Movie Franchise Failures – Comic Books Misfires
Over the last few years, we have seen the overuse of franchise movies. Certain franchises have thrived, from the awards-heavy Lord of the Rings to the box office recording smashing Marvel Universe. The low-budget horrors have made their grand return, with the cheaply made movie turning a massive profit.
But for every success, there is usually a failure along the way. Over this week I am going to be looking at the biggest franchise failures to launch the desired cash machine in the series and why they didn’t work. I have broken this down into ‘Books’, ‘Video Games’, ‘Comic Books’, ‘Originals’ and ‘Reboots’.
I have put together a set of rules to make a film eligible for these lists.
- There wasn’t a sequel of any sort connected after the first film.
- It can have been remade later, for either film or TV, as long as there isn’t a connection.
- Most will be money, but there might be other factors, so talking about money isn’t going to be the only motivation.
- I haven’t included any that have rumours of sequels going forward.
Movie Franchise Failures – Comic Books Misfires
The comic book movie has become the backbone of cinematic success in recent years. If you look at the top 5 box office successes in the last ten years. Every full cinematic year (Not 2020, Covid year) comic books make up large portions of the top five. This wasn’t an easy start though, for every ‘X-Men’ or ‘Spider-Man’, there were usually four or five missed franchises. Some of these movies are actually good, they just never made enough to make an impact in the industry. Today’s list will explore some of the missed movies and explore what has been done to fix some of them.
This isn’t a ranking just a list.
Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern saw Ryan Reynolds taking the role of Hal Jordan, who would become a Green Lantern. With Marvel building up their heroes in solo movies, it made sense that DC would bring theirs to life too. Outside of ‘Batman’ and ‘Superman’, nobody had really been explored enough beforehand.
We had ‘Casino Royale’ director, a strong lead actor, it should have worked on paper. I personally do not know anything about the character, didn’t mind the movie. But the fans talked heavily, and they went hard against this movie. So much so that Ryan Reynolds went on to time travel in ‘Deadpool 2’, to kill himself for reading the script.
Piof’s Catwoman is widely considered one of the worst comic book movies of all time. The movie looks to bring the iconic Catwoman into the origin world, grabbing the recent Oscar winner Halle Berry into the leading role. Giving the movie the star power needed, along with hoping to grab her X-Men fans to come along for the movie.
Upon release, the movie got torn to shreds by the critics and sat on 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. To nobody’s surprise, we never got a sequel and since then we have had two new movie versions of the character in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘The Batman’. Leaving us with the question, will we have to see a stand-alone Catwoman movie again?
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is easily the most popular movie on this list. It follows a young musician that must defeat his new girlfriend’s ex to win her heart. Based on an Oni Press Graphic Novel, the vibrant colours created for the battles and amazing characters would make this a prime example of a great movie.
Despite covering most of the source material, a character this popular could easily have gotten a sequel. One where he must fight against others, using music combat, that was created in such a unique way here.
Rachel Talalay’s Tank Girl follows a woman in a dystopian Earth rising a war tank fighting back against an evil tyranny mega-corporation. When it comes to the 90s, movies were strange, people would always try to do something different and not everyone would like this originality.
It does seem like most of the problems behind ever getting more from this franchise came from studio interference. Which caused tension between the director and original comic creators. Meanwhile, it has gone down as a cult classic that people speak highly of the creation.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Stephen Norrington’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an alternate vision of the Victorian Age world. The movie is meant to bring together some of the iconic movie monsters to go on a secret mission. It seems like it was trying to capture the magic ‘The Mummy’ had with the adventure side of the story.
Sadly, the movie wasn’t received well, sitting on 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie was plagued with problems, as director Norrington and Sean Connery clashed on set. To think this is the last live-action movie the great Sean Connery made is tragic with his history in film.
Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns looked to bring the iconic superhero back to life. Fresh from seeing the success of the popular Spider-Man and X-Men movies, this seemed like a perfect fit for the next in line to be remade. Christopher Nolan had just made ‘Batman Begins’, Superman should have been an easy grab for DC.
For the release director Bryan Singer has just come off making ‘X-Men’ so it should have been an even easier project to get off the ground. It did perform better than ‘Batman Begins’ at the box office. Asking the question, why not a sequel? The answer is budget, while it made money, it didn’t make enough money and the sequel never came about. Thankfully, in 2013 Zack Snyder rebooted the movie with ‘Man of Steel’.
Ang Lee’s Hulk was released in 2003 and sees the origin of the iconic characters Hulk and Bruce Banner. It is clear this was trying to rise the coattails of the other successful Marvel movies released around the same time. Getting a big director in helped make this a creditable decision.
This is a case where the critics received the film well, but the audience didn’t enjoy the experience. It is a strange outcome because the character was pulled from TV series like others at the time. It never seems to strike the chords others did. Hulk has gone on to become one of the most important members of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, getting a rebooted stand-alone movie to help bring the franchise to life.
Jimmy Hayward’s Jonah Hex follows a scarred bounty hunter who sets off on his own adventure to stop a terrorist ready to bring hell on Earth. A western fantasy action comic book, it was an original idea for the big screen.
Where the movie struggled was with critics and audience members alike. The western action genre seems to have struggled for years now. This didn’t do enough to bring the popularity back and the overly safe storytelling didn’t help either.
Sylvain White’s The Losers follows a special military-trained team that completes the mission others can’t. Now they have been marked for termination, forcing them to fight back.
In what is an action-comedy, we get to see a fun over-the-top action world created. Showing a bond between soldiers and a mission they have no chance of completing. With the star power involved, it is strange we never got another adventure from The Losers, with no real sign as to why.
Frank Miller’s The Spirit looks to continue using the style ‘300’ and ‘Sin City’ did, bringing us a tale of a rookie cop who becomes The Spirit. A hero that is looking to clean up crime in a way his police badge can’t.
The style of the selling point, the problem was the final outcome was more style of substance. It never managed to do enough to pull the audience in and never lived up to the quality of the previous movies in the same style.
Alita: The Battle Angel
Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel follows a cyborg who is revived with her true identity being a threat to the rich within the corrupt world. it is based on the graphic novel Gunnm and was left open for a sequel.
The box office was about break-even once you take into account advertisements. The fans and critics did enjoy it. It looks like this could be the most likely to get a sequel, with nothing ruled out yet. This is more of a hopeful sequel, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Ghost in the Shell
Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell is the live-action remake of the comic of the same name. it follows a human saved and cyber-enhanced to become the perfect soldier, assigned to take on the most dangerous criminals.
This movie got massive backlash upon release, the casting of Scarlett Johansson in the role of an Asian character didn’t go down well at all. The likelyhood is we would get a reboot over a sequel, one truer to the source material.
Valerian and City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a sci-fi adventure movie. One that has massive world-building, and unique characters and could have easily become the next massive franchise.
The biggest problem this movie faced was going too big, too early. The budget spiralled out of control, being the most expensive French movie ever made. Losing an estimated $200million. It looks very unlikely we could get another adventure in this world. Though, this is a passion project, you never know what could happen.
Neil Marshall’s Hellboy is the reboot of the popular comic book movies from the comics of the same name. it follows Hellboy on another one of his mission against an ancient sorceress out for revenge.
A big problem this version of Hellboy faced, was that people were happy to wait for Guillermo del Toro’s next sequel. Those movies were loved by fans and Ron Perlman especially was what fans were calling for to return. The movie was received terribly by critics and fans alike. With it recently coming out that David Harbor even called Ryan Reynolds to ask him how to prepare for a movie to fail so badly.
Fantastic Four (2015)
Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four was yet another reboot, following the four friends that get turned into superheroes. The concept is taken more seriously that in the original pair of movies.
The stories from this movie have become the stuff of legends. Josh Trank publicly bashed the movie on social media on release week. Development nightmares, reshoots and arguments on set. It killed the franchise, in what could easily have been a gateway movie for the characters to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Peter Travis’ Dredd was the remake of a violent city where the police are known as judge, jury and executioner. In this version, we see the iconic judge Dredd team with a rookie to take on a tower block of enemies.
Unlike most movies on this list, Dredd was worshipped by fans and to this day people are shocked at the quality the movie possess. The movie didn’t do that well at the box office, which is the main reason we never got the sequel. It is also found in the shadow of ‘The Raid’ for tower block action movies.
Scott Stewart’s Priest is based on a graphic novel series. It follows a priest that goes into battle against vampires in an attempt to save his niece. In what is a violent fantasy horror movie, it could have worked for a franchise.
One of the biggest problems for this movie was the giant budget, it probably didn’t need such a niche source material. This feels like it could have been a movie franchise that grew the audience as more unfolded.
Simon Wincer’s The Phantom follows a descendent of a superhero family that travels to New York City to thwart a wealthy criminal genius. In this action-adventure, we get plenty of comic book elements from Lee Falk’s comic series.
What looked like it could have plenty of adventures for the character, never seemed to get another outing. Billy Zane being a big fan of the character could have helped drive it forward. The only other sign of the character returning was a mini-series in 2009.