The big screen version of the popular young adult novel The Giver by Lois Lowry bombed at the box office this past weekend, most likely dashing the likelihood that any movies will be made out of the three follow-up books in the author’s series. Actually, a similar fate has befallen a lot of recent tween and teen literature film adaptations. Ender’s Game came to a cruel end at the box office last year, and that’s just the most-hyped of plenty of failed film series.
It seems that not every movie can catch on like Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hunger Games franchises. A lot of the recent flops have already been forgotten–with the producers desperately hoping for some kind of huge revival happening via lots of cable reruns. Yeah. That might not work. We do like the idea of looking back at bombs, though, and a lot of these recent failures don’t even get much love on the crappier cable networks. So let’s check out a doomed dozen of first installments in movie franchises that never made it to installment #2…
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
The sardonic kids’ library favorites A Series of Unfortunate Events by pseudonymous author Lemony Snicket was turned into a well-reviewed, popular hit movie with Jim Carrey that packed theaters over Christmas 2004—and then nothing else happened. Most involved point to studio politics as the culprit for none of the other Lemony Snicket books making it to movie screens. The last stirring was discussion of a stop-motion animation sequel, but that was in 2009. At present no more Lemony Snicket movies are in development, and that is an unfortunate event.
I Am Number 4 (2011)
I Am Number 4 tracks a teenage space alien hiding from hunters by donning human for on planet Earth. In the Lorien Legacies series, he does this over a course of five novels so far (two more are planned). Alas, the odds of a second movie based on the books is number zero.
Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009)
Cirque Du Freak is the name of a top-selling Young Adult book series about a youthful hero who finds himself turned into a vampire and working in a freak show. Twelve novels in all exist in the cycle. One–and only one–exists in the cycle of film adaptations. That’s a real shame, too, since Cirque Du Freak was like a diseased Goth chick’s take on the whole teen vampire craze, and also had a really cute monkey girl. We mean an actress named Jessica Carlson as the romantic love interest, and she got even cuter when it was revealed that she had a monkey tail. Don’t judge us.
City of Ember (2008)
Not even Bill Murray could keep the lights going for this fantasy about an underground city that needs two attractive young teenagers to save them from running out of electricity. There were a lot of things wrong with this movie, but people who didn’t read the original book series really got ripped off right at the beginning. The whole idea was that the viewers weren’t supposed to know the city was underground until the end, but City of Ember established that right at the beginning. Oh, did we just do the same? Sorry.
Beautiful Creatures (2013)
Adapted from book one of the Caster Chronicles series about the struggles of a high school vampiress in South Carolina, Beautiful Creatures opened on Valentine’s Day as a date movie for both romantic gals and guys who like creepy horror movies. Looks like everyone stayed home, though, and Beautiful Creatures proved to be a bouquet of dead roses to fans hoping for more big-screen takes on the books.
The Host (2013)
Twilight creator Stephenie Meyer scored another worldwide bestseller in 2008 with The Host, a sci-fi saga of alien beings taken over human bodies and the teenage heroine who refuses to submit. Meyer announced that The Host would be the first in a trilogy– but if she was waiting to see how the film version performed, it looks like those follow-ups will remain unwritten. Sorry, high school girls of all ages.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)
Teens battle demons in New York City over the course of six novels in Cassandra Clare’s series, The Mortal Instrument. That’s also what happens in the movie version of the first installment, City of Bones, starring Lily Collins (daughter of ’80s rock star Phil), but not what’s going to happen in any movies based on the other books, because, since Bones bombed, no one’s going to make them.
John Carter (2012)
John Carter (of Mars, yeah) is one of the all-time great pulp fiction characters, created by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912. Immortal and capable of astral projection, Civil War vet Carter goes from the American west to the planet Mars, where his interstellar adventures have captivated a century of audiences worldwide in numerous novels and short stories. Attempts to make a John Carter movie date back to the dawn of cinema–including attempts from animators ranging from Pixar to the original Bugs Bunny team. And then Pixar director Andrew Stanton finally got to helm a live action John Carter in 2012, and it ended up as one of the most monumental box office disasters in history. The mistakes began with Stanton dropping “of Mars” from the title, and the end result was a Disney studio bloodbath that will probably forever taint John Carter as a character that can’t be properly captured on film. At least here on Earth.
This movie was supposed to keep Hayden Christensen going as a movie star, and it’s really kind of fun as the story of a teleporting teen getting chased down by Samuel L. Jackson–who’s part of a mysterious group of hunters who track down the titular jumpers because…well, we’re not sure why. It just seems that teleporting ain’t right. Anyway, Jumpers set up a pretty epic storyline that everyone in Hollywood quickly ignored once the movie couldn’t even draw a crowd with a February release.
The Golden Compass (2007)
Sort of an antithesis to the Christian-adjacent Narnia books (which have themselves struggled when it comes to movie versions), Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass fantasy trilogy for kids is an inter-dimensional saga of magic beings, domesticated fighting polar bears, and the author’s own outspoken atheism. While a modest hit in the U.S. and a blockbuster worldwide, the film adaptation of The Golden Compass proved too much of an audience-rattling headache for the studio, and plans for any follow-ups went straight to Hell. There were some cool toys, though. We still have our blimp.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Hopes sailed high for this maritime adventure based on the first of twenty novels in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. Russel Crowe makes for a seaworthy hero Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey” who pursues a French ship during the Napoleonic wars in 1805, and the movie even nabbed a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. Still, the big-budget epic failed to break even in theaters, and thus the chances for cinematic versions of the remaining books presently reside in Davy Jones’ locker.
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
Okay, here’s one to prove that fizzled franchises aren’t anything new. In the 150-book(!) collection known as “The Destroyer” series, Remo Williams is a Newark cop who gets secretly trained as a special agent and lethal assassin working outside the laws of man, science, and, occasionally, sanity. As its title indicates, Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins hit theaters in hopes of turning any number of those books into films, but the movie alienated fans of the novels by downplaying intense violence, and failed to catch on until it developed a cult following on cable TV.
As it is, Remo Williams is an extremely fun standalone mid-’80s action adventure. We can’t help wondering if Fred Ward as Remo and Joel Grey as Master Chiun wouldn’t have made a rock-solid lower tier franchise team following in the high-kicking footsteps of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon movies. And don’t even get us started on the next year’s Jake Speed.