Box Office Bombs and the sequels we deserve


Box Office bombs and early months at the beginning of the year go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is usually the dumping ground for studios getting rid of their less-than-stellar efforts or movies they have no faith in. This year has the added hiccup of a pandemic affecting the entire globe. Naturally, this has affected movie theaters and films released around this time since everyone should be taking care and self quarantining if possible. Movies have moved to on-demand to recoup some of the losses they are taking with people not going to the theaters.

That got me thinking that there are so many movies out there that performed poorly at the box office, yet still deserve to have more stories told in their world. Whether it be because there were unfinished stories planned to span multiple movies, the prime possibilities for sequels, or the world was just too interesting to leave behind. These are some of the movies that we should’ve seen more of. We’ll just have to let our imaginations fill in the gaps for some and others we are lucky enough that the source material is still out there to give some studio inspiration.

Most of them are dead and buried, but there is still a glimmer of hope.


King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword

Estimated Budget: $175-$300 million with marketing costs

Estimated Box Office: $148.7 million

Estimated Loss: $114-$153.2 million

Did you know there was a recent update of the King Arthur story that was directed by Guy Ritchie and starred Charlie Hunnam? I would be shocked if you said yes since most moviegoers gave this a pass when it came out. People pointed the finger at a loss of interest in the King Arthur story being retold for what has to be the umpteenth time. Fair. Reviewers said that it was because the movie wasn’t very good, only grabbing a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, due to a plot that was all over the place and a stylized take that many felt robbed the story of the scale it was trying to accomplish. This led to the movie pretty much faceplanting in theaters and a stopping what was supposed to be a six-film series dead in its tracks.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is, at times, all over the place but it has a certain charm to it. Ritchie places his vision and style at the forefront so at times it feels like Snatch but set in medieval times. The movie bungles a few key things like how the Darklands montage needed to either be expanded upon or be its own movie because the backstory that we learned about that alone was fascinating. Arthur venturing into the lands that birthed the mages, Merlin, and Excalibur with giant creatures and darkness trying to destroy him all along the way. That part lasts about 3 minutes in a runtime of 126 minutes. The changes made to the story behind Excalibur were interesting too, with it taking on a force of nature effect when it was wielded by someone of the Pendragon bloodline. The audience response to this is currently at 69% (heh) so it shows that the numbers don’t always dictate the success of a movie with the audience that was exposed to it. We even gave it a 7.5 in our initial review, so even with things not firing on all cylinders all the time this movie is a blast. The kinetic action, sharp-tongued humor, and emotional beats that do resonate elevate this beyond what the marketing for the film would have you believe.

This was built up to be a film series and fans were left curious about where the series could have gone after this. There was so much crammed into this movie that it felt like there were only so many places they could go afterward. There’s allegedly a 3 1/2 hour cut, that existed to begin with, but much of it was cut down. Most of this was because of editing, but some was to remove plot points that could be explored down the line like hints that the female mage was indeed Guinevere. There could’ve been the story of how the rest of the knights joined the round table, perhaps a resurgence of the mage war shown at the beginning, or even more Darklands action to better explore and justify the world-building done just for that. The more I ponder sequel ideas the more I wish I could get some insight into where this franchise could’ve gone and the stories it could’ve told with a better box office response. Alas, we are left with a lonely film meant to be the start of a legend.

Power Rangers

Estimated Budget: $105 million

Estimated Box Office: $142.3 million

Estimated Loss: $76 million

Saban’s Power Rangers had everything going against it. It was rebooting a rather silly property from the nineties and giving it a more serious tone. I was and somewhat am still a fan of Power Rangers, but I was hesitant at the idea of a dark and gritty reboot. At least that’s what I thought was headed our way. What we got instead was a more grounded origin story for the Power Rangers that had good performances, characters, and a surprisingly good amount of depth. It wasn’t Schindler’s List, but deep for a movie about teenagers with an attitude getting superpowers. This was a nice surprise for a movie I walked into believing was going to be a decent, soulless movie. What I got instead was something that felt more mighty and Morphin than I could’ve guessed.

The movie starts out with a scene that will give you the wrong idea about it, with bad jokes and what feels like immature humor that could run rampant. It is immediately followed by a pretty intense car crash that radically shifts the expectation for the movie from that point on. The story is somewhat by the numbers, however, the characters are what make this a better experience. All the characters naturally come together and start training to be the titular rangers. The chemistry between all the actors works well and the fight scenes are delivered in fun ways. It all builds up to them all finally coming together and earning their armor in the last 20 min of the movie, with a regrettable version of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song from the original movie instead of the show’s catchy version.

This was the movie that took the time to build this base so they could build off it for future sequels or at least it would’ve had the movie MADE THEIR PROFITS GROW (I couldn’t help myself). The movie didn’t do as bad as King Arthur but it did underperform at the box office enough that the studio was hesitant to go for a sequel.

It set up the next movies in the mid-credits scene with Tommy Oliver (aka The Green Ranger) being called for attendance in detention. This could’ve led to one of the most popular storylines in all of the Power Rangers series. The Green Ranger arc was what cemented people’s love for the show back when it aired. This story would’ve brought more interest to a sequel and possibly bring in more profits. It seemed like a sequel was likely for a while with so many of the cast becoming more widely known. Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, and RJ Cyler each gaining more renown to add some recognizable star power come the sequel. The first movie was a fun movie that captured enough of the source material while going its own direction that it would’ve been nice to see the Rangers get another chance for Morphin time.

Alita: Battle Angel

Estimated Budget: $170 million

Estimated Box Office: $404.9 million

Estimated Loss: Broke even or $53 million, depending on the source

I’ll admit this one is bending the rules a bit in the Box Office Bomb department. It isn’t so much a bomb as a slight disappointment. It made a lot of money, but did it make enough for a sequel? If you ask the Alita Army, a fan base that is chomping at the bit for a sequel, they would say yes. This group has gone to great lengths to let the studio know that there is interest in this property and money to be made. The reason this makes the list is that this movie deserves a sequel to better flesh out all the world-building that was done and to see more of Rosa Salazar kicking butt as Alita. The decision for a sequel seems to be up in the air, with Cameron and Rodriguez saying they have plans for a sequel in the future but no official word.

Alita: Battle Angel feels like a movie that needs a sequel sooner rather than later or the interest will die out and the story will never get to move beyond the first. The first movie worked so hard to build up a believable world where these characters could exist, using real sets in a lot of the cases to help ground the fantastical things we were seeing. The technology on display was a bit off-putting when shown in the trailers. It really was hard to adjust to the big anime eyes Alita was sporting, but it really worked when it came to the finished product. Alita is just a fun, engaging movie with some awful dialogue at times. The good far outweighs the bad in this case.

There is a wealth of material to pull from for future sequels from the manga. They altered things here and there and moved things up in the timeline, but overall the movie stayed fairly faithful to the manga. The sequel could further explore Alita’s quest to combat Nova and whatever schemes he has up his sleeve. You don’t cast someone like Edward Norton in a cameo role if you don’t plan to give him something fun to play with come the sequel. They could also explore more of Alita’s past, which we get slight glimpses of in the first movie, and what led to The Fall. All the breadcrumbs that were laid out in the first movie and left them ample opportunity to move forward should the studio so declare it.

John Carter

Estimated Budget: $250 million + $100 million for marketing

Estimated Box Office: $284.1 million

Estimated Loss: $114-$200 million

Now comes what may be the biggest box office bomb of all time and it really doesn’t compute to me. John Carter isn’t anything new. That may sound bad, but it isn’t new for very good reasons. John Carter is based on the book A Princess of Mars. This was written by author Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912. A groundbreaking science fiction fantasy adventure novel that was written in the early 1900s, the book was inspiration for Star Wars, Avatar, and many others. So many people were influenced and inspired by this book that all the unique parts of it have become old. The inspiration then looks uninspired. It was truly a wonder to hear people call this film unoriginal without knowing the backstory.

John Carter, originally titled John Carter of Mars, went through a lot to even happen. It’s worth looking into what the film went through, from originally being conceived as an animated film in the 1930s to an attempt in the 1980s and so on. It took the effort of a first-time live-action movie director who wanted to turn a book he loved into reality.

Andrew Stanton gave us WALL-E and Finding Nemo but he’d never directed live action and handling a movie this large is a challenge. The budget ballooned to a massive $250 million before marketing costs. The movie would’ve had to have been insanely successful to warrant a sequel with that kind of price tag.

That price tag included a $100 million dollar marketing campaign that really let the film down. It started with using John Carters of Mars and the simple JCM logo. Well, what does that mean? For most people that didn’t mean anything and I was among them. They then dropped the “of Mars” to make it so John Carter would evolve into the John Carter of Mars character. Cool idea, but a confusing marketing start. The marketing was so bad that most people were unaware of what the setup was, when it was exactly coming out, or if it looked any good.

Personally, the only reason I ended up going to the theater was when they released the first 10 minutes online for free. That told me everything I needed to know and had me heading for the theater the next day. So, I guess that’s the one thing marketing got right. The finger has been pointed at the director for being so rigid in his vision and at the studio for not supporting the movie enough to make the public more aware of it, as good marketing does. The marketing here just failed, no matter whose fault. This was the initial setback of the film.

John Carter didn’t pull the crowds in. Plain and simple. Most people who saw it liked it well enough and there were even people, like myself, who thought this was a great adventure that pulled them into the story and showed them a world they hadn’t seen before. The middling reviews didn’t help and John Carter became one of the biggest movie flops of all time.

Just writing that sentence hurts because I enjoyed this movie, but was so excited for all the other stories to come. The movie ends on a cliffhanger and the knowledge that there were 10 more books in the series led some to believe that the journey would continue into these treasured stories. That couldn’t happen because the money wasn’t there. It’s possible this series could’ve evolved into one of the great literary adaptations. This will not happen and to this day anytime someone says the words “John Carter” on Disney property the entire accounting department gets chills. John Carter is a miracle, not because it is a masterpiece, but because it overcame production hell, an inflated budget, and a woefully poor marketing campaign to become a fun, engaging movie that drove me to seek out the Barsoom series of books.