5 Bad Action Films That Almost Killed Their Franchises

Relying largely on wordless spectacle, action films are often among the most popular with audiences across the globe. However, while it may be fun to see a compelling character journey from one adventure to the next, sometimes just one weak installment in a hit franchise is all it takes to bring the ongoing saga to a premature end. Here are five action films that temporarily put their respective series out of commission, listed here in order of release date.

1. Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Grace Jones in 'Conan the Destroyer'
Source: Universal

Conan the Barbarian may have been an integral part of making Arnold Schwarzenegger the top action star of the 1980s and 1990s, but this sequel failed to capitalize on its star, earning a fraction of the box office domestically. The film squandered audience goodwill from its well-received predecessor, and after a third film was cancelled, the franchise faded away, only to be unsuccessfully revived in a 2011 reboot. Schwarzenegger is reportedly attached to reprise the role in a new film titled The Legend of Conan, which remains in development.

2. Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)

Eddie Murphy in 'Beverly Hills Cop III'
Source: Paramount

Eddie Murphy became a bonafide movie star with Beverly Hills Cop, but by the time that film’s second sequel hit theaters — a full decade after the original film’s release — the California adventures of street-smart Detroit cop Axel Foley had begun to lose their luster. This time, Axel’s investigation leads him to a Walt Disney World-esque theme park known as Wonder World. While returning stars Judge Reinhold and Bronson Pinchot do what they can to pep up the film, the script is sadly lacking the spark of its predecessors, though talk of another sequel or reboot remains strong.

3. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)

'Mortal Kombat Annihilation'
Source: New Line Cinema

Films based on video games don’t exactly have the strongest chance of success, but Mortal Kombat bucked that trend in 1995, turning the hyperviolent fighting game into a hit film under director Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil). Despite that success, much of the first film’s cast left the franchise by the time this sequel came around, and one watch of the film confirms that actors like Christopher Lambert and Bridgette Wilson made the right call in sitting out this entry. Annihilation features shoddy effects, terrible acting, and a ludicrous script that slaughtered the chances of a long-running film series. More recently, the franchise has seen new life with web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, and a big-screen reboot is in development.

4. Die Another Day (2002)

Pierce Brosnan in 'Die Another Day'
Source: MGM

Director Martin Campbell delivered one of the best Bond debuts with Pierce Brosnan’s Goldeneye (a feat he’d repeat with Daniel Craig in Casino Royale), but this fourth Brosnan Bond film — directed be Lee Tamahori — brought 007 into the realm of invisible cars and cartoonish CGI, taking the series so far from its roots that fans needed a break from the character. Even the addition of Oscar winner Halle Berry as the latest “Bond girl” and a theme song by Madonna couldn’t bolster interest in a follow-up, ultimately setting the stage for Craig’s turn seven years later.

5. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)

Angelina Jolie in 'Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life'
Source: Paramount

Another film based on a video game, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider brought with it a promising new franchise featuring the titular fan-favorite character and star Angelina Jolie. As the first film earned $274 million worldwide, a sequel became a no-brainer for the studio, but upon release, the film — helmed by Speed director Jan de Bont — failed to match its predecessor’s financial success. Nevertheless, it did earn some positive regards from critics, who largely considered it a superior film. Talk of a new take on Tomb Raider continues to swirl, though details remain under wraps.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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