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10 Franchise Attempts That Fell Flat

In Hollywood, the idea of a “franchise” rules. Building up a character and a series to reliably churn out to audiences like clockwork is the key to unlocking oodles of box office dollars both domestic and overseas.

Just take a look at the big movies of 2015; Jurassic World is the successful rebirth of a franchise, while Pitch Perfect 2, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Furious 7 and Age of Ultron were continuations of franchises that launched right. When that happens, you’ve unlocked a whole new world of revenue for your studio.

Mess it up, though…well, you’ve got a trainwreck on your hands. And this kind of fizzled franchise happens more often than you’d think. Here are ten supposed franchise-building flicks that, for some reason or another, fizzled out before they could make an impact.

Oh, and that same list I linked to earlier? There are two films from 2015 on this list. Not the best year for it.

Terminator: GeniSys (2015)

Terminator: Genisys
Photo via Paramount Pictures

This could probably be extended to any non-James Cameron Terminator film; since the brilliant Terminator 2 hit in the early 1990s, the franchise has devolved from competency (Rise of the Machines) to piddling (Salvation) to outright disastrous (GeniSys).

Trying to start a whole new storyline by spaghetti-stringing up the universe’s characters and timeline, the movie turned out to be an incomprehensible mess and a box office bomb – at least in North America. There’s a flicker of hope for the franchise, though, as the foreign box-office for the movie was more than decent. Maybe Arnold will be back.

Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four
Photo via 20th Century Fox

2015 did not get much better for franchise building. Trying to piggyback on the comic book movie boom, Fox attempted to restart the Fantastic Four franchise by sweeping away the memories of the cartoony Jessica Alba / Chris Evans films from the early 2000’s, rebooting the Four with a hot new director (Josh Trank) and a fresh-faced cast (Miles Teller, Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara). It SHOULD have worked, right?


Behind the scenes drama torpedoed the production, the movie tanked at the box office, and the career of Trank – who was up for a Star Wars film – seems to have been severely damaged.

John Carter (2012)

John Carter
Photo via Disney

The famous sci-fi character finally came to the screens in 2012, directed by Pixar vet Andrew Stanton and penned by, among others, Stanton and Michael Chabon. It had plenty of pedigree, but the $260 million picture was plagued by bad buzz from the start and just couldn’t find an audience in North America. It’s unfortunate, too, because for all the cloud of negativity surrounding the movie…it’s actually quite a lush, fun sci-fi epic that’s at least as entertaining as most Marvel movie flicks. Maybe this will end up in the “resurrected” pile.

Battleship (2012)

Photo via Universal

Poor Taylor Kitsch. Not only did he star in the aforementioned John Carter, the Man Formerly Known as Tim Riggins also headlined this mess of a sci-fi flick somehow based off of the, uh, famous board game. Poor guy.

You can’t blame him for taking it – the movie is directed by Peter Berg, who’s proved himself to be a very solid director – but there might not be a more unintentionally-funny feature film from the last decade. The worst part of the film? The hilariously strange CGI’d aliens, summed up by this hilarious Patton Oswalt tweet.

Godzilla (1998)

Photo via TriStar

After destroying most of the earth in Independence Day, Roland Emmerich should have been a natural to direct the big radioactive meanie in a flashy 90s reboot of the famed monster series. Sadly, the result turned out to be an undercooked, soulless mess with a strange cast of minor TV stars, a stammering Matthew Broderick, a cheap shot at Roger Ebert, and a laugh-inducing, tacked-on sequel promise at its climax. Oh, and it gave us this. Fortunately, Gareth Edwards 2014 reboot of Godzilla restored heart to the franchise.

The Lone Ranger (2013)

The Lone Ranger
Photo via Disney

Eerily similar to John Carter, in that it was an adaptation of an early-century American pulp hero with plenty of pedigree behind it, it had the same screenwriters, director, and star of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It just didn’t have an audience – and the Johnny Depp/Armie Hammer starrer barely made its production budget back at the box office. And, like John Carter, it’s a much better movie than its reputation. No less than Quentin Tarantino is a fan of it.

Sahara (2005)

Photo via Paramount Pictures

Hey, remember when Matthew McConaughey was kind of a national joke? This was probably his nadir, a limp, shallow desert adventure that tried to start a franchise out of Clive Cussler’s beach-ready Dirk Pitt novels. Hard to picture now that he’s an Oscar winner and True Detective brooder. As always, the story behind the movie is more fascinating than the movie itself.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (2010)

Prince of Persia
Photo via Disney

Video game movies are always an iffy proposition; you can get a fun little spate of movies like we see with Resident Evil, or you can end up with a flop like Super Mario Brothers. It’s a rather low-ceiling effort.

Prince of Persia was another one of those doomed-from-the-start efforts, as Jake Gyllenhall bulked up like crazy to play the famed desert actioner, to generally middling reviews and commercial indifference.  

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Photo via Columbia Pictures

Speaking of video games, this big-screen adventure was based on the long-running game series, and constructed with some rather astonishing cutting-edge graphics; it cost $137 million to animate, and attracted some all-star names for the voice cast (Alec Baldwin, Donald Sutherland). It’s too bad they forgot to spend as much on the story, which is an almost incomprehensible mess. The methods used for animating the lead characters, though, are rather remarkable.

Battlefield Earth (2000)

Battlefield Earth
Photo via Warner Bros

John Travolta’s passion project was a big-screen adaptation of noted crazy person and cult founder L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology sci-fi doorstop of a novel (Battlefield Earth only covered the first half of the book). Even at the height of his box-office clout, Travolta had to resort to some rather fascinating methods to get funding – and, of course, the movie turned into an abject disaster from the second it was released.

In case you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it for a drunken bad movie night; you will not be disappointed.

Any other franchises you thought didn’t live up to the hype? Put ’em on blast in the comments.

7 thoughts on “10 Franchise Attempts That Fell Flat Leave a comment

    • I remember seeing the ’98 Godzilla with my friend and his dad and he brought ear plugs to the theater for us because he heard it was so loud. Fond memories of that one!

  1. “Fox attempted to restart the Fantastic Four franchise by sweeping away the memories of the cartoony Jessica Biel / Chris Evans films”

    I’ll let you figure out the mistake.

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