What’s the latest curse word in film? Cinematic franchises.
Everywhere you look, someone is starting one. Hell, even Adam Sandler is slowly building one on Netflix and none of us are brave enough to stop him before it’s too late.
Whether you like the concept or not, it’s become a cornerstone of modern cinema and it’s not going away for a long time – unless audiences stop supporting it. With all the news about the DCEU and whether it’s officially canceled after Justice League (it won’t be), we decided to look back at some real franchise flops of recent years.
The definition of ‘flop’ might differ from person to person, of course, so we encourage you to make use of the comments section down below and let us know your thoughts. As always, we like to keep things civil between us friends – just because the world has gone crazy doesn’t mean we have to as well.
With that said, hit that next page button and let’s explore some true franchise flops.
The Dark Universe
The writing was on the wall when Guillermo del Toro chose not to take the reins of the Dark Universe. When the modern day master of horror and fantasy isn’t interested in leading the classic Universal Monsters in the 21st century, something must be seriously wrong.
Well, The Mummy pretty much ensured that the franchise lasted for less than a whole calendar year. It didn’t exactly electrify the box office, critics, or audiences who all saw this as another Tom Cruise vehicle for him to be, um, Tom Cruise. How did anyone not see this coming?
It’s unfortunate, too, since the concept of the Dark Universe was actually quite exciting – who wouldn’t want to see these classic monsters return to action? It was an ambitious project – to say the least – but it required better visionaries to execute it.
Yo, Joe! Or maybe not. It’s crazy to think that G.I. Joe has been around since 1963, but its first live-action film only arrived in 2009. While G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra didn’t exactly reinvigorate the interest in the property, it still did enough to delight older fans and merit a sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
What the sequel did, though, was crap on everything the first film did right and turn this into another movie for Dwayne Johnson to flex his muscles and guns. It was a dumpster fire – and we’re not surprised that most of the original cast members didn’t want to return for this abortion.
A third film was actually planned, but thankfully someone saw it as a terrible idea, choosing to reboot the series instead. It was a wise decision.
When it was released in 1994, The Crow was an instant hit. No one expected to love this dark fantasy, with a tinge of gothic romance, as much as they did. Even with the tragedy of Brandon Lee’s death lingering over the picture’s success, it became the iconic film of a generation.
Since then, several spinoffs and even a TV series have been produced. Yet, none of them hit the same critical and financial heights of the original movie. Try as they may, the filmmakers haven’t been able to replicate the magic of Alex Proyas’ masterpiece.
After years in developmental hell, it appears as if a reboot will start production soon, with Jason Momoa in the leading role as Eric Draven. Here’s hoping it’s the film that finally manages to rejuvenate this franchise once and for all.
The Dark Tower
Imagine you’re starting a new film franchise and you’re given a popular Stephen King book series, Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, and $60 million. What could go wrong? Well, pretty much everything.
No one could’ve predicted The Dark Tower to flop as majestically as it did this year. With such rich source material to draw from and the star power of two of Hollywood’s finest, this fantasy western turned out to be a boring, slogging non-event that got no one even remotely excited for the prospect of a sequel.
With a critical and financial underperformance, it appears as if the franchise isn’t going to continue on the big screen any time soon. According to King, he thinks the upcoming TV series might be a total reboot, and we certainly hope he’s right.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Look, we’re going to have to agree to disagree here, but we think the latest reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t that bad. Sure, the original look of the Turtles was whack and curious to say the least, but the movies were a helluva lot of fun – especially the second one, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
At the end of the day, they’re about teenage turtles who fight ninjas and eat tons of pizza; you can’t expect the storyline to address something deeper like the Rwandan genocide. Nonetheless, audiences had Michael Bay-phobia and pretty much avoided the second film, hence the cancelation.
Maybe we’re overestimating the franchise’s potential in this day and age, and it’ll never reach the same levels of Turtlemania like it did in the late 80s and early 90s. Still, it’s a pity, as these were definitely fun popcorn flicks.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events
It’s not difficult to see what 2004’s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was trying to achieve. It wanted to be the next big children’s series in the same vein as Harry Potter, and it had all the right ingredients to do so.
Even though it’s 13 years old, it’s still a good movie and certainly deserved more than one sequel. Its biggest obstacle, though, ended up being the studio, Paramount Pictures, which went through several corporate shakeups while the project got lost in piles of papers and cocaine. By the time the possibility of a sequel was mooted, the original cast had grown up (as the law of nature dictates) and were too old for their roles.
Ultimately, it was canceled, but the story did receive a reboot in the form of a TV series, with the first season now available on Netflix.
There’s still some hope here, but the poor box office return of 2017’s Power Rangers will not encourage the studio to fast-track a sequel any time soon. It’s sad, really, as the film broke new ground with the introduction of LGBTQ and autistic superheroes – something we need more of in Hollywood.
Personally, we’re still puzzled why it failed to succeed, since the reviews weren’t as brutal as other blockbusters and the CinemaScore was excellent at an A. It had decent word of mouth and everyone enjoyed the modernization of the characters, but it looks like no one wanted to go to the theatre to watch it.
Perhaps it was due to the lack of star power in the leading roles that put people off, which would be a shame. If we’re always clamoring for new stars in Hollywood, then we should really do our best to support the movies where the filmmakers have listened to our pleas and delivered a fresh cast.
Dragon Ball Z
In case you’ve been frozen for the past few decades, Dragon Ball Z is one of the most popular anime series ever released. Its fanbase is among the most fanatical of any fandoms, and many will tell you that Goku would beat up Superman without even trying.
However, when Dragonball Evolution tried to launch an American-based cinematic franchise, it was so reviled that writer Ben Ramsey issued an apology for not applying any passion to the project. The critics hated it. The fans hated it. Hell, everyone hated it, and even the creators aren’t too keen to acknowledge its existence.
As expected, there was no sequel to Dragonball Evolution. The franchise still continues in other forms and mediums, but the Americanized version of it is dead and buried.
Prince Of Persia
Ah, the curious case of video game adaptations. There seems to be some curse over this genre, with only Resident Evil surviving for so long because Paul W.S. Anderson refused to throw in the towel. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was no different as it was a one-and-done affair, with no sequel ever going into production despite the potential setup of a franchise here.
In spite of having Disney’s backing and securing a decent box office return, it didn’t have enough juice to become the next Pirates of the Caribbean, as initially predicted. In fact, ask anyone today if they recall what the film is about and we’d be surprised if they even remembered it.
It sucks that video game movies get such a bad rap, because they have the potential to tell intriguing and numerous stories. Unfortunately, this also appears to be the biggest setback as filmmakers try to tell it all in one go, or can’t decide which story to tell.
Conan The Barbarian
No, this isn’t about the Arnold Schwarzenegger franchise, which was hugely successful and brought in a ton of dough. We’re talking about 2011’s Conan the Barbarian, directed by Marcus Nispel and starring Jason Momoa.
What was meant to kickstart a new universe, including a brand new Red Sonja film, quickly fizzled out before it even popped open. The critics despised it and the audience avoided it, as Conan the Barbarian only made $48.8 million from a $90 million budget. We do wonder, though, if this project would turn out differently now with Momoa being more of a bona-fide star.
With such a bomb on their hands, all planned sequels were quickly dropped in favor of plans for Schwarzenegger to return to the role. However, those plans were also canned in due course. Right now, it looks more likely that Conan will have to find a future on TV instead.
That does it for our list, but tell us, which other cinematic franchises do you think had potential but ended up flopping hard? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section down below.