Spare a thought for those poor studio executives who produce movies that become unexpected box-office hits, and then have to devise ways to produce a sequel when one clearly wasn’t intended. This becomes doubly tricky when a major character was killed off during the story, and they then have to plausibly explain how they come back to life.
For example, Colin Firth was a big reason Kingsman: The Secret Service worked so well, but his character appeared quite dead by the time the credits rolled. Realizing his absence could hurt the sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle explains his fatal bullet wound wasn’t so fatal after all. Something similar could be in the works with Wonder Woman 2, where it almost seems inevitable that Chris Pine will return somehow, be it as a descendant of Steve Trevor, cloning, or straight up magic.
Surprisingly, studios occasionally have the common sense to leave things be, where they’ll explore the option of bringing a deceased character back, only to realize it won’t work. Over the years, there have been any number of creative – and utterly bizarre – attempts to explain away a character’s return to the land of the living, but eventually, the idea or the movie was scrapped entirely. Here are 15 Insane Rejected Plans To Resurrect Dead Characters, and the reasons they were abandoned.
15. Robert Neville Is Cloned – I Am Legend 2
I Am Legend was a huge hit for star Will Smith, but since the movie ended with his character dying in a huge explosion, coming up with a sequel would have been tricky. This sticking point wasn’t going to prevent Warner Bros from trying, of course, so a couple of ideas were floated.
The first was a prequel that would have seen Smith’s character Robert Neville trying to lead some survivors to safety as America falls; given the events of the original, audiences would have known the outcome well in advance. This prequel also would have included a setpiece with a vampire elephant, which sounds to be worth the price of a ticket by itself.
The second concept was that the survivors cloned Neville for some reason, but after receiving negative feedback from Smith himself, the sequel was scrapped. The studio has been quietly developing a reboot for a few years, and if it ever gets made, the lead character will probably be sticking around for at least a trilogy.
14. The Joker Is Brought Back By Scarecrow’s Fear Gas – Batman Unchained
It might be hard to believe now, but Warner Bros was certain they had a massive hit on their hands with Batman & Robin. They were so pleased with the dailies that they set the wheels in motion for another sequel titled Batman Unchained, where Batman would face off with Scarecrow and Harley Quinn, who was rewritten to be The Joker’s daughter.
A script was written, and director Joel Schumacher even met with Nicolas Cage in hopes of securing him for the Scarecrow, but the toxic reception Batman & Robin received killed Unchained almost immediately. This is a pity, because it sounds like the project would have been much darker than Schumacher’s previous entries.
A big setpiece would have found Batman being dosed with fear gas, causing him to hallucinate Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Other returning villains during this scene included Catwoman, The Penguin, and Two-Face, and they would have put him on trial for his “crimes.” It sounded like a crazy scene, and it would have been a suitably creative way to bring back some classic baddies.
13. Stu Survived Being Fried By A TV – Scream 3
The big twist of Scream is that it featured not one, but two killers, both of whom met a grisly fate before the end credits. Billy is finished with a bullet to the brain, while his accomplice Stu is electrocuted when Sidney smashes a TV over his head.
That would appear to be that, but there was a script developed for Scream 3 that would have revealed that Stu had improbably survived, and that he was masterminding a group of killers behind bars who were targeting Sidney. The Columbine tragedy saw to it that this version of the story was abandoned during development, with the producers behind the movie looking to trim down the violence.
Thus, Stu stayed dead, and Sidney’s half-brother became the villain instead. Writer Kevin Williamson later revived his concept for Scream 3 with the TV series The Following, which also featured a serial killer who amasses a cult of killers around him.
12. Taryn, Joey And Kincaide Become The Dream Police – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors is arguably the best sequel in the series, and it features a cast of likeable teen characters as they team up to defeat Freddy. Each of these characters has a special power they can use in their dreams; Joey is a mute who can emit a piercing scream, Taryn is a master with knives, and Kincaid becomes super strong.
Sadly, these powers do little to save them, and they by the time the fourth film ends, they’re all dead. The original script for Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare planned to bring them back, however, with the reveal that they’re now The Dream Police. In keeping with their established powers, Taryn would be the Blade Cop, Kincaide became the Power Cop, and Joey the Sound Cop, and they return to fight Freddy at key moments.
11. Krug Is Kicked Out Of Hell – Beyond The Last House On The Left
The Last House On The Left was horror legend Wes Craven’s first movie, and it’s since become infamous for its disturbing, realistic violence. The story follows two teen girls who run across Krug and his criminal gang and are promptly kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. The girls’ parents learn what happened soon after, and take bloody revenge on Krug and crew.
Despite being extremely controversial upon release, the movie became a cult hit, and during the slasher-movie boom of the 1980s, producers sought to cash-in on its notoriety. Despite having no interest in making a sequel, Craven was hired to pen a script, which featured Krug being kicked out of hell before going on to torment a group of teens on an abandoned island.
Beyond The Last House On The Left was even announced in a trade magazine in 1985, but the project fell apart shortly afterwards due to rights issues. This is probably for the best, since even David Hess – who played Krug – admitted the script for the abandoned movie wasn’t much good.
10. MacReady And Childs Are Rescued By Japanese Whalers – The Thing II
The Thing has one of the bleakest endings in all of cinema, where the two survivors have destroyed their arctic camp to kill the title creature, and now sit there waiting to freeze to death. There’s also the possibility one of them is infected, meaning the world may be doomed anyway.
The Thing was a box office disappointment on release, though talk of a sequel flared up over the years. Director John Carpenter pitched the idea of turning a 1991 comic book sequel into a movie, which opens with Childs and MacReady being rescued by Japanese whalers, who airlift them to safety. Trouble kicks in when MacReady decides to fly back to the camp to make sure the creature is totally dead, which it isn’t.
Carpenter even planned to explain away the actors aging between movies by blaming it on frostbite. Despite fan demand, Universal was nervous about greenlighting a sequel, and eventually opted for a prequel in 2011 instead.
9. Jack Bauer Faked Christopher Henderson’s Death – 24: Season 6
The fifth season of 24 is generally considered to be the series’ best thanks to its intense storylines, great villains, and the shocking amount of high-profile character deaths. It was so good that the sixth season struggled to live up to the same standards, and is often voted the weakest year as a result.
In coming up with the finale, producers decided that they needed a shocking twist to end on, and they had a couple of ideas in mind. One featured the return of Christopher Henderson – Jack’s former boss and a key villain of season five –where he’d tell Jack at gunpoint that they needed to talk. This would have been a shocker, since Jack killed Henderson with two shots to the heart. 24’s Producers planned to explain this away by stating Jack had faked Henderson’s demise as part of an agreement they’d made.
This was scrapped because producers felt audiences wouldn’t buy it, but they also flirted with bringing back Jack’s dead friend Tony Almeida in the same way. They eventually brought Tony back to life in season seven anyway, where he became a villain himself.
8. Larry Is Rescued From Hell By His Daughter – Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Hellraiser became an instant success upon release, and work was already underway on a sequel before it came out. Hellbound: Hellraiser II picks up right where the previous movie left off, with final girl Kirsty being sent to a mental asylum thanks to her talk of demons killing her father. She soon receives visions of her tormented father begging her to save him from Hell, so like a good daughter, she ventures into the Underworld to save him.
Most of the original cast returned for the follow-up, with the exception of Andrew Robinson, who played Kirsty’s father Larry. In the original script, Larry would have been fused together with his evil brother Frank in Hell, leading to a fight where he severs the link fusing them. He escapes with Kirsty and they eventually leave the asylum together, but Robinson turned the role down, since he wasn’t happy with the script.
7. Fox Is Brought Back By A Healing Bath – Wanted 2
Wanted became an instant hit thanks to its inventive action and crazy visuals, and the studio instantly set to work on producing a sequel. A major stumbling point was the biggest star of the original – Angelina Jolie – ended the movie with a bullet to the head, seemingly excluding her character Fox from returning.
Universal tasked screenwriters with coming up with a plausible explanation for her revival, including having Fox return via flashbacks. One script featured her being revived after an extra long session in a healing bath, which in the original is used to quickly mend serious wounds. This only works on living characters, though, so the explanation didn’t quite check the necessary boxes.
Jolie apparently didn’t warm to any of the solutions — or the idea of returning for a sequel in the first place — and the project has since gone quiet. Given the amount of time that’s passed since the release of Wanted, a reboot is more likely than a direct sequel at this point.
6. Gary Busey’s Villain Survived A Submarine Explosion – Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
Gary Busey was the go-to villain for many big budget action movies in the eighties and nineties, stealing the show in the likes of Lethal Weapon, Predator 2, and Drop Zone. His finest hour likely came in Under Siege, where he teamed up with Tommy Lee Jones to take over a battleship and generally chew the scenery.
His bad guy is thoroughly dispatched by Steven Seagal’s hero in the final act, who blows up a submarine Busey’s character is escaping in. Bizarrely, the producers of Under Siege 2: Dark Territory tried to bring him back regardless, offering him a pay or play deal. They could never come up with a plausible explanation for his character’s survival, however, and it already seemed like a leap that Seagal’s character would happen to be on another vehicle while it was being hijacked — let alone by the exact same villain.
5. Detective Vukovich Ended Up In A Wheelchair After Being Shot To Pieces – Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines
While many fans think of the original Terminator as an action film, it’s really more a slasher movie. It features an emotionless, unstoppable killing machine who stalks his victim relentlessly, and it’s often quite creepy too.
The signature setpiece features the machine smashing into a police station in an attempt to kill Sarah Connor, where he blasts through waves of policemen in the process. This includes Detective Vukovich, played by Lance Henriksen. Henriksen had originally been cast in the title role when Cameron pictured The Terminator as more of a normal looking man, but the casting of Schwarzenegger changed all that.
Henriksen was thus given a supporting role, with his character being gunned down – off-screen – during the police station massacre. His fate seemed pretty conclusive, but one draft of the Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines featured Vukovich returning in a wheelchair to help John Connor. While it wouldn’t have been the most ridiculous thing in the movie, this subplot was best removed.
4. Captain Stacy Is Brought Back By A Resurrection Formula – The Amazing Spider-Man 3
Sony was fully expecting The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to be a massive success back in 2014, only for it to become the lowest grossing Spider-Man film to date and a critical dud. Plans for further sequels and spin-offs were shelved, and Sony soon worked out a deal with Marvel to share the hero.
Since then, some details have leaked about the cancelled third movie, including a bizarre subplot featuring Captain Stacy. Stacy – played by Denis Leary – died in the first movie, and returned in some ghostly visions in the second film to haunt Peter. Leary claims the third movie would have featured Peter bring Stacy back to life with a resurrection formula, and apparently, Gwen Stacy might have been cloned too.
Even for a comic book movie, this sounds like a twist too far, so maybe it’s a good thing that the third installment didn’t move forward. Apparently, Eddie Brock also would have appeared, which would have teased Venom as the villain in the fourth movie and/or a future spin-off.
3. Data Is Brought Back By Time Travel – Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Final Adventure
It would be fair to say that fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t feel the crew’s final adventure – Nemesis – was a fitting send off. The movie was a flat adventure with a clearly not very enthused cast, and despite giving Tom Hardy his first major big screen role (as the villain), the movie is rarely mentioned today. This opinion has been echoed by the cast themselves, who since shed light on a potential final movie that was planned if Nemesis had been a hit.
The plot would brought back some favorite characters thanks to the magic of time travel, where classic villain Khan would have set about recruiting a league of bad guys. It would have been up to Captain Picard to stop their insidious plot, and along the way, he would have teleported back to the Nemesis timeline to save Data, who sacrificed himself to save the day.
2. Maximus Is Resurrected By Roman Gods To Kill Jesus – Gladiator 2: Christ Killer
Gladiator is the film that made Russell Crowe an A-list star, and it’s one that’s close to his heart. Despite agreeing with the decision to kill Maximus at the end, he still entertained ideas of a possible sequel and tasked his musician friend Nick Cave with penning the hypothetical follow-up.
Cave – feeling anything he wrote probably wouldn’t be made anyway – decided to let his imagination run wild. His script featured Maximus being sent to purgatory, where the old Roman Gods are dying because people are starting to believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ instead. They resurrect Maximus to assassinate Christ on their behalf, and as a reward, they’ll allow him to be with his wife and child.
The script gets crazier from there, including a sequence where the Coliseum is filled with water and Christians are fed to hungry alligators. The script ends with a long montage of Maximus – who is condemned to live forever – fighting in various famous wars throughout history, and finally becoming a general in the Pentagon.
1. Alien 3 Was Just A Cryosleep Dream – Alien 4
The unrelenting bleakness of Alien 3 turned off a lot of viewers, and it’s no secret that the film had an especially troubled production. The franchise was still a valuable commodity, however, so Fox explored ways to make another entry.
One concept that was briefly explored was the idea that Alien 3 was simply a nasty nightmare Ripley had during hypersleep, and that she wakes up with Hicks and Newt on the Sulaco for another adventure. It’s not like Ripley hasn’t had vivid dreams before – like her hospital nightmare in Aliens – but Sigourney Weaver wasn’t convinced, preferring to walk away from the franchise and let Ripley rest in peace.
The studio later hired Joss Whedon to pen a script, with his idea centering on a clone of Newt to carry the series forward. The studio liked the idea, but later made Whedon change the lead to a clone of Ripley instead, leading to Weaver signing on for a nice payday.
Neill Blomkamp’s now cancelled Alien sequel would have seen the return of Ripley, Newt, and Hicks, with many fans believing that the hypersleep “nightmare” scenario would have been used to explain their survival.
Which of these crazed plots to bring characters back from the dead would you have signed up for? Let us know in the comments.
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