William Goldman famously said “In Hollywood, nobody knows anything. Nobody learns anything.” In honor of his passing, the bean counters of the American film industry seem intent on proving him right. From poor choices of source material to attempts to revive genres long considered passé, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons why upcoming releases are probably doomed to tank.
1. The Kid Who Would Be King
Harry Potter was the grandest literary phenomenon since Gone with the Wind and spawned an extremely lucrative film franchise. With that in mind, it’s difficult to fault writers and filmmakers who have tried to find the next Harry Potter by copying that franchises’ core elements. A writer has to eat. However, the Harry Potter wannabe train has long left the station, headed not to Hogwarts but to oblivion.
Since then, it has been replaced by the Twilight bandwagon, followed by the Hunger Games bandwagon and the 80’s nostalgia bandwagon. Even name brand Harry Potter is at a bit of a low point, as Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald underperformed at the box office and was widely derided by fans of the earlier films. Someone hasn’t received the memo.
Enter The Kid Who Would Be King, a take on the legend of King Arthur where Arthur is a modern day twelve-year-old with a passing resemblance to the young Danielle Radcliffe. On the surface, King Arthur seems like a good character to use for a blockbuster hero. He’s public domain and the everyman has heard of him. Yet, they don’t know anything about him. They wouldn’t be able to tell you about his profound Christian faith or his fabled return.
If there is any significant interest in Arthurian legend, it’s probably an interest in the real deal, not a kiddie modernization. The film’s producers would do better by kids to make a blockbuster that didn’t feel like English homework and do better by adults by sticking with Sir Thomas Mallory.
2. Ugly Dolls
Product placement is fine. It is popular to decry product placement and similar practices, but filmmaking is expensive. If a good movie only gets made because its makers were paid to feature a McDonald’s toy in a key scene, all power to it (and our corporate overlords). Both of the Lego movies were feature-length advertisements for plastic bricks. And they were clever and amusing.
Likely inspired by their success, the creators of Ugly Dolls – a brand of dolls designed to look ugly and cute that succeed at neither endeavor – have made their own advertisement/film. This seemed like a good idea. The dolls will promote the film which will promote the dolls; it’s the cinematic equivalent of two mirrors reflecting each other.
There’s one problem: no one cares about Ugly Dolls. Legos are a generation-spanning toy loved by millions of children. The Ugly Doll fanbase is not nearly as large, composed partly of hipsters and tween girls too edgy for kawaii culture but not edgy enough for Tim Burton.
Bizarrely, the film’s cast is primarily musicians whose fame expired or never took root: Kelly Clarkson, Pitbull, Nick Jonas, Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha. Why? If the public isn’t interested in Kelly Clarkson, they certainly aren’t going to be interested in Kelly Clarkson pretending to be an ugly plush.
3. Moose Jaws
Kevin Smith’s downfall as a filmmaker would be sad if he weren’t so self-impressed. Some of his earlier films were funny and poignant. But later, in his career as a filmmaker, he’s become juvenile in a way that no middle-aged man has any right to be. He also thinks that Canada is hilarious; it’s not. But that hasn’t stopped Smith from concocting his True North trilogy, a series of Canada set films with outlandish premises.
The first was Tusk, about a mad scientist who transforms a man into a walrus. It was followed by Yoga Hosers, a buddy comedy about two teenage girls who defeat tiny Nazis made of Bratwurst called Bratzis.
Smith has mastered the art of creating films that should work overtime to justify their existence, but don’t bother to. The trilogy is to be completed with a film that is essentially Jaws with a moose, which will cleverly be titled Moose Jaws. We can only hope the world ends before it’s finished.
4. Anna and the Apocalypse
Anna and the Apocalypse is an upcoming gory Christmas camp musical about a zombie apocalypse. Yes, the premise is ridiculous. Bu the film’s creators clearly know that. The film is obviously inspired by the likes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Little Shop of Horrors, goofy musicals which mined B-horror movies to create fun, oddball viewing experiences.
Anna could be a fun romp. But this isn’t a list of upcoming films that are necessarily going to be bad. It’s a list of films that are going to flop. The appeal of Anna and the Apocalypse is going to be limited, and it will likely suffer from poor word of mouth from people who don’t get the joke.
Zombie films also lack the popularity that they had in the mid-2000’s, and this decade has seen very few successful film musicals that were not aimed at children. Also, the musicals that inspired Anna were flops, so the best this picture can hope for is a cult following once it is released on DVD.
5. Jungle Cruise
Speaking of film-length advertisements, Disney has released a number of features based on their theme park attractions. For every Pirates of the Caribbean, there’s been a film you’ve thankfully never seen, like The Country Bears, The Tower of Terror, and Tomorrowland. Now the House of Mouse has decided to craft a film based on one of their least impressive attractions, The Jungle Cruise.
The Jungle Cruise is a cruise through a synthetic river, filled with aging animatronic animals. When the ride opened in the 1960’s, it was probably very impressive. Fifty years on, its special effects aren’t so special. A story-free ride is not a good property to be turned into a film. So, of course, someone did. The creators of this stillborn idea had cited The African Queen as an influence, but Dwayne Johnson, though charismatic, is not Bogart.