Updated: Jul 18, 2021
In case you’ve been sitting at the bottom of the Mariana Trench for the last couple of decades with a really interesting book, Marvel is a popular comics company that, after almost collapsing in the late nineties when the comics bubble burst, has become one of the biggest entertainment juggernauts and is now just another tendril on the large amorphous blob that is Disney.
This is largely thanks to the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Beginning in 2008 with Iron Man with Kevin Feige at the helm, the MCU is pretty much a how-to guide for production companies looking to create their own movie franchise.
However, Marvel isn’t the first production company to try to create its own franchise. Plenty of companies have over the years, some have worked and most haven’t. Here are some of the franchises that should have stopped while they had a good thing going.
What They Should Have Stopped With: Robocop (1987)
Murphy demonstrating his new sharpshooter skills. Source.
The original Robocop film was a gory crime-action thriller that focused on ordinary beat cop Alex J Murphy having his body rebuilt after a fatal run-in with the Detroit criminal underbelly. He is transformed by the private megacorporation Omni Consumer Products into a cyborg made to crack down on crime.
This film’s got blood and gore aplenty, a bunch of action set pieces, a critique of the privatisation of the police force, and the power of mega-corporations. At its heart, the film is a story of a man trying to figure out if he’s still human or just a machine now.
What We Got: Robocop 2 (1990) & Robocop 3 (1994)
Productions stills from the cancelled sitcom "My husband the Robocop". Source.
In the next two sequels, we got watered down the plots, neutered the blood and gore in an effort to make it more “family-friendly”. The themes and critique from the original film disappear and instead, we’re given stock standard villains for Robocop to blow away. This film’s the equivalent of white noise.
What They Should Have Stopped With: Speed (1994)
"What do you mean don't worry about the hostages?" Source.
This film starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves after his time travelling adventures with George Carlin and before he freed humanity from Hugo Weaving burst onto the scene in 1994 like… well like a speeding bus.
Speed is a high-octane thriller with a simple concept. There’s a bus with a bomb planted on it that will explode if the bus drops below 50 MPH. The simple plot lets the film focus more on the action and keep the pace nice and fast.
What We Got: Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)
Sandra Bullock revaluing her life choices after signing onto this film. Source.
No Keanu Reeves, no bomb, no speed threshold, and nothing that linked the film to the original besides Sandra Bullock. There’s also nothing that makes the film enjoyable to watch. They’re on a boat for god’s sake! It’s a boring slog that gives the impression no one wanted to be a part of it.
3. The Mask
What They Should Have Stopped With: The Mask (1994)
Jim Carey in the films best scene. Source,
One of Jim Carey’s best works, the film follows Stanley Ipkiss as an ancient mask grants him reality-bending powers in line with that of a cartoon or comic book (poignant considering The Mask is a Dark Horse comic).
This comedy plays heavily off Jim Carey’s rubber mask comedic style. The supporting cast is great with humour and a surprise musical number makes this a comedic classic that still holds up today.
What We Got: Son of The Mask (2005)
Everything wrong with this movie in one picture. Source.
Like with Speed 2, we’ve lost Jim Carey in the sequel to have him replaced by Jamie Kennedy, a casting decision that’s just as baffling now as it was back in 2005. The humour’s lost all its wit and is just shooting for the lowest hanging fruit. The special effects are CGI heavy and worse than the original’s was over ten years ago. Don’t watch it.
2. Mortal Kombat
What They Should Have Stopped With: Mortal Kombat (1995)
*Mortal Kombat Theme plays*. Source.
Straight up, this film isn’t the greatest in the world. Hell, even in my review I’ve made it clear this isn’t a good film but it’s a bunch of dumb, campy fun. It’s a fun romp through the Mortal Kombat universe.
It focuses less on the confusing lore of the game series to its benefit and just lets the martial arts and eccentric characters take centre stage. The actors put in good performances for the material they’re given and personally, I really enjoy Christopher Lambert and Linden Ashby as Raiden and Johnny Cage.
What We Got: Mortal Kombat Annihilation (1997)
The best special effects in this film. Source.
After the original film was positively received partially because all the confusing lore wasn’t there, the producers must have decided now was the time to wrap the sequel up in all the lore. What we get is a tangled bundle of lore dumps, generic plot, and characters being added just to tick boxes.
The special effects are worse than the original, they kill off Johnny Cage right at the start and yeah… this film doesn’t even have the excuse of being fun like the original did.
What They Should Have Stopped With: Highlander (1986)
There can be only one. Source.
This cult sci-fi classic about immortals battling to the death for the ultimate prize pits Christopher Lambert and Clancy Brown against each other as sworn enemies which sets the tone quite well for this admittedly B-grade film.
The sword fighting and special effects in this film aren’t spectacular but it’s fun to watch and enjoy some pulpy sci-fi. It’s got Sean Connery pretending to be a Spaniard, what else could you want?
What We Got: Highlander The Quickening (1991)
Who knows what's going on here. Source.
The sequel's first major stumbling block (one of many) was that the original ended without any real loose ends that they could use. So, the film MacGyvers a plot reason for a sequel to exist after Connor McCloud’s story was conclusively ended in the prior film. The film’s reason they present to us still slick with nervous sweat from the ass they pulled it from is that the Immortals from the first film are actually aliens.
Do yourself a favour and forget this one ever existed.
Are there any movie franchises I missed? Let me know in the comments down below.
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