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Category Archives: movies that were supposed to…

Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): The Punisher


This weekend, Netflix will debut their latest Marvel-based series.  This one is a solo effort featuring Jon Bernthal as the Punisher.  Prior to landing on television, Frank Castle has starred in three movies.  None of them were successful which makes pinning down the exact start and end of the Punisher series a bit tricky.  Since each of the three theatrical films was essentially its own separate entity, I am going to treat them as three failed attempts to launch a franchise.  Which one are we looking at today?  All three of them!

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Green Lantern


It’s superhero movie season.  But then again, what time of year isn’t these days?  As we brace ourselves for the release of Zach Snyder’s Justice League next week, we’re looking back at the movie which was supposed to kick of Warner Brothers’ slate of DC Comics-based movies.  Marvel makes it look easy with the success of their Cinematic Universe.  But Green Lantern reminds us of everything that can (and did) go wrong.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Dracula Untold


As movie stars go, they don’t come much bigger than Dracula.  The king of vampires has been featured in more movies than James Bond.  He’s been played memorably by Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee and lampooned by the likes of Leslie Nielsen.  In the pantheon of movie monsters, Drac reigns supreme which is why every time Universal decides it’s time to reinvent their monster movies, Dracula is among the first to be dusted off.  Most recently, Universal looked to its monster properties as a way to duplicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic universe.  Their first effort towards that end was 2014’s Dracula Untold.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me


It’s happening again.  That show I like is coming back in style.  I am of course referring to the cult sensation, Twin Peaks, which after twenty-five years has been revived for a third season on Showtime.  But this isn’t the first time Twin Peaks was given a second chance.  In 1992, just one year after the show’s cancellation, director David Lynch brought his creation to the big screen.

Showtime’s revival has been met with joyous celebration, but Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me opened to booing at the Cannes Film Festival, jeers from critics and ambivalence from audiences.  Even the show’s few remaining fans didn’t seem to know what to make of the big screen version of Twin Peaks.   A quarter century later, the movie, like the show, has enjoyed a critical reappraisal with many now viewing Fire Walk With Me as an under-appreciated gem.  That may be true, but as an attempt to extend the life of Twin Peaks mania, it was a critical and commercial failure.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Unbreakable


Unbreakable

When Unbreakable was released in 2000, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan was riding high.  His previous movie, the supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense, had been a surprise smash.  On a modest $40 million dollar budget, The Sixth Sense became the second-highest grossing movie of 1999 right behind The Phantom Menace.  But unlike the Star Wars prequel, The Sixth Sense also enjoyed critical success as well.  It was also nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

After his second movie as a director, Shyamalan was a Hollywood power player.  Disney, which had released The Sixth Sense, couldn’t wait to make more movies with their new superstar.  He was paid a record-breaking $5 million dollars for a spec script for Unbreakable in addition to another $5 million in directing fees.  That is a quarter of what it cost to make The Sixth Sense.  But if Shyamalan’s follow-up was even half as successful as that movie, it would be money well spent.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Supergirl


Supergirl

Tonight on CBS, Supergirl comes to TV in the form of a brand new series.  I couldn’t be more excited about it.  While they aren’t perfect, the Flash and Green Arrow shows from the same producers are a lot of fun.  I’m hoping the new Supergirl show will be just as entertaining.  The fact that the show will have a female protagonist is just icing on the cake.  I have two daughters and I am really excited about the possibility that we could watch this show together.

With Supergirl coming to TV tonight, I thought it would be a great time to look back at the Supergirl movie which tried (and failed) to make the Girl of Steel into a movie star.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Doom


johnson - doom

Ten years ago today, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starred in the video game adaptation, Doom.  Video game movies are always a risky proposition.  Even Doom‘s executive producer, John Wells, admitted that most of them sucked.  But there was reason to think Doom might be different.  The game the movie was based on was credited with popularizing the first-person-shooter style of gaming.  If a video game can be considered historically significant, Doom was.  Additionally, Johnson seemed poised to break out as a movie star.  All he needed was the right vehicle.  If Doom was it, you could practically smell the sequels.

But it turns out, Doom sucked.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Van Helsing


Van Helsing

With 2004’s Van Helsing, Universal was certain it was sitting on top of a goldmine.  For years, they had been looking for a way to capitalize on their classic monster movie library.  Then along came writer/director Stephen Sommers.  Sommers put a fresh comedic spin on Universal’s troubled mummy movie.  In 1999, The Mummy turned into a surprise hit for the studio.  A sequel followed in 2002 which lead to a spin-off movie, The Scorpion King, in 2002.  Sommers seemed to have a magic touch.  So it seemed like a no-brainer to pair him with Wolverine and give him control of the complete Universal monsters collection.   But often times, what looks like a no-brainer on paper turns out to be a misfire in execution.  Van Helsing was one such case.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins


Remo_Williams

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the action movie, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.  When you subtitle a movie with something like “The Adventure Begins” you are sending a clear message to audiences of your intention to make sequels.  The idea was that Remo Williams would be the American equivalent of James Bond with a long-running film series to rival 007.  But if Remo Williams was comparable to any Bond, it was George Lazenby.  Because after only one movie, he was done.  The adventure ended as soon as it began

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Serenity


Serenity

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Joss Whedon’s big-screen Firefly adventure, Serenity.  Stop me if you have heard this one before.  A beloved science fiction show is prematurely cancelled by the network.  Fans demand more and eventually, their favorite characters are reunited on the big screen.  It worked for Star Trek.  But instead of launching a series of movies about the crew of the Serenity, the Firefly movie turned out to be a one-and-done.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Dick Tracy


Dick Tracy

In 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman was a phenomenon.  So it seemed like a given that the summer of 1990 would belong to Warren Beatty’s comic-strip adventure, Dick Tracy.  The movie boasted big stars like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Madonna and of course Beatty himself.  Also like Batman, Dick Tracy had an eye-popping visual style.  Throw in original songs written by Stephen Sondheim and a promotional tour by the Material Girl and Dick Tracy seemed like a can’t miss blockbuster.  Disney revved up the merchandise machine and prepared to count the money as it rolled in.  But despite a massive marketing push, Dick Tracy didn’t become the phenomenon it seemed destined to be.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Spawn


spawn

In the early 1990’s, comic book artist Todd McFarlane started a revolution.  He took on the publishing giant that was Marvel Comics and against all odds, he won.  His creation, Spawn, became the number one selling comic book on the shelves out-selling Spider-man, the X-Men and Batman on a regular basis.  Toys, video games and of course movies followed.  Sequels were part of the plan.  A thriving Spawn movie series was supposed to be the final step in McFarlane’s victory over his former employer.  Instead, the Spawn movie was a disappointment and Marvel slowly grew to dominance at the box office.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Jupiter Ascending


Jupiter Ascending

Your hair smells good. What conditioner do you use?

Way back in 1999, audiences were eagerly awaiting the release of a science fiction movie that would kick off a trilogy that promised to reshape the pop culture landscape for the 21st century.  Star Wars fans had waited 16 years for George Lucas to continue his beloved saga.  Despite the presence of a weird CGI lizard-creature with rabbit ears featured prominently in the trailer, fans were prepared to be wowed by The Phantom Menace.

Instead, the Star Wars prequels became one of the biggest disappointments in cinema history (not at the box office, but in the hearts of fans who had waited nearly two decades to see them).  But 1999 brought movie-goers another sci-fi movie that proved to be far more influential than Lucas’ anticipated prequels.  Compared to the Wachowski’s The Matrix, The Phantom Menace seemed completely out of step with what audiences wanted.

Sixteen years later, the Wachowskis set out to launch their own science fiction franchise.  But what they ended up delivering was a movie that makes a lot of the same mistakes as the Star Wars prequels without having the Star Wars name to fall back on.  Not surprisingly, Jupiter Ascending was a spectacular failure.

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