Luke Owen looks at the failed franchise reboots…
Rebooting a franchise isn’t just an idea anymore, it’s a formula. If you have a pre-existing franchise with a pre-existing audience, reboot it. And then if that doesn’t work, just reboot it again. We live in a world where we have three different attempts at creating a sustaining Spider-Man franchise, both Neil Blomkamp and Ridley Scott are desperately trying to breathe life back into the Alien series and today we heard that Len Wiseman will directing a franchise reboot of Die Hard, said to be a prequel titled Die Hard: Year One.
The problem with this is that not every franchise reboot works. Christoper Nolan’s reboot to the Batman legend with his Dark Knight Trilogy, Daniel Craig’s Bond and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films are proof that it can be done, but they’re floating rafts in a rather large ocean of failure.
So let’s take a dive into that ocean, and look at the franchise reboots that failed to launch.
The beloved ultra-violent 1980s classic was rebooted last year to a melody of mediocre reviews, and didn’t really set the world on fire. It had an incredible amount of talent on screen – including Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson – but the film didn’t seem to capture the spirit and fun of the original film. This more serious take (we’ll hear that a lot in this countdown) didn’t go over well with the audiences, and a domestic gross of $58 million against a reported $100 million budget means we may never see Joel Kinnaman in the black suit again. Reports suggest that a sequel is still in the pipeline over at Sony, but in a world where most sequels are announced before the first one has even been finished, it seems unlikely it will ever get the green light.
2. Planet of the Apes
Before the series found new life with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Tim Burton had tried to revitalise the planet run by monkeys with his 2001 “re-imagining”. The film had been in development since the late 1980s and there was even a time where Oliver Stone was going to produce the Arnold Schwarzenegger starring Return of the Apes in the early 90s. Schwarzenegger was still attached to the film after Christopher Columbus took over in 1995 and even stayed on when James Cameron signed on to produce before the mega success of Titanic took him away from the project. In the end it landed in the lap of Tim Burton who went in another direction to the Stone, Columbus and Cameron takes, by deciding instead to do a “re-imagining” of the original movie. What we got was an over-bloated and boring mess with a confusing ending that, Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter admit, was never meant to make sense. The film, however, was successful financially. Planet of the Apes took $180 million domestically and added another $182 worldwide. 20th Century Fox wanted to do another movie with Burton, but an arduous production, including budget slashing and constant script re-writes, meant he wasn’t interested. And with Burton out, the studio suddenly lost interest too.
Perhaps the saddest entry on our list, the second attempt to make a movie franchise out of 2000AD’s iconic Judge Dredd failed to light up the box office. Before that in 1995, Danny Cannon directed the Sylvester Stallone starring Judge Dredd, which received poor reviews and a unimpressive box office run of $35 million domestic against a reported $90 million budget. No sequel was ever announced or even talked about. However the character would return to the silver screen in eye-popping 3D in 2012. Dredd was heavily praised by comic book fans, and there have been several petitions to bring Karl Urban back for anther outing, but nothing has been announced officially. At the end of the day, Dredd 3D only made $13 million domestically against a $50 million budget. Even factoring in its worldwide takings, the movie lost a lot of money. Urban has been vocal about getting a sequel green lit, but it seems very unlikely we’ll be getting another Dredd movie.
Originally released in 1954 as a warning against the dangers of nuclear testing, Gojira is often hailed as one of the greatest monster movies ever made. In an age where sci-fi movies focused on the weird and wacky, Gojira brought something horrific to the table, and turned its titular monster into a terrifying torment. From there the creature would return for Godzilla Raids Again in 1956, before tussling with The Eighth Wonder of the World in 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla. The King of the Monsters became a cultural icon in his native Japan, and would star in twenty-two movies by the end of 1995. Over in the US, plans for a Godzilla remake started in around 1993 with Jan de Bont in the director’s chair and Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt set to star. Sadly the massive budget (which would have made Godzilla the most expensive movie ever made at the time) forced de Bont off the project before Independence Day director Roland Emmerich stepped in to take over. Sadly for Godzilla fans, Emmerich thought the King of the Monsters was a silly character and admitted that he had no interest in making a monster movie. His lack of care and effort shows on screen. Despite being a moderate hit ($130 million domestic, $379 million worldwide), 1998’s Godzilla was a critical disaster and all plans for a sequel were immediately scrapped. An animated series was commissioned instead, but that also failed and was cancelled after two seasons, which also bankrupted the toy company producing the tie-in action figures. Japan also tried to reboot their classic kaiju with another five movies, starting with Godzilla 2000 in 1999 and ending with Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004, but each one earned less than the previous.
5. Superman Returns
Superman had quite the rise and fall from grace on the cinema screen. Having soared in 1978’s Superman: The Motion Picture and somehow surviving production woes on Superman II, The Man of Steel would take an ill-advised comedic turn in Superman III (a movie where Richard Pryor seemingly has more screentime than Superman himself) before bombing badly in the Cannon-produced Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. After a long development process for Tim Burton’s Superman Lives starring Nicolas Cage throughout the late-1990s which ultimately lead to nothing, Superman wouldn’t swoop to the big screen until 2006’s Superman Returns. X-Men director Bryan Singer decided, wisely some might say, to ignore the continuity of Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace and instead focused on creating a direct sequel to the first two movies. The result was not well-liked. Fans rejected this moody and darker take on the Superman character and the movie didn’t perform particularly well at the box office either. Despite a $200 million domestic run, the inflated budget of $220 million meant that Superman Returns didn’t return on Warner Bros’ investment. They had previously announced a sequel for 2009 with Singer and the majority of the cast returning and plans to bring in other Braniac and Bizzaro, but the poor box office run meant Warner Bros. canned the project.