In the years since the first ever Star Wars movie made its glorious debut in theaters, the film industry has pretty much lived and died by the power of the franchise. From science fiction tales like Star Wars and Star Trek, to the wildly successful superhero genre that has completely taken over our world, you can almost always count on Hollywood to try and make more money through sequels, prequels, three-quels, and reboots.
However, not every franchise comes out of the gates sprinting. For every great series of movies, there exist innumerable examples of times in which Hollywood simply got it wrong, stopping a franchise in its tracks. We’ve gone through recent history and come up with a list of eight times in which a film series stumbled on the first entry, and effectively killed an entire potential franchise in the process. Now let’s get the ball rolling with one film that makes most self-respecting DC comic book nerds cringe…
In brightest day and blackest night, we really wish this movie had escaped our sight. Before the insane success of Deadpool, Hollywood gave Ryan Reynolds so many times to try and capitalize on the success of the superhero genre. The most glaring failure came in 2011 with Martin Campbell’s deplorable Green Lantern. With a horrible script, dreadful CGI, and a wholly miscast Reynolds in the role of Hal Jordan, Green Lantern effectively forced Warner Bros. to re-reboot the DCEU in 2013 with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Green Lantern has become so outstandingly panned that the studio even opted to push Green Lantern Corps to the final spot on the DCEU’s film slate in 2020.
For all the negative press that the media heaped upon Green Lantern, it doesn’t even come close to the horror show that is 2015’s Fantastic Four. A drab, humorless attempt to reboot Marvel’s First Family, Fantastic Four suffered from the severe creative differences between director Josh Trank and 20th Century Fox. The studio has repeatedly expressed interest in trying to recover from this blunder, but with members of the cast moving off to new franchises, and the memory of this train wreck still fresh in memory, it’s looking like the Fantastic Four will have to wait quite some time before they assemble on the silver screen again.
Flops don’t get a whole lot bigger than Disney’s John Carter. An attempt to capitalize on a free, public domain character, as well as Taylor Kitsch’s Friday Night Lights popularity, the film flopped horrendously at the box office and led to a now legendary $300 million loss for Disney. It’s not hard to understand why; it’s a mess of CGI and poor storytelling that failed to excite audiences with its overly dour and pensive marketing campaign. We applaud Disney for trying to take the superhero genre in a new direction with this iconic character, but the execution could have been so much better in the end.
Dracula Untold is a story that should have been left untold. In an attempt to get in on the latest "cinematic universe" craze in 2014, Universal took one of their most iconic characters – Dracula – and crafted an action-heavy 15th century origin story for the character that took him from terrifying villain to bland CGI hero. Although the film’s post-credits scene seems to tease a future for the character as an anti-hero in the present day, it’s looking more and more like Universal has every intention of starting over and rebooting its Universal Monster Universe with the upcoming revival of The Mummy.
The Last Airbender
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender has become a cautionary tale for how not to craft a summer blockbuster. Based upon the wildly popular cartoon series of the same name, the film hit theaters in 2010 and quickly drew the ire of critics and fans alike. Suffering from a poor script, bad performances, and even accusations of whitewashing, the film went on to dominate the 2010 Razzies by earning no less than five of the not-so-coveted awards. This poor reception pretty much guaranteed that Shyamalan wouldn’t be helming a follow up film any time soon.
The Mortal Instruments
Some adaptations of Young Adult literature have gone on to become great franchises; however, for every Maze Runner or Hunger Games, we as an audience get a Mortal Instruments. A mash up of pretty faces and no substance, The Mortal Instruments follows a seemingly ordinary girl who (you guessed it) soon discovers that she has a destiny in a world she never even knew about. The film has just about everything you would expect from an adaptation like this – vampires, crummy CGI, a universally attractive cast – but it does absolutely nothing new to set itself apart from the genre. A sequel was initially planned, but when the original film failed to earn back its budget, those plans were rightfully scrapped.
The Golden Compass
In 2007, The Golden Compass hit theaters and seemingly attempted to capitalize on the success of franchises like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. That was the intention, but it didn’t exactly go so well. The film follows a young girl from a magical land as she sets out on a journey to rescue her friend from evil forces that have begun to inhabit her world. Pretty standard fantasy stuff, right? Although it’s a beautiful looking movie, and it performed admirably overseas, The Golden Compass absolutely flopped in the United States and eventually led to an entire overhaul of New Line Cinema.
In 2004, a Hugh Jackman fronted Van Helsing movie probably seemed like an amazing idea on paper. Essentially playing a Victorian era Wolverine, Jackman stars as the reimagined literary monster hunter as he faces off against Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, Dracula, and numerous other iconic fictional beasts. Although Van Helsing bears a noble premise, that’s pretty much all it has going for it. It’s a poorly written, horrendously acted movie that banked far too much on 2004 CGI being up to the task of conveying these monsters properly. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. The ending of Van Helsing teased future adventures for the Vatican-sponsored hero, but alas nothing ever came of it.
Originally from Connecticut, Conner grew up in San Diego and graduated from Chapman University in 2014. He now lives in Los Angeles working in and around the entertainment industry and can mostly be found binging horror movies and chugging coffee.
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