Top 5 Sequels That Never Happened

This begins a series of entries that revolve around sequels. They are a weird occurrence in cinema because it directly calls into question the value of profit over artistic virtue. Basically, is a sequel warranted simply to make a buck, or does the film at hand need a follow-up in order to fully flesh out the characters and story? That, and sequels tend to be where discarded ideas find a rebirth.

For this round I am going to be looking at a handful of sequels that either never came to be, or were not released as they were originally intended. I figured for every 10 sequels that shouldn’t have been made but did, there has got to be one that should’ve but didn’t. I am dubbing this the honorary History of the World Part II: Jews in Space List.

5. Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League/Remo Williams: The Adventure Continues

Both of these were intended sequels to beloved cult movies from the 80’s that never came to be due to lack of interest at the time and budgetary limitations. The Remo Williams people had the balls to imply a franchise by calling their first movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. The makers of Buckaroo went as far as to tease the sequel at the end of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!

... and ends.

Either way, the world has not seen either so far. For those not familiar with these gems of wannabe franchises, I am not going to go to deep into either because I don’t want to ruin any surprises. Just be aware that they are both extremely entertaining in their cheesiness and once you watch them, you are going to be really bummed that neither went any further in their adventures. Though it should be noted that there have been novels, comic books and even a video game centered around the Buckaroo Banzai universe. In the late 1990’s the Fox Network was even in preproduction for a TV series. And while a TV pilot was shot for a Remo Williams series, since then no one else has cared about him.

4. Mathilda (Sequel to Leon: the Professional)

Luc Besson’s Leon (also known as The Professional or Leon: The Professional or The Kings of Leon Are a Professionally Mediocre Band) is one of the most critically acclaimed and widely loved movies of the 1990’s. Since its release, and the emergence of Natalie Portman as an international icon, there have been countless rumors going around about a possible follow up that would centered around Portman’s character, Mathilda, and her life after the events of the first movie. Around 2003 there was an infamous rumor going around that Portman had officially signed up for the sequel, something that Portman’s reps quickly shot down. But as recent as last year she has said that she would in fact be open to the idea, but only if Besson was behind the camera. Besson himself has shot down rumors that a script had been written by a 3rd party saying that he would never let anyone else touch the story, but never went so far as to state whether or not he himself had written anything.

Ok, who ordered italian?

This year whilst doing promotional rounds for his movie Colombiana, director Olivier Megaton stated that he actually intended for his script to be the follow-up to Leon called MathildaHe claims that he had been working on the script with Besson for 12 years, but since there were problems securing Portman and with the original distributor allowing the rights to be used, too much time had passed and Megaton (I really need a birth certificate to believe that is this guy’s real name) should use the material for a new movie. Besson did produce Colombiana and the two filmmakers have a long history together, so his claim may carry some weight. While I honestly haven’t seen this new film yet, I am going out on a limb and guessing it doesn’t hold much water against its muse. In my mind, the actual sequel would have Mathilda going around doing hits for Daniel Aiello while playing dress up with the ghost of Leon.

For now, here is the trailer for the movie that was supposedly based on the idea for the sequel of Leon.

3. John D. Hancock’s Jaws 2

Yes, it is true that Jaws 2 is in fact an actual bonafide sequel, but not the one that was original intended. After the unheard of  $470,654,000 that Jaws brought in from a $9,000,000 budget, the producers were more than eager to attain the same kind of profit margins again. To helm this feature was theater director John D. Hancock, whose best known cinematic venture previously was the low budget baseball character drama Bang the Drum Slowly. Hancock spent a total of 18 months on the production of Jaws 2 before he was replaced by Jeannot Szwarc (later of Supergirl and Santa Claus: The Movie “fame”). It was said that Hancock was replaced because he was over his head. A small time theater director was unable to handle the pressures of a large scale action film, and new, more able hands were needed. This may be true, and the Jaws 2 that was released in the theaters of 1978 wasn’t a bad film. There were a lot of genuinely frightening, believable performances by some of the youths that were marooned off shore by the new pissed off fish.

Just when you thought it was safe to work on character development...

It could easily be argued that this version is very possibly a better version than the one that Hancock wrote. But a larger part of me can’t help but wonder how much better that alternate version could have been. In it, the town of Amity was in financial ruin, investors and tourists alike had been forced away both by the horrific memories and the fear of the return of the fin. The town was somewhat of a ghost town and taking from the original novel, the mob was brought in to help with the redevelopment. The overall tone of the film was to be a lot more grim and bleak. The idea was to focus less on the action and more on the characters. The return of the shark was to be a catalyst for the growth of the townsfolk of Amity. This was exactly what caused the producers to pull Hancock off the film. After a month of dailies, the higher-ups were concerned over the fact that the film itself was too blue. If Hancock would’ve been allowed to continue with his vision, then it might turned the whole franchise into a prestigious one, rather than what would eventually give birth to Jaws: the Revenge.

Here is the trailer for the Jaws 2 we all grew up on.

2. Roger Rabbit 2: Toon Platoon (also known as Who Discovered Roger Rabbit?)

This one really breaks my heart. Without a doubt, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is one of the most enjoyable and downright entertaining films ever made. After the overwhelming success, both critically and financially, of the first film, there were very few people in Hollywood that weren’t expecting a follow-up. But over 20 years later, besides a few shorts here and there, the world has been deprived of any adventures from the Rabbits and Co. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. TV writer Nat Mauldin was hired and wrote a script for a prequel called Roger Rabbit 2: Toon Platoon that would act as a sort of origin story. Taking place in 1941, an 18 year old Roger Rabbit leaves his Kanas home once his parents let him in on the secret that not only is he adopted, but he is not even human, in order to find his real parents. What follows is an adventure that takes Roger from Hollywood to the front lines of World War II. Along the way he encounters a bright-eyed wannabe actor named Richie Davenport and Roger’s soon-to-be wife, then called Jessica Krupnick. In a rather ingenious plot twist, the future Mrs. Rabbit is kidnapped by the Nazis and turned into a Tokyo Rose type character, forced to broadcast anti-American propaganda to our boys overseas. While serving duty, Roger hears his sweetheart’s voice over the radio and goes AWOL with Richie and a few other new friends in order to save her. Once home from duty he is reunited with his real father, who in another stroke of pure genius, turns out to be none other than Bugs Bunny (though this would call into question the fact that while Bugs appeared in the original film, he was never referenced to have any relation to the title character).

The original Basterd?

One of the big reasons that this script was not put into production in the early 90’s was because of producer Steven Spielberg. Once he started work on Schindler’s List, Senior Spielbergo kind of got a bad taste in his mouth about getting behind a project that satirized Nazis (I guess we have that to thank for the Russian bad guys in that last Indiana Jones film). So began a never ending process of re-writes. Thought this is a project in theory is still alive. Super producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy have been trudging along trying to get this vehicle of the ground for years. Unfortunately, budgetary concerns and unsatisfactory animation tests (or fortunately once you witness one of these tests) have kept it deep in the earth. As recent as 2009, original director Robert Zemeckis has said that he is still interested in reviving the franchise. Though he wanted to use the motion-capture technology that he utilized when ruining The Polar Express, Beowolf, and A Christmas Carol on not just the toons, but the humans too. Lucky public opinion has since wained on his “technological advancements” and Disney closed his ImageMovers Digital studios. And while Universal has since reopened the studio, the unholy balls to the wall complete motion capture Zemeckis movies seem to be a thing of the past.
I hate to say it, but at this point, it is my hope that this script (or anything closely resembling it) never gets made. The time has passed for a sequel to the original classic. It was the last hurrah for the days of 2nd cell animation interacting with the real world. While I would love nothing more than to see Roger and his comrades going head to head with Nazis, both carbon and cartoon alike, the emergence of CGI would tarnish the magic that once was. With Who Framed, the interaction between human and toon was not seamless, and that was the point. It was obvious what the filmmakers were trying to do, combine fantasy and reality in a way that the viewer wanted to believe was believable. With the technology today, that level of tactlessness between the two worlds is simply unreachable.

Here is that animation test that I refereed to earlier.

1. Tim Burton’s 3rd Batman Movie

I am going to go out on a very lonely limb and state that not only is Batman Returns Tim Burton’s best (ok, maybe it is a tie with Ed Wood), but is the best Batman film to date. It equally mixes campy comic book semblance (something that the Joel Schumacher films went overboard on) with gritty realism and violence (something that the Christopher Nolan films are going way too overboard on). I will go toe to toe with anyone and argue to the death that Michael Keaton is the best and most believable Bruce Wayne/Batman combination. With every sequential actor to portray the cape crusader, it is painfully obvious that it is the same rich guy in the papers that is wearing the pointy ears. But Keaton had the ability to play the dichotomy of both roles with a smoothness that would fool even the most experienced detective. I could go on for pages with this argument (and probably will, at some point), but I bring this up in order to fully flesh out the magnitude of the  injustice that the cinematic world was dealt when Mr. Burton dropped out of the 2nd Batman sequel.

The reason that the first Batman sequel was the finest is because Tim Burton had complete creative control over it. It was not as common place as it is now to sign actors and directors to multi-picture deals with meticulously stipulated sequel contracts back in the late 1980’s when the first Batman came out. So unlike today, when Samuel L. Jackson signs a 9 picture deal with Marvel to appear as Nick Fury for any damn spinoff they please, Tim Burton had no clause in his contract demanding he return. There for, when Batman became the monumental hit it was in 1989, there was no guarantee that the dark director would return to the dark knight. So when Warner Brothers came to him asking for a sequel, Burton had a one big demand: complete creative control. He was not too quiet about his disapproval with a lot of the creative decisions that were forced on him during the first film (apparently Tim Burton is not a big Prince fan), and would only return to the franchise if it was to be his own vision. Thus we have the amazingly dark, yet surprisingly fun, Batman Returns. Unfortunately, while this film made a boat load of money for the studio, there was a lot of blow back from parental groups complaining about the un-child-friendly themes and McDonald’s even pulled out of a promotional deal (studio executives get pretty pissy when you take away their Happy Meal toys). From the beginning it was rather apparent that a 3rd Burton Batman film wasn’t going to get very far. Burton expected to have the same type of control as he did previously and all signs pointed to an even darker vision. The studio was not all too thrilled with this and pushed back hard and in doing so lost the auteur that helped launch the lucrative franchise. They instead brought in Joel Schumacher and his neon paint and black lights and one by one, almost all of the players that stood behind Burton’s version dropped out.  What we ended up with was Batman Forever, which honestly isn’t horrible, but is pretty forgettable (unlike Batman and Robin, which is unfortunately very horrible, but you can’t forget it, no matter how hard you try).

Holy Progress, Batman!

Now lets discuss what could have been, Tim Burton’s plans for the 3rd Batman movie. It should be said that the timing on a lot of this is a bit hazy of where one actor stepped out and another stepped in. Also, it is very up in the air on how much of this would have played out if Burton stuck around. First off, Robin was actually intended to be in Batman Returns, but it was decided that there were already way to many characters in the film. However, this was not before a virtually unknown and unlikely actor was already cast and even went through costume fittings, a very young Marlon Wayans. Apparently Burton was not a big fan of the character to begin with, so he wanted to shake up the role and turn him into a young african-american mechanic. There was every intention to bring him in the fold for the 3rd film, but the studio wanted a proper Aryan for Robin, so in came whiter than white Chris O’Donnell once Schumacher was at the reigns. Wayans was actually paid for both films and recently talked about his theory on why the role was recast, you can’t have Robin with a bigger bugle under his utility belt than Batman. It is not completely clear whether Two Face would be in 3rd Burton film, but one thing was sure, if he was it wouldn’t have been Tommy Lee Jones under the makeup. Back in first Batman there was a cameo by a different actor playing the district attorney Harvey Dent, Lando himself, Billy Dee Williams. He signed on for such a small role in the original with the understanding that he would be brought back in a later sequel for the more hefty role of Two Face. Again, apparently there is no place for the negro race in Gotham and once Burton was gone, so was Billy Dee. And like Wayans, Williams’ contract had to be bought out in order to allow a white counterpart to ham it up to the cameras. There was another face as well that was planning on returning, that of Michelle Pfeiffer. It wasn’t a coincidence that Catwoman survived the first sequel (though, there were also rumors of a separate Catwoman movie starring Pfeiffer). One thing that both the studio and Burton agreed on was the inclusion of the Riddler as the main villain. Now this is were things get really fuzzy, but it was widely rumored that Burton wanted former Monkee Micky Dolenz to play the green clad menace. It is known that Robin Williams was offered the role, but turned it down, though it is believed that it was Schumacher that was the one that offered it. A final bit of casting was altered when the director’s chair changed hands, originally Renee Russo was in negotiations to play Dr. Chase Meridian. But once Michael Keaton left production (and a reportedly $15,000,000 pay check) because he wasn’t happy with the Burtonless direction the series was taking, the producers replaced her with the younger looking Nicole Kidman.

If I just wait this out, in a decade or so I'll get top billing.

With the exception of the Riddler, the cast of the Burton version of Batman 3 was across the board better than what was produced. It makes me visibly shake my head like an idiot to think of the awesome chance that was blown when Timmy walked away from this film.

So yeah, we got instead.

On a final note, Mr. Schumacher recently let it slip that he was in pre-production on his own 3rd Batman movie called Batman Triumphant. This would’ve brought back George Clooney from Batman and Robin and would have pitted him against the Scarecrow (played by Jeff Goldblum) and Harley Quinn. It was Schumacher’s hope to try and bring Jack Nicholson back to the franchise as the Joker.

SPECIAL FEATURE!

Top 5 Sequels That I Am Glad Were Never Made:

Please keep in mind that all of these were actually in some form of pre-production at some point. If you don’t believe me, have fun looking them up.

5. Twins II : Triplets

4. Seriously Dude, Where’s My Car?

3. The Godfather 4

2. Forest Gump 2: Gump and Co

1. E.T. 2: Nocturnal Fears

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One Response to “Top 5 Sequels That Never Happened”

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