[caption id="attachment_200989" align="alignleft" width="300"] Fox[/caption]
When Hollywood dishes out big bucks to make a brand name movie, there are generally some huge expectations. Sequels! Toys! A themed ride at Universal Studios!
But when that movie alienates fanboys, draws the ire of critics, is generally a pile of crap, and, most importantly, fails to make enough cash money, all bets are off. And usually, instead of humanely laying an ill-received film to rest, the powers that be beg audiences for another shot at a franchise — henceforth known as a "movie mulligan."
Upon the release of this week's apology for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" — and, indeed, perhaps also upon "Man of Steel 2" being nixed for a Batman/Superman team-up — here are eight films that studios released with visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads, only to go all Gob on the situation ("We've made a huge mistake!"), scrap their plans and start from scratch.
1. 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' (2009)
[caption id="attachment_200991" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Fox[/caption]
After the original X-Men trilogy ended with Brett Ratner's inert "The Last Stand," studio execs at Fox were desperate to keep the X-Men gravy train rolling and immediately planned a spin-off series exploring some of the most compelling mutants' backstories (we're not looking at you, Gambit), starting with Wolverine. But when "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was released to less-than-stellar reviews and audience enthusiasm, the proposed next film in line, "X-Men Origins: Magneto," was scrapped and merged with "X-Men: First Class," marking the start of a whole new trilogy. "The Wolverine" takes place after the original trilogy, but everyone involved has made it clear it's a standalone movie and not a sequel to "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Phew. Hope you got all that.
2. 'Planet of the Apes' (2001)
[caption id="attachment_200985" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Fox[/caption]
Tim Burton's re-imagining of "Planet of the Apes" was visually a lot of fun but bogged down by lame callbacks to the original ... and a twist ending so breathtakingly nonsensical — in which history is rewritten so that regular Abe Lincoln becomes ape Abe Lincoln (Ape Lincoln?) — that no one really remembers anything else about the movie. Even director Tim Burton admitted the ending didn't add up, but for good reason, claiming that the movie was intended to be the first in a series that never happened — probably because Burton vowed he'd rather "jump out a window" than make another. The series was rebooted again with 2011's surprise smash-hit prequel "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" — and the sequel,"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," will hit theaters on July 18, 2014.
3. 'Terminator Salvation' (2009)
[caption id="attachment_200988" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Warner Bros.[/caption]
Directed by some guy with the coconuts to call himself "McG" and starring Christian Bale pulling double duty as John Connor and a maniacal English method actor bent on getting crew members fired, "Terminator Salvation" was supposed to relaunch the "Terminator" franchise in a big way. Unfortunately, the writers couldn't come up with much in the way of a plot but thought a series of chases, explosions and guttural screams would work just fine. Instead of launching a new trilogy as planned, Warner Bros. decided they were done with "Salvation," professionally, and have opted to launch another planned trilogy in 2015, which may or may not star your favorite ex-governator.
4. 'Superman Returns' (2006)
[caption id="attachment_200987" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Warner Bros.[/caption]
When "Superman Returns" was announced, maybe the most compelling aspect of the idea was that Brandon Routh, a complete unknown, would be taking on the iconic leading role. Except maybe the reason Brandon Routh's most impressive pre-"Superman Returns" credit was a four-episode run as a dude named 'Wade' on MTV's sexy teen soap opera "Undressed" was because he doesn't make for all that compelling of a leading man. Frankly, "Superman Returns," which was directed by "X-Men" architect Bryan Singer and starred such stellar talents as Kevin Spacey, Parker Posey and Frank Langella, was a movie people tried really hard to like, but couldn't. Still, a "Superman Returns" sequel was long in the works, but in 2008, following years of delays, Warner Bros. decided to reboot the series with the slightly more satisfying "Man of Steel."
5. 'Hulk' (2003)
[caption id="attachment_200984" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Universal[/caption]
"Hulk" was a strange, dark little superhero film, which shouldn't have surprised anyone considering Ang Lee is less a popcorn director and more the guy who made "The Ice Storm" and "Sense and Sensibility." Regardless, when the slow-burning "Hulk" — which waits almost 45 minutes to give fans any smash action — hit with a minor thud in 2003, there were still plans for a sequel. But when Edward Norton took over the role (and reportedly, the entire production) with "The Incredible Hulk," the backstory was rewritten to be closer to the source material, and "Hulk" was left as a one-off film. The franchise finally seems to have found a Hulk for the long haul in Mark Ruffalo, who's likely to reprise his role in at least one more Avengers sequel and possibly another Hulk movie at some point thereafter.
6. 'The Punisher' (2004)
[caption id="attachment_200986" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Lionsgate[/caption]
Speaking of dark superhero movies, "The Punisher" tells the story of a man who watches his entire family get killed and then sets out to kill a bunch of people (spoiler: he succeeds). Starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta, the bleak film revolted critics but was a modest box office success, and a "darker, bloodier and more unfriendly" sequel was planned. However, production fell apart when Marvel Studios apparently couldn't find a script that was quite dark, bloody and unfriendly enough. Instead the series was rebooted in the form of the even further over-the-top "Punisher: War Zone," in which lots and lots more people die, including one whose face is literally punched in. The movie was a mega-flop both critically and commercially, but after a spirited endorsement from noted comic book fan Patton Oswalt, "War Zone" has gone on to earn a cult following.
7. 'Godzilla' (1998)
[caption id="attachment_200983" align="aligncenter" width="500"] TriStar Pictures[/caption]
In his 1998 clusterf**k of an American "Godzilla" adaptation, director Roland Emmerich decided to forgo anything resembling a plot in favor of all the special effects. But unfortunately for Emmerich, when the camera lingered on a hatching egg in the final scene, neither fans, critics nor the general public were too interested in what was inside, and plans for a trilogy were axed. Warner Bros. will take their stab at a successful American "Godzilla" franchise in 2014 (this time in 3D!)
8. 'Batman & Robin' (1997)
[caption id="attachment_200982" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Warner Bros,[/caption]
The fourth installment in the Batman franchise, "Batman & Robin" is now best known for its Batman nipple-suit, attempt to break the vaguely threatening ice pun world record and being generally despised by fans, critics and even everyone involved in the production alike. But during the making of the movie, Warner Bros. was actually pleased as punched with how the production was going and hired director Joel Schumacher for a fifth installment. When "Batman & Robin" was ultimately revealed to be a stillborn, glorified toy commercial upon its release, the idea was scrapped. The franchise was eventually handed over to Christopher Nolan, who would go on to deliver what we can probably all agree was a far superior Batman series.