Hollywood loves a good franchise. It’s the best and easiest way to make a quick buck at the box office, and it guarantees years of being able to churn out sequels. More than that, it makes it so a studio doesn’t have to go out on a limb for a risky original screenplay, instead depending on known quantities and millennial nostalgia. Not every idea is a winner though. That of course does little to stop studio heads from green-lighting anything with even the smallest possibility of catching on.
Enter the latest crop of franchise ideas set to appear in 2016 and beyond. Some are set to hit theaters in the next few months. Others were green-lit in just the last few months. As a collective, they represent some of the most misguided filmmaking in Hollywood. That won’t slow the oncoming tide of potential franchises, especially not when studio execs are seeing green. So without further ado, here’s the definitive list of what to avoid.
1. The Emoji Movie
In one of the most misguided attempts at appealing to millennials we’ve ever seen, Sony officially announced their plans to move forward with a 2017 release for The Emoji Movie. And yes, you guessed it: It’s literally a movie all about the way you express yourself over texting when you’re too lazy to use words. That only scratches the surface of just how terrible this idea is too. Already there’s been talk of sponsorship deals with companies like Spotify and Facebook to use their brands as characters in the film, opening up the floodgates for a 90-minute deluge of product placement.
2. MIB 23
Here we have another example of recent news coming down for a potentially disastrous idea. The elevator pitch is…well, something. The thought-to-be-dead Men in Black universe will combine with that of the Jump Street franchise, and that’s about the long and short of it. What’s more: 21 and 22 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller won’t be attached to the project in any capacity. So remove the brilliant creative minds, the cohesiveness of the universe, and any semblance of sanity, and MIB 23 is born. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?
3. Star Trek Beyond
The next installment in the Star Trek saga is one that’s raised a lot of skepticism in the fan community. The first trailer for the Justin Lin-led threequel looked more like a Fast and Furious movie, than a story set in the cerebral, thinking man’s sci-fi world of the original Trek. Lin, whose own resumé includes three movies in the Fast and Furious series, was always a curious choice to succeed J.J. Abrams, and it looks like many of our fears have been confirmed. Combine that with an uncharacteristically quiet marketing campaign from Paramount, and suddenly things are starting to look grim for a release just a few months away.
[Update, 7/29/16: Star Trek Beyond opened to disappointing numbers at the box office, failing to top either the first Star Trek from J.J. Abrams, or Star Trek Into Darkness it’s debut weekend.]
4. Angry Birds
Sony seems to think that movies based on mobile apps is the path to success, because they’re really doubling down hard right now. Angry Birds released this month, and early reviews have done little to assuage fears that it’s nothing more than a poorly-written cash-grab. You won’t get any nostalgia points from 20-somethings who remember when the mobile game was big just two years ago. That just leaves the “small children” demographic, and unfortunately they’re far from dependable when it comes to predicting a healthy box office take.
[Update, 6/24/16: Angry Birds pulled in just $328 million at the global box office, a disappointing figure given the massive $173 budget the film boasted for production]
5. Ben Hur
1959’s Ben Hur is widely regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made. You’d think any film on such a list wouldn’t demand a remake of any sort, right? Wrong. So, so, so wrong. Paramount is bringing Ben Hur back for the remake nobody asked for, infusing it with enough mindless action and CGI to make Charlton Heston turn in his grave. Maybe we’ll be wrong and the new Ben Hur will be a faithful reimagining of a cinematic classic. It just seems like a pretty big possibility that the exact opposite outcome is more likely.
[Update, 8/26/16: Ben Hur is currently slated to lose upwards of $100 million, following a wildly disappointing $11.2 million domestic haul for its opening weekend]
6. Universal’s “Monsters Cinematic Universe”
Why make one ill-advised film when you can make seven? Universal has big plans for a shared universe, featuring its stable of classic movie monsters. It actually already kicked off in 2014 with Dracula Untold, and the next on the docket is 2017’s The Mummy. From there, the plan is to release standalone films for the Wolf Man, Van Helsing, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Bride of Frankenstein, and the Invisible Man. All we need next is an Avengers-style team-up, and we’ll really be cooking with fire.
7. Bridget Jones’s Baby
Nevermind the fact that it’s been over a decade since the last Bridget Jones movie. In terms of franchises that have no business being exhumed, this one tops the list. Some executive somewhere apparently thought that the $40 million domestic gross for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was enough of a reason to make a third movie, thirteen years after the fact. What the target audience here is unclear, but we have a hard time seeing this one take off in any sort of significant way.
[Update, 9/23/16: As of now, Bridget Jones’s Baby has pulled in a meager $40 million worldwide gross, on a pricey $35 production budget. Factor in the advertising money likely spent by the studio, and it seems safe to say we have another flop on our hands]
8. Deepwater Horizon
There’s been a rash of dramatic retellings of “actual events” lately. Films like The Finest Hours and 13 Hours focused in on military operations and the soldiers who participated in them, drummed up significantly enough to make them appealing Hollywood stories. In the cast of Deepwater Horizon, we have a massively more problematic story. The movie depicts the infamous Deepwater oil rig explosion in 2010, that spilled over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Where we start to see potential issues is in the hero-centric angle it takes toward the biggest ecological disaster in our nation’s history. Suffice it to say, this won’t be pretty.
9. Fifty Shades Darker
Falling firmly in the “franchises that shouldn’t exist” category, Fifty Shades Darker hits theaters in February of 2017. What’s baffling is that the first film somehow managed to pull in over half a billion dollars at the box office, with 70% of that coming from the foreign market. And even with a 25% Rotten Tomatoes score, that’s more than enough money to green-light a sequel. Here’s hoping that we don’t have to suffer through the existence of another poorly-written romance novel adapted into an equally poorly-written movie. Come February of next year, do yourself a favor and see John Wick 2 instead.
No, you’re not hallucinating. Sony Pictures is actually coming out with a live-action movie based on the popular line of blonde-haired dolls. How this will manage to translate into a halfway sensible movie is beyond us. It’s always a risky proposal when you try and base a film franchise on a line of toys. It worked for Michael Bay’s Transformers based almost entirely on its popularity in China, so perhaps Sony will strike gold there with Barbie. Just don’t hold your breath.
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