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Film franchises that never were

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Shadow_lThe summer movie slate offers a reminder that the studios are almost exclusively in the franchise business now. It seems like Hollywood greenlights nothing but expensive genre pics designed to spawn sequels, and it seems like Hollywood will sequelize anything no matter how tepid the reception to the first installment was — I guess it’s hard to let all that investment in creating brand awareness go to waste. (Another helping of Hulk, anyone?) Nonetheless, despite the elephant-march of expensive Part IIs and Part IIIs this season, there are still some would-be franchises that turned out to be costly one-shots.

After my recent vacation, I caught up with The Onion AV Club’s list of 13 such projects. It’s a fine list, and I agree with the listmakers’ lament that there were never sequels to Buckaroo Banzai, The Rocketeer (an underrated movie that looks better with age), and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World — as well as their relief that we never saw follow-ups to The Avengers, The Mod Squad, or Wild Wild West. To their list, I would add only a regret that The Shadow (pictured) didn’t become a franchise; it featured a typically sly and wry performance from Alec Baldwin and a worthy romantic foil/adventure sidekick in Penelope Ann Miller. Meanwhile, the commenters managed to turn the conversation into one about franchises they wished had quit after just one installment. (Hello, Neo. Go stand in the corner over there with RoboCop, Axel Foley, and Agents J and K.)

So, PopWatchers, what (repeatable) elements do you think are necessary for a good film franchise? Which movies would you still like to see spawn sequels? And which ones should have quit while they were behind?

addCredit(“The Shadow: Everett Collection”)