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Conventional wisdom states that if you want to start a franchise, you have to give the people what they want. In some cases, like Marvel's Cinematic Universe, this has more or less been met with exactly what folks wanted at the multiplexes. But in other cases, such as the DC Extended Universe, it's been a rockier road to such a level of success.
And then there are the honored dead, who had high hopes and a gleam in their eyes, only to stumble down upon the starting gate and thus rob themselves of the loftier goals they aimed to achieve. Here now are 12 films that plotted out their futures, but couldn't get the people's votes, ultimately leaving their dreams unfinished.
King Arthur: Legend of The Sword
If we're going to talk about failed franchises, where's a better place to start than King Arthur: Legend of the Sword? With six films planned to adapt this fixture of English literature, the first film pretty much killed all hopes of such a cinematic universe faster than you could say, "Merlin." Blame the film's $175 million production budget, as well as its unreported marketing expenses, as the $134 million international take couldn't even cover the production alone. Guy Ritchie just doesn't seem to be able to catch a break, as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. also failed to launch a sequel of its own, though on a smaller scale.
Dracula Untold/The Wolfman
Most folks are already writing about the death of Universal's Dark Universe, what with The Mummy being bandaged up as a domestic failure. But what people seem to forget is that the Universal Monsters canon has been home to two other supposed failures in the modern era: 2010's The Wolfman and 2014's Dracula Untold. While The Wolfman wasn't explicitly supposed to set up an entire universe's worth of films, Dracula Untold literally went into reshoots to add a scene that would tease a world of gods and monsters. A fat lot of good it did them, as the film's been officially erased from the Dark Universe canon.
As you continue to read this list, you're going to see quite a few franchises that had a lot of built-in sequel potential based on literary source material. With 12 books to adapt from, John Carter could have been a series that was still in theaters to this day. Of course, that was what director Andrew Stanton and the folks at Disney were hoping to do when they set out to adapt the series in 2012, but the underwhelming reception compared to the film's massive marketing spend and production budget didn't allow for a return to Barsoom anytime soon. These days, the property is with another rights holder, and a reboot is possible. But to the fans of Disney's take on the film, this is of little solace, as that incarnation was dead on the vine almost from the first showing.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Alan Moore hates every film incarnation of one of his comic books. The man hated V for Vendetta, he wouldn't even let his name grace Zack Snyder's Watchmen and he certainly wasn't a fan of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. That last one is probably the movie most die-hard Moore fans would agree on hating, as the film's modest financial success wasn't considered good enough to push for a sequel. But not only did the sequel to "LXG" never happen, it basically pushed Sean Connery into retirement. So if there wasn't enough of a reason to salt the earth that the film walked on, this pretty much sealed it.
Young people can be fickle. One moment, a property like Divergent is on top of the world. The next, it can't even find the wind in its sails to finish a series of proper film adaptations. Though they were lucky to have gotten where they did, as Lionsgate's other attempt at cashing in on the teen market, Ender's Game, couldn't even make it past Earth's atmosphere before stalling out. Now part of the reason could have been the backlash surrounding the author of the source material, Orson Scott Card, and we wouldn't be surprised if that factored into the decision somehow. But seeing as the film only made $15 million worth of profit on paper, without accounting for whatever other expenses were incurred with selling the picture, it looks like money killed this beast.
Super Mario Bros.
You knew this was coming, as one of the earliest instances of sequel baiting most movie fans of this age can remember is the fact that Super Mario Bros. ended with the promise of a return to the Mushroom Kingdom. Of course, when you don't even recoup half of your budget, and your two lead stars had to get drunk on the set to even make the first film a complete product, you're basically promising empty air. Still, with the film garnering a couple fans here and there in the modern age, maybe someone will try to reboot this dinosaur of a franchise.
The Golden Compass
Now here's a movie that already had a natural tease for a sequel built into it, and yet it somehow it managed to go out of its way to beg for another installment. New Line's The Golden Compass was the first of what should have been three films based off of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Alas, the adaptation of the film pissed off fans to no end, as it not only watered down key elements of the source material, but it changed the ending to screw folks out of a truly spectacular cliffhanger. Instead of getting some more Daniel Craig/Nicole Kidman action, as well as Lyra's jump from her dimension to ours, we saw our intrepid adventurer merely comfort her friend, committing to the cause of fighting the villains in the next movie.
In the case of most of the films on this list, sequels were denied despite the fact that the films that were released made somewhat of a profit on the surface. But in the case of Beautiful Creatures, a cancellation was all but certain from the first weekend of release. The film debuted in 6th place on the same weekend films like A Good Day to Die Hard and The Identity Thief debuted. If you can't compete against films like those, you're already screwed. But if you're a young and hot literary franchise trying to make your bones not too long after Twilight had its hands on the pulse of cinema, then you shouldn't have bothered even showing up.
Oh that crazy Universal Monsters universe. If Van Helsing succeeded the way that Universal had intended it to, we not only would have gotten a sequel of some sort, but we also would have also received a TV series out of the deal. Back when Universal spent the $160 million to make this monster mash, the plan was to reuse some of the sets to make Transylvania, a proposed NBC series that would have been set in the world of Hugh Jackman's supernatural hunter. But, for one reason or another, despite almost doubling its budget, the series was doomed to die alongside Kate Beckinsale's character, leaving fans to stare into the sunset as its ghost was reunited with Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
If you ever wondered why Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events found itself encountering a dismal end itself, perhaps you should Meet The Fockers. With the Ben Stiller/Robert De Niro sequel debuting a week after the film version of this tragic tale took the stage, the Baudelaire siblings found themselves trumped by their greatest enemy of all: a happy ending. While time would be kind to the film, and a Netflix show would eventually come out of the wreckage, A Series of Unfortunate Events was dealt the cruelest hand of all by being stranded with its one and only film.
The Lone Ranger
If you thought John Carter was the biggest sore spot on Disney's modern box office record, we'd like to remind you that The Lone Ranger actually exists. By the ingredients alone, it looked like the Gore Verbinski/Disney machine was about to start printing more money again, as their pairing on the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise proved to be quite fruitful. But horrible buzz and an uninterested public doomed this film to merely recoup its budget, and a $45 million profit on the top. Compared to the Pirates films, this was obviously nothing, as even the fourth film managed to cross the $1 billion mark. So naturally, the Armie Hammer/Johnny Depp adventure was buried in an unmarked grave and paved over to make way for a really big water tank.