Hollywood is chock-full of adventure epics. Lord of the Rings proved to be one of the most profitable franchises the industry has ever seen, and it in turn inspired a whole flock of imitators. Each has come out hoping to be the next big fantasy series. Some have similarly been adapted from novels, while others still are original works that never managed to catch on. But for whatever reason, there’s been a constant struggle in recreating the vast universe of LOTR.
The YA craze has seen the dystopian future motif strip-mined for material. The more medieval offerings of Hollywood, though, have been decidedly lacking. Game of Thrones took off as a TV series on HBO, leaving thin pickings for other film franchises to be born. That hasn’t stopped countless filmmakers from trying and, in most cases, failing. The formula of pumping out a quick script and attaching a couple of well-known actors to the project hasn’t managed to work, as proven by the pile of flops that been pushed out in just the last few decades.
1. Dracula Untold (2014)
Universal’s creature feature was a flop in every sense of the term. It rated out on Rotten Tomatoes at 23% and made just $56 million at the domestic box office. It was a thematic mess, a misguided attempt to give Dracula an origin story entirely against a blue screen.
CGI was prioritized over things like “good writing” and “halfway decent visual storytelling,” and it paid the price both critically and financially. A cutscene at the end credits even tried to hint at a full franchise that Universal intended to use as a teaser for a shared universe full of classic monsters. Of course, that idea hasn’t gone anywhere since, leaving the rest of the pantheon to rest in cobwebs, where they belong.
2. Seventh Son (2015)
This one was a more recent failure, somehow starring Jeff Bridges as the elderly mentor type to the younger “Chosen One” character. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 13% positive rating, with the consensus dubbing it as a “disappointingly dull fantasy adventure.” It was doomed from the start from a script that had it employ only the most basic of storytelling, from the young, reluctant Messiah figure to the monolithic and seemingly indestructible evil he’s tasked to battle. Of course, it wasn’t helped much by its bloated $95 million budget, only pulling in $17 million at U.S. box offices either.
3. Season of the Witch (2011)
The early 2010s were a dark time for the career of Nicolas Cage. It appeared as though there was no movie he’d say no to, and Season of the Witch was no exception to that rule. In it, he and Ron Perlman (why Ron, why?) are tasked with transporting an accused witch to a monastery and … well that’s as exciting as it really gets.
There are some special effects and other stuff, but its 9% Rotten Tomatoes score should tell you all you need to know about why this one’s a hard skip for anyone in search of the next Lord of the Rings. We can only hope that at some point in his career, Nic Cage learns to say just say no.
4. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
There’s something about fairytale myths and witches that seems to convince studios that they’re onto something. Invariably, though, these projects are destined to fail magnificently. And then along came Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to prove this theory true. It was a time before Jeremy Renner was Hawkeye, relegating him to play the part of Hansel, a witch-hating gun-toting hunter.
It’s not entirely clear who or what either Hansel or Gretel are, past their fairytale origins and long-held grudges for the whole “a witch tried to cook us in an oven” deal. Whatever that answer to that question may be, most audiences didn’t care to find out, to the tune of a 15% Rotten Tomatoes score.
5. Van Helsing (2004)
It almost seems like a rite of passage for Hollywood A-listers to be in at least one terrible fantasy adventure. Hugh Jackman had his turn as the titular hero and vampire hunter extraordinaire Van Helsing. Here, we’re substituting vampires for witches, a choice that seems to be a coin flip for most studios: either a movie about vaguely fleshed-out evil witches, or an origin story for someone in the Dracula mythology. This one plays as the latter of the two, but doesn’t move too far thematically despite its starpower (seemingly par for the course for these films).
6. I, Frankenstein (2014)
This one holds a special place atop the pile, as a perfect storm of every element that makes these movie terrible. An A-list Hollywood actor that feels oddly out of place? Enter Aaron Eckhart. Attempting to tackle the origin story of a classic movie monster by making him a hero with six-pack abs and a broody disposition? Say hello to Frankenstein’s monster.
Widely regarded as the worst movie of the year it was released? Triple check. Someone somewhere decided to green-light I, Frankenstein, and in doing so released a monster of a film out into the world, the likes of which has rarely been seen. Just ask Rotten Tomatoes and its 3% positive rating.
7. The Brothers Grimm (2005)
The cast for The Brothers Grimm was typically high-powered, featuring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger at the peak of their early fame. But not even that could save a weak story that was equal parts The Three Amigos and “Every Poorly Made Fantasy Movie.”
One would think a movie directed by a visionary like Terry Gilliam would be at least a little intriguing, but alas, the once-proud filmmaker struck out. In it, we had Will and Jacob Grimm trying to solve supernatural mysteries after spending their whole lives as crackpot grifters. It, too, touches on basic story elements and never manages to extend any distance outside of that.
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