Failure to Launch (A Franchise)

I read a great article over on We Minored in Film recently about last weekend’s boxoffice, with three bigger name sorts of releases coming out. One was The Lego Movie – our Valentine’s Day plan – and another was The Monuments Men, delayed and kind of out of Oscars contention because of it. But the third we saw last weekend, as you may know from Holly’s LitFlix on the subject. We saw Vampire Academy.

I don’t see much reason to mess with Kelly Konda’s review and analysis, but instead want to say that it got me thinking. He lists a number of other genre young adult adaptations that have come out lately, and which have not done that well. Last year, and into this year now, has seen these attempts at starting up a franchise and trying to make the sort of money that the Twilight or Harry Potter series made. Yet the movies that did well last year weren’t the first in their franchise: they were the second, with Catching Fire and Percy Jackson.

And it’s too soon to know what will happen with some of these franchises: will they continue on with Ender’s GameVampire Academy ended with a lead-in to the later books. Beautiful Creatures? City of Bones? But while it’s too soon to know about these movies, there are some more recently – but far enough back – that we can be pretty sure they completely failed to spin off the rest of their series, failed to launch a franchise. So here’s five stories that failed to keep going!

Godzilla (1998)

This movie is almost the modern archetype in setting up a sequel that never happens. A movie that was not great to begin with, and that we sat through begrudgingly, then decides to dump the idea of a sequel on us at the end – a sequel that never happened. So while this is the furthest back movie I’m going to talk about, I do think it’s significant – because we know this is not resurrecting. They’re rebooting it instead.

And do I have any new or better hopes for the reboot? Maybe not. It seems like the one excuse there is to make the new version is to do it in 3D. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the new one ends up on a list like this in the future…


So I have to admit, I have not seen this movie. I read the book a bit late, showed some interest, and then I was told in no uncertain terms that I did not want to see this movie. From what I understand, they just failed to capture the story, a frequent problem in book adaptations. Except they also apparently failed to entertain.

It probably doesn’t help that this was coming out before the books were done – and this book series ends up doing things that other stories don’t do. When Christopher Paolini moved the plot from three books, and a traditional trilogy, to four books, he did something new and different. Book three in particular is fascinating, because the forward movement almost stops, and the forces of the world make our heroes make good on all of their promises.

Basically, consider this a plug for these books: they were great. And the exploration of the human – but actually heroic – cousin, in comparison to the luck dragon-haver Eragon, is strong. But these sorts of good points of the books weren’t fully cemented by the time this movie came out, and it just had no chance.

Superman Returns

I guess this movie functions a bit as a sequel, a sequel to the Christopher Reeve Superman films, but even still, it failed to revamp and continue that line. I was thoroughly disappointed in this movie, as so many people were. I was more disappointed that it pulled Bryan Singer away from the X-Men movies, and it’s taken some time (and time travel!) to get them back on track. However, despite bad movies, the X-Men films are still chugging away… while Superman had to go and reboot.

And was Man of Steel the reboot we needed? Or the reboot we deserved? I guess we’ll find out the results of my Batman reference, since Man of Steel has successfully spun off a franchise, and is bringing in Batman. Mere months, it feels like, after we finished a Batman trilogy.

Speaking of Arrow, I have not hidden my opinion that this is the DC cinematic universe that is working, not Man of Steel. But I’ll take either of these over Superman Returns.

The Dresden Files

The more I watch Arrow, the more I think back to this show. I can’t say we did our part to make it successful; both Holly and I missed it when it was on SyFy.  However, Paul Blackthorne (Detective Lance on Arrow) is great as Harry Dresden, and the show was solid.

The Dresden Files TV SeriesIts weakest episode was its pilot, which was also based on the first book in the series (and only book I’ve read in the series), Storm Front. It just did not work to follow the book that closely – the TV format is too short to encapsulate a whole novel. Instead, the show did a great job after that of setting up a world that worked as an ongoing show, with rules and characters and events that were believable even while being fantastical.

I would watch more seasons of this show, but sadly, 13 episodes is all we’ve got. I guess I’ll just have to watch more Arrow… and recommend that you check out this show.

The Last Airbender (Avatar)

I’m often told to drop it with this movie. But it just made me so mad, and I really hope I’m right that this movie does not continue with a sequel. In case you didn’t see it, don’t, and watch the show instead. Because the problem is that what was being adapted wasn’t a comic, or a book, or a manga – it was a TV show.

And it seems like M. Night Shyamalan made a terrible, terrible assumption with this. Because the show looks like a Japanese anime, but was made in America and was originally in English. But it seems like the assumption was that the pronunciations were a translation, and open to interpretation. Because they pronounce almost every proper noun in the movie differently from the show, and as a fan, it was almost impossible to sit through.

It’s not a like a book, where you can at least say “I thought it was pronounced X, but okay.” No, it’s a show, a show in English. Three seasons of names being pronounced a certain way. Out the window. What’s maybe worse than my thought that he assumed that the show was Japanese, is that he never actually watched the show – and if that’s the case, of course this movie failed.

So seriously, watch the show. Not the movie. Because hey, the show ended its plot… and succeeded at spinning off a decades-later-in-the-world show that seems to be doing quite well. We’ve only watched a bit of The Legend of Korra, but what we saw, we liked. That’s the franchise that’s continuing.

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