Franchises have been around for a lot longer in Hollywood than some might think. In the 1930s and ‘40s, you had The Thin Man series or the Andy Hardy musicals or the Hope/Crosby Road films. Even then, Hollywood was working on various series of movies they could also sell with merchandising and make popular with audiences. It’s increased in the later decades thanks to the success of Star Wars and other series and has really taken off in the last decade. It’s the combination of the success of Marvel’s movies and young adult adaptations that makes Hollywood eager to get on board with these cash cows. However, too often, they make the mistake of putting the cart before the horse and planning the franchise before the first movie hits.
In a way, it’s like a classic episode of Kitchen Nightmares where Gordon Ramsey confronts an owner/chef in denial on his failings in both areas. When the man talks of his dream of franchising his crappy restaurant around the world, Ramsey yells “you haven’t got f----ing one right yet!” For every Harry Potter and Hunger Games, there are numerous other adaptations that fail to connect with moviegoers and leave plans for follow-ups in limbo. Many an actor has groused over signing on to what they thought would be a multi-film series only to have it fall apart. While it’s increased in recent years, it’s something that’s been happening for a while as too many studios plan the franchise without realizing you need to get the first entry done right. While many of these films are bad, others were actually good and should have kicked a franchise off but somehow never connected with audiences. Here are 16 movies meant to be the start of something bigger but never pulled it off.
16 The Lone Ranger
15 The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
14 Wild Wild West
13 The Rocketeer
12 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
11 Green Lantern
10 The Phantom
9 Dick Tracy
8 Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events
6 Van Helsing
5 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
4 The Golden Compass
3 Alex Rider: Stormbreaker
2 The Last Airbender
1 John Carter
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character is basically the pioneer of science-fiction adventure, a Civil War soldier turned into a hero on the Red Planet. For years, there were attempts to put it on the big screen, a great series of adventures that could enthrall audiences. It finally happened in 2012 under Disney and director Andrew Stanton…and the results were a complete debacle. To be fair, the movie itself really isn’t that bad but the budget ballooned to over $260 million with many feeling it should have cost only half that at the most. The casting of Taylor Kitsch in title role seemed off with no star power and Stanton seemed over his head with the direction. The key issue was that Disney removed the “Mars” from the title and the advertising campaign (supervised by Stanton himself) made no mention of the character’s rich history. The result was one of the biggest box office bombs of all time, Disney taking a $120 million write-off and the planned sequels adapting later books naturally canceled. It’s a shame given how the character who influenced so many sci-fi works deserved a franchise of his own instead of this horrid bomb.
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