There’s no denying that sci-fi movie sequels and remakes have the potential to be absolutely terrible. For every Superman II, there’s a Man of Steel (shudder). Alien and Predator were golden, both Aliens vs. Predator movies were abysmal. Don’t even get me started on Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. Oh God.
Believe it or not, we haven’t even seen the worst of them. Sometimes an idea for a sequel/remake/reboot is so awful–so terribly ill-advised–that they never even make it out of the initial idea phase. Here are ten of them that we will (thankfully) never have to endure.
Rebooted Bill & Ted
A third Bill & Ted movie is currently underway with Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprising their roles as the boneheaded time travelling/dimension hopping duo, and we should be eternally grateful for this, because the whole enterprise almost received the reboot treatment. And it sounded terrible.
Rumors began to circulate in 2008 that the Bill & Ted saga would be continuing with a brand new cast of characters, ripe with modern-day pop culture references and different band name (Atomic Gorillas–eesh). The rebooted Bill & Ted would have also put our titular heroes in the familiar position of travelling through time via telephone (I’m assuming there would have been a cellular spin on this), meeting up with historical figures like Gandhi and Calamity Jane. In other words, exactly like the original, but probably worse.
I am a strong proponent of rebooted franchise offerings, but only if they bring something new to the table. From how it sounded, the cancelled Bill & Ted reboot would have simply recycled old ideas for the sake of recycling old ideas. It would have been blatant cash-grabbing at its very worst. And nixing the good name of Wyld Stallyns? That’s just blasphemous.
Jurassic Park with Human/Dinosaur Hybrids
It’s been a long and bumpy road to the upcoming Jurassic World, thanks in no small part to the highly underwhelming Jurassic Park 3. The simple fact of the matter is that the good folks over at Amblin didn’t really have any more they could do with the idea of genetically produced dinosaurs, and the sequels were showing it. Diminishing box-office returns didn’t help matters either.
Jurassic World is still a few months away, but if the trailers are of any indication, it seems as if they found an approach that works. Even if you don’t like the idea of a fourth Jurassic Park movie, take comfort in knowing that it could have been worse. So much worse.
Before Colin Trevorrow was hand picked by Spielberg to take the rein and deliver what seems like a more traditional approach to all of this, William Monahan and John Sayles reportedly had crazier, more ambitious ideas in store–human/dinosaur hybrids. Yup, you read that correctly. Genetically designed “theme park monsters” with human DNA embedded into them. This early concept art posted to Reddit in 2012 will give you an idea of what could have been had they gone down this path.
Realistic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was critically reviled, though I admittedly enjoyed it quite a bit for what it was–silly children’s entertainment. Regardless of how you may have felt about it, there’s no denying the fact that Joe Lieberman’s take on the heroes-in-a-half-hell wore its Saturday-morning roots quite proudly. And while the new Turtles don’t look exactly like they’re cuddly cartoon counterparts, things could have been much weirder.
Early concept art for a fourth live-action Ninja Turtles movie has been tossed around the Internet for years, and none of it is quite as strange as the “hyper-realistic” approach suggested by artist Anthony Francisco from 2011. Needless to say, they’re pretty scary looking, and it’s probably best that Platinum Dunes didn’t use them.
Naturally, the overall design of the Turtles have zero bearing on the plot of the finished movie (or lack thereof, depending on who you ask), but it speaks volumes on the philosophy of the franchise. Even in their earliest, darker comic book days, the Turtles were always grounded firmly in the realms of silliness. Making them look more like, well, real turtles is kind of a pointless exercise, and would have done nothing but distract from the nonsense that they already are.
Oh, and the whole “Turtles as Aliens” fiasco? Not going to lie, that would have been killer–not because they should have been aliens, but because the mutagen that made them who they are is of extra-dimensional origin. According to early Turtle lore, at least. But that’s a different story altogether.
Gremlins and Gremlins 2 are unapologetically relics of a time long gone. The gremlins themselves were the product of practical effects–puppets, to be more specific. They looked great, too. There’s something incredibly magical about having actors interact with physical objects over CGI creations, which is probably what would have happened if Gremlins 3D hadn’t been put on hold.
Here’s the deal–the big draw of both the Gremlins movies lies with the design of the titular creatures. Because, lets face it, the stories wouldn’t exactly be worth it without the Gizmo-cuteness factor. Not to mention the fact that they’re incredibly dated–neither one of the films hold up very well today. If this franchise were to be rebooted, they would have to give it the old 21st century spit-polish shine. And I’m not sure that’s a movie I’d want to see.
Yeah, such speculation on my part goes against my “reboots are your friend” philosophy, but the thought of a CGI Gremlins just rubs me the wrong way. Imagine if Disney announced a motion-capture Muppets movie. It just wouldn’t work–the charm wouldn’t be there. Case and point: George Lucas tinkering with the practical effects in the original Star Wars films. Didn’t like that very much now, did you? Let puppets be puppets, and everything will be fine.
An Evil E.T. 2
E.T. is one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. As a story, it stands alone incredibly well. It’s self-sufficient–it needs no further elaboration. But it also made a ton of money, so sequel ideas were inevitable. As your eyes travel to the next paragraph and read what could have been, be thankful that this never happened.
Ready for this? Here’s what Matt Patches over at Hollywood.com wrote about the E.T: Nocturnal Fears–the sequel that never was:
Written by Spielberg and E.T. writer Melissa Mathison, the sequel picked up soon after the end of the first film, Elliot out of school for the summer and dealing with feelings of loneliness in the absence of E.T. His family is closer and reinvigorated after their otherworldly encounter, with Elliot’s Mom divorcing Elliot’s Dad and finding new romance with Dr. Keys (Peter Coyote’s character from the first film). Nocturnal Fears has all the right vibes of a feel-good Speilberg movie… that is, until the evil aliens show up.
A depressed Elliot. Divorced parents. Evil aliens. Yeah. You know the idiotic proclamation of certain things ruining your childhood? Well, had E.T. 2 been made, your childhood could have actually been ruined. Let that sink in.
Super Mario Brothers 2
Let me get this out of the way first–as far as I know, there were never any real plans for a sequel to 1993’s Super Mario Bros. The film was a critical bomb and a box office dud. It may not have been quite as terrible as you remember it, but it certainly wasn’t good, and it totally doesn’t deserve a sequel.
But that didn’t stop the filmmakers behind this odd film from dreaming about it–Super Mario Bros. ends with a cliffhanger, suggesting that they probably had something in mind. Or maybe not. I don’t know. Could the ending have been a spin on the old adage of “the-princess-is-in-another-castle?”
Nope, I’m giving this movie too much credit. They wanted a sequel. It didn’t happen. We’re all better because of it.
I Am Legend 2 With Will Smith
I Am Legend ends in such a way that a sequel is pretty much impossible. Or [SPOILER ALERT], impossible with Will Smith continuing on as the lead character. Unless, of course, Warner Bros. used the (arguably superior) alternate ending that popped up with the DVD release. Which they almost did.
As of this writing, the project has officially been shelved, and it’s probably for the best. I say this not because I wouldn’t enjoy this alternate-ending approach (the idea is novel), but rather because it would just confuse most movie-goers. And if screenwriter Akiva Goldsman didn’t take the alternate-ending approach, then explaining how Will Smith’s character survived the original ending of I Am Legend would just be idiotic.
This right here is a classic case of being damned either way. Had Warner Bros. been smarter about the final cut of I Am Legend, a sequel would have been welcome. But they didn’t, so it’s moot point now.
A Darker Short Circuit
The first Short Circuit movie is a wonderfully charming film that is wholly representative of 1980s-era family-friendly sci-fi. It’s got everything you could ever want in a movie from 1986: practical effects, a goofy and lovable robot, Steve Guttenberg–like I said, everything.
But that wasn’t enough for Tim Hill, the guy hired to direct and co-write a rebooted take on Johnny Number 5. Not content with comic fare and the lightheartedness of Short Circuit (and it’s significantly lesser sequel), he wanted something with edge, something darker, more timely. Something war oriented, with real social commentary. Strange words from a man best known for his work on Spongebob Squarepants.
Though it hasn’t been officially shelved yet, there haven’t been any updates regarding a new Short Circuit for several years, so it’s safe to assume that this project has been killed. That works for me–ridiculous edginess put aside, here’s a fine example of a movie franchise that should have stayed singular. And hey, if that bums you out, then there’s always Chappie.
Michael Jackson as Doctor Who
The Doctor as we know him today is a freshly reinvigorated beast, but the series was practically left for dead in the late 1980s, and we all know what happened to dead TV shows back then…hello, movie deal!
The Russell T. Davies/Steven Moffat version of Doctor Who is crackerjack sci-fi adventure at its very best, but it could have been a non-starter had Paramount Pictures followed through with their plan of releasing an Americanized film version of the series in 1988. To make matters even weirder, they were hoping to cast Bill Cosby or Michael Jackson in the leading role.
I don’t really need to tell you why this would have been a bad idea. Ah, hell with it. I’m going to anyway.
The Doctor cannot be American. He just can’t. No, no, no.
Yeah, this obviously never happened. And that’s good.
Bioshock in Film Form
A Bioshock film was a very real possibility a few years back. Gore Verbinski was going to have it made, but his plans were foiled by series creator Ken Levine. And thank the Universe for that.
Look, I know that a Bioshock film wouldn’t have technically been a “reboot,” but in a way, it could have been. The 2008 video game features a narrative that rivals some of the greatest sci-fi ever shown on screen. It is technically and philosophically brilliant. This wouldn’t have been a videogame-to-screen adaptation ala Mario Bros, Mortal Kombat, or Street Fighter. The story of Bioshock is developed, the mythos established within the game itself, the world of Rapture fully realized. A movie based on all of this would be a reboot, albeit on another media platform.
And that’s the problem. The narrative of Bioshock is marvelous, but part of the appeal is directly related to the fact that it is incredibly immersive. The big twist at the end works because you’re holding a controller. It’s pure genius. And something like that just wouldn’t translate well on film.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue had they decided to take a different approach–tell a story within Rapture that didn’t involve the narrative pull of the first Bioshock game. Alas, we’ll never know at this point, and I still concede that it’s probably for the best.