In the past 40 or so years, movies have generally been pretty successful. While a lot of them tend to just break even, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But there a number of movies each year that just fail in nearly every department or fail to get off the ground. Sometimes you can tell that a movie is just not going to work or not going to find an audience. These are the kinds of movies that I want to talk about. Not all of them are awful movies. Some of them are quite enjoyable, but a good chunk of them have failed for pretty specific reasons: Studio interference, distribution problems, bad marketing, or just lousy concepts to begin with. There is always a reason why a movie will crash before it leaves the runway. Now, a good chunk of the movies that I’m going to list here are fairly recent, going back at least 15 years. The reason I chose this particular time period is because a good number of movies over the past few years have been fairly massive failures. I’m going to start with the most recent ones. So….let’s dive in, shall we?
This was a result of some REALLY stupid decision-making. When The Mummy was announced, it was announced as the beginning of a new cinematic universe known as the “Dark Universe.” That was the moment the movie failed. The concept wasn’t awful, but the execution was. You don’t announce a new cinematic universe until you are absolutely CERTAIN that the first movie is going to be a success. I’ve said that time and time again. Marvel knew what they were doing with Iron Man. I’m sure they had an idea for a cinematic universe, but they kept that part under wraps until they knew that Iron Man was going to succeed. The folks behind The Mummy didn’t take that to heart. Besides, if you’re going to do a new cinematic universe with the Classic Monsters from Universal, you don’t start with The Mummy. In my opinion, The Mummy was always the weakest of the classic monsters. So, yeah, Universal and director Alex Kurtzman managed to kill the Dark Universe before it even had a chance to get off the ground.
Gods of Egypt
This one had the potential to be an Egyptian Clash of the Titans. It’s not a bad idea, but again, the execution was sloppy. I knew from the moment the first trailer hit, that this movie was going to fail miserably. The blatantly obvious green-screen effects and terrible CGI animation was compounded by some highly questionable casting choices. Whitewashing issues aside, the movie was doomed because of some seriously questionable directing, acting and possible studio interference. Alex Proyas is generally a pretty good director, but Gods of Egypt needed a few more months on the writing board before heading into production.
This was a movie that was doomed from the beginning because of shit marketing. The second trailer of Terminator: Genisys spoiled a twist that could have thrown audiences for a loop. Seriously. It would have worked had those idiots at the marketing firm not spoiled the whole thing. They did the same thing with the previous film, spoiling a major plot point. Genisys was going to be a reboot of the franchise, but because of the lousy marketing, it won’t happen. The rights are returning to James Cameron next year, and he has plans for the next film. The next film is supposed to be a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Genisys wasn’t a bad movie. It had some really audacious ideas in place for the franchise. They screwed up, royally.
This is a movie that never had a chance. Not one. Between the years of not being able to get a third Ghostbusters film off the ground, to Bill Murray not wanting a part of it and finally to Harold Ramis passing away a few years ago, this movie was NEVER going to measure up. The original film is one of the most beloved comedy/horror movies ever made and audiences had certain expectations for a movie like this. Even if you don’t factor in the horrible marketing and PR screw-ups, the 2016 Ghostbusters had a huge legacy to live up to, and with everything stacked against it, it was never going to work. I didn’t hate the film, but it was marred by questionable decisions. Even if the film was firing on all cylinders and was one of the best comedies of the year, it still would have failed in the eyes of a lot of fans.
Independence Day: Resurgence
This was a movie that was a victim of being made and released a decade too late. Independence Day: Resurgence was released almost 20 years to the day that the original film came out. The original Independence Day was an awesome alien invasion flick that was peppered with fantastic performances, great visual effects and a degree of levity that made the whole experience so much fun to watch. This follow-up fails to be anywhere near as compelling. The effects are mostly CG, and it’s missing one of the things that made the original film so awesome: Will Smith. Instead, the film has to ride on the shoulders of Jeff Goldblum. He’s not a bad actor, but he can’t really carry a movie like this. Had this movie come out back in 2006, it would have been better received, I think. As it stands, the film ends on a cliffhanger waiting for a sequel that may not happen.
This is one of those bizarre cases of a movie being completely oversold to the audience. Suicide Squad had some of the best marketing in the world, but the movie still ended up sucking. Why? The marketing was trying to hide the problems that were happening behind the scenes. Between the re-shoots that were designed to bring more levity to the film and studio interference, Suicide Squad ended up collapsing in on itself. The writing was substandard and with the exception of Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jai Courtney, the acting was really poor. The Joker’s limited presence in the film was also a major detriment, especially after he was featured so prominently in the trailers. Suicide Squad is a perfect example of over-hyping a movie. Of the two DC films that were released in 2016, this was the worst of the two.
Going back to the early 80s, Dune was a movie that failed to take off, for a lot of reasons. It wasn’t because it was a bad movie, far from it. It’s an incredible film in so many ways. It failed because Universal Pictures wanted to condense Frank Herbert’s story into a two and a half hour film. For a story that has so much in terms of content, there was no absolutely no way in hell that a two and a half hour film could possibly address it all. The fans of the book were pissed at how much the film cut out and audiences were generally confused about what was going on. This is essentially studio interference at its worst. It’s too bad, because visually, it’s an absolutely astonishing film with an equally outstanding soundtrack. David Lynch was not happy about what happened with the film and has distanced himself from it. The film has developed a cult following since its initial release, but the film still just couldn’t connect with audiences.
While there are other films that never took off, these are the ones that stuck out the most for me. Sometimes a good movie fails to find an audience in theaters, but it may find it on home video. Other times, a bad movie deserves to not take off and ends up being forgotten. How a film survives depends a lot on the circumstances of its release. Sometimes movies succeed and others don’t. It’s the nature of the business, I guess.