An Australian production company just announced a follow-up to 1996's superhero epic The Phantom. Based on the classic newspaper strip, that Phantom embraced the feel of the old pulps, and looked great. But it did poorly at the box office, and plans to continue the character were abandoned. I've spilled a lot of internet ink complaining about unnecessary sequels and lame, by-the-numbers series. But there are some characters that you're happy to see coming around every couple of years, like an old friend -- James Bond, say, or Frodo. And there are a few series left to fall by the wayside that might be worth a second chance.
Meet the Spartans? Scary Movie 4? The film parody is in a sad, sad state of affairs. There was a time when spoofs were funny, and that time was when the Zucker brothers were at the height of their powers. Their Naked Gun series has been pretty much run into the ground, but Airplane! and its sequel (appropriately titled Airplane II: The Sequel) are due for another look. Of course, David Zucker went on to direct, yes, Scary Movie 4, not to mention An American Carol, the craptastic right-wing propaganda flop. So an Airplane! reboot would require banning the original codirector from any kind of involvement. Weird.
Sam Raimi's debut feature, about a burn victim-turned-vigilante whose pain sensors have been surgically removed, was a box-office success and became a cult favorite. But the two straight-to-video sequels (made without Raimi's involvement, or stars Liam Neeson and Frances McDormand) were just terrible. Raimi's plate seems pretty full these days, including a threatened return to another classic series, Evil Dead, but Darkman deserves better treatment than he got.
The Thin Man
I know. This is kind of blasphemous. I love this classic series, which ran from1934 to 1947 and starred William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, wisecracking, hard drinking socialite crime solvers. The snappy repartee and lighthearted spin on film noir (the original was based on a Dashiell Hammett novel) made it an instant hit, and one of the few of the era that has aged impeccably. An update would have to be done carefully to avoid being a cheesy cash-in, but if it could capture the Powell-Loy chemistry and crackling dialogue, it would be worth another stab.
Another classic hero along the lines of the Phantom, The Shadow started out as a thirties radio serial (briefly voiced by Orson Welles), and went on to a successful series of movies into the forties. In 1994, Alec Baldwin starred in a remake that was supposed to kick-start a new blockbuster series, but it bombed spectacularly, losing money and boring critics. But the Shadow is a complicated, dark character, a World War I vet who becomes an opium warlord before turning to vigilantism. With a decent script instead of the convoluted mess they handed Baldwin, The Shadow could be a gold standard hero, and solid series. At this point it may be so toxic that nobody will bother to touch it again, although in 2006, the extremely busy Sam Raimi said that he'd be co-producing a new Shadow; two years later it's still in limbo.