Movies that were supposed to reboot franchises (but didn’t)

Maybe the new Robocop will successfully relaunch the franchise.  But I doubt it.

Maybe the new Robocop will successfully relaunch the franchise. But I doubt it.

Way back in 2011, I wrote an article about movies that were intended to generate sequels, but weren’t successful enough to do so.  Ironically, that article was successful enough to generate a sequel.  In the grandest of all franchise traditions, I went back to the well and made it a trilogy.  Since 2012, my series about movies that failed to start a series of their own has been dormant.  Until now.  It’s time to reboot with a look at movies that were supposed to reboot franchises but didn’t.

I think it is best to outline my criteria at the outset.  So here are some of the guidelines I am using to compile this list.

1. For obvious reasons, it can not be the first movie in a series.  In order to be a reboot, there has to be at least one prior movie.

2. It can’t be a sequel that flopped.  Jaws: The Revenge killed the franchise.  But it wasn’t an attempt to reboot the series.

3. The series needs to have been dormant for a while.  The time frame is somewhat open.

4. The makers of the reboot had to have the intention of continuing the franchise.  Otherwise, you just have a remake.

5. A reboot doesn’t necessarily have to be a remake or an origin story.  Some movies fit into a grey area I call a “soft reboot”.

Now that I have established my rules/guidelines/criteria, I will set about breaking them.

Next: Superman Returns

Posted on February 13, 2014, in Movies, movies that were supposed to..., sequels and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. A while back I read a review of The Lone Ranger that called it underrated and said that “like Fight Club: it owuld later go on to be recognized.

    That gave me an idea for a piece: Movies that weren’t blockbusters at the time. But have gone on to become regarded as classics.

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    • Good topic. There’s several. If you write it up, don’t forget Blade Runner.

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      • Blade Runner is a crucial one in that topic. I’d say the Grand Poobah of them all would be It’s A Wonderful Life. The film was a commercial disappointment upon release in 1946 and fell so far off the radar in the following years that nobody even kept the copyright up to date. It’s that very neglect that allowed it to be played by every tv station everywhere around Christmastime starting in the 70’s, since networks didn’t have to pay a penny to anyone to air it, and it became a quintessential Christmas tradition. Plus, my own personal opinion here, it’s also one of the greatest movies of all time.

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    • Woudl have to add Office Space to that list also.

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    • The Big Lebowski. Heathers. Austin Powers (the first one)

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  2. But rather than make a direct sequel, Universal decided to go with a soft reboot.

    I hate to nitpick, but Universal didn’t make The Incredible Hulk, Marvel did.

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  3. The Lone Ranger was an embarrassing flop for Disney. Amazingly, the public reactions from Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer during an interview promoting the film were even more embarrassing, which you quote from in your article. Johnny Depp commented “They had expectations that it must be a blockbuster. I don’t have any expectations of that. I never do, why would I?.” Wow. That is the most ridiculous comment I’ve ever heard. Let’s see, you starred in a film that cost around $250 Million dollars to make (not even accounting for marketing costs which are substantial), which means it’s got to earn more than HALF A BILLION DOLLARS….. JUST TO BREAK EVEN. But, no, Johnny, you have no expectations for this film to make mad bank at the box office, no, this is some small arthouse indie film we’re talking about. Who would “expect” a film with that large of a budget to be a blockbuster? I still laugh when I think about that comment. And with Bruckheimer claiming it’s essentially the critics who are to blame for the film flopping, saying “In a few years they will realize they made a mistake”, well, with two guys who have both been in show business since the 1980’s, you would think they would know better than to go off like they did.

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    • Sorry for the double post, but with a great article with as much content as this, I can’t help but double-dip (I bet this article of failed reboots was fun to come up with, as there’s so many nowadays). First off, you had a Tron arcade cabinet in your basement as a kid??? Wow, I am impressed! I admit I never got around to seeing the film Tron, but I used to frequent my local arcade constantly during that time, and I spent many hours playing that Tron lightcycle game, just so much fun. I’ve always wondered if I should’ve watched the movie, but your comments suggest no and just keep my fond memories of the game.

      Moving on to Superman, the real reason for this post…. I have to confess, I saw the original Superman: The Movie on the big screen when I was a kid, and that movie just blew me away. That film made me into a Superman fan. I loved that movie as a kid. Still do. In the years since there have been a number of good, even great superhero movies, yet to this day I still consider Superman: The Movie the best superhero movie ever made. Superman II was pretty great too. So when Bryan Singer was announced as director for the Superman reboot, I was pretty jazzed. He was just coming off of the first two X-Men films, which were both just excellent, and are still highly regarded. On paper, it looked great, didn’t it? I get where Singer was coming from, and to a certain point I respect his decision to make a spiritial sequel to the Donner classics. His love of those first two films certanly shines through, you gotta give him that. It’s just…. jeez, his decisions past that stunk. Like you mentioned, Lois Lane is raising what has to be Superman’s baby, yet with his prior super-kiss she has no memory of making sweet, sweet love to Superman, so, how does she write off having his baby? Creepy. Then yes, Superman comes off as very stalkerish, all that was missing was him hovering outside Lois’ window for a while, then a spotlight from a cop car shining on him with a cop leaning out the car window yelling “Hey, what are you doing?” and Supes zipping away into the night.

      And again I get that Singer adores Donner’s original, but does that mean that he had to steal Lex Luthor’s real estate plan wholesale again, with only a slight twist on it? And it’s not even a good plan, I mean yes Lex is creating all new land with the Kryptonite, but it’s just a huge pile of soot. Who the hell would want to move onto a huge pile of soot to raise their family? And can I say, Kate Bosworth was woefully miscast as Lois Lane. She came off in that film as a pretty face who just can’t act. If I were to compare Superman Returns to the new Superman film, at least Amy Adams is a gifted actress, and was more suited for Lois Lane (not quite Margot Kidder-level perfect as Lois, but close enough). Singer’s Superman comes off as a love letter to the original, but the execution was pretty terrible. I’d say the one genuine, thrilling moment the film had to offer was the doomed airliner and Supermans’ efforts to save them early in the film. It’s a small detail, but I kind of like that when Supes was attempting to slow down the plane’s downward spiral by pulling on the plane’s wing, the dang wing just broke completely off! Nice little touch. After that it was all downhill.

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      • My dad was a lawyer by day and a small business man by night. At one point, he had a pizza place. He eventually ditched the pizza place cause he was sick of insuring drivers. But he bought a bunch of arcade games and rented them out to places like the pizza place he used to own. When one would break down, he would bring it home and fix it up. Eventually, it would go back out to a local restaurant. But some of them lingered for quite a while. Dad liked Centipede and Galaga. So somehow those two always seemed to be in the basement. Tron stuck around for a long time too. It was pretty sweet!

        I completely agree with all your comments about the Superman franchise – especially Superman Returns. I actually enjoyed watching it for the most part based purely on Singer’s love of Donner. Routh made a good stand-in for Reeve. But man, there are some truly horrible decisions beyond that.

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    • To a degree, I get what Depp and Bruckheimer are saying. Critics had their knives sharpened. Everyone expected Lone Ranger to be bad. How could it not be given its troubled history. Depp and company compared it to World War Z which also had bad press before it hit theaters. But World War Z was a decent movie, so it got decent reviews and was a box office hit. The difference is The Lone Ranger sucked.

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  4. Great topic, Lebeau!
    But now I really want to see a “Jason vs The Muppets” movie. I laughed heartily over that one.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s awesome that you had the arcade version of Tron in your home. I would spend hours at my local arcade for that game alone.
    Another nice list, BTW! I must say, though, that Zombie’s 1st Halloween was surprisingly better than I expected it to be (even though, like all his other films, it’s simply a redo of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre). But his Halloween II sucked big time and it got its ass kicked at the box office by Final Destination 3D of all things. So, I’d say that any further reboots of that series are dead in the water now.

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    • Yeah, we were lucky in that respect. At any given time, we had at least on arcade game in our basement. Sometimes we had two or three. We got to play some oddball games a lot of people probably never heard of. There was a skiing game that used a tracking ball instead of a joystick. I don’t think the game ever caught on, but anyone who came to the house to play it was immediately hooked. There was also some kind of multiplayer asteroids thing. Our version was a table top. Man, it was killer.

      I watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot and was horrified – by how awful it was. That basically put me off the horror reboot trend just as it was getting started. I was surprised when almost none of those reboots actually succeeded in rebooting their respective franchise. Freddy and Jason terrorized movie goers for years. And now they are one-and-dones?

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      • Do you have any pictures of those things?!?
        That would be another post lots of people would be interested in!

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        • Not a one. We didn’t think anything of it. Seemed perfectly normal at the time.

          I was also used to having 2 dozen pizzas delivered every time we had company. When you’re a kid, you just don’t question these things. You just assume everybody does this stuff.

          This page is apparently about Alpine Ski. I can’t actually view the page at work. Great game.

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  6. The story of THE INCREDIBLE HULK is that, when audiences went into Ang Lee’s HULK, they were expecting 2+ hours of a brainless creature breaking things. When, instead, they got a real movie–easily, warts and all, one of the best of the comic movies we’ve so far seen. When a movie exceeds one’s poor expectations, this should be cause for celebration; instead, the film was trashed without mercy. When Marvel reqcquired the rights, they decided the first film had been far too thoughtful, intelligent, and well-constructed a picture, and publicly vowed to fix THAT.

    My own thoughts on what happened with the first:

    http://cinemarchaeologist.blogspot.com/2010/03/ang-lees-hulk-and-tyranny-of-low.html

    The original script for the sequel, on which pre-production began, was basically just a brainless action flick. The studio suits wanted Ed Norton to play the part, but he didn’t like the script at all. They said they’d be perfectly happy to listen to any ideas he had. As it turned out, he was a longtime Hulk fan with a whole head-full of ideas. He rewrote the script, the studio suits assured him they absolutely loved what he’d done, director Louis Leterrier loved it, and, as the boys upstairs said they’d shoot it, Norton signed on to play Banner.

    What happened next… well, don’t trust Mr. Have A Cigar.

    After the film was made, the studio suits stepped in and proceeded to remove nearly every major substantive scene Norton had created, dialing it almost entirely back to the same brainless action flick it had originally been, the one with which he hadn’t wanted to be associated. This was the film that went into theaters. So complete was the deletion of Norton’s material that he couldn’t even get a screenwriting credit for the work he’d done. Director Leterrier, to his credit, backed Norton at first, but both were eventually pushed into acceeding to the studio version–as stripped of substance as possible. A lot of THE INCREDIBLE HULK was just ill-conceived and didn’t work, and it was never going to be a great picture, but if you look at the extensive deleted scenes on the DVD, you’ll get some idea of the infinitely better movie it could have been, and you’ll see exactly where, instead of that better movie, the suits were aiming.

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  7. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE was an absolute blast, the first flick to use that character that even tried to get him right, and one that, for the most part, succeeded like gangbusters, blowing away the unwatcatchable Thomas Jane atrocity and handling the Punisher as he should be handled–as a balls-to-the-wall, over-the-top exloitation movie. The big bugaboo with that one was the worst sort of studio politics–most of the studio suits wanted a PG movie. A lot of what happened behind the scenes remains shrouded in mystery; it was, by all accounts, what the tabloids call “a troubled production.” By the end, the PG faction upstairs, apparently burned because they didn’t get their way on the rating, dropped it into theaters during the holiday season with no–and that “no” should be NO, with bold print, subliminal explanation points, and redundant underscores–promotion, then used the fact that it went nowhere to demonstrate how they’d been right all along and pulled it from theaters after only about 9 days. Action films play huge in foreign markets, but as far as I’ve ever been able to learn, PWZ’s only foreign theatrical release was a brief stint in the Philippines. Now THAT is spite.

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    • I definitely remember the distinct lack of fanfare. The studio seemed to be embarrassed to be releasing yet another Punisher movie. I haven’t seen it. Frankly, I have never much cared for the Punisher as a protagonist. But I appreciate that someone at least tried to get it right.

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      • Pedro de Pacas

        Punisher War Zone is absolutely insane, but it’s a real hoot. And having actors like McNulty and Courtney Stodden’s creepy ex-husband really takes it to the next level…

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  8. What Went Wrong?: Vol. 44 – Spectacular Wonderful Failed Remake Edition (Vol. 2!):

    http://znculturecast.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/what-went-wrong-vol-44-spectacular-wonderful-failed-remake-edition-vol-2/

    Similar to Fox’s hopes for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Sony also believed Robocop, their recently released reboot/remake, would click with audiences. Robocop was definitely not intended to compete for a family audience like Mitty, but the PG-13 rated film nevertheless met with mixed critical reception and low domestic box office as well. Robocop also spent a significant amount of time in pre-production. Originally planned for a 2010 release, the film was to be directed by none other than Darren Aronofsky, Academy Award-nominated director of films like Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream. The reboot/remake was then planned for a 2013 release, but pushed back once again to 2014, perhaps to avoid a crowded late summer film schedule. So, besides the pre-production hoopla, what exactly went wrong?

    The reboot of Robocop, starring Alex Kinnaman (of AMC’s The Killing), Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton, was met with disdain by fans online due to its announced PG-13 rating (something that had happened with Live Free or Die Hard several years back). While I typically tend to shy away from and also generally discourage online fandom due solely to principle, on this I must agree. The idea of a PG-13 Robocop is ridiculous. The 1987 Paul Verhoeven/Ed Neumeier/Peter Weller original is gloriously violent and over the top. A PG-13 film would certainly be a neutered, bland, uninteresting thing by comparison. The film ultimately drew in mediocre reviews, garnering a 49% Rotten Tomatoes score. Though the cast was praised for their work, the film suffered negative comparisons to the original, as was to be expected.

    The Robocop reboot/remake ultimately failed in the American box office, partially due to is PG-13 rating (there was literally nothing new in the theaters for a more mature audience). The biggest factor in its domestic failure, however, was perhaps the unexpected success and universal acclaim for Warner Bros. The Lego Movie, a film so popular it transcended its target demographic of children and young families and spilled over into adult territory. Of course, opening a futuristic science fiction thriller over Valentine’s Day probably wasn’t a great idea either. In the end, Robocop will gross less than 60 million dollars in domestic receipts, which is even less than last year’s hated A Good Day to Die Hard. It has saved some face overseas, but probably not enough to spawn a franchise like Sony had planned. The Verhoeven/Neumeier/Weller original remains the best in the series and an unassailable science fiction classic.

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