Studios love franchises – if the first film does well, any further films come with a ready-made fandom and a solid chance of success. Franchises based on books are even better – they proven, successful concepts and complete storylines ready and waiting to make money. Franchises also have so much more scope to them – characters can be developed and introduced over multiple films, plotlines can build slowly to a climax, and there is space to really explore different ideas. In short, franchises are fantastic for everyone… as long as they take off.
One of the most frustrating things that can happen with a franchise is seeing it end before its time. For many book-based franchises, it can be heartbreaking to see your favorite characters put to rest before their stories reach the end. Poor reception and low box office figures are enough to kill a concept before the planned end.
Here are 12 Movie Franchises That Were Canceled Before Their Final Chapter, leaving audiences hanging.
12 Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (2009)
Based on the Vampire Blood trilogy of Darren Shan’s (part of the Saga of Darren Shan series), The Vampire’s Assistant was intended to be a full trilogy. There was even the possibility that if the films did well, the second, third or fourth trilogies in the Saga of Darren Shan could be adapted. After the first film, the cast was reportedly locked down for the sequel, but it never appeared.
The first film also seemed to combine elements of the entire first trilogy, making it likely that any follow up would skip straight to the second. With poor numbers at the box office and less-than-stellar reviews, it seems that The Vampire’s Assistant will remain the only big-screen version of the books for now.
11 Inkheart (2008)
A magical story of book characters come to life, Inkheart was based on the book of the same name by Cornelia Funke. Although the original book had two sequels (Inkspell and Inkdeath), film adaptations for these two never made an appearance, but there was some debate over whether they were ever intended to be made, too.
While the first book left lots of loose ends, the film tied everything up quite neatly – and would have needed some interesting re-writing to continue. However, the rights to all three books were sold, and it’s very likely that the lack of a follow up was due to the poor reviews that Inkheart received.
10 Eragon (2006)
A hero’s journey in a fantasy world, the novel of the same name gained worldwide fame after the author self-published it while still a teenager. The book (later re-published) and its sequel both became New York Times Bestsellers, and the series was completed with two more novels.
Presumably, the film Eragon was intended to follow the books, with film adaptations of Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance also made into feature-length films. However, Eragon was absolutely blasted by critics, becoming one of the biggest flops of the year. With largely negative reviews, it’s no wonder that the remaining three films were never made.
9 Ender’s Game (2013)
This military sci-fi film was based on the novel of the same name, and had the potential to expand into a franchise as huge as that of the books. With fourteen novels, thirteen short stories and multiple comics, the 2013 film should have marked the start of something huge. However, the film didn’t click with audiences – coming out at the height of the YA adaptation craze, it may simply have slipped through the cracks.
A script for a follow-up reportedly exists, and there may be potential for a TV series. There has also been some speculation that Lionsgate wanted to wait for the release of Orson Scott Card’s upcoming Fleet School, with the intention of basing a new film around it.
8 John Carter (2012)
John Carter of Mars has a long history, having first appeared in 1912 as a serialized magazine story about a Confederate soldier man transported from Virginia to Mars. Since the original story was published, it has been re-released as a full novel with a full series in tow. John Carter has also appeared in comics, films and games before Disney took him up for the 2012 film.
Intended to be the first in a John Carter trilogy, the first film ended up with mixed reviews and a poor box office showing, which put a hold on any further films. There was some talk of a sequel for the next couple of years, but the film rights reverted to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate in 2014, effectively killing off the possibility.
7 The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
Although The Spiderwick Chronicles was based on a series of books, it actually combined the five main novels into a single film. It managed this impressive feat by cutting out a lot of the fourth novel (as well as parts of the other four), and by changing other elements to create a single, cohesive film.
Still, with three further novels available for adaptation (The Nixie’s Song, A Giant Problem, and The Wyrm King) there was plenty of scope for a franchise to develop. The film did well at the box office and with critics, and there was even a spinoff video game developed, but a franchise simply never appeared.
6 Percy Jackson & The Olympians (2010 – 2013)
A young boy discovers that he is a demi-god in this fantasy YA series by Rick Riordan. With plenty of magic, fighting, and the usual friendships and love interests, the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series is immensely popular. When Fox adapted the first book in 2010, it was assumed that all five novels would be made into movies.
However, only the first two have so far been filmed, with mixed reviews and no huge success. A third was debated, but as the young stars of the films age, it is unlikely that they would be able to return to convincingly play teenagers for much longer.
5 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, Master and Commander is based on the first book of the Aubrey Maturin series, a collection of 20 finished novels that chronicle the life and career of Jack Aubrey of the Royal Navy. When the first film was made in 2003, it was speculated that we would see further movies mining the rich source material, but Master and Commander never got a follow up, let alone a franchise.
Director Peter Weir suggested that the film simply didn’t do well enough to support a franchise, but star Russell Crowe remains hopeful. In 2010, he encouraged fans to contact Fox if they wanted more Jack Aubrey movies, but six years later, it’s pretty safe to say that this franchise will never be.
4 Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Starring Jim Carey, this adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s children’s novels was intended as the beginning of a potentially huge franchise. There are thirteen books in the series, and while the film rolled together the first three (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window) the novels become longer as the series continues, meaning that there would have been several more movies if the franchise took off.
The film actually did reasonably well at the box office and received largely positive (if not overly enthusiastic) reviews. However, the franchise ended up being left by the wayside after corporate shakeups at Paramount pictures delayed it for too long. By the time it was back on the table, the original cast had grown up too much, and a sequel simply wasn’t practical. Lemony Snicket’s stories will get another shot at live action later this year, though, as Netflix and Neil Patrick Harris bring a new series to life.
3 The Golden Compass (2007)
Based on the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman, The Golden Compass was intended to be the first in a YA fantasy trilogy spanning multiple universes. The books are incredible, the casting was spot-on, and the effects were stunning, but the franchise ground to a halt after the first film.
The Golden Compass should have been followed with an adaptation of The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, but after the first (extremely expensive) film received a lukewarm reception, and adaptations of the rest of the series were put on hold indefinitely. Fans of the series will get another live-action adaptation in future, though, as a new TV adaptation is reportedly in the works.
2 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)
This was the second adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s thriller novel, following a Swedish adaptation in 2009. Both the book and the Swedish film were the introduction to a trilogy, following The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.
Despite winning awards and critical acclaim, however, the intended follow-up films were never made. A release date was set for The Girl Who Played With Fire, but after issues with the script and scheduling conflicts for the stars, the film was shelved indefinitely. The sequels are still on the table, but there have also been rumors that the entire franchise may be rebooted instead.
1 Chronicles of Narnia (2005 – 2010)
C. S. Lewis’s beloved fantasy series has been adapted many times, on TV, stage and for radio. However, Lewis kept the movie rights to himself for quite some time, before his stepson finally allowed Disney to buy them.
The first film, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) did well in cinemas, and two sequels were made; Prince Caspian (2008) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010). It seemed as though Disney was working through the series in order, but diminishing returns on the films put a hold on the next film, The Silver Chair. However, it seems that this is still in the works, but as a total reboot of the series. Perhaps this franchise isn't as dead as it seems...
Can you think of any other film series that ended before they were supposed to? Let us know in the comments!