In a world rife with film sequels, prequels and reboots out the ears, it's hard to imagine a time when a big summer blockbuster hit the theaters and wasn't already part of some major movie franchise. Plenty of that was seen during the 2016 film slate, including "Batman vs. Superman," and "Ghostbusters."
However, not all franchise movies are guaranteed hits, like the recent revelation by "TMNT: Out of the Shadows" producer Andrew Form that a potential third film is unlikely to come to fruition. It's a disappointment for some surely, but we at CBR can actually think of quite a few Hollywood franchises that need a similar a nap from production.
15 Mission: Impossible
Equal parts conspiracy thriller, bank heist intricacy and edge-of-your-seat action, "Mission: Impossible" (1996) was a well-received success. Hoping to replicate that victory with moviegoers, "Mission" began a quick descent down the rabbit hole of sequels. Over the course of the next 20 years, lead actors Tom Cruise would reprise his role of Ethan Hunt for four more movies; each more action-packed than the last. At this point, the IMF, Hunt's agency, has been undermined, dismantled, shut down and reinstated at least twice over. The plot for each movie quickly devolves into thin frameworks for eye-popping action sequences.
That's not to say action flicks aren't great in their own right, but "Mission" has eschewed its story motivations in favor of more explosions and fights for its main star. Even the movie's namesake has been disproved time and time again by its cast to the point where the name "Mission: Probable" seems more appropriate. It's time for Ethan and crew to take their final bow and finally let the IMF crumble under its own incompetence.
14 Star Trek
"Star Trek" began as a successful television series before making the jump to six feature films starring many of the original show's cast. Then came the changeover to "Star Trek: Generations," another series that beget four new motion pictures. Finally, we land on our current reboot "Star Trek" (2009), completely outside of an accompanying television series. Despite a much bigger budget and different cast and crew, none of these films seem to make big waves beyond that of the shows.
Granted, "Star Trek" does have to revolve around certain elements to retain its name: space, stars, aliens, boldly going where no one has gone before, etc. Now, however, the franchise is in an even bigger feedback loop now, choosing to retell the origins of Kirk, Spock and even Kahn in the latest entries. There are also plans to reboot the original timeline in the upcoming "Star Trek: Discovery" TV series. For having such limitless possibility, it seems like the "Star Trek" films have been stuck in a rut not even J.J. Abrams could get them out of. It would be best to let the franchise go back to its TV origins and maybe regain the flexibility to do something truly different.
In the 1954 film, Godzilla initially was meant as a metaphor for nuclear weapons and their longstanding impact on the world. After that, everyone's favorite king of all monsters was a franchise darling, starring in well over 20 movies produced in Japan. Finally, Hollywood wanted to try its hand at a film starring the kaiju. It was with this effort we were given the critically-panned "Godzilla" (1998) starring Matthew Broderick and a weird lizard looking thing playing the role of Godzilla.
Hollywood tried for a reboot again in 2014, this time with Bryan Cranston acting at the forefront (at least, that's what the trailers led us to believe). The movie was by and large much better than its predecessor, but still frustratingly managed to limit most of the titular characters' screen time to the last 20 minutes of the film.
Even though the new movie seems to be on the right track, it seems like Hollywood wants Godzilla to be artsier than its popular reputation as a kaiju battler. So far, each iteration seems like its taking baby steps to establish what the Japanese movies already figured out decades ago. In this case, it might just be better if Hollywood left the pop-culture icon in its homesteads' hands.
When the original "Saw" hit theaters in 2004, audiences almost didn't know what to do with themselves. Here was a film promoted as nothing more than a scary movie, which carried much more story and psychological elements than anyone could have expected. There was a crazy series of puzzle-laden traps that were all but guaranteed to end in a gory mess, but also an intriguing plot with the acting chops of Cary Elwes and Danny Glover to boot. "Saw" exploded on screens across America, easily grossing its estimated million-dollar budget a few hundred times over, and cemented its place as one of the most lauded horror films in recent memory.
Then the sequels happened.
Of course such a runaway success had to be followed up to capture the audiences salivating for more, but it never quite caught the magic of the first film. The subsequent six movies saw a major shift from having a good plot, to featuring increasingly gruesome traps for unremarkable characters to get caught in. In many ways, "Saw" is a success due to its status as a Halloween staple, but like those same seasonal films, it's a shadow of its former self.
11 James Bond
Another cultural icon, "James Bond" is the quintessential international super spy character. With approximately 26 movies made over the last 60 years, Bond has celebrated massive success, as well as dwindling popularity. Largely recognized by Sean Connery's portrayal in the '60s, Bond was a movie character known as a debonair, sexy secret agent that would dismantle shadow organizations by day and woo ladies by night. After multiple iterations, the role of MI6 agent has fallen into the hands of Daniel Craig, where he and the production team rebooted the character more rugged and violent to be in-line with the original books.
The restart proved to be a breath of fresh air for the characters' big-screen depiction, but now it's more of the same we've come to expect from Bond. Indeed, each of the movies tend to blur together in a mishmash of similar plots involving villains, gadgets and one-night stands. For every handful of entries, it seems like only one or two films manage to shine above the rest. Craig's recent foray has proven that Bond doesn't need a reboot, he needs to retire and enjoy the fruits of his 60+ year legacy in saving the world.
10 King Kong
King Kong is a tricky character due to his irrefutable status as a movie icon ever since the days of early cinema. "King Kong" (1933) was an incredibly film for its day, combining then-amazing effects with a poignant story that cemented it as one of the greatest movies ever made. After that, it seemed the monkey king of monsters was largely doomed to lackluster follow ups. Numerous sequels and spin-offs were churned out, while the character was rebooted in the 1974 "King Kong" and again in 2005 with Peter Jackson's remake containing budget-busting special effects. Audiences have had a quiet decade since then, before another reboot called "Kong: Skull Island" was announced for a 2017 release.
It's not that all of King Kong's outings are terrible or that the character is bad, it's that all of his movies are held to an impossible standard set by the original. Regardless of the amazing effects or wowing performances, all the newer iterations seem to accomplish is making folks want to watch the first movie over again.
When director Bryan Singer and writer David Hayter put together the feature-length movie about the famed misfit mutants in 2000, no one could have guessed it would have become as prevalent in the moviescape as it is today. "X-Men" started off as a humble beginning, then it progressively gained steam with fans, spawning even more films and spinoffs in subsequent years. Unfortunately the movies' rabid success has proven to be its current detraction: it's simply overdone at this point.
The "X-Men" series of films has crossed over 16 years and nine movies (10, if you include "Deadpool"). Of those films, three followed the familiar team from the comics, three have been dedicated to telling Wolverines' story and three more feature the group during their younger years, with an entirely different cast and timeline to boot! This doesn't even figure in the countless potential spinoff films revolving around other mutants, like "Gambit" or "X-Force." To say that the X-Men franchise has become a bit of a mess is an understatement. After the poor reception of "X-Men: Apocalypse" and Hugh Jackman getting ready to hang up his adamantium claws, it might just be time for X-Men to take its final bow on the big screen.
8 The Bourne Identity
Adapted from the Robert Ludlum novel, "The Bourne Identity" was a universal hit when it arrived in theaters in 2002. Matt Damon traded in his usually blase treatment of character for a stirringly intense and physically imposing role as ex-CIA operative Jason Bourne. Bourne was a CIA assassin who lost his memory after an assignment went south. He then schemed and fought his way through opposing agents to finally get answers. The production was simple, with very few CGI effects and tons of ground-level action. The film proved such a success that the book sequels were also adapted into four more movies. The problem is, Bourne's story has gotten pretty stale.
Obviously the CIA are a huge element to Jason's life, but most of the movies keep linking back to the assassin program he inadvertently shut down in the first film. If it's not based on one terrible shadow organization, it's another with a different name and a few new stars. While this could be a symbolic representation on the persistence of evil against good, all it translates to is a series of similar movies that don't really distinguish themselves from each other. Jason Bourne isn't the same anymore, and it's time for him to be decommissioned.
The incredibly iconic character of Superman has had more than his fair share of big screen performances. The Kryptonian hit the film market relatively early in 1951 with "Superman and the Mole Men," before Chrisopher Reeve took on the role. After four films, the character was shelved for nearly 20 years before another movie was made called "Superman Returns" in 2006. Following a lukewarm reception, the character was rebooted with "Man of Steel" (2013). The problem with many Superman movies, unfortunately, is that audiences have never appeared to resonate quite well with them.
Christopher Reeve's early performances as the red-caped hero are largely lauded by fans as the golden standard for Clark Kent. Subsequent entries seem to pale in comparison with subpar effects, mediocre stories or drastic changes in tone for the hero. The rebooted "Man of Steel" is a great example of this change in particular. The film was mocked by fans, as Superman appeared onscreen as an unfeeling soul who completely disregarded human life during an all-out battle with General Zod. Solo Superman movies have simply never quite risen to the expectations set by the first two entries over 20 years ago, and don't seem on track to do so any time soon.
When Tobey Maguire first took to the screen as "your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man," fans rejoiced. Sure, not everyone liked Maguire in the role, but director Sam Raimi did a spot-on job transitioning the superhero from page to screen. We were treated to three movies following Spidey's adventures until 2007, only to have the series rebooted as "The Amazing Spider-Man" in 2012, with Andrew Garfield as the lead. This spawned another two films with varying characters, only to be cut short and rebooted again with the upcoming 2017 movie "Spider-Man: Homecoming."
Spider-Man is a character that seems doomed to reboot every five years, with a new actor and the same origin story that we know word-for-word by now. Audiences are well-versed with Spidey at this point and, if reactions to his appearance in "Captain America: Civil War" are any indicator, they will prefer him in a more supportive role in bigger films. Peter doesn't need a new slew of movies dedicated to his overdone romance with Mary Jane or fighting the Green Goblin, he needs to be strategically injected into the ensemble casts of other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
5 Indiana Jones
"Indiana Jones" was a film franchise that no one ever asked for, but many quickly realized they needed. An incredibly capable and snarky archaeologist, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) uncovered ancient artifacts, fought off Nazis and cracked a mean whip. "Indiana Jones" churned out a trilogy of movies in just 10 years during the 1980s. After that, many thought Indiana was done with the silver screen; content to have ended on a high note. Boy were we all wrong. In 2008, the fourth film was created: "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." In it, Jones grumbled through killing even more Nazis, discovered alien artifacts and met his estranged troublemaker of a son, Mutt Williams (Shia Lebouf).
To many, it seemed like the legacy of Indiana Jones was irreparably tarnished. The last film only served to show the old age of its titular character, rather than any new excitement. We don't even want to revisit the nuclear refrigerator scene. Now, with the fifth film set for 2019, we're left to wonder what Jones could possibly have left in the tank.
4 Fantastic 4
Originally "Fantastic 4" tried for the screens earlier than the 2004 edition we are familiar with. There was an oft-mocked adaptation called "The Fantastic Four," directed by Oley Sassone in 1994, which was immediately denied the light of day. Then came the double entries from FOX: "Fantastic Four" and "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer," both of which were met with somewhat mixed reactions. Finally we have the 2015 reboot, "Fantastic Four," which attempted to retell the story of the super team with a grittier filter and multiple plot holes.
The fact of the matter is that none of Fantastic 4's film outings were ever a true hit with audiences. Out of four movies, only two managed to break even and the poor performance of the reboot left people with a bad taste in their mouths. This is a shame because the FF is a fun group and full of good stories, but already easily overshadowed by similar space-trekking cinematic teams such as the Guardians of the Galaxy. Given the few avenues left for "Fantastic Four" in the film space, it might be worthwhile for Hollywood to throw in the towel for good on this franchise.
3 Pirates of the Caribbean
For a film based off of a theme park ride, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003) surprised audiences with its stellar cast and swashbuckling sense of adventure. It succeeded despite spawning from a paper-thin source material, and Disney could safely say that their risky bet paid off. What it had no business in doing, however, was stretching that material into four more movies. Fans may have been elated with Captain Jack Sparrow since he first stumbled onto screens, but he's lost his momentum. Original actors Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom have left the franchise, so the films bore more of the storytelling weight on his character, who is at his most entertaining when sniping on other protagonists.
Every entry after the initial one has garnered more and more critical disappointment. The stories are fairly unremarkable and each foray feels increasingly more like a blatant cash-in on the popular Sparrow character than any real adventure. Captain Jack is expected to set sail again in 2017's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." We only hope it's the last departure for this particular pirate.
2 The Terminator
The franchise revolving around the time-traveling death robot, James Cameron's "The Terminator" (1984) wowed audiences and made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name. It was followed up by a thrilling sequel dubbed "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" (1991), but then lost steam with three more films. The movies themselves were fairly unremarkable, the most noteworthy thing to emerge from them possibly being the audio from Christian Bale's notorious freak-out on the set of "Terminator: Salvation."
After "T2," it seemed like Hollywood was more inclined to pit robots against each other than deal with the existential questions about time-travel and man-made apocalypses the first films did. While the action was fun, the franchise has devolved from the smart and terrifying movies it once was. Schwarzenegger himself seems sure that another Terminator movie is on the way, despite the poor performance of the last entry, called "Genisys." We can only hope this vintage piece of tech gets permanently recalled before that happens.
1 Resident Evil
This movie series is rare in that, despite fans and critics seeming to universally dislike it, "Resident Evil" has continued to make money with each entry. The films have consistently starred Milla Jovovich as the lead character, Alice, as she traverses the zombie-infested U.S. in search of survivors and answers about the evil Umbrella Corporation. This franchise is so loosely based off its video game counterpart, it could arguably be categorized as fan fiction at this point. The movies are a mixture of largely brainless plots and explosive action, with random characters from the video games thrown in for good measure.
How "Resident Evil" has managed to make it to six films is downright confounding given the consistent negative reactions it's received from critics and audiences alike. Luckily, it is confirmed that the forthcoming entry, dubbed "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," will be the last for the franchise. However, if the aforementioned "Saw" is any indicator, the word "final" in the title may not mean much a couple years down the road.
Disagree with some of our choices? Think we missed a couple? Sound off in the comments!