5 Tired Movie Franchises Hollywood Just Won't Let Die

People love to complain that Hollywood is nothing but superheroes and Star Wars these days, but at least we know why that's the case. Most movies are a gamble, and these franchises are like owning the casino. What's weirder is that there are other franchises that haven't been a big deal in literally decades, but which continue to get sequels with big stars and bigger budgets. In a world starving for something new, can we finally admit that ...

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5
Not Even Ridley Scott Has Interesting Alien Stories To Tell

There's a certain beauty to the one-two punch that is Alien and Aliens. Alien is a cool slow-burn thriller that suddenly leaps to monster movie territory when the titular extraterrestrial turns John Hurt's chest into a bowl of soup. Aliens is an action/horror masterpiece that relishes in delivering one badass sequence after another. They both take the same concept ("Oh shit! Aliens!") and deliver in entirely different ways.

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Since then, the results have been ... mixed. And that's putting it in the best possible terms. Alien 3 has become well-known for being a disaster behind the scenes, Resurrection is a mess, and the two Alien vs. Predator films are best left in the "4 USED DVDS FOR $20" pile in haunted Blockbusters around the globe. Side note: No movie monster is actually improved by adding more and more layers of complicated lore and backstory.

At some point, it was decided that what was missing was the original director, so they went back to Ridley Scott, the man behind the first film. But 2010 Ridley Scott is not the same director as 1979 Ridley Scott, and I imagine even Ridley Scott knew this, as he didn't want to direct the prequel Prometheus in the first place. But when Fox threatened to cancel the project, he attached himself, making it clear that it would be mostly new ideas. A few months later, though, he resigned to basically saying, "OK yeah, the last third of it will be old Alien ideas, but they'll only be ideas from MY Alien movie." You may recognize that he did this again with the sequel to Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, originally stating that he was done with xenomorphs before making a sharp U-turn and packing the movie with them.

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The point is, it's been a very long time since the last great Alien movie, and maybe there's just not all that much to do with the concept. Yet as we speak, Disney is pursuing another Alien prequel with Scott directing, despite Scott being 81 and attached to five other projects. And from his point of view, why not? If he wants to spend his retirement burning through Disney money while turning the Alien timeline into incoherent ramblings, I say go for it, my dude.

4
By Nature, The Terminator Story Has Nowhere To Go

Before he made Aliens, The Terminator was James Cameron's real proving ground as a director. (Apologies to Piranha II: The Spawning.) And it's still great to this day, melding sci-fi plotting with terrifying Halloween-esque stalking to create a low-budget masterpiece. And since this and Aliens basically gave him a blank check for the rest of his life, he'd eventually give us Terminator 2: Judgment Day, one of the best action sequels of all time. And Hollywood has been trying to make a worthwhile Part 3 ever since.

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First there was Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, which Cameron had no involvement in (he thought he was "beyond" the franchise, but told Schwarzenegger to do it as long as they paid him a ton). Then we got Terminator: Salvation, which he also wasn't really involved in, though he "didn't hate it as much" as he thought he would. Then we got Genisys, which was a loose reboot of the series that Cameron at first seemed all about, but then admitted he only supported because Schwarzenegger is his pal.

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And finally we got Terminator: Dark Fate, a direct sequel to T2, which Cameron was heavily involved in (though he didn't direct). While it did OK with critics, audiences stayed away in droves. In fact, no Terminator sequel or prequel has made back its budget at the domestic box office since 1991. Meaning that if you discount overseas grosses, this franchise hasn't been all that profitable in almost 30 years.

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If it turns out there wasn't all that much creative juice to be squeezed out of the Alien concept, it's far more true of this franchise, in which each successive movie just undoes the plot of the films that came before. The first Terminator was straight horror, but no one finds the terminators scary anymore. The second film was an effects bonanza powered by groundbreaking CGI ... the kind of effects that are now so routine that they use them in local furniture store commercials. Yet Hollywood will presumably continue making these movies until actual cyborgs roam the streets, as if recycling the same couple of twists in different forms will suddenly make them fresh again. ("Wait, have we had it turn out that Sarah Connor is secretly a terminator yet? Somebody check.")

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Related: 5 Historically Bad Movie Franchises We Keep Forgiving

3
Ghostbusters Is Proof That Not Every Blockbuster Needs A Series

There is one good Ghostbusters movie, and it's the first one. And it's a really damn good Ghostbusters movie. It's also the only film in the Library of Congress that features Dan Akroyd getting a blowjob from a poltergeist. Trust me, I've done my homework on this. That was 35 years ago. For context, back then, only about 5% of homes had a personal computer.

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Ghostbusters 2, no matter how many "Ghostbusters 2 is actually good" pieces are written about it, is actually bad. The cartoon sequel The Real Ghostbusters lasted for seven seasons and was an OK way to kill time in between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes. The less said about Extreme Ghostbusters, the better. We got the strangely controversial female-led remake in 2016, which was perfectly mediocre but mostly proved that we have way more people willing to argue about modern Ghostbusters films than people willing to go see modern Ghostbusters films.

That's because the original was the product of a few geniuses coming together at the exact right time (both culturally and in the arc of their particular careers) with a unique concept that only loses its magic as you try to replicate it. Yet we're getting another sequel in 2020, with new characters plus a bunch of the cast from the original. Why?

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What evidence do we have that this is a thing people want to go back to again and again? Now that Bill Murray has achieved meme status, is his sincere Ghostbusters apathy gonna be cuter than it was decades ago? He's spent 75% of his career declining to be in this movie! When you see the rest of the cast (Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Bokeem Woodbine), your first thought might be "Maybe it can be good!" But your second should be "There are so many other movies these people could have made instead."

Related: 7 Common Mistakes That Ruin Movie Sequels And Trilogies

2
No RoboCop Sequel Can Replicate The Original, And Shouldn't Try

The original RoboCop is one of the best movies ever made, a violent action film and a hilarious satire of the Reagan years. It has a little something for everyone, whether you want a sci-fi deconstruction of capitalism run amok or just want to bask in that moment when a dude gets shot in the dick. However, RoboCop says pretty much everything one needs to say about Robocoppin', so the sequels range from weird and unnecessary to dull and unnecessary.

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RoboCop 2 falls into that first category (it's basically a remake of the first, except this time the enemy robot has a screaming cult leader brain inside of it), while RoboCop 3 and the various cartoon spinoffs fall into the second. They did a remake in 2014, but not even the Olympic team of quality supporting actors (Gary Oldman! Michael Keaton! Jackie Earle Haley! Samuel L. Jackson!) could save it from being Less Interesting RoboCop.

That's because, like Ghostbusters, this was a particular weird idea that came along at precisely the right time and made by precisely the right crazy person -- in this case, director Paul Verhoeven. There is only one of him, and that's probably a good thing. Yet they've been planning a sequel to the original for a while. Its main saving grace was that it would be directed by Neill Blomkamp, meaning it'd at least get the dick-exploding violence right (even if his last attempt at sci-fi didn't exactly set the world on fire). But he's gone now to direct a horror film, so RoboCop Returns is on hold. That's fine with me. We don't need a RoboCop clumsily satirizing the Trump era (and you know damned well that's what's coming). Take the budget and go make something new.

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Related: Here's Why 15 Huge Franchises You Loved Totally Imploded

1
Admit It, Americans Just Don't Connect With Godzilla

I love Godzilla. He is my oldest and best friend, and to this day, I would rather watch a '60s Godzilla movie than almost anything else. Your film won an Academy Award? That's cute. But, at any point, did Meryl Streep fight Rodan? Didn't think so, you uncultured swine. That said, I'm not so keen on the American adaptations, mainly because they all seem to be blind stabs rather than any coherent vision of the Big G.

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In 1998 we got Godzilla, an infamous disaster that ignored the source material in favor of trying to create a Jurassic Park / Independence Day hybrid. Then in 2014, we got a supposedly more gritty, mature Godzilla film, this one featuring a Godzilla that was actually Godzilla-shaped and did Godzilla-esque things. The only problem was that it didn't do enough of those things (even though Godzilla is historically notorious for not being in his own movies for very long), so fans clamored for yet another attempt to get it right. It needed more monsters and more fighting! That would fix it! The result: 2019's King Of The Monsters, which made a little over half of what the 2014 one made domestically.

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So it seems like America isn't really into Godzilla when he's slow and somber, nor are they into him when he's body-slamming another monster into the Boston skyline. Hell, I'm starting to think that they're just not really into Godzilla at all. It's almost as if Godzilla is an inherently Japanese character, born as a metaphor for the horrors of radiation -- something Japan experienced with two nuclear bombings and the Lucky Dragon incident.

Yet Godzilla vs. Kong is in development right now, and while I hope it's a good movie (the director is a personal favorite of mine), there's no reason to think this will resonate with Americans any more than all of the previous attempts did. Some characters and myths translate across borders just fine (it turns out everyone thinks ghost girls with long black hair are creepy), but some don't. So why not go out and make a brand-new character? It's almost as if Hollywood is afraid of taking creative risks or something.

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For more, check out Terminator 2: Great Movie, Terrible Sequel - Today's Topic:


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