Few industries enjoy taking really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood, and when we get to this time of the year, there’s rarely much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss. With that in mind, last week we looked back at 12 of the year’s top “Fresh Development” stories, presented to you in monthly chronology. The year-in-review continues this week with the “Rotten Ideas” of the year (setting aside, of course, most of the COVID-19-related bad news, which is all bad).
In 2018, Paramount released their Transformers prequel Bumblebee to a surprising critical reaction and a Certified Fresh rating of 91%. Part of the “Rotten Idea” here relates directly to that: rather than continuing from that point (after five Transformers movies that ranged from 15% to 58%, all Rotten), Paramount is opting for new reboot projects. The reason for dropping the “solo Transformers spin-off” concept of Bumblebee is probably related to the $468 million Bumblebee made versus the $1+ billion the two previous Transformers movies earned, but there’s also no guarantee that new reboots will do any better, either. Anyway, we learned in January that Paramount is indeed developing two separate Transformers reboots from separate screenwriters. The two screenwriters ostensibly still working on rebooting Transformers are James Vanderbilt (Indepdence Day: Resurgence, White House Down) and Joby Harold (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, itself an attempt to start a new franchise that didn’t take off). Paramount didn’t give any premise details for either project, but around that time, there was a rumor that one of them might be Beast Wars, the Transformers line that transforms into animals instead of modes of transportation. Here are some other possible premises.
Wasting very little time, from 2015 to 2018, Universal-owned Focus Features released their three adaptations of the Fifty Shades trilogy (Fifty Shades of Grey, Rotten at 25%; Fifty Shades Darker, Rottten at 11%; and Fifty Shades Freed, Rotten at 12%). In February, just before the idea of people getting super intimate without masks seemed in possibly extremely bad taste, a “heated bidding war,” Universal Pictures also won the rights to author E.L. James’ 2019 novel called The Mister. The book tells the story of “a wealthy British aristocrat who falls in love with his Albanian housekeeper, unaware that she is on the run from human traffickers.” E.L. James’ next novel has not yet been announced, and there has been no news about The Mister since February.
Vin Diesel has arguably become synonymous with his most successful franchise, the Fast & Furious movies. Obviously, he stars in other movies (like this year’s comic book adaptation Bloodshot, Rotten at 35%, or as the voice of Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies), but when most people think of Vin Diesel, they probably think Fast & Furious first. Perhaps looking for another possible franchise (especially with Fast & Furious 11 in 2023 or so expected to be the last in that run), Diesel is now talking about his plans for a sequel to the 2015 fantasy action adventure The Last Witch Hunter (Rotten at 17%). It’s understandable if you can’t remember that The Last Witch Hunter was even a movie (people will probably feel the same way in 2025 about Bloodshot), as it only earned $27 million domestically. Vin Diesel confirmed in March that Lionsgate has hired a writer for the sequel (though he doesn’t drop their name), and that he’s sometimes approached by fans who want to see him and Michael Caine return for a sequel. (Michael Caine, incidentally, turns 88 in March, so it might be overly “optimistic” to expect him to return for another medieval action adventure.)
There is a strong argument to be made that 2001’s The Others (Certified Fresh at 83%) is a close-to-perfect claustrophobic ghost story that is only aging better (partly because its visual style has been adapted by other scary movies in the last 15 years). The Others worked despite its hinging upon a “twist” ending during a time (late 1990s, early 2000s) when many, many horror or suspense films had such “twists.” One would think, therefore, that a story like The Others would be impossible to “remake,” since the twist is already out there for anyone who saw the original. Regardless, that’s exactly what is happening, as a modern retelling of The Others has been reported to be in development at least twice this past year. The remake’s producer, Renee Tab, said of the project, “It is almost eerie and uncanny how timely the themes are today: self-isolation, paranoia and fear, and of course the intense desire to protect our children and ourselves from harm.” From a 2020 perspective, one has to wonder if the remake will involve a mother keeping her children in the house because of fears of them catching a deadly virus. Universal’s production partner on the remake will be Sentient Entertainment, which also gave us the TV miniseries Feud: Bette and Joan.
Due to COVID-19 shutting down many movie theaters, many movies that had been scheduled for 2020 have instead been shuttled back roughly a full year to a similar date in 2021. The thing is, most moviegoers, even those who are specifically G.I. Joe fans, probably don’t even know right now that Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas) filmed a G.I. Joe spin-off in 2019 about the mute ninja assassin Snake Eyes, which was one of those movies that got bumped back a full year from 10/23/2020 to 10/22/2021 (i.e. two years after it was filmed). Despite the “Rotten” RT scores for both G.I. Joe the Rise of Cobra (Rotten at 34%) and G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Rotten at 28%), and without knowing what the reaction to Snake Eyes might be, Paramount Pictures is still moving forward with development of a Snake Eyes sequel. The sequel was described in May as “a deeper expansion and exploration of the G.I. Joe mythology,” and screenwriter Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse, who previously delivered the historical biopics Race (Fresh at 62%) and Seberg (Rotten at 34%) are the co-writers now working on the sequel.
In some ways, Gerard Butler is an “old school” action movie star, but the reasons he resembles 1980s and 1990s stars is that like, say, Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme, his movies frequently have Rotten Tomatometer scores. Those green splotches include 2018’s Den of Thieves (Rotten at 42%) and all three Has Fallen franchise entries: Olympus Has Fallen (Rotten at 49%), London Has Fallen (Rotten at 28%), and last year’s Angel Has Fallen (Rotten at 39%). In June, Butler confirmed that that two of his upcoming projects will be sequels. One of them will be Den of Thieves 2: Pantera, which Butler described as a “fun ride, spreading across North America into Europe and the diamond district of Marseilles.” Then, more news about the fourth Has Fallen movie came out last month, including confirmation that the title will be Night Has Fallen.
The nostalgic 1987 musical Dirty Dancing left such an indelible stamp on pop culture that it might be easy to forget that its success was not at all expected, especially not to the degree that it was, since its worldwide box office of $213 million was more than 35 times larger than its $6 million production budget. That’s probably why Dirty Dancing has continued to resurface every few years as something to be sequelized or remade, as producers might see the film as something that can be made relatively cheaply for a potential cash windfall. Of course, that’s not what happened at all in 2004 when the prequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (Rotten at 23%) was released and only earned $14 million in the USA. Regardless, in July, rumors started to surface that Jennifer “Baby” Grey was executive producing and would star in a Dirty Dancing sequel set in the 1990s. In August, we heard more about the project, this time in a more official announcement, which confirmed pretty much everything we heard the first time around in July, except we also found out that it will be directed by Jonathan Levine, whose Tomatometer ranges from films like Snatched (Rotten at 36%) and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (Rotten at 45%) all the way up to Certified Fresh films like 50/50 (93%), Warm Bodies (81%), and Long Shot (81%).
This column frequently opines about the seemingly unceasing announcements of remakes of films from the 1980s and 1990s, but the biggest comedy hit of 1996 was itself a remake. The Eddie Murphy version might be more famous now, but Murphy actually took over the role as The Nutty Professor (Fresh at 64%) from Jerry Lewis, who starred in the 1963 original (Fresh at 85%). Both movies were about an awkward scientist who transforms himself into an alter ego called “Buddy Love,” but Eddie Murphy’s version also made the scientist morbidly obese (Jerry Lewis’ version was just goofy). We learned in August that The Nutty Professor is now getting a new reboot, and it’s coming from the same production company behind the upcoming Scream (1/14/2022) (which is movie #5, despite the title). It’s not yet known if this third iteration of The Nutty Professor will have any “horror” elements (one could see how it could easily drift into “body horror“), or if it will just be a straight up comedy romp.
Hollywood loves making sequels to 1980s movies almost as it loves remaking 1980s movies. They do, however, have an inherent problem, as there were only so many movies actually made in the 1980s that are available for sequels or remakes. One has to guess that’s the best possible explanation for the news in September that someone is now actively developing a sequel to the 1989 Shelley Long kids comedy Troop Beverly Hills (Rotten at 25%). Basically, Shelley Long played a rich lady who decides to become the troop leader of a fictionalized Girl-Scouts-But-We-Can’t-Call-Them-Girl-Scouts to show that she is a capable adult. Israeli director Oran Zegman will direct the Troop Beverly Hills sequel from a screenplay by television writer Aeysha Carr (Born Again Virgin, Everybody Hates Chris) and Tamara Chestna, who adapted last year’s After (Rotten at 19%) (which was also part of a “Rotten Idea” in the same week as Troop Beverly Hills 2).
It was about three and a half years ago that Lionsgate released their ambitious Power Rangers reboot (Rotten at 49%), which earned just $142 million worldwide from a budget of over $105 million. One might argue that the low box office was a sign that the moviegoing audience isn’t interested in a new Power Rangers theatrical film franchise, but Paramount Pictures (taking over from Lionsgate) is moving forward with plans for a new Power Rangers cinematic universe with stories set both in feature films and new TV shows. Paramount, eOne, and Hasbro have enlisted Jonathan Entwistle (The End of the F***ing World, I Am Not Okay With This) to shepherd all of the potential Power Rangers projects in both film and TV. None of the actors and actresses in the 2017 reboot (including Elizabeth Banks) are expected to be involved with Paramount’s projects.
Some movies, especially if they’re based on popular franchises or properties, take a very long time to actually get developed, produced, and released in theaters. Consider, for example, the popular children’s book series (and animated TV series) Clifford the Big Red Dog. It was eight years ago in 2012 that we first heard about a Clifford the Big Red Dog movie, which at one point was scheduled for release on April 8, 2016 (yes, over four years ago). More recently, Clifford the Big Red Dog was supposed to have come out earlier this year on November 13th (until the deadly virus delayed it all the way back to November 5, 2021). Clifford the Big Red Dog may now still be ten months away, but Paramount Pictures decided last month to whet people’s appetites regardless, but what we actually got might have caught some people by surprise. Although Clifford the Big Red Dog in book and animated TV form has a very “cartoony” look, the movie appears to be applying a more “life like CGI” approach, which when you also factor in his size and (unnatural) coloring makes actually seeing Clifford the Big Red Dog something you have to experience for yourself.
The X-Men are one of Marvel Comics’ most popular comic book franchises, but even so, by the time the tenth movie in the Fox franchise (or 12th if you count the Deadpool movies), Dark Phoenix, came out, some people thought there had been too many. Now, compare the massive popularity of the X-Men comics to the relatively obscure comic book title Kingsman: The Secret Service, and consider this question. If people got tired of X-Men by the tenth movie, what are people going to think of the King’s Man movies by the time it gets to movie #10? That might seem like a far off question with just two movies released to date, and the third, a prequel called The King’s Man, still a few months off, but that’s until you hear the news that broke earlier in December. Talking about his company’s ambitious expansion plans, Marv Group CEO Zygi Kamasa revealed that producer and director Matthew Vaughn has plans for “something like seven more Kingsman films,” as well as a Kingsman TV series, and two or three other franchises. It’s unclear what those seven additional Kingsman movies might be, but it could be that the prequel The King’s Man, starring Gemma Arterton and Ralph Fiennes, could serve as a launching point for additional prequels, in addition to further Kingsman movies starring Taron Egerton. Kingsman could also inspire spin-off movies, and Mark Millar’s comics are part of a “Millarworld” shared universe which also includes Kick-Ass (Certified Fresh at 76%),which Vaughn also directed. Of course, there’s still the possibility that The King’s Man may be more popular with critics than Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Rotten at 51%), but we’re still left wondering how many franchises we’d actually be okay with seeing expanded to over 10 movies. Even Star Wars gets accused of having too many movies (11), and that’s S-T-A-R-W-A-R-S.