In today’s cinematic world, it seems that the rulers of the box office are major IPs and franchises. As such, many in Hollywood have attempted to launch their own new franchises keep audiences in their seats. However, in recent years many of these attempts have ended in failure. Here are some of the worst examples of failed franchises.
The Mummy & The Dark Universe
Where better to start than with the most infamous example in Hollywood, the Dark Universe? Prior to the release of, The Mummy in 2017, Universal made it no secret that they planned to start their own cinematic universe with their classic horror monsters. There was an ensemble photo, a logo, several other planned films, and The Bride of Frankenstein planned for production right after The Mummy’s release. Within the film itself, there were a number of easter eggs and having Russell Crowe play Dr. Jekyll. With the film’s commercial and critical failure, these plans fell into disarray. The only film to survive this disaster was 2020’s heavily retooled The Invisible Man.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
While this wasn’t a film many of us remembered, the scale of the plans for this franchise can’t be understated. To be fair to the executives, Arthurian Legend is full of film-worthy tales. Directed by Guy Ritchie, this was intended to bring the knights of the round table to the big screen. According to reports this was planned as the beginning of a six-film franchise that would have lasted years. However, the film bombed at the box office, with several critics even highlighting the film’s refusal to be standalone holding it back. While the film still has a handful of fans, it seems that Warner Bros. should have brought their Green Girdle to this cinematic event.
While Scooby-Doo! Isn’t a new franchise by any means, Warner Bros.’s latest attempt on the big screen certainly is. Scoob! was intended to start a “Hanna-Barbera” cinematic universe, connecting all of the classic animated characters. To build their franchise, Dick Dastardly from Wacky Racers and Captain Caveman were major characters. Director Tony Cervone even likened the franchise to a “Hanna-Barbera Avengers” in an interview with Cartoon Brew. However, after the pandemic consigned the film to streaming and middling reviews, these plans have gone silent. The last gasp was the planned Scoob!: Holiday Haunt, which MAX cancelled even after completion.
While mostly remembered for accusations of nepotism, 2013’s After Earth deserves mention for the scale of its ambition. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the film followed Will and Jaden Smith playing father and son surviving on an alien planet. It wasn’t until years later that insiders revealed the scale of the film’s plans. Apparently, Will Smith pitched the sci-fi franchise 1000 AD. This would have included not just a sequel, but TV shows, video games, a cologne line, and an educational partnership with NASA. With the film’s failure, this planned franchise was told “Denied! Sit down!”
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
However, what makes this such a noteworthy example is what went on behind the scenes. As with the rest of the films on this list, the studio planned Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return as the beginning. Among the future plans of the film were two sequels, an animated series, and many other foundations for a revival of L. Frank Baum’s classic work. However, the film was one of the biggest bombs of the year. Across the internet, there are articles and stories about how the film’s creators lied to investors about the project’s risks and pocketed most of their donations. After the film flopped, Legends of Oz went down as the biggest scam in animation.
Dishonorable Mention: Rebel Moon
A dishonorable mention would have to go to the recently released Rebel Moon. While it’s too early to tell what will happen to the franchise, signs aren’t good. Prior to release, Zack Snyder clearly hoped to start a franchise with many more sequels, a comic, a video game, and an animated short. However, bad reviews immediately fell on the film criticizing the film for being overly derivative of other works like Star Wars and Samurai. Again, while hope remains from part 2 and the “Snyder Cut,” for now audiences remain disappointed. If other films on this list are any indication, Rebel Moon will join their ranks.