MM Top 5: Almost-were fantasy franchises


By Rob Stoakes

Ha! I bet you were all thinking “Oh no, another top five from Rob, this is just going to be about video games again.” Well, bite me! Shows what you know!

So despite not being released in most of the countries in the world yet, Warcraft has made a fair amount of cheese just on its pre-sales. That is not something that happens a lot, but it shows that international success nowadays trumps US success. There is a chance that it will fail, however, and it most certainly wouldn’t be the first time that fantasy franchises have been attempted, and failed miserably…

#5) His Dark Materials


Photo by New Line Cinema

Or, to give it its proper name, Fredricht Potter and the Philospher’s Making Everyone Depressed.

His Dark Materials was a trilogy of books by Phillip Pullman, a man who makes Richard Dawkins look like a bishop, about a young girl, her polar bear and some other kid who potter about with not much happening until God is hit by a nuclear missile and dies. The books are the ancestors of The Hunger Games and the YA Literature Boom; children’s books that are very obviously not for children with all of the blood and violence and depression.

So of COURSE this would make for a great Narnia ripoff!

Were We Saved or Robbed?

Northern Lights is the most comprehensible of His Dark Materials, but that certainly didn’t help the film make sense.

The world is a weird one, and while a good filmmaker can ease an audience into a fantastical world slowly, The Golden Compass just dumps the audience in like a gunge tank on Get Your Own Back. Fans were put off by the bizarre decision to put the ending of the book halfway through and then have the polar bear fight at the end, because sure, why not gut your main character of all weight and impact in the last third?

In short, we were saved less from a bad story and more from monkeys who attempted to make a film.

#4) Hercules


Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

There are three Cinderella sequels, one of which involves time travel, and not one for Disney’s Hercules. When Disney couldn’t manage another film, how badly did everyone else’s attempts go?

Ever since the original Steve Reeves Hercules, said to have kick-started the entire swords and sandals genre that would later spawn cinema classics like Jason and the Argonauts and Sindbad the Sailor, people have been trying and failing to make the Hercules lightning strike twice. Interestingly, every attempt is as much a reflection of the times as it is a botched movie; Disney’s animated film has a blatant disregard for the source material and an emphasis on the biggest weird trend, which at the time was Vegas, both of 2014’s efforts were just lots of burly white dudes shouting into a brown haze, and then you’ve got the semi-pornographic and ridiculously stupid copycats from the 60’s and 70’s.

Were We Saved or Robbed?

I want to show you something… this is 1983’s The Adventures of Hercules. It has Hercules punching a bear so hard that lazers come out, and then he throws it into space.

We could’ve had a whole franchise of this. Every other Hercules movie blew harder than tornadoes made of Dizzy Gillespies, but this? We live in a world where Carry On had fifty films, and there’s only one lazer-bear-space-caber-toss movie?

We as a species were robbed.

#3) Mortal Kombat


Photo by New Line Cinema.

Mortal Kombat the movie is famously not good. There’s a fantastic dance track and that one awesomely quotable way that the villain says “Your soul is mine,” and then the whole thing peters out into soft cheese PG violence. This coming from Mortal Kombat, a game so violent that they replaced C for K in the title, because cuddles starts with C while killing starts with K. And then there’s the sequel to worry about, the world-endingly bad Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, where pro-wrestlers fight over whose special effects are the worst.

Were We Saved or Robbed?

You can say we were saved from more of this dreck, but really, when the world has two Mortal Kombat movies, no one wins. Fantasy’s answer to the martial arts genre sounds great, but not on the budget of a picnic.

#2) Beastmaster


Photo by Beastmaster NV.

Beastmaster is one of the more prominent “almost was” franchises on this list. For a long time, at the formation of the TV channel, HBO was mockingly known as “Hey, Beastmaster’s On!” because they couldn’t stop showing this film.

Specifically, they couldn’t stop because Beastmaster 1 rocks.

Solid action, a very gory and distinctive look of magic while still have lots of animals to entertain the kids. It was set to be the next Conan the Barbarian, ripping the world of cinema apart and dragging fantasy back to the top of the pile as the king of the silver scre…

Were We Saved or Robbed?

Lol Beastmaster 2.

In one fell swoop, the public was robbed of one of the best potential fantasy franchises in years by a cheap, nasty, cash-in sequel that was so low budget that they made it into a Hercules in New York ripoff, a sub-genre that has only ever worked with Enchanted (which was a parody of it).

#1) Dungeons and Dragons


Photo by New Line Cinema.

How the hell did this movie happen?!

There are pretty much three steps to writing a damn good Dungeons and Dragons movie.

1) Play Dungeons and Dragons.

2) You now have your script.

3) Whatever you do, don’t bring grapple rules into this.

And yet, this damn film. It’s kind of a marvel in terms of how terrible it is. Jeremy Irons stole everyone else’s enthusiasm which makes him look and sound like a meth-addled lion tamer while everyone else falls into the wood of the flimsy sets. The story is awful, the effects are awful, and Marlon Wayans exists and is awful.

Were We Saved or Robbed?

Neither. We were punished.

God or Vishnu or the flying spaghetti monster or the disembodied head of Christopher Hitchens or whatever really rules the universe saw pitiful humanity just pleading for good movies and decided to remind us that this world is a cruel one. A pointlessly cruel one, where studio executives care naught for the wants and needs for the audience but using bankable names and slamming them into the dirt because what makes people like them is too “risky” and “unsafe” to ever catch on, in which case why did it ever get popular in the first place you stupid stupid stupid GYYYYAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!

Any Hollywood executives interested in reading my scripts, please respond to my phone calls.

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