With Hollywood being in the age of long-running blockbusters, we have spent the better part of the last two decades witnessing studios doing everything in their power to secure themselves lucrative franchises and series to make money on for an endless amount of time. That said, cash-grabbing projects orchestrated by studio executives almost never end up being successful without a true artistic vision behind it. As a result of that corporate greed, massive franchises that were once beloved have turned into something unrecognizable. Here are 10 tired franchises Hollywood refuses to let die:
10 Charlie’s Angels
While “Charlie’s Angels” started as a popular TV series back in 1976, Hollywood only realized the potential behind the franchise in the year 2000, when it was successfully rebooted into an over-the-top action flick starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz. Unfortunately, that potential was very short-lived — after a failed sequel in 2003 (and a cancelled third film), the franchise went dead, and Hollywood has miserably been trying to revive it for the last 17 years.
First came a proposed “Charlie’s Angels” animated film that got stuck and died in development hell in 2007, followed by an awful and widely forgotten 2011 TV series on ABC (starring Minka Kelly) that was embarrassingly cancelled after only four episodes, effectively making it one of the worst performing television shows of all time. Things got silent afterwards, and, for a while, it looked like the “Charlie’s Angels” universe was finally put to rest. But Hollywood wasn’t done.
Refusing to accept that audiences have not been interested in this franchise since 2000, Sony Pictures tripled down on their desperate efforts and delivered the historical box office failure that was 2019’s “Charlie’s Angels”, a dull and uninspired reboot/sequel of the original series, directed by Elizabeth Banks and starring Kristen Stewart. The movie bombed with critics and audiences, grossing only $8 Million in its opening weekend (against an estimated production & marketing budget of $97 Million) and prompting the inevitable cancellation of its planned sequels. Let’s hope that, this time, the message was clear.
9 Men In Black
The first two “Men In Black” movies were massive hits that undeniably solidified their place in pop culture through the years. The odd pairing that were Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones worked against all odds, and created a franchise that was like unlike anything we had seen before. Lightning in a bottle, as they say. But then, in 2012, we got “Men In Black 3”, and it became quite obvious that Sony and Columbia were pushing their luck. Despite being successful at the box office, it was generally agreed amongst fans and critics that the movie was an absolute disappointment, far from the quality of the first two films.
As a result, Sony Pictures decided to find a new way to reinvigorate the series. For about two years, there were talks of a “Men In Black” spin-off that would work as a crossover with the recently rebooted “21 Jump Street” franchise. At the time, Jump Street stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum were even confirmed to be reprising their roles in the weird yet exciting project. Sadly though, the film died in development hell, and Sony Pictures opted to shift the franchise’s direction all together, abandoning the crossover idea for a straight reboot.
And so, the year 2019 saw the release of “Men In Black: International”, a brand new take on the franchise featuring a new set of MIB agents, this time played by “Thor: Ragnarok” stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. Unfortunately, the movie fell flat and widely underperformed at the box office, causing future plans to be halted in their development stage. As of right now, there are no plans for new “Men In Black” movies moving forward, but it is only a matter of time before a new reboot arises.
8 Resident Evil
There is a known curse in Hollywood when it comes to movie adaptations of popular video games. None of them are good. From the famously awful “Super Mario Bros” in the 90’s, to the abomination that was 2016’s “Assassin’s Creed”, it looks like video game movies are always doomed to fail from the start. One of the very few exceptions to this rule though, was 2002’s extremely successful adaptation of the horror classic “Resident Evil”, starring Milla Jovovich.
While it was a fairly unfaithful adaptation that widely disappointed fans of the video games, the film surpassed expectations at the box office, creating a brand new fandom and kickstarting a 14-year long movie franchise. That said, the overly convoluted and increasingly unlikable sequels quickly began to lose audiences over the years, and the franchise grew stale with diminishing returns.
Accepting the deplorable status of their film series (despite it still being somewhat profitable), Sony Pictures and Screen Gems decided to put an end to it with 2016’s highly forgettable “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter”, which came and went mostly unnoticed by western audiences. But, while we might have thought this was the end of it, it was quickly made very clear by studios that they were not done trying to milk this franchise for every dollar it could make.
When, the video game series was reinvigorated with “Resident Evil: Biohazard” in 2017, it was reported by Variety that a reboot of the movie franchise inspired by it was on the way, with James Wan attached to produce for what was set to be a 6-film series. Despite Milla Jovovich’s very public disapproval of this announcement, the idea seemed promising and actually got fans excited. Unfortunately, the film never got past the development stage.
But, in 2020, it was announced that a new movie project based on the first two games was in the works. The reveal of this new iteration was almost immediately followed by Netflix releasing a trailer for a “Resident Evil” animated series, set to be released in 2021. All these projects seem to be an attempt to regain the fans’ approval, and to capitalize on the hype the franchise has had in the past three years, thanks to the critical acclaim of the last few games.
7 Pirates Of The Caribbean
In 2003, we were gifted with Disney’s “Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl”, which revealed itself to be one of the most fun and charismatic films of its time. Inspired by one of Disney’s popular theme park rides, it was a genuinely brilliant adaptation with a unique story that gave us iconic characters such as Johnny Depp’s legendary Jack Sparrow. The movie became an instant classic, and the success it garnered quickly gave way to a trilogy.
While the following two sequels (“Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End”) were not as beloved as the first one, facing some criticism for being a bit messy and overblown, they still formed a solid trilogy that closed with acclaim from fans and critics alike in 2007. Unfortunately, Disney then opted to keep going with the franchise.
“Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” came out in 2011 and brutally disappointed fans by delivering a boring story, ditching the original cast and turning Jack Sparrow into a caricature of himself, in a weird attempt to make him the franchise’s mascot. But, despite the backlash, the movie did make money, and Disney doubled down with 2017’s universally hated “Dead Men Tell No Tales’, which was so terribly bad that the planned sequels were cancelled almost as soon as it came out, effectively ending the series on a dud.
Not knowing what to do with their fallen franchise, Disney announced that the so-called “Pirates 6” was going to be a reboot, confirming in 2018 that Johnny Depp had been dropped from the series. Since then, a never-ending line of reports have circulated about the reboot being cancelled, then being back on track, then losing its head writers, then being cancelled again — which only confirms that Disney is not ready to let go of the Pirates, even if they have absolutely no idea what to do with them.
“In space, no one can hear you scream.” A sentence that still sends shivers down people’s spines. Ridley Scott’s “Alien” is, to this day, one of the greatest horror/sci-fi movies ever made. James Cameron’s “Aliens”, the 1986 sequel, is one of the greatest action/sci-fi movies ever made. Both films gave us something strong, special, with one of the most iconic heroes in cinema history, and villains that are impossible to forget. It was perfect. And then…it kept going.
After the disappointing “Alien 3” and “Alien Resurrection” crashed and burned in the 90’s, the 2000’s saw studios attempting to turn the Alien series into a blockbuster franchise with the terrible crossover event that was “Alien vs Predator” in 2004, which was followed by “Alien vs Predator: Requiem” in 2007. These films completely drained the franchise of its soul, losing the audience’s interest entirely, and 20th Century Fox quickly decided to shift gears.
In 2012, original director Ridley Scott came back to the franchise to direct a prequel to the first film titled “Prometheus”. The film gave a new breath to the Alien universe, but proved to be extremely divisive amongst fans, often criticized for being boring and pretentious with its themes. A sequel to the movie then became unsure, and “Prometheus” quickly fell into oblivion, forgotten by most.
Four years later, Neill Blomkamp (director of the critically acclaimed “District 9”) was brought in to direct a new Alien film that would be taking place right after “Aliens” and disregard all of its sequels. It was even confirmed that Sigourney Weaver would be coming back as Ellen Ripley to give her character a proper ending… but the film was abandoned by the studio in its preproduction stage and, almost immediately after, it was announced that, in the end, Ridley Scott would be making his “Prometheus” sequel instead.
That sequel came in 2017, in the form of “Alien: Covenant” a disjointed disappointment of a movie that left both critics and audiences cold and bored. The film performed terribly at the box-office, which, once again, made the possibilities for a sequel very foggy. But, despite everything, Ridley Scott did claim in 2020 that a sequel to “Covenant” was still a possibility, so it is safe to assume that 20th Century Fox is refusing to accept that this franchise has not had a single good movie since 1986. Go figure.
5 The Walking Dead
The fact that “The Walking Dead” was (at one point) a cultural phenomenon as highly regarded as “Game Of Thrones” and “Breaking Bad” is almost comedic today. AMC’s flagship show lost its way quite a long time ago, and has since become a very pale shadow of its former self, often surviving by the skin of its neck. Labeled “the greatest downfall in television history” by Collider, the show is now more known for being flat and inexplicably dragged out. A crazy thought when we know that, in its prime, “The Walking Dead” was the most watched television series in the entire world.
With the original graphic novel coming to a highly criticized end in 2019 and the TV show growing stale and falling behind a dull spin-off series, it has become very clear in the past couple of years that the franchise as a whole has completely lost the interest of audiences. And when AMC announced in 2020 that season 11 of “The Walking Dead” would be its last, we assumed that the tired universe was finally going to be put out of its long and agonizing misery. We were wrong.
Not only is “The Walking Dead” still going to be an active franchise in the next decade, it is also going to be expanded through a variety of weird and unappealing spin-offs, such as “World Beyond”, a teen drama taking place in the universe that is currently making history for its terrible ratings. A movie trilogy about Rick Grimes coming to the big screen was also announced, and a number of other TV shows to debut in the coming years. In other words, despite the lack of demand for this franchise to grow, “The Walking Dead” will only make itself more obnoxious as time goes.
Nowadays, most people tend to forget that 2000’s first “X-Men” movie is essentially the movie that “saved” the superhero genre, and shaped it in the form it has today. After 1997’s disastrous “Batman & Robin” put the entire genre in a Hollywood-shaped grave, “X-Men” took a new approach to comic book adaptations by refusing to conform to the silly and campy clichés that had become synonymous with them, and reinvigorated the potential behind it. A few years later, we got Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” and “X-Men 2”, which is still considered to be one of the greatest comic book films of all time. That immense success and acclaim quickly took a turn, though…
Over time, the X-Men franchise became a lazy and incoherent mess with a broken timeline that felt more like Fox was throwing everything they could at the wall to see what stuck, with writer/producer Simon Kinberg even admitting that the films became more interested in crazy visual effects than crafting interesting characters. The glimmer of hope that came after 2016’s widely disliked “X-Men: Apocalypse” was very short lived though, as 2019’s “Dark Phoenix” (which was the final entry in the current franchise) crashed and burned at the box office like never before, losing the studio over $100 Million in the process, and ending the series in the most forgettable way possible.
That said, since acquiring 20th Century Fox in 2018, Disney and Marvel Studios have confirmed that the X-Men will be coming in the colossal Marvel Cinematic Universe, giving fans the hope to repair the characters’ honour the same way Spider-Man did after the catastrophe of the “Amazing Spider-Man” franchise that ended in 2014. In other words, despite 20 years of regular movies, it looks like the X-Men franchise is only just getting started.
It is strange to think that John Rambo was originally a character meant to represent the challenges that come with a war veteran’s PTSD in 1982’s “First Blood”, before he was turned into an iconic ultra-violent action hero that pretty much defined an era of action flicks in Hollywood. The “Rambo” franchise has been a staple of the genre ever since its genesis, but Hollywood’s reluctance to let the series end has started to crack its legendary status.
After the awful “Rambo IV” saw the light of day in 2008 (no less than 20 years after “Rambo III”), Hollywood decided to try yet another desperate comeback for the character 11 years later. “Rambo: Last Blood” was released in 2019, and confirmed to audiences that the franchise was officially tired and out of ideas. The movie threw any sense of story out the window, deciding to instead make a spectacle of excessive violence without much of a point. Needless to say, critics and audiences were not impressed.
David Morrell, author of the original Rambo novels, even admitted to being embarrassed by the movie, which he referred to as “degrading” amongst other things. And despite the movie doing poorly at the box office, Sylvester Stallone has recently claimed that a seventh Rambo film could be put in the works soon, as well as a prequel movie that would be taking place before “First Blood”.
Michael Bay’s 2007 “Transformers” was a fun movie with groundbreaking visual effects that took the world by storm. That’s about it. Nothing can justify the continuing disaster that allowed Bay to make four more films. Sure, they made money (for some reason), but it is common knowledge amongst audiences that Transformers movies are some of the worst blockbusters ever put to screen. If anything, the franchise has become a perfect example of studios pushing their luck a bit too far. As a result, Michael Bay’s incarnation of “Transformers” was finally put to rest after 2017’s god-awful “Transformers: The Last Knight” bombed and lost Paramount Pictures and Hasbro over $100 Million.
Although, despite the overwhelming franchise fatigue, it took less than a year for Paramount to release their new vision of the franchise, with the reboot “Bumblebee” making its way to theatres in 2018. The first film to be directed by someone other than Michael Bay, “Bumblebee” proved to be a superior entry in terms of quality, but struggled to be profitable at the box office, barely saved by Chinese audiences who came in droves to see it.
Beginning to feel a bit nervous because of the blatant lack of interest in the franchise, Paramount ended up cancelling “Transformers 7”, which was slated to be released in June 2019. But, in a twist of events that surprised nobody, The Hollywood Reporter announced in May 2020 that “Transformers 7” was back on the schedule, this time landing a 2022 release date. The report was quickly followed by the release of 6-part animated Transformers series on Netflix, proving that both Hasbro and Paramount are determined to fix the franchise they have been actively driving into a wall for the past decade.
Oh, god…where do we even start with this one? It’s almost crazy to think that the last good “Terminator” movie came out almost 30 years ago. Especially when we know there have been 4 more movies released since then. After director James Cameron brought us “The Terminator” in 1984 and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” in 1991 (which is still considered to be one of the greatest action films of all time), studios decided to carry on with the franchise without its creator. And, to this day, none have been able to accomplish that successfully.
Following the underwhelming “T3: Rise Of The Machines” in 2003, studio execs opted to take a different approach, and the franchise was rebooted by director McG in 2009 with the universally despised “Terminator: Salvation”, which drifted away from its original cast and took a heavy science-fiction spin with the storyline. “Salvation” was one of the most expensive movies ever made at the time, but it completely failed to interest audiences, and the planned sequels were cancelled a few months after the film’s release.
But Skydance and Paramount Pictures refused to back down, and in 2015, they rebooted the franchise once again with “Terminator: Genisys”, which marked the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the iconic T-800 after a 12-year hiatus. Unfortunately, it quickly proved to be another miss, as the bland and repetitive movie was plagued with negative reviews and brutally failed to meet expectations at the box office. Fans were utterly disappointed by “Genisys” (mainly due to the film’s ultimate plot twist being unceremoniously spoiled in the trailer months ahead of the release), and the planned trilogy for this new incarnation was quietly scrapped by the studio.
And then, because the message wasn’t clear enough, Paramount teamed up with 20th Century Fox to attempt yet another reboot of the series. “Terminator: Dark Fate” came out in 2019, erasing the four previous films from the franchise’s timeline, and claiming to be the one true sequel to 1991’s “Judgement Day”. But, despite building some mild hype with a decent first trailer (which teased the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor), “Dark Fate” crashed and burned at the box office, losing the studio $130 Million. It became one of the most disliked entries in the series, making audiences realize that the Terminator franchise has been trying to tell the exact same story over and over again for the past 30 years, in a desperate attempt to recapture the magic of the first two films.
While the state of the franchise is currently up in the air, even MacKenzie Davis (who played one of the main characters in “Dark Fate”) seems doubtful that the planned sequels will ever be made, saying in an interview with NME that at this point, “thinking there would be a demand for a seventh film is quite insane.”