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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Lost in Space

This weekend, Netflix is launching a reboot of the campy sixties sci-fi TV series, Lost in Space.  You’re probably familiar with the premise, but for any youngsters out there who didn’t watch the original show in endless reruns, it was basically the Swiss Family Robinson in space instead of an island.  And yes, I just clarified a pop culture reference with an even older pop culture reference.  The show followed the adventures of the Robinson family as they journeyed through space in the far-flung future of 1997.

In the real world, the nineties were flooded with movies based on TV shows that the baby boomers running the studios loved.  So one year after the original Robinsons would have been lost in space, New Line Cinema rebooted the show as a big budget movie franchise.  But those Lost in Space sequels never materialized and now here we are twenty years later with another take on the old TV show.  Why didn’t the movie version of Lost in Space take off?

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Jack the Giant Slayer

Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer was supposed to do a lot of things.  For one thing, it was supposed to be the director’s big comeback after back-to-back box office disappointments.  It was also supposed to establish its lead actor, Nicholas Hoult, as a bankable movie star.  And of course, everyone involved was hoping the movie would be successful enough to launch a franchise.  But Jack didn’t do any of those things.  Instead, Warner Brothers took a loss of around $140 million dollars on the fantasy flick!  To celebrate the movie’s fifth anniversary, we’ll examine why Jack couldn’t make it up this beanstalk.

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

This week marks thirty years since Carl Weathers made his bid for leading man status with the blaxploitation flick, Action Jackson.  Up until this point in his career, Weathers had played second banana to Sylvester Stallone (the Rocky movies) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator).  Action Jackson was Weathers’ one real shot at being the hero rather than the side-kick.  Unlike a lot of other movies we talk about in this series, Action Jackson was successful enough to warrant a sequel.  But because of studio politics, that never happened.  Let’s take a look at how Apollo Creed almost launched a movie franchise, but didn’t.

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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t): Masters of the Universe

It’s not unusual for movies to inspire toys.  But up until recently, it was pretty rare for a movie to be based on a toyline.  The 1987 sci-fi saga, Masters of the Universe, was one of the first attempts to launch a movie franchise based on plastic action figures.  But due to bad timing, budgetary constraints and a host of other factors, He-Man did not have the power to conquer the box office.  Instead, the planned sequel was scrapped and the sets were re-purposed for a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.  It’s another tale of epic failure from Cannon Films.
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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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