Franchise Face-lifts - The Top 5 Worst

Franchise Face-lifts - The Top 5 Worst

Previously we looked at five examples of how to properly resuscitate a pop culture franchise. You don’t need a Project Genesis or the Phoenix Force to do it; just a talented producer/writer/director team that understands what makes a particular character or concept exceptional, gutsy enough to go off in bold directions.

J.J. Abrams Star Trek has successfully done that and finally breathed new life in a property that was on creative life-support for years, including [as seen here] major missteps like the Bill Shatner-directed The Final Frontier. So giving the unsuccessful attempts equal time, here's a look at the Top 5 Worst Franchise Face-lifts ever…

Dishonorable Mention

The Pink Panther movies with Steve Martin earn a spot in the Reboot Hall of Shame for neutering Peter Sellers’ classic films and loading them with childish pratfalls and silly, dated comedy bits.

We could also mention about a dozen TV remakes – we're looking at you Honeymooners and McHale’s Navy – but Bewitched with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell gets its own special nod. Not just because that wretched film soiled the memory of one of a classic sitcom or because Nora Ephron’s ‘TV show remake-within-a-remake’ story simply outsmarted itself, but because it made one of the funniest guys on the planet – that would be Ferrell – painfully unfunny. And that’s something we just won’t put up with.

5. Knight Rider (2008)

As bad a small-screen reinvention as Battlestar Galactica was good.

Sure, casting a soap opera guy as Michael Knight’s son and new hero was rather symmetrical. Before he became 'the Hoff', David Hasselhoff cut his teeth on The Young and the Restless.

Problem is, when your leading man is less interesting than the car he’s driving, your show’s in trouble. And Hasselhoff’s successor, Justin Bruening had the charisma of oatmeal. Plain oatmeal.

Speaking of the show’s headliner, did anyone really get excited about the new K.I.T.T.?

Instead of creating an action-adventure series for modern audiences, "KR2008", thanks to lazy writing and stock characters pulled out of NBC inventory, managed to be as campy as its ancestor, without any of the charm of the original.

4. Lost in Space (1998)

We like our science fiction camp-free, unless it’s having fun with the concept, Ala Galaxy Quest. But this big-screen revival of the beloved 1960's TV show took itself way too seriously.

There was absolutely no sense of fun or adventure, and the lackluster special effects didn’t help. This also may have been the worst casting job the genre’s seen since Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine were creating classic unintentional comedy in Disney's The Black Hole.

William Hurt and Gary Oldman seemed to have no idea what the hell was going on, Matt LeBlanc could’ve used Shatner’s old girdle from the last season of Star Trek, and a very young, Party of Five-era Lacey Chabert looked like she wanted to scream for Charlie and Bailey to come take her home.

Raise your hands if you ever stop to watch this movie when you stumble upon it while channel surfing? Yeah. Didn’t think so.

3. Godzilla (1998)

Size does matter.

And Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla was a monstrous disappointment.

After nearly a year of hype built through an effective marketing campaign that kept the title creature’s look under wraps, when the big reveal finally happened, there were no “oohs” or “aahs” … just ‘eh.’

We sat through a year of Taco Bell ads for this?!?

The man who came up with the creature’s design, Patrick Tatopoulos, said his monster was “not a dinosaur at all. It’s like a dragon.”

Uh…Patrick, it sure looked like a dinosaur to the rest of us.

The fact that Spielberg had dropped The Lost World: Jurassic Park on us the previous summer also took the wind out of the film’s ‘Monster in Metropolis’ angle.

The worst part about Godzilla was not that it was awful. It wasn’t. It was ordinary. The spectacle that should be a monster movie’s bread-and-butter was nowhere to be found.

2. Punisher (2004)/Punisher: War Zone (2008)

It almost seems as if filmmakers were playing a Bizarro World game of “Can you top this?” with movies involving comic book vigilante Frank Castle. As in, "I don’t care how bad your Punisher film was, I can do worse."

How else do you explain these two absolutely abysmal movies based on a Marvel Comics character that, in theory, should be among the easiest to adapt from the page to the screen?

The 1989 movie with Dolph Lundgren and Louis Gossett Jr. gets a pass here, because it was made before the current Golden Age of comic book films, when expectations and quality control were minimal. And technically it wasn't a reboot. It was a first effort.

Frank Castle is a vigilante with a psychotic chip on his shoulder, and a big arsenal. No capes, no powers. Giddy-up. So why can’t Hollywood figure this guy out?

Instead, we get a guy who hunts criminals – and tries to avoid killing them – in Tampa of all places, in 2004’s The Punisher.

Last year’s Punisher: War Zone brought Castle back to New York where he belongs, but the film’s violence was so cartoonish, the body count almost became a punchline.

Then there are the villains. John Travolta, who took a quick payday to shoot close to his central Florida home, made his bad guy turns in Swordfish and Face/Off seem understated compared to his scenery chewing in the 2004 movie.

But even Travolta doesn’t hold a candle to Dominic West, who as Jigsaw in War Zone, took unintentional comedy to new heights.

There have now been more Punisher movies made in the past 20 years than there have been Superman films. War Zone's flat-line at the box office should be the final nail in the cinematic coffin of Frank Castle. Let’s consider it a mercy killing.

1. Planet of the Apes (2001)

This was the easiest call to make. All you need to know about how bad this movie was, how universally unsatisfying an aftertaste it left on everyone’s mouth, is that it made $360+ million and STILL KILLED THE FRANCHISE. But why stop there? Mark Wahlberg seemed alternately angry and embarrassed to be starring in this soulless bludgeoning of cinematic history. Tim Burton has never made a film so lacking in character and flair.

And let's not even get started on the ridiculous ending.

Not only did the original Apes have a tremendous premise and one of the most memorable endings ever, it was an allegory of its time. When the end credits roll and you’re left to ponder what you just saw projected onscreen in relation to the real world around us, well hell, that’s good sci-fi.

This, this was not good sci-fi. Last time we mentioned some rules to follow for rebooting a franchise. Here’s another one - don’t reboot the already good franchises, period.

You want to remake the Fantastic Four, fine. Both films were lame.

Want to revamp Daredevil? Be my guest. Get better costume designers.

Reboot all the lousy properties you want. Leave the ones that got it right alone.

Rebooting – sorry, Reimagining – the Apes series was a waste of time because the series was good (with the first movie a certifiable classic). Let it be and focus instead on complete series Blu-ray set for all us 'Ape Heads' out here.

Michael Avila is the producer for the nationally syndicated movie show Lyons & Bailes REEL TALK. Visit to check your local listings.

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