Franchises can be tricky. Yes, some have become iconic. Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the various Marvel movies and worked well. However, trying to figure out how to create a new franchise isn’t as easy as it sounds. Already this year has seen Ghost in the Shell, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Power Rangers all be met by less than expected success (and in the case of the first two, outright flops) and thus plans for them to kick off sequels are ended. Universal made a huge deal of their “Dark Universe” with plans for movies with Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man and Javier Bardem as Frankenstein. But now The Mummy is a huge bomb costing the studio almost $90 million and this Universe looks dead.
What makes it worse is when you look at how there have been slews of films that should have begun franchises but ignored by audiences in their time. Movies with tons of potential and great work yet not the success that made a sequel. Meanwhile, several films have become franchises but ones that have become massively bloated and audiences turning on yet studios keep churning them out. It’s annoying to see how many good and promising stories were ignored while other franchises keep turning out tired entries. Here are 8 franchises most are sick of and 7 that should have become much larger to show how unfair Hollywood can be.
15 SICK OF: Saw
It looked to be dead but this series is indeed coming back. It paved the way for the genre known as “torture horror” as a twisted madman puts captives into a series of dark games where they have to make a horrible choice to avoid a terrible death. Naturally, they fail and are subjected to some truly grisly fates. Amazingly, each movie has just continued it, even when villain Jigsaw was exposed and killed yet somehow able to act out from the grave. Each movie, released a year after the next in time for Halloween, upped the ante with deaths that soon looked like something out a cartoon, more laughs than actual fears. To keep this up for seven films was just astounding and more than a few breathed a sigh of relief when Saw 3D finally brought it to an end in 2010.
But now, this fall brings Jigsaw, a reboot of the series with the idea of someone else taking up the mantle. To see this already dragged out series getting a new life is probably more terrifying than anything the killer could come up with and having to sit through eight of these films defines torture.
14 DIED TOO FAST: Van Helsing
In 1999, Stephen Sommers made The Mummy a surprise smash for Universal by reviving one of their classic monsters. The sequel was notable for introducing Dwayne Johnson to movie audiences and launching his stellar career. So in 2004, Sommers was given the chance to push more of Universal’s horror characters. Hugh Jackman played the title role of a mysterious warrior for secret organization battling evil with fancy gadgets. Kate Beckinsale played his gypsy fighting partner and the film had slews of promise. However, Universal did blow a lot in one go by tossing in Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster with a strange backstory.
While the movie did okay, it wasn’t the smash hit expected and a lot of critical ravaging as well. Thus, Universal canceled their plans for it to be the backbone of a new franchise. Sommers was quite disappointed as he had much more planned for sequels (with the eventual revelation that Jackman’s character was a fallen angel) and Jackman was good in the part. Given how Universal’s “Dark Universe” appears to be DOA, maybe it’s time to look at the chance to let Sommers and Jackman return for a more fun adventure.
13 SICK OF: Terminator
The first Terminator movie was the film that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a mega-star and boosted James Cameron to success. Its mix of horror elements with sci-fi and time travel made it a real breakout. The 1991 sequel is regarded as one of the best sequels of all time, pioneering CGI in movies and a mega-hit. Rise of the Machines was hurt by the lack of Cameron although Arnie still doing his best and a surprisingly dark ending. But then came the utter mess of Salvation. Christian Bale was better known for his on-set tantrum than his performance as John Carter, the action was messy and the film’s would-be twist ending was ruined by it being leaked and thus changed.
Then came the absolute travesty of Genisys. Watching the aged Arnold as the Terminator was just sad while Emilia Clarke just couldn’t match the role of Sarah Connor. That’s not to mention the absolutely insane storyline that mixed elements of the original film with a new timeline and left fans totally confused as to what was going on while also setting up planned sequels. The movie’s disappointing box office take has ended that big time and most fans think long past time this saga ended.
12 DIED TOO FAST: John Carter
Before Star Wars, Avatar or even Flash Gordon, there was John Carter. Edgar Rice Burroughs basically created the tropes countless sci-fi writers and creators would follow in his books with many believing it was only a matter of time before someone did a movie version of the Civil War soldier becoming a hero of Mars. It took until 2012 for Disney to finally put it together with Andrew Stanton directing but issues arose with various stops and starts that caused the budget to balloon to a reported $300 million. Disney then saddled the movie with a horrible promotional campaign, making no note of the character’s history so it came off as a copy of other sci-fi properties instead of the inspiration. Also not helping was removing “Mars” from the title.
The result was that when released in March, the movie turned into one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history. If not for The Avengers’ success, Disney would have been a huge loss in 2012 because of Carter. Which is a shame as reviews have the movie as being actually good and many have said it’s better than its reputation. Stanton was heartbroken, having planned sequels based on the original books and while the property is now dead, fans of the character insist the movie will one day find the audience it deserves.
11 SICK OF: Underworld
You’d think it’s impossible to get sick of a movie series featuring Kate Beckinsale in tight leather. But somehow, Underworld movies manage to achieve that. The first film in 2003 was a sensation, terrific action and Beckinsale hot and sexy in the lead role. The sequel was rough but still potential there for more great action. However, Rise of the Lycans stalled without Beckinsale and set in the past with a confusing mythology that marred things up. Then Awakening had Beckinsale return but the movie itself seemed muddled, her not as into the storyline and cutting down on the vampire vs werewolf battle that was supposed to be its backbone. The recently released Blood Wars barely made a blip, far less at the box office than it was supposed to be and ravaged by critics. It’s a shame such a hot leading lady is wasted on a series that should have had the stake put into it a long time ago.
10 DIED TOO FAST: Tomb Raider
From her debut in 1996, Lara Croft was a sensation. The buxom Brit with the ponytail and affinity for pistols made the Tomb Raider games fantastic best-sellers. It only made sense Hollywood would take notice and bring her to the big screen. It worked out with the genius casting of Angelina Jolie as Lara. With a perfect British accent and her cool aura, Jolie helped make the first Tomb Raider film a major hit. It looked to be ready for a hit franchise but 2003’s Cradle of Life ended up disappointing. The film wasn’t as good but also released in an already highly crowded summer field and thus lost in the crush to fade fast. It didn’t help that a tie-in video game ended up being an epic disaster. Jolie appeared to have been soured as the studio let this franchise fade out.
It is due for a revival in 2018 with Oscar winner Alicia Vikander taking over as Lara. However, Jolie just made the role so fantastic (especially in great outfits) that it makes many a fan wish she’d done more with it to help make this a rare video game to movie hit.
9 SICK OF: Transformers
They may make money but it’s astounding given how much fans seem to hate them. The first film wasn’t too bad with Michael Bay bringing the Robots in Disguise to life in a good way, a bit over the top but it fit. The first sequel was such a mess that even Bay says it’s bad. Then it gets worse with Dark of the Moon bloated and a baffling plotline while Shia Labeouf acted up like an idiot and Megan Fox walking after a blow-up with Bay. Then Mark Wahlberg sunk to starring as Cade Yeager (the most Michael Bay name possible) in Age of Extinction. Now The Last Knight is seen as lower in box office than the others, showing folks are tired of it.
The main issue is you have a genius idea of shape-changing robots but Bay puts the focus on the human characters. That includes dumb subplots like drugged-up parents and Cade’s daughter with an older guy. The Dinobots were built up as a huge deal and get about two minutes of screen time. The latest movie mixes in the Transformers with Camelot and Nazi Germany, amid insane explosions and loud noise. That these movies continue is astounding and most actual fans of the franchise hate the Transformers themselves treated this way to show not every childhood love translates as well to screen, let alone for several films.
8 DIED TOO FAST: The Phantom
This 1996 gem was sadly overlooked which is a shame given so much promise. Based on the classic comic strip character, the story is that for centuries, the mantle of a jungle protector has been passed down from father to son, all wearing the same costume. Thus, the natives think it’s the same man and call him “The Ghost Who Walks.” Set in the 1930s, the current Phantom (Billy Zane) faces off against an evil Brotherhood out to gain mystical skulls of power. It was notable for Kristy Swanson as his tough love interest and a then unknown Catherine Zeta-Jones as the femme fatale.
The movie had a good drive and good reviews and there were plans for more sequels bringing the saga into World War II with Zane eager to go. However, Paramount made the mistake of opening it on the same weekend as The Rock and in a very busy summer season, the movie failed to make any traction at the box office. Today, it’s better appreciated but Zane has always expressed being sorry he couldn’t do the role again and make the Ghost walk further on.
7 SICK OF: Resident Evil
Despite the talk of the last movie being The Final Chapter, there are still plans for this series to continue. Which is astounding given how totally off the rails it’s gotten. True, watching Milla Jovovich kicking ass is always a great sight. However, the movies have gotten incredibly complex with a mythology that makes it nearly impossible to follow. Characters pop in and out as big deals but you barely remember them from film to film. Even with a great supporting cast (Michelle Rodriguez and Ali Larter among them), the movies play fast and loose with the games they’re based on. Watching CGI zombies was cool the first time but now just annoying and how they up the ante to the point of literal dragons attacking the White House. Throw in clones and wild techno music and it’s frankly stunning that we’ve had six of these already. Again, they claim it’s over but still left the potential for a seventh movie despite how most think this “Residency” should be checked out.
6 DIED TOO FAST: Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow
For a movie that was so old-school in storytelling, this 2004 film was ahead of its time. Shot almost entirely against green screen, Jude Law played the title character, an ace pilot in an alternate 1930s fighting evil. Gwyneth Paltrow was well cast as his love interest reporter while Angelina Jolie stole the show as a one-eyed army commander with a flying base who was basically a female Nick Fury. The movie had a wonderful style praised by critics and even managed to resurrect the late Laurence Oliver for a key role. It looked great and Kevin Conran had hopes for several more films. Sadly, despite critical praise, the movie failed to find an audience, looking just too odd and offbeat and failed to make back its budget. In the decade since, more have come to appreciate it as it paved the way for many CGI spectacles. It would have been fun seeing Sky Captain in an alternate WWII setting and more of the great action so it’s a shame this movie series never took off as hoped.
5 SICK OF: Pirates Of The Caribbean
Back in 2003, most everyone expected Curse of the Black Pearl to be a mega-bomb. A pirate movie based on a theme park ride starring a man known for quirky roles? Instead, it turned into a massive hit with many praising Johnny Depp’s turn as Jack Sparrow. Disney naturally had to turn it into a franchise but the back-to-back sequels had some fans complaining about things getting too overblown and the final film nearly three hours. It got worse with On Stranger Tides ditching most of the cast except for Depp and Geoffrey Rush and Depp’s act wearing thin. This year saw Dead Men Tell No Tales to a lower than expected box office, showing that many think it’s past time Depp retired the role at last. The movies have lost the charm that made them so fun in the first place, too much emphasis on spectacle and CGI rather than story-telling and Depp’s own star has fallen with several bombs and his bad behavior. It’s long past time Disney finally let this franchise sink.
4 DIED TOO FAST: The Rocketeer
In 1991, Disney really thought they had something with this. The comic book exploits had a pilot (Bill Campbell) gaining a rocket pack that he used to fight off gangster and Nazis. It was terrific with an old-school movie feel that replicated the 1930s setting, Timothy Dalton great as the bad guy and a young Jennifer Connelly wonderful as the love interest. Joe Johnston did a fine job directing and Howard Shore’s musical score is still a joy to listen to. The movie got good reviews with some fine action and an ending leaving it open for a sequel. Sadly, it was ignored by audiences, barely making back its budget despite a huge promotional push.
In the years since, the movie has gained a much wider audience and now called one of the best comic book films ever. Fans still wish for a sequel set in World War II and Campbell and Connelly have made it clear they’d love to reprise their roles. Johnston has gone on to direct the first Captain America film but many would still have loved to see him continue this hero take flight.
3 SICK OF: Cars/Planes
Pixar is well known for its fantastic works. Many of their movies have become not only box office hits but also Oscar winners and many (Up, Inside Out, Toy Story) have been known to move grown men to tears. However, Cars is, frankly, the unwanted child of the Pixar library. The first movie was a bit different with Lightning McQueen as an arrogant race car trying to get back on track. It was a success but more with audiences than critics. The sequel was bizarre, making tow truck Mater the star of a spy adventure that had almost nothing to do with the first film. Then there was Planes, set in the same world but with aircraft as the main character that had its own sequel Fire & Rescue. Cars 3 is already cited as a disappointment, not taking audiences as well as the previous films did. The movies spark more debate regarding how these living cars work and what sort of world they can inhabit. It just seems strange that it took Finding Nemo 13 years to get one sequel while Cars has sparked four films that audiences don’t care about as much.
2 DIED TOO FAST: Buckaroo Banzai
Look up “cult movie” and you’ll see this. This wild 1984 film (full title: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension) had Peter Weller as a scientist/surgeon/car driver/rock star who engages in a wild battle with aliens. The cast was great from Ellen Barkin as the twin sister of Buckaroo’s late wife to John Lithgow chewing the scenery like no tomorrow as the bad guy. It was wild, offbeat, zany and amazingly wonderful to build up a brand new world. It ended with the ad for a sequel (Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League) which sadly never came. The movie just never found its theater audience, seen as just too offbeat and zany for fans to get into.
But in the years since, the film has amassed a massive cult following. The Blu-Ray has the brilliant motif that Buckaroo is a real guy and the movie “adapted” one of his adventures to make it shine more. To this day, fans still think Weller could pull off a return to the role as this insane movie deserved a follow-up.
1 SICK OF: Alvin And The Chipmunks
There’s something wrong when so many great family films end up being ignored but this has spawned four massive hits. The first movie wasn’t too bad, showing CGI for the title chipmunks and having some fun in live-action settings. However, the reliance on potty humor and songs took away from the appeal. The second movie introduced the Chippettes with the bizarre casting of Amy Poehler and Kaley Cuoco despite how their voices sound nothing like themselves for the characters. Then Chipwrecked tossed them all onto an island for a strange adventure. The latest was Road Chip, which just packed in slews of product placement and celebrity endorsements as an excuse for a plot. None of these movies have gotten higher than 28 percent on critical review sites yet somehow are hits at the box office. They may be fun with the kids but most adults would rather throw themselves into a pit of real chipmunks than see the planned fifth movie hit screens and be so incredibly annoying to see it dragged on for more “adventures.”