CS Soapbox: Franchises that need to end following Fast & Furious
“Overstaying its welcome.” It’s a phrase I’ve often heard when discussing television but very rarely in the film world, despite a number of franchises running far past their expiration date, and with the recent confirmation that Universal Pictures’ Fast & Furious mainline series would be coming to an end after two more films, I think it’s high time we look at some of the many movie series out there, be they our favorites or most detested, and take a hard honest look at the fact that sometimes dead is better.
I’m a big horror genre fan and the tale of a killer doll named Chucky that spawned from the mind of Don Mancini has delivered plenty of thrills and chills in its 32-year life cycle, even in some of its more lackluster outings, but let’s be real, there are far too many variations on the personality of Chucky and the story of Child’s Play that it’s hard to justify a major interest in wanting to see more of the Brad Dourif-voiced slasher. I admittedly enjoyed the Mark Hamill-starring reboot and am certainly interested in seeing the upcoming series with Mancini back at the helm, but much like many slasher genres over the years, there’s becoming frequently fewer terrifying things and increasingly more convoluted to the point it’s lost its shock value and might just need to be returned for store credit.
Now before you go calling for my head or saying you’d purge me if given the chance, it’s not that I don’t enjoy the murderous franchise, they’re very stylish, have some well-executed action and noble political aspirations, but in all honesty, there’s really only one good film in the series: Anarchy. The first film introduced the franchise’s brilliant concept but buried it in a fairly formulaic home invasion thriller, the third film Election Year tried for some poignant themes and the on-the-street anarchy of the eponymous film but couldn’t reach the same heights while the fourth film, a prequel, didn’t offer anything new to say or see. Now granted, the upcoming fifth film is intended to be its finale, but should the studio see dollar signs and look to continue without franchise creator/scribe James DeMonaco, the chances are they could and it would be a poor decision looking to capitalize on money instead of anything interesting.
As a kid born in the mid ’90s, the Jurassic Park series was a paramount element of my childhood and I enjoyed every second of the original trilogy, even the pretty flawed and too-CGI heavy Jurassic Park III, but to see where the franchise has come in the years since is kind of disheartening. I absolutely adored Jurassic World as it felt like a return to the capitalism-skewering themes of the source novel and was a fast-paced adventure with solid CGI and charming turns from Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, but it’s the former point that indicated a return to the flaws of the previous two films: far too much CGI. The practical nature of many of the dinosaurs in the first film was even more impressive than the incredible early CGI creatures and as the films have gone on, the stories have become less interesting and the effects far more generic that there’s no longer the same sense of wonder as what came before, especially in the pretty rough Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a film full of potential that drops the ball and introduces some awful attempts at story evolution. Though Dominion is supposedly set to conclude the Jurassic World franchise, producer Frank Marshall has confirmed the series will continue with humanity looking to adjust to the possibility of dinosaurs living on the mainland, but this is frankly a pretty uninteresting concept and begs the question: If you have the original film’s trio returning for major parts, why not just end it there?
41 years ago, Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett and Ridley Scott introduced audiences to the terrifying creature that is the Xenomorph in the Oscar-winning Alien starring Sigourney Weaver as the now-iconic heroine Ellen Ripley, and though James Cameron initially kept the franchise alive with the exhilarating Aliens, the subsequent sequels attempted to reach the same level of excitement to decidedly mixed results and frankly even with Scott back at the helm of the series, it’s frankly time for it to end. The 2012 pseudo-prequel Prometheus was actually a brilliant and exciting film from start to finish, but its studio-mandated attempts at connecting to the mothership franchise felt forced and underwhelming, and while a return to the grim tone of the first two films was welcomed in 2017’s Alien: Covenant, the further convolution of the story and awkward efforts to connect both the Alien and Prometheus storylines resulted in a mostly dull and unintentionally hilarious affair. The ending for the latter certainly left plenty of room for a follow-up film, but rather than continue to force the merge of two totally different franchises, it would be nice to see the next film Scott is developing be either a proper sequel in the mainline Alien franchise that could lead to something better or a fitting conclusion to the prequel series.
While some of his more acclaimed roles may have come in the indie world of the ’90s, Matt Damon will forever be best-known — and rightfully so — for his turn as Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne in Universal Pictures’ big-screen adaptations of the spy thriller novels, but after three incredible films and two so-so entries, it’s honestly time to hang up the amnesia-laden coat on this franchise for a while. Damon is still young enough to portray the role and deliver on some of the exciting action sequences of the films, but the initial finale to the series, The Bourne Ultimatum, felt like a fitting-enough conclusion to his story and the secrets behind it that a spin-off film was a good idea, though its execution proved a bit troublesome, and Damon’s return was still only welcomed with mixed reviews. While another film is reportedly in development in connection to the now-cancelled series Treadstone, it’s probably best to go ahead and classify those details permanently.
The John Carpenter and Debra Hill-created Michael Myers really suffered after his 1978 debut as he was subject to a number of formulaic and fairly campy installments in the Halloween franchise until comedy vets David Gordon Green and Danny McBride came along and delivered the stunning 2018 direct sequel of the same name, which left the room open for another exciting installment, Halloween Kills, that is set to hit theaters next October, as well as a third installment, Halloween Ends, for October 2022. But the thing is, after the latter film, the slasher franchise should honestly come to a close as the story has fairly run its course and should Ends offer a fitting final battle between series heroine Laurie Strode and Myers, it would be nice to leave it there and put the slasher to rest.
Ice Cube really proved his worth to the film world in 1995 when making his screenwriting debut with the stoner comedy Friday, receiving rave reviews from critics and audiences and becoming a cult favorite in the years since, going on to spawn two sequels that received far less fanfare from critics and audiences alike — though the holiday-themed third installment Friday After Next is arguably my favorite in the series and a must-watch come Christmas season. A fourth film, reportedly titled Last Friday, has languished in development hell for some time now, with star John Witherspoon’s passing creating a major speed bump for the project and with Cube still looking to find a new path for the film, it may be best to use the story as a means to grant fans and series cast members to honor the late comic legend and give a fitting conclusion to the beloved story franchise.
Friday the 13th
Another iconic horror slasher who has resurrected one too many times, Friday the 13th‘s Jason Voorhees has also seen a mixed bag of outings since his debut 40 years ago, but unlike Myers, he really didn’t start out that great. Borrowing heavily from Carpenter’s horror classic, Sean S. Cunningham and Victor Miller’s original film was already a pretty formulaic affair even as the slasher genre was finding its early footing and though it saw a few entertaining sequels such as 1986’s Jason Lives, the Nightmare on Elm Street crossover Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 reboot, it’s one that begs the question of why another outing is reportedly in the works. Audiences by this point know the origin of the character, they know his general shtick and M.O., it makes it kind of hard to find the desire to see another outing of the hockey mask-wearing unless it returned to the tongue-in-cheek and self-aware nature of Jason Lives.
Much like Damon’s Bourne, the George Lucas-created Indiana Jones will forever be one of Harrison Ford’s most iconic characters from his legendary career, although unlike his fellow Oscar nominee, the role of the whip-toting archaeologist will forever be attached to him given the films were an original work rather than an adaptation of a novel. Critically, the Indiana Jones films have all been hits, receiving rave reviews for Ford’s charismatic performance, Spielberg’s direction and the exciting action sequences, though audiences have been generally mixed on the the fourth and most recent installment Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which introduced the titular hero’s son Mutt Williams, or Henry Walton III, portrayed by Shia LaBeouf as a potential replacement for the franchise lead. Due to the film’s mixed reception from fans, these plans were scrapped and a fifth film is currently in development with Ford returning and Logan‘s James Mangold set to direct and Disney CEO Bob Iger promising it won’t be the final installment in the overall franchise, but unless they plan on passing the reins to a new, younger character, it probably should be the end. Ford may still be starring in such blockbusters as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Call of the Wild, but given his age of 78 it’s kind of hard to imagine him being able to continue the action-heavy series on his own, especially if a sixth film were to take as long to get made as the fifth, which should establish the next film as Ford’s finale or a passing of the reins.
The buddy cop genre has given audiences plenty of lovable duos over the years including 48 Hrs’ Jack and Reggie, Rush Hour‘s Lee and Carter and Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone’s Tango & Cash, but arguably the most iconic is Mel Gibson and Danny Glover’s Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh of the Lethal Weapon franchise from Shane Black. Even in the lackluster third and slightly over-indulgent fourth films, the comic chemistry between the leads and well-executed action sequences always kept the proceedings lively but after over 20 years since we last saw Gibson and Glover in the roles, it’s kind of hard to imagine the 64 and 74-year-old stars returning for another outing that will be just as exciting as the past. Reportedly titled Lethal Weapon Finale with Gibson, Glover and franchise director Richard Donner returning, the fifth film could be a fun and proper final outing for the original iterations of Riggs and Murtaugh, given the cancelled series’ infamous behind-the-scenes drama leading to its demise, but it should be just that, the holstering of the lethal weapon.
The Wachowskis brought their groundbreaking sci-fi Matrix franchise to an end 17 years ago with more of a whimper than a bang, and while its “final” installment certainly left room for more and plenty of unanswered questions, it was one that should’ve stayed shut down. Instead, we are now set to get a fourth installment with Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett-Smith and more returning and joining for the first time and while what’s being teased sounds exciting and the prospect of seeing the John Wick star donning those slim sunglasses again is undoubtedly intriguing, it’s hard to desire another mainline entry past the fourth film. The universe of the Matrix is ripe with potential for other stories, The Animatrix proved this, but much like George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise, a story following “The Chosen One” is no longer as compelling as just exploring the interesting world they inhabit. Speaking of….
BLASPHEMY! MADNESS! FEED HIM TO THE SARLACC! Look I get it, as a fan of blockbuster filmmaking, there’s no way I should be saying that the mammoth Star Wars franchise should come to an end, but frankly the big screen storytelling of the series is kind of beginning to lose much of its luster to the point it’s hard to argue for its continued existence. Yes, with masterminds like Taika Waititi and Kevin Feige — and, fingers crossed, Rian Johnson — the franchise could find bold new paths to continue down, but frankly, as much as the space-faring adventures can unite fans, they also breed so much toxicity across the internet and in public that it’s hard to want to root for new voices to come in when some fans are too willing to dig their heels in on what’s come before and what they want to continue that it’s honestly time for at least the film world of Star Wars to end.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day is hands-down one of the greatest films of all-time, not just sci-fi, ALL films. That being said, however, boy has this franchise struggled to re-achieve the magic that came from that seminal 1991 blockbuster film. The fact a threequel was made to the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring sequel still baffles me to this day as the ending to the James Cameron co-written/directed hit perfectly wrapped things up from a story standpoint, but Hollywood’s cries for more has caused more convoluted storytelling that lacked the emotional heart of the first two. Rise of the Machines was a campy and braindead affair, Salvation was anything but as it wasted its cast and potential for a future-set outing, Genisys was a flawed but mildly enjoyable attempt to evolve the formula of the franchise and Dark Fate was a heavy-handed rehash of the first two films whose promise dropped after the first act of the film. The latter film was touted as the start of a new trilogy of stories, but with no real clear ideas of where to take it and an overall disappointing installment, it may be best to consider Dark Fate as an actual foreshadowing for the franchise’s future should it continue.
After years of delivering beloved animated series and films following the line’s 1984 debut, Hasbro’s Transformers came to life on the big screen in live-action glory in 2007 from the explosive minds of Michael Bay, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and the initial results were rather thrilling. The visual effects were stellar, the humor was enjoyable and the story a nice combination of adapting the toy line and finding its own unique path, which helped launch a big-screen franchise that only became progressively worse as installments went on. While 2018’s prequel/reboot Bumblebee may have finally set the film series on a proper path, it also proved enough of a proper closure of wrapping up the franchise’s storyline in an emotionally fitting manner that it’s hard to want to see the new live-action outing slated for a May 2022 release, or even the animated feature from former Pixar creative Josh Cooley.
After Roland Emmerich dropped the ball (rather entertainingly) in 1998, Americans got their hands on the Godzilla property once again and landed on-the-rise British filmmaker Gareth Edwards to helm a fresh take on the Toho creature and helped launch Legendary Pictures’ MonsterVerse. The production house continued with the awe-inspiring Kong: Skull Island with fellow rising filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts at the helm and also having announced a Godzilla sequel that would set up the highly-anticipated Godzilla vs. Kong, the second time the two titans have faced off against one another, but without any concrete future plans for the franchise, it may be better to just let it end. Chances are the title will take a Batman v Superman path and have the titular monsters face off against one another before partnering for some bigger threat to the planet, which would allow the two to remain protagonists in audiences eyes as they return to live peacefully in their natural environments.