So, earlier this week I discussed the dark side of franchises, and how all that corporate ownership isn’t always a good thing. In that post, I mentioned Iron Man 2, a film that was burdened by its shared universe connections because of its place in the franchise as a launch point for The Avengers. It had to include flashback scenes with Howard Stark, Black Widow had to show up and bring all of S.H.I.E.L.D. along with her, and Nick Fury evaluating Tony’s potential. And then the post-credits sequence for Thor… Suffice it to say, it didn’t leave as much room for the main plot as most people would have desired, and Whiplash ends up coming off as a silly second-tier threat, at best. But while Iron Man 2 still has plenty of enjoyable scenes to it, not every film is so lucky. Here are 4 films ruined by studios in their quest for franchise creation.
Alien, as a franchise, has had a rough time from day one as far as production goes. But after the box office successes of the first two films, Fox was eager to get another one going. And try they did, fruitlessly, for 4 years, going through a number of scripts and half a dozen screenwriters, including one draft by William Gibson. Fox had very specific demands of what they wanted out of the film, calling in meeting after meeting. And yet, they were never satisfied with the results, until finally the CEO at the time said that the movie had to have Ripley in it (as most drafts didn’t include her) and agreed to a pretty nice deal to get Sigourney Weaver back. They then proceeded to make demands about keeping Ripley alive at the end until finally Weaver said she wouldn’t do the film unless Ripley died, trying to end this for good (and we all know how well that went). The executives also got into disputes with the would-be director Vincent Ward, until finally he left the project and Fox was left scrambling for a replacement. They ended up going with David Fincher, who hadn’t actually directed a film yet, and this movie serving as his breakthrough to Hollywood is probably the only good thing that came out of it. Fincher has actually disowned the film, explaining that the studio interference didn’t stop once production began.
3. Spiderman 3
Spiderman 2 is generally seen as a classic of the superhero film genre, one of the main reasons that they were once again able to be taken seriously after the campy direction many 90’s superhero films took them in. Spiderman 3… well, not so much. Sandman didn’t come across as a real character, and Topher Grace as Eddie Brock is probably one of the weirdest casting decisions in comic book film history. And speaking of, Raimi didn’t actually want to include Venom in this movie; it was only at the behest of executives that he did, and while he eventually came around, it might explain why the film feels so crowded with plot threads. There was also talk of splitting it into two films, but that was decided against, leaving us with a mess that introduced way too many new characters for the last film in a trilogy.
2. Robocop (2014)
Hollywood has found, over time, that there’s a sweet spot as far as ratings go. R-rated films tend to do poorly at the box office, since it immediately cuts out the teen audience and can scare others away by giving them the wrong impression of the film. The original Robocop was one of the most successful R-rated films ever, using over the top gore for satirical effect, utterly reveling in it. A lot of people seemed to miss the point, and the executives behind the reboot were among them. While the director and cast of the film pushed for an R rating, their demands were ultimately ignored, with the executives hoping that Robocop could become just like the other comic book franchises. This led to the watered down version that was released earlier this year. The satirical element that made the original great is almost entirely gone; the megacorp who creates Robocop isn’t as remorselessly evil, his family was given a huge part in the story, whereas they’re pretty much absent from the original.
It didn’t help that the film’s marketing literally had characters laughing at the classic Robocop look and then painting him generically black, as if that’s somehow better. The director apparently found working with the studio very frustrating, saying they turned down the vast majority of his ideas and monitored the production closely to ensure that the film would meet their PG-13 standards. And so we ended up with this toothless film, lacking all the vicious satire that’s so badly needed these days.
Marvel only recently got the rights to Daredevil back, when Fox gave in and sacrificed him in order to hang on to Fantastic Four a little longer. Why were they willing to do that, when they’ve otherwise been so hostile towards Marvel’s attempts? It’s because of what a disaster the Daredevil film they put out turned out to be. Once again, it suffered from an intended R rating getting watered down to PG-13, but that wasn’t the worst of the interference. Fox really wanted to cash in on Jennifer Garner’s popularity at the time, and urged for Elektra to have a bigger role in the film, forcing the romance angle with the intent of creating a spinoff. Since she was never really meant to have that role, she’s just kinda… there, stealing the spotlight. When the Elektra film came out and almost immediately tanked, that ruined the reputation of both films. Daredevil as a movie isn’t totally awful, as the much improved Director’s Cut shows, but the studio’s demands dragged it down and ruined the entire franchise in their eyes. Oops.
At least Marvel looks to be giving Daredevil the respect he deserves in the new Netflix series, which should be out some time in the first half of 2015.