THE TEN Franchises That Deserve Better
In this month's THE TEN, Marcus lists a few franchises that need some attention
We all love originality in our movies. We all want to be blown away with something new and exciting, but let's be honest for a second—when that actually happens who doesn't want to see a sequel? To have the opportunity to spend more time with the characters, go on another adventure with them, to see where the story might go. The movie franchise is born and we're all on board for the ride even if they do go sour sometimes.
Sometimes a much-loved franchise will hit a point where we’re just watching them for nostalgia's sake or we only want two out of the four movies but end up buying the whole boxset. It almost becomes an embarrassment to say you're still a fan. In this month's THE TEN, I’m taking a look at some franchises that can’t go through this anymore; the ones where the high points seem too far away, the ones that are misusing what they have, the ones that deserve better.
It seems so long ago that the Alien franchise provided us with something to be proud of. After three classic movies (I consider Alien 3 to be just as classic as the first two), the franchise took a mighty fall with Alien Resurrection, which to this day is almost impossible for me to watch without feeling a little sick.
Alien Resurrection brings about some of the most age-old of franchise mistakes: the inclusion of clones, gene splicing, hybrids, and replacing previous great characters with generic ones. Pretty much everything they threw at us with this instalment was everything the franchise didn’t need.
After Resurrection our much loved aliens had a bit of a hiatus from the movie screens, but finally returned in Aliens vs. Predator and an indication that the once respected Alien franchise wasn’t being that well cared for any more. Now I’m not denying that the modern tech to show off the aliens wasn’t a nice upgrade for the franchise and I’ll also say that seeing Lance Henrikson turn up in anything, especially an Alien movie, is more than welcome, but this was just nonsense. An ice pyramid built in ancient times to test young predators? A Queen alien left on ice for years? Facehugger to chestburster gestation in what seemed to be only a few hours? Seriously, what? And what’s worse is this is all on set on Earth.
All of this nonsense raises the question of why the studio didn’t adapt the great original Dark Horse comic books of the classic team up? Why did they think this avenue was a better option for the franchise? Then AVP2 arrived and it made AVP1 look almost passable in comparison. This sequel systematically destroyed any hope I had left that either the Alien or Predator franchises would ever produce anything of worth ever again. This may as well have been called “Generic Horror Sequel” because any of the greatness from the original Aliens movies were gone. These nasty alien bugs deserve so much more.
Reboot Status: Thankfully there’s been nothing about an AVP 3 (so far), but as usual there are the continued rumblings of Ridley Scott wanting to give it another shot with stories ranging from prequels of the Derelict from the original movie to even another Ripley fronted adventure. We can only hope something this epic comes to be... and that it spurs James Cameron on to do another one too.
As we're sort of on the subject already, let's carry on with predators. Generally, Predator is a franchise that didn’t catch on in the big bad way that many others on this list did. The first Arnie movie is a classic and I consider it to be Arnie's best movie. Beyond Arnie, who didn’t appear in sequel, the predator itself is a master class of badassery. Everything about the late, great Stan Winston’s predator work in the original movie is one hundred percent believable and awesomely even more so when the mask comes off. “You’re one ugly motherfucker”.
Predator 2 took to the streets of L.A. with a heat wave bringing the hunt to the LAPD and we got to see this new predator at work. Now I’ll admit the predator here is not as effective with the mask off, with the animatronics of its mandibled face far from the believability of the first movie, but with his mask on and the new spear and net weapons, it was more than great. Beyond that, Predator 2 provided one of the most exciting moments of my early movie-loving life, because when I saw an alien skull on the trophy wall of the predator's ship my teenage mind went wild.
Unfortunately the sequel wasn’t quite enough for the studio to try more sequels and even more upsetting of all, was that all the alien skull on the trophy wall led to was AVP and a stupid over the top attitude toward predators, that bigger and better armour means better (which it doesn’t) and that predators are useless without their shoulder cannons (which they‘re not), so all in all these other worldly hunters really do deserve more.
Reboot status: Robert Rodriguez has announced that he’s working on a reboot movie going by the name of Predators, so the future could be quite bright for this franchise. Now if only they could make a decision on a director...
Too soon? Actually I don’t think so. The X-men hitting our screens in 2000 was a genuinely exciting prospect, but after coming out of the first movie I felt a little flat. It was okay, it had its moments but I couldn’t help but feel we’d been gypped somehow. This wasn’t X-Men. This was Wolverine meets the X-men and that sort of annoyed me. I mean I love Wolverine (who doesn’t?), but this dude was hogging the X-limelight a little too much. The biggest crock however is that only one mutant, Storm, came close to being visually exciting in tune with the comics-when she came up the lift shaft with her white eyes and lightning bolts.
X2 was a vast improvement and is a real genre highlight. Letting the other X-members step forward and have a bit of time on screen, even if the main plot was still Wolvy based. X3, I actually really enjoyed the first time I saw it. The mutants were actually doing big mutants things. Freaky powers, fighting as a team, all the stuff the comics do so well. Ellen Paige’s Kitty Pryde was exciting and probably the closest they’ve got to capturing the feeling of a real X-member and frankly this was a lot of fun. The second watch was an altogether different experience. Wolverine is pretty awful in this one, the Phoenix saga was woefully underplayed and Brett Ratner’s direction just comes with zero amounts of drama and events merely occur. When they all but stated this was the last one I was actually quite relieved.
This year X-Men Origins: Wolverine arrived. Things got worse. After months of hearing Jackman promise Batman Begins style revamps, we got just another X-Men movie, except this time it was just missed opportunity after missed opportunity. Wolverine's origin story is wasted. Weapon X (a movie unto itself) amounted to less than what we'd already got in the X2 flashback. Deadpool (another favourite) was horrifically handled and Gambit was just thrown in the movie but no real use was made of him. Seriously I could list the problems I have with this one all day but I won’t. The X-Men deserves better.
Reboot Status. X-Men Origins: Magneto keeps getting spoken about (though I doubt it’ll ever happen) and recently X-Men: First Class was spoken about, focusing on, well, the first class of X-Men, which presumably would be Jean, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast and Angel but with the decisions made in this franchise so far, who knows.
This selection is as much to do with wanting to see Eddie Murphy do at least one more great movie as much as it is the desire to make up for the mistakes of Beverly Hill Cop 3. If these two comebacks were be combined we would be in for great things.
In the eighties, the first two Beverly Hill Cop movies were staple action flicks to enjoy on multiple rewatches. Eddie was at the top of his game and the franchise had provided great characters, great action, great laughs and just a great lead in Eddie's Axel Foley. Sadly upon the franchise’s return in 1994 what we got was really not worth the bother. The story was weak, the laughs were thin and Axel Foley felt decidedly out of date. On top of that we had the mid-nineties fascination with weird ass big guns, which just felt cheap in this outing and take a look at the car chase at the start of the film. Parts fall off of it like it’s a clown car at the circus. Slick this wasn’t.
This entry on the list is one that I feel would be the hardest one to bring back. Axel felt out of date in 1994 so I dread to think what he’d feel like now, but with the right screenplay, and Eddie Murphy back on form, it could provide something I’d be more than happy to see. It at least deserves a shot.
Reboot Status: With Quentin Tarantino talking about how he’d like to do the fourth in the franchise, it shows that I’m not the only one who’d like to see this happen. In the land of the more likely to happen, Brett Ratner seemed to be quite active on the Beverly Hills Cop comeback a year or so ago with lots of talk about whether Eddie would come or not. This has all gone very quiet, so who knows if Axel will ever get another trip to Beverly Hills.
Now I know that the mere mention of the green ogre is going to make a lot of you roll your eyes, but its inclusion in this list is one to represent a franchise that should never have been a franchise. It should have stopped with the first, and what I consider a great movie.
The first Shrek is as close to a masterpiece as Dreamworks have got so far. It provided a successful spin on the genre, it had some incredibly touching moments and at the time Shrek and Donkey were just a great combination. As for the story, it totally works. A simple road movie with its two leads becoming friends, meeting other fairytale characters along the way and saving the princess from the dragon as well as the villainous lord of the land. Shrek was a Dreamworks curve ball that struck a chord with a lot of people but then came those sequels.
Shrek 2 and Shrek The Third are just fluff. Shrek 2 just isn’t a good movie. Literally the moment Shrek, Fiona and Donkey leave the swamp and head to the incredibly boring Far, Far Away, this franchise stopped dead for me. Yeah, sure it has a few giggles along the way, but it soon turns into a typical sequel that merely reverses the set up of the first movie (making Shrek change into a normal human guy, how imaginative) and just arrives at a flaccid, dull ending with those boring Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming characters.
The third instalment initially felt a little better, but on repeat viewings it’s just more lazy sequel-ness, even if they did bring back the Shrek and Donkey road trip elements fairly well. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying the only worth in either of these sequels for me was Puss in Boots but even that character is now wearing thin.
Shrek highlights what used to be the problem with franchise endeavours in the eighties and nineties. Having a first movie shine brightly and strongly only to have weak bloated sequels slowly drain the love out of the original and diminish any desire to watch any of them again. Ideally this franchise would never have become a franchise and the first could have sat high in animation history but we’re three movies, a 3D spin off and a TV special in now and for this fairytale monster to find its feet again, it deserves a lot better.
Reboot status: Dreamworks pretty much prints money with Shrek sequels, so the chances of them rocking at the boat at this stage seems slim. With Shrek Forever After on the way, featuring more of those Shrek babies (urghh), it looks like we’re in for another under-cooked sequel but you never know.
In the nineties The X-Files was the most exciting show on TV for me. Mulder and Scully were just the best and the ongoing mythology was something that had its hooks in me as it slowly got more and more tangled. On top of that X-Files had the smarts to edit its multiple episode story arcs into video specials, so essentially X-Files were providing movies a few times a season with ease.
In 1998 X-Files: Fight the Future, the first proper big screen adventure, arrived and I adored it. It wasn’t quite as sharp as the TV show as it had to cater to the non X-Files obsessed, but all in all it managed the step up to the big screen expertly. Big events, flashy effects and Mulder got to swear a bit—awesome. The X-Files had arrived in movie form.
As the show wrapped up on TV (about two seasons too late), The X-Files disappeared for while (even though pretty much every major show on TV has taken elements from it since). Its stars and creators did other things but there was always the hint of more big-screen adventures. In 2008 it actually happened, The X-Files had a second movie and it was about to become a full blown movie franchise. Shame it was a massive disappointment.
For a start X-Files: I Want to Believe is barely an X-File once it’s all over and done with. Mulder and Scully are bang on the money, but everything around them is so weak and unimportant. The entire build up to its release was full of intrigue due to the very secretive production. Hints at werewolves amongst other things all turned out to be a massive rouse to hide the real storyline. Sadly it proved that there really wasn’t anything exciting to hide. I mean really, out of the following two options what do you want from an X-Files movie—a werewolf or a paedophile priest?
The X-Files is a franchise that could go anywhere, do anything, and its core audience will no doubt go along with them, but X-Files: I Want to Believe just didn’t provide anything to believe in for the future of the franchise. Mulder and Scully deserve a better X-File.
Reboot Status: There were hints at a third movie in the press tour for I Want to Believe, but since the movie hit with a dull thud it’s all gone quiet in X-files land.
This is a franchise that is teetering on the precipice. One bad step and it falls into franchise hell as many a bad fourth movie causes. The first Spider-Man movie is really the one that solidified the superhero movie as the powerhouse genre it is today. With Sam Raimi at the reigns, we were given what was an almost perfect comic adaptation.
The second movie took it even further and Raimi provided a sequel that showed us Spider-Man’s greatness with absolute precision. This franchise was fun, this franchise gave us what we wanted, how we wanted to see it, it put Spider-Man at the top of superhero pile and it seemed unstoppable.
Then came Spider-Man 3 and by golly it was fall from grace. Once again this was all about the disappointment. After Spidey 1 & 2 (especially 2) Spider-Man 3 seemed a dead cert. It had the black suit, it had Venom and the trailers were just so damn exciting, looking like it would be the superhero movie to end all superhero movies. How wrong that turned out to be. Spider-Man 3 has almost zero re-watchability and trust me I’ve tried. When it’s not being goofy, it’s re-treading over the old ground already covered in Spider-Man 1 and 2. When it’s not putting plot points on hold, it’s throwing another dull scene at you and what’s worse is costumed Spider-Man is hardly even in it, only really turning up mask-less for the most part (a pet hate of mine with the superhero genre—seriously is there anyone left that doesn’t know Spider-Man's true identity in these movies?)
The ultimate insult is just how silly the end is. What with the ridiculously bad news reporter, the stupidly over the top giant Sandman, the “hey buddy, hey pal” change of heart from Green Goblin as well as the obvious showing of Raimi’s “meh” approach to Venom, the Spider-Man franchise goes from being one of the highlights of the summer movie season to one that’s gravitating a little too closely to a Batman and Robin affair. Spider-Man and more so Venom, deserved much more than this.
Reboot Status: With Raimi talking about doing fourth and fifth instalments in the near future, the future's looking bright for Spidey. However with hints at the villains being the Vulture and the Lizard it’s hardly the A-Class of Spidey villains, so we’ll see how this one pans out. There was also a rumour of a Venom movie but that disappeared without a trace.
This one really is something I’d like to see. I’ve never really been a big horror fan, only recently getting into the genre in any sort of depth, and during the eighties and nineties only really watching the big names like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers with friends who were fans, rather than actively going out of my own way to see them. However the Child's Play series is one I’ve been with since the start and strangely through watching with my mum.
I don’t know how young I was when I first saw the first Child's Play, probably about eleven or twelve, but my mum had rented it and I somehow convinced her to let me watch it with her. I’d seen a few horrors up to this stage but none where I enjoyed the bad guy quite so much. Charles Lee Ray or "Chucky" is a character that Brad Dourif nailed on the first pass and has never slipped since, even if the franchise slipped around him.
Going with my mum to the cinema to see the sequel, which we both loved (this is such a weird thing for a mother and son to share an affection for isn’t it) we were chuffed to have the potty-mouthed ginger doll slashing his way through another movie and even though it wasn’t a great third instalment Childs Play 3 was fairly enjoyable, even if the franchise was showing cracks.
Anyway in 1998 Child’s Play had its first run at a reboot— The Bride of Chucky. Taking Chucky, who was already a darkly hilarious character and putting him in a more tongue and cheek horror that played on the popularity of the Scream franchise. This first reboot worked wonders and Chucky suddenly became relevant again without changing too much of what he was about in the first place. 2004’s Seed of Chucky wasn’t quite as effective and to be honest it was all getting a bit run of the mill by this stage, with Chucky sharing the limelight a bit too much with his girlfriend Tiffany and the gags feeling a little forced and silly.
Chucky totally deserves another swing of the knife on our screens and after a recent cameo in the wildly entertaining Hack/Slash comics, Chucky more than proves he can be used in any sort of reboot that’s thrown at him.
Reboot Status: The last we heard about Chucky was the idea of a retelling of the origin story in a new movie with the intention of keeping Chucky as he’s always been with Brad Douriff voicing as well (if not, frankly why bother at all). This all makes sense considering the popularity of his never ending merchandising lines. So with a little luck we could get a Chucky movie like we’re used to, but on a bigger scale.
It could be argued that Jurassic Park really only works as a one off event movie. To a degree I think this is the case as well, especially considering the watchable mess The Lost World was and the re-tread the same ol’ ground [/i]Jurassic Park 3[/i] proved to be, but at the same time I think that with a little bit of bravery and the right story another Jurassic Park movie could be just what our big screens need.
Somewhere in the mish-mash of The Lost World a seed was planted about the larger intentions of InGen, the company behind the dino creations and where that could be taken in future instalments. Jurassic Park 3 sort of ignored all of this though and ploughed on through with a weak attempt at replicating the original’s greatness.
Now, I don’t even really know where I’d like to see this go, whether it’s a mysterious back to the island affair, or something as crazy as dinosaurs being used for military applications (a story that’s been rumoured as a possible sequel), but there's great potential in the world of Jurassic Park. I don’t know about you but whenever I see a dino on screen, whether it be in King Kong or Land of the Lost, they just feel a bit like pretenders to the throne, so come on Hollywood, we deserve more dinos from the theme park that fell apart.
Reboot Status: With each passing year we hear Frank Marshall say Spielberg is “working on another sequel” and each passing year nothing happens. So who knows how much longer it’ll be?
In a superhero heavy movie climate it’s a damn shame that the Last Son of Krypton isn’t at the forefront (at the very least, he should be just behind Batman). Admittedly Warner Bros. gave the revamp a shot in 2006, which while okay, wasn’t exactly the earth shattering moment in cinema that Supes deserved and the fact we've not seen the first hint of another sequel proves they knew it too. Besides, where did they think they could take Superman's Super-Son in the sequels anyway?
In my mind the biggest hindrance with what could be the most massively exciting franchise on this list, is what’s come before. I know, I know there’s still lot of love out there for Richard Donner’s Superman vision but it really is time to let it go. It’s time to close that chapter and let the Man of Steel be overhauled for our modern climate.
On a personal note, I never really liked the original movies too much. I have respect for the first two, a guilty bit of affection for the third, a bear with a sore tooth attitude to the goofy as all hell fourth and even though I really liked Superman Returns the thought of sitting down to watch it again sort of bores me. The Superman franchise needs to be doing all those massive comic book inspired moments that we see in other movies. There's been countless movies where I find myself thinking how good their big scenes would be within a Superman story, the Smith/Neo battle at the end of Matrix Revolutions springs to mind as an example (but then I was so bored with that franchise by that point, I was easily distracted).
The Superman franchise should be big and bright and fun and something that the entire family can take something from. Superman’s character should be explored, his powers tested to their limit. He should be given a Lex Luthor that isn’t surrounded by buffoons while he struggles to make a fast buck in his long white coat. Superman should be treated like he’s treated in the Justice League Animated Series and play on his status. Superman is just too good a character and frankly until we get a better movie, Warner Bros DC comics flicks will always feel incomplete, because if you can’t get Superman right, you’re doing something wrong. He totally deserves better.
Reboot Status: Ongoing Bryan Singer, will he/won’t he direct a sequel to Returns as well as pretty much every comic book writer hinting that they’d like to give it a shot. Also let’s not forget, they are sitting on Superman Returns' Brandon Routh and Smallville’s Tom Welling, both fine candidates to carry on their good work as the Man of Steel. So Warner Bros. have the lion's share of options. Let’s just hope they don’t take such a long to make a decision this time around.
With reboots and remakes being the in thing at the moment and franchises like Bond, Star Trek and Batman proving that with a little bit of love and freedom from its developers these turnarounds can happen with actual positive results, there’s still hope that these ten and more could have the renaissance they deserve. Of course we also face the possibility that things get a hell of a lot worse.
So that’s it. Anyone expecting to see things like Jaws, The Crow, The Matrix, or Planet of the Apes listed here, I’ll acknowledge them by putting them on the “just leave them alone“ list of franchises. They’ve either had their shot, or as with The Crow and Jaws, just be happy the first one was so damn great and move on. As for the recent instalments of Terminator and Transformers, I don't want to shun them until I've watched them again. So, if you have any more suggestions, please feel free to join in the fun on the comments board below.
Editorial by Marcus Doidge
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