10 Movies That Were Supposed To Start A Franchise But Failed


Summary

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie had potential for a franchise but failed due to poor critical reception and competition from Star Wars Episode III.
  • The Golden Compass faced objections from religious organizations and was ultimately canceled due to financial concerns during the global recession.
  • The Last Airbender suffered from disrespecting the source material, while The Green Lantern lacked the magic of the comics and received negative reviews, leading to both franchises being abandoned.

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Today, in the modern movie landscape, it seems like everything is part of a franchise. With such an influx of superhero films, cinematic universes, and interconnected storytelling, studios are feeling the pressure to ensure that every new IP can be part of a long-running ongoing series. But of course, not every movie can be a success, and not every character is one that audiences want to see return again and again. That’s why there is a long list of movies that were supposed to be the starting point for new franchises, but ended up calling them quits after one movie.

There are many reasons for these canceled plans. Some movies, despite finding relevant success at the box office, just did not perform well enough for studios to consider green lighting further installments. There are other sequels that, despite being officially announced, were delayed due to script or production issues and, in the end, too much time had passed, and the movie was never made. Of course, there are also movies that bite off more than they chew and spend so much time laying the groundwork for further installments that they forget to develop an engaging and entertaining world that viewers would actually want to return to.

10 Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (2005)

A poor critical reception

Arthur Dent holding a robot hand in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

A film adaptation of Douglas Adam’s iconic sci-fi series Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was in the works since as far back as 1970s. Already a successful radio comedy, series of novels, a TV version, and interactive video game, it only made sense that the 2005 film would act as the launching point for an epic new film franchise. However, despite modest success, the movie, starring Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, suffered from a disappointing critical reception and was overshadowed by the release Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. A follow-up movie was never green-lit, although co-star Zoey Deschanel has entertained the idea of returning.

9 The Golden Compass (2007)

Religious organizations objected to the film

The Golden Compass was an adaptation of the first in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and the original plan was to adapt all three of the books for the screen. The film had issues before it was even released, as religious organizations objected to the film’s themes, which led to several changes and deviations from the source material. When The Golden Compass failed to meet box office expectations, discussions about the sequels were downplayed. However, it was the global recession of 2008 that was that final nail in the coffin, and the studio, New Line Cinema, officially canceled the series due to financial concerns.

8 The Last Airbender (2010)

Did not respect its source material

Aang using his powers in The Last Airbender 2010
The Last Airbender

Release Date
August 5, 2010

Director
M. Night Shyamalan

Cast
Noah Ringer , Nicola Peltz

Rating
10+

Runtime
1h 43m

M. Night Shyamalan’s live-action adaptation of the beloved Nickelodeon series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, was an unfortunate disaster from start to finish. The first issue was it attempted to pack a 20-episode first season of the show in 104 minutes, the second was misjudged casting that saw white actors portraying Asian-influenced characters, and the third was a badly plotted, uninspired script. While Shyamalan had mapped out rough plans for a second film, it was never developed, and instead Avatar: The Last Airbender is now being revived as a live-action Netflix show set to premiere in 2024.

7 The Green Lantern (2011)

Lacked the magic of the Green Lantern comics

Ryan Reynolds using the ring in Green Lantern

The Green Lantern was originally planned as the beginning of a DC film series, with director Martin Campbell even discussing plans for a sequel prior to the movie’s release (via The Hollywood Reporter). However, the film, starring Ryan Reynolds, was unpopular with audiences and slated by critics for poor character development, lackluster visual effects, and failure to capture the complex mythology of the Green Lantern universe in the comics. Following these negative reviews and a disappointing box office performance, Warner Brothers abandoned plans for a sequel.

6 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Script delays led to studio moving on

David Fincher’s adaptation of the late Swedish writer Stieg Larsson’s novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo looked set to become a trilogy of films based on the authors’ Millennium series. There were plans to film two sequel movies back-to-back and a 2013 release was even announced for a film version of The Girl Who Played with Fire. However, Fincher had issues with the sequel’s script and the project was delayed. By 2018, Sony instead released an adaptation of The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a continuation of the original trilogy that did not involve Fincher.

5 John Carter (2012)

A poor marketing campaign

Taylor Kitsch as John Carter on Mars
John Carter

Release Date
March 9, 2012

Director
Andrew Stanton

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
132 minutes

Writers
Michael Chabon , Mark Andrews , Andrew Stanton

Notoriously one of the biggest box office bombs of all time, at one point there were grand plans for John Carter to act as first in a trilogy based on the Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The sci-fi film, about a Civil War veteran transported to Mars, suffered from a disastrous marketing campaign that failed to address audiences’ unfamiliarity with the John Carter character. One of the most expensive films ever made, the failure of John Carter resulted in a Disney reporting a $250 million write down on the movie, and plans for the sequels were abandoned.

4 The Lone Ranger (2013)

A box office bomb

Johnny Depp In The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger

Release Date
July 3, 2013

Director
Gore Verbinski

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
2h 29m

Writers
Ted Elliott , Justin Haythe , Terry Rossio

The Lone Ranger was based on an American outlaw character who first appeared on a Detroit radio show in 1933. Starring Johnny Depp as the title character’s Native American sidekick Tonto, the film was marred by controversy before it was even released due to the casting of Depp, although he claimed to have Native American ancestry. With an overblown budget of at least $225 million and additional marketing costs of $150 million, The Lone Ranger bombed badly and previous plans for the film to act as a new franchise were canceled.

3 Assassin’s Creed (2016)

The sequels were canceled amid Disney’s acquisition of Fox

Assassin's Creed (2016) - Michael Fassbender with dagger

Due to the already well-established series of Assassin’s Creed video games, Paramount Pictures and New Regency studios were planning for the dystopian sci-fi film Assassin’s Creed starring Michael Fassbender to act as the starting point for a new movie franchise. Two additional sequels were planned and director Justin Kurzel even stated his desire to explore the Cold War in a follow-up (via Premiere). However, due to the film’s negative reception and the acquisition of Fox by Disney, the sequels were canceled in 2019.

2 The Mummy (2017)

The movie’s failure led to the cancelation of an entire cinematic universe

The Mummy

Release Date
June 9, 2017

Director
Alex Kurtzman

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
1h 50m

Writers
Christopher McQuarrie , Jon Spaihts

The Mummy reboot starring Tom Cruise was originally not only supposed to revive the long-dormant The Mummy franchise, but also act as the genesis for a brand-new cinematic universe based upon classic Universal Monsters. This reboot introduced Russell Crowe as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, who Universal Pictures hoped could later helm his own spin-off film. A Bride of Frankenstein movie with Angelina Jolie was also scheduled for 2019 as part of what would be called the Dark Universe. The negative reception to The Mummy and its attempts to set up this Dark Universe led to the cancelation of this plan, and Universal recommitted to focusing on stand-alone films.

1 The Dark Tower (2017)

A PG-13 rating meant the film lacked the dark edge of its source material

The Dark Tower

Idris Elba, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, and Matthew McConaughey star in The Dark Tower, a Western Sci-Fi film directed by Nikolaj Arcel. Released in 2017, The Dark Tower follows a young boy with visions of an apocalyptic future in which a powerful man, dubbed The Man in Black, lays waste to the universe. The film is based on the Stephen King book series.

Release Date
August 4, 2017

Director
Nikolaj Arcel

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
1h 35m

Writers
Anders Thomas Jensen , Jeff Pinkner , Nikolaj Arcel , Akiva Goldsman

Based on Stephen King’s long-running series of the same name, The Dark Tower was the first installment in a planned multimedia franchise exploring the eight novels, one short story, and one children’s book that make up King’s series. However, The Dark Tower was criticized for condensing too much information into a single movie, and that its PG-13 rating meant it was lacking the darker aspects that were so integral to the books. A television series based on The Dark Tower was planned to continue the franchise. However, the pilot was not picked up by Amazon and its future is now unclear (via Deadline).

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Premiere, Deadline



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