Counting down from the top, here are my ten most disappointing attempts to convert some prior source material into new film franchise.
10. Catwoman (2004)
I’d read a few negative comments about this production before I saw it, but little prepared me for how utterly dreadful it is. What confused me entirely was that the title suggests a connection to the Bob Kane character, but what’s presented in it has as much to do with him as the carton series Top Cat. And, any delusions that winning an Oscar gives you some protection when you make a turkey soon evaporated for Halle Berry when this opened.
9. Van Helsing (2004)
This one is a bit weird, because it draws on the work of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly and others, but curiously the Van Helsing in this movie isn’t the one that’s detailed in the Dracula book. The true source material is the 1930s Universal Studio monster movies, but whatever the origins it stunk. Much of the movie is entirely unwatchable as there is very little logic or connection between progressive scenes. Had Stephen Sommers given it the light and deft touch he’d used on the first Mummy movie it could have easily been a whole new outlet for Hugh Jackman, but instead he used his mallet of sloppy film making to entirely trash it.
8. The Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
With Barry Levinson directing, assisted by Frank Marshal, Steven Spielberg, and Henry Winkler producing, and the entire wealth of Conan Doyle’s archetypal detective Holmes, how could it go wrong? Big time, I’d suggest. I can’t really blame the cast, most of whom seemed well suited to their character roles, with Nicholas Rowe being very good as the young Holmes. But parts of this production play like a weird Victorian version of the Goonies. It was an interesting premise, actually contradicted by Doyle’s own work, but ultimately an attempt to start a franchise that failed miserably.
7. The Saint (1997)
There are parts of this movie I enjoy, but what’s it got to do with the Leslie Charteris character? Not much from what I can recall of the novels, 1940s George Sanders movies and his later TV incarnations with Roger Moore and Ian Ogilvy. The entire premise – that The Saint was once a man who lived on the wrong side of the law, but has chosen to fight crime – seems entirely lost in this movie with Val Kilmer making the Roger Moore’s eyebrow acting seem positively expressive. The limp performance of this Saint at the global box-office means this franchise will need at least three miracles to be resurrected.
6. Lost in Space (1998)
It looked like converting this icon of 1960s TV for the big screen would be a challenge. And that’s just how it turned out to be. Personally I love some of the design work in this production, but the performances of the actors and the script are not remotely up to the job. This was Matt LeBlanc’s only real stab at movie stardom, and it fell entirely flat, much like his career. Danger Will Robinson, this franchise is lost…
5. The Avengers (1998)
With what looked like interesting casting, and some amazing source material, this could have been fantastic. But instead it was an utter fiasco, the likes of which I’m still coming to terms with. Sir Sean Connery should have kept the teddy bear outfit on for the whole dreadful proceedings and claimed he was never in it.
4. Æon Flux (2005)If you’ve never seen the original animated version of this, created by Korean American animator Peter Chung, then you missed plenty, as it’s a curious blending of the stylised science fiction popularised by ‘Heavy Metal’ and hardcore animé. But the film version carries virtually none of these qualities with any success, and is a wholly abysmal celluloid experience despite having the stunning Charlize Theron in the lead roll. In most episodes Æon dies at the end, but this franchise was the fatality here.
3. Planet of the Apes (2001)
This is an almost unique scenario where an amazing film spawns a franchise that then is run into the ground. Then years later it’s relaunched and crashes a the first hurdle. Given the advances in effects since the 1968 original this could have been something special, but they appear to have started this movie without a script, and it ended before they’d rectified that. What didn’t help was people asking director Tim Burton what it was actually about and him replying ‘What do you think it’s about?’, while being interviewed to promote this drivel. Amazing potential, flushed down the toilet of film franchise.2. Judge Dredd (1995)While Arnhuld was the obvious choice for Dredd not too many people winced when they heard it had gone to Stallone, but they positively recoiled when they saw what had become of this British comic classic. In a film that swayed wildly between comic camp and a cop buddy actioner, it managed to avoid hitting any of the potential target audience that enjoyed the comic, or science fiction for that matter. A mess of a movie where the events make little sense, and the characters would appreciate being one dimensional. I’d love to blame Rob Schneider, but he’s just gristle in the meat grinder that is Judge Dredd.1. Thunderbirds (2004)Given the richness of the source material, this was a diabolical trashing of a franchise almost without precedent. Despite the potential to tap into an adult audience, like Transformers, Jonathon Frakes focused instead on the child friendly aspects, making the kids the leads. Too many kids, too many characters, not enough Thunderbirds action and Ben Kingsley playing Widow Twankie. The end result; a complete turkey. You might have directed the best Trek movie of recent times, but please Mr Frakes, stay away from any other of my childhood memories.