +"
While neither sequel to the original "Kingdom Hearts" matched it in quality and sales, they were still successful, and this special release that packaged a full PS2 remake of "Chain of Memories" and a superbly (and much needed) updated version of "Kingdom Hearts II" was the final celebration of the Kingdom Hearts Trinity. The franchise went down the crapper afterward, with only the rabid fandom heavily contributing to the sales of the handheld releases (None of them have breached the 2 million mark, "Dream Drop Distance" just barely breached 1 million, and "Re:Coded hasn't even breached that!) The continuous delay of "Kingdom Hearts III" only continues to dig this franchise into it's grave.
METAL GEAR SOLID: "METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY"
This one is a tragedy."Metal Gear Solid" was never supposed to have a sequel.Hideo Kojima didn't want to make one and was pissed off at being pushed into it.So he set out to fail; to make "Metal Gear Solid 2" such a middle finger to the player that the series would be cancelled.Sadly, his genius at making video games proved to be a fatal flaw, and "Metal Gear Solid 2" remains the most critically and commercially successful game in the franchise, Raiden and all!While "3", "4", and "Peace Walker" haven't been as successful as the first two games (hence why "2" remains the peak), they've still been very successful, so it's unlikely that poor Kojima will shake off this MGS anytime soon.
POKEMON: "POKEMON BLACK AND WHITE VERSIONS"
Sales are actually pretty irrelevant when it comes to this franchise (they generally get slightly lower with each passing generation) and it's too early to speak of "X and Y" in terms of critical or commercial success.But at the moment, "Black and White" is the most critically praised set of games since the swansong of creator Satoshi Tajiri, "Gold and Silver".Franchise director Junichi Masuada himself considers "Black and White" his mangum opus, and it's easy to see why, as it perfected the gameplay formula and took the story, characters, and world of Pokemon to a whole new level entirely.The unprecedented sequel, "Black 2 and White 2", was something of a flop due to the steps down that they took, and what was good in them felt like Game Freak playing it's last cards. After 15 years, Pokemon finally reached it's zenith. It's now a franchise that's better off put to rest.