There are a lot of reasons why even a planned sequel will not get off the ground. The most likely reason is that the first movie did not make enough cash at the box office to warrant the higher price tag as well as diminishing return of a second go round. Sometimes, the star themselves will nix the idea of doing another movie. There are even rare instances when the culprit will be a conspiracy theory involving the Vatican. In case you were ever wondering, here are the top ten films planned to launch franchises… which… didn’t.
10. V.I. Warshawski
V.I. Warshawski was a 1991 film starring Kathleen Turner. Yes, the intention was that you were supposed to see case after case cracked by Turner as V.I. Warshawski throughout the 1990s. V.I. Warshawski is actually based on a series of detective novels by Sara Peretsky. The novels are written in the first person, so there is kind of a Twilight effect there. The novels are completely serious but the movie was played as more of an action comedy. As a commercial and critical failure, the novel Deadlock was the only book that ended up being a movie.
9. Van Helsing
2004’s Van Helsing was a pyrrhic victory of sorts for Universal. The film grossed 120 million domestically and made over 300 million worldwide. By all cinematic accounts, that is not exactly a box office failure for the Hugh Jackman vehicle. However, the 160 million price tag combined with ad promotion and the cut of the theater owners made the whole film a virtual wash in the account books. Despite a planned animated release, you did not get to see a live action sequel in which Van Helsing may have found other Universal monsters such as the Mummy or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Still, apparently the project has not been given totally up on… yet. There was a recent deal signed in which Van Helsing might be resurrected as a reboot starring Tom Cruise. Weirder things have happened. The original idea for a movie was to be The Van Helsing Chronicles starring Anthony Hopkins as a spinoff from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
At first, fans were full of trepidation about the possibility of an A-Team film based on the popular show from the 1980s. When they saw the movie, the reaction was not entirely negative. There was even buzz about possible sequels as well as excitement. However, the film did not make enough to actually warrant sequels so we were kind of left with a stand alone film. Apparently, that is just fine by director Joe Carnahan. Carnahan stated that if he had gotten dragged into the A-Team universe, it would have been harder to get pet projects like The Grey off of the floor. It almost makes you wonder if there are smaller more personal films that Michael Bay has in mind, but the Transformers universe keeps pulling him back in…. almost.
1986’s Cobra was an absolute orgy of violence. Cobra starred Sylvester Stallone as a tough guy cop Marion Cobretti. Cobra was actually partially the original script for Beverly Hills Cop minus the jokes and twice the violence. In essence, all of the pieces were in place for Cobretti’s car and gun to crack heads and cases until at least the 1990s. Cobra could have joined Rambo and Rocky in the Stallone Pantheon. The film took number one in the box office on the critical Memorial Day weekend. In 1986, the film made 49 million dollars. In today’s ticket sales, that same take would be 104 million. What happened? Stallone rebuffed the requests to make a sequel. Given Stallone’s later career swoon, he might well have dropped the ball on that one.
All of the elements were there for a film franchise. Elf made 173 million dollars domestically in 2003. The film only costs 33 million to make and is on its way to becoming a beloved holiday classic. The actors involved are still hot ( Will Ferrell and Zoey Deschanel ) and director Jon Favreau went on to spark Iron Man and Marvel Films in general. The continuing gooey heart warming adventures of Buddy the Elf seemed like the ultimate no brainer. As a matter of fact, Will Ferrell was offered almost the whole budget of the first one to make a second one. What happened? The man who made Talladega Nights had a crisis of conscience. Ferrell felt that the movie would be ‘crap’ and refused to make it. We’re guessing Land of the Lost was just a better idea?
When you make 73 million on a ghostly comedy, there is talk of a sequel. Tim Burton can still get almost any project made (see Dark Shodows) and everyone involved seemed hyped about a Beetlejuice sequel. Even the potential sequel itself seems to have a cult following. Apparently, Tim Burton actually wrote a script called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian which may have been simply a joke to get the studio off his back about doing a sequel. Then again, after seeing Planet of the Apes, we are not so sure. Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian gained a measure of fame when Kevin Smith ( in One Night With Kevin Smith ) talked about being offered the project. Part of us is incredibly intrigued, and part of us agree with Smith postulated that everything had already been said about the character.
4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Jack Skellington visiting the rest of the holiday world seemed like a real natural series. Disney was even fully behind the idea of producing a sequel the cult and critical favorite Nightmare Before Christmas. The idea was eventually nixed by producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick. The argument with Disney was over the form in which the sequel would take. Disney did not want to go with stop motion animation again. They were pushing for a computer generated imagery film ala the Pixar hits. Selick and Burton walked on the idea. We are left with a stand alone masterpiece. Hopefully, one day a sequel can be made consistent with the director and producer’s original vision.
3. Golden Compass
The big budget film adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy was a flashpoint for controversy at the time of its released. There actually much more controversy associated than films featuring armor plated polar bears typically find themselves in. The books feature an atheistic strain in which a dangerous amnesiac God must be destroyed. That element was not present in the Golden Compass movie but still stirred up controversial and boycotting of the film in the United States. Interestingly, the film did not stir controversy in non-U.S. markets and was a success. Reasons for the lack of sequels (which were planned) range from a poor domestic performance to actor Sam Elliott’s theory that the Catholic Church successfully lobbied Hollywood to not make them. Either way, the quest stopped at one.
In 1988, George Lucas produced the Ron Howard directed fantasy film Willow. Willow starred Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer on a quest to save a royal baby. Fans, to this day, are enthusiastic about the movie and are still hyped for a sequel. Unfortunately, a sequel never really developed. There was talk in 2005 that a television series (possibly starring Davis) would serve as a de facto sequel to the movie. The series never materialized either. One thing is certain about the idea of a Willow sequel. Warwick Davis would sign on and do it tomorrow. A few years ago, Davis wrote his autobiography and said he would do the film at every stop. Given the ridiculous success of the Lord of the Rings films (which lets face it was the core inspiration for Willow), there is always hope that the Shadow War could one day cinematically continue.
After the success of the Star Wars movies and given the fanatical fan base to Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, a sci fi franchise seemed like a no brainer to legendarily stingy producer Dino De Laurentiis. After pouring 40 million into the project and using auteur director David Lynch at the helm, the film was a critical and commercial bomb. This was in spite of an enthusiastic ad campaign which included a series of Star Wars like Dune toys. Lynch stated that he was about halfway through writing a script for Dune Messiah when the project was pulled. There have been rumors of a big screen cinematic sequel or re-boot ever since. There is even a possibility that a new Dune might be out in 2014. However, as it stands, the original film grossed more than 15 million less domestically than it cost to make.