Film franchises that never were

Shadow_lThe summer movie slate offers a reminder that the studios are almost exclusively in the franchise business now. It seems like Hollywood greenlights nothing but expensive genre pics designed to spawn sequels, and it seems like Hollywood will sequelize anything no matter how tepid the reception to the first installment was — I guess it’s hard to let all that investment in creating brand awareness go to waste. (Another helping of Hulk, anyone?) Nonetheless, despite the elephant-march of expensive Part IIs and Part IIIs this season, there are still some would-be franchises that turned out to be costly one-shots.

After my recent vacation, I caught up with The Onion AV Club’s list of 13 such projects. It’s a fine list, and I agree with the listmakers’ lament that there were never sequels to Buckaroo Banzai, The Rocketeer (an underrated movie that looks better with age), and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World — as well as their relief that we never saw follow-ups to The Avengers, The Mod Squad, or Wild Wild West. To their list, I would add only a regret that The Shadow (pictured) didn’t become a franchise; it featured a typically sly and wry performance from Alec Baldwin and a worthy romantic foil/adventure sidekick in Penelope Ann Miller. Meanwhile, the commenters managed to turn the conversation into one about franchises they wished had quit after just one installment. (Hello, Neo. Go stand in the corner over there with RoboCop, Axel Foley, and Agents J and K.)

So, PopWatchers, what (repeatable) elements do you think are necessary for a good film franchise? Which movies would you still like to see spawn sequels? And which ones should have quit while they were behind?

addCredit(“The Shadow: Everett Collection”)


Comments (61 total) Add your comment
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  • mark in nyc

    Woould have loved to have seen a sequel to Tom Hanks “Joe Vs. The Volcano”

  • Shaw

    Gremlins 3 and Monster Squad 2 would have been sweet, but i’ll settle for the Ghostbusters 3…if it’s good.

  • Matchkitjohn

    Once the original movie ends you should say to yourself “Boy I want to see them in this situation” You come up with sequels ideas on your own i.e. Spider-man. I would have liked to have seen a True Lies sequel. They could have visited Jamie Lee Curtis’s parents and have to keep the secret from them. While we all wanted a Matrix sequel it turns out that it should have been the only one.

  • Blurb

    Best Trilogies: Back to the Future; Lord of the Rings; K.K.’s “Red”, “White”, “Blue”
    Best Sequels: Godfather II; Evil Dead II; Spider-Man II
    Decent sequels: Lethal Weapon II, Beverly Hills Cop II; Shrek II; Lara Croft II; Gremlins II; Jurrasic Park II; Shanghai Knights
    Sucky Sequels: Matrix II/III; Porky’s II; Jurrassic Park III; Cheaper by the Dozen (both); Rush Hour II
    Can anyone pick more for each category?

  • Doopey

    I’m so glad to see “The Rocketeer” get some love around here. It’s truly one of my favorite movies and I would have loved to have seen further adventures.

  • VV

    Add Ghostbusters II to “Sucky Sequels”

  • Matthew

    How about a sequel to Weird AL’s UHF now that would be awesome.

  • Honeybee

    Okay, Remember George Lucas’s Willow? I do. Barely, but I clearly remember there was sequel set up there.
    Godzilla! The American remake. That was terrible. But it was hyped.
    Flash Gordon? Still a camp classic. Ming escaped at the end, yet there was no Flash Gordon II. Bad? Yes, but still – that classic theme song.

  • Hamburger Royal

    Just as Matchkitjohn pointed out, seeing the characters develop if the original story arc is not conclusive makes sequels interesting (if done well). Love to see: More from the Master and Commander universe (its originally a series of 18-or-so novels and the film covered episodes 10 and 11 so the material is there), Serenity/Firefly and Green Street Elite. Rather not see sequels to: Confidence, The Ususal Suspects (both can’t possibly be topped), She’s All That 10 Things I Hate About Mean Girls, Pirates of the Caribbean (2 was bad enough, 3 looks like it will be bad enough) and Star Wars.

  • Ceballos

    I always thought it was kind of a shame that people hated M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable.” I’m pretty sure he wanted to make a trilogy based on that story, and I would’ve loved to have seen where he would’ve taken it.

  • Nick


  • Allison

    I, too, thought Unbreakable was under-rated. But what about the film that would have been the best sequel of all time – Flash Gordon 2?? The final frame has a perfect shot of Ming’s ring and the word(s) The End….Question Mark?

  • Fluffy

    Darkman, directed by Raimi — a sequel would have been nice. The Incredibles. Daredevil would have been interesting, once they got the intro story out of the way — better than Fantastic Four anyway.

  • Ames

    When I left the theater after seeing Master and Commander, I said “I can’t wait for the next one” really thinking there would be another. I’m still waiting. Is there any hope?

  • Cat

    I always wanted to see a sequel to The Phantom with Billy Zane. A completely corny movie, but I loved it.

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