Franchises are the coin of the realm in Hollywood. Sure, reboots and remakes come in a close second, but it’s all about creating a series of movies that strike a chord with audiences.
The modern movie franchise comes with brand recognition baked into its marketing DNA. In an industry that despises risk, you can see why that matters.
Only some franchise films don’t keep the story going. Some stop them dead in their tracks. They’re so bad, so poorly conceived, that the thought of another installment is beyond the pale.
Sure, they may be rebooted at a later date. Audiences will still need time to forget how lousy the product was before we can revisit the characters.
Here are five movies that worked that unique anti-magic on audiences and studios alike. They arrived with pragmatic intentions but ending up striking a death blow to the franchise in question.
5. Son of the Mask
Who needs Jim Carrey, right? He’s only the comic genius who took this silly concept, a mask that turns its wearer into a cartoonish goblin, and made it a smash.
Jamie Kennedy tried, and failed, to recreate that Carrey magic in this 2005 misfire. It’s one of the most misbegotten sequels in modern history. Any thoughts that this property could be a franchise ended in 2005.
4. Caddyshack II
No Rodney. Big problem.
Of course, the late, great Rodney Dangerfield’s absence isn’t what killed this awful sequel. Comedy genius Harold Ramis wasn’t behind the camera as he was for the 1980 classic. The show still went on, with Jackie Mason doing a poor Rodney shtick and Dan Aykroyd filling in for Bill Murray.
The eight-year gap between the films, and the gargantuan difference in quality, meant the “‘shack was back” in name only.
3. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Richard Pryor and his “Superman III” co-stars should have killed this franchise. That film lacked the sizzle and superhero wonder of the first two films.
Instead, the folks who clung to the Superman movie rights decided to cut costs and crank out a fourth installment.
The result: Superman embraces his inner Keith Olbermann and tries to rid the world of nuclear weapons by throwing them all into space. Psst, Man of Steel. You know humans can make more, right?
The silliness doesn’t end there. The great Gene Hackman grabs another paycheck as Lex Luthor, scrambling to bring life to material light years beneath the original “Superman.” And the less said about Nuclear Man, possibly the lamest supervillain ever seen on screen, the better.
2. Batman & Robin
Pow! Bam! Thud. The Bat franchise crashed to earth with this silly, sophomoric sequel. The fourth “Bat” film jettisoned nearly everything that clicked with Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.”
It lacked the dark edges of Michael Keaton’s Bat outings but didn’t go the full Adam West, either. That left a ridiculous film that’s remembered best for the Bat nipples on the Dark Knight’s costume.
Star George Clooney has been apologizing for his part in this debacle for years. And rightly so.
1. Bad Santa 2
It’s technically too soon to tell if this franchise is DOA. “Bad Santa 2,” released last year, earned savage reviews and tepid box office figures. That’s usually the one-two punch to kill any franchise.
Star Billy Bob Thornton created a cult classic with the original “Bad Santa.” The 2003 film earned $60 million, but its legend grew over the years like the Grinch’s blackened heart.
Some inspired stories, though, simply don’t merit sequels. Audiences learned that lesson again the hard way with “Bad Santa 2.”