Last time, we talked about movies that should have been one-and-done. Today, we’re going to talk about the movies that were one-and-done. They may have a cult following now, but chances are at the time of their release they weren’t the most lucrative at the box office, so the powers that be put them back in the box, and left us with the thoughts of what might have been.
Dog Soldiers has the simplest of premises: Soldiers put in the reserves are put through military exercises in Scotland, until they are inexplicably attacked by werewolves. It is Neil Marshall’s (The Descent) first film that served to herald the English director (to me at least) as the chief successor to many of my horror heroes, such as John Carpenter and Sam Raimi. Dog Soldiers is a heady mix of laugh-out-loud funny and scream-out-loud scary. A franchise following from this independent property (for me) would track the course of the surviving character upon further adventures in which he would encounter vampires, mummies, Frankenstein-esque monster, and so on. Each movie would be a fresh twist on an old tale, and if they were a fraction as good as Dog Soldiers, the studio attached would be onto a winner.
Big Trouble in Little China
Big Trouble in Little China’s Jack Burton is one of the all-time great ’80s action heroes: Mulleted, constantly spouting one-liners, chock-full of macho bullshit, and played by Kurt Russell. The subversion that John Carpenter pulls is to market Burton as the hero, and then treat him like the sidekick. He is dragged along throughout the movie, always one step behind the other characters, who know more than him and are proven more capable as central protagonists. In establishing a Big Trouble in Little franchise, there might be legs to get the whole thing off the ground by putting Burton in different situations where he finds himself out of his depth, and surrounded by mystical dangers, leaving him wanting to get back in his truck and wax lyrical bullshit on a CB radio to whomever is listening.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
This movie (based on Patrick O’Brien’s series of novels) is a true hidden gem. It’s a great, rip-roaring adventure with a nice mix of humor, action, stirring speeches, Paul Bettany (before he forgot that he was an incredibly promising talent), and a nice amount of the reality of a life at sea. The first movie gives a hint of a world that a viewer could get lost in, full of characters with their own stories and trials that could be explored. It’s also a potential franchise with 21 novels to pull from as source material, so there are more than enough stories to dip in and out of in order to create a feature film series following the adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic Wars. Also, Crowe and Bettany have chemistry for days, and that’s something that shouldn’t be squandered.
Attack the Block
Attack the Block should have been Joe Cornish’s kick-down-the-door moment, announcing him as the huge talent that studios should be throwing money at. Instead, his debut feature developed a strong, cult following, and introduced us to English actor John Boyega, who is seemingly set for super-stardom. Maybe if it had more money we could have followed the Boys from the Block on some further adventures. Maybe the aliens would come back for some revenge, or maybe (for some convoluted reason) the boys would end up on an adventure in space. Or maybe they would need to fight vampires on the estate, or they would crossover with Dog Soldiers and have to fuck up some big, werewolf motherfuckers. Either way, if this movie was announced you would be able to hear our very own Diego Crespo squee from space. And in space, no one can hear you squee.
M. Night Shyamalan (whose greatest plot twist of all was revealing that he was a hack) followed up The Sixth Sense with a moody, dark movie about a superhero discovering his powers. Unbreakable is a weird, slow film, full of quiet moments and some excellent, restrained performances out of keeping with its supported genre. Originally pitched as a trilogy, Unbreakable performed poorly upon release because people wanted more of the same from Shyamalan after The Sixth Sense, but it is a feature film property that has since gained a following of viewers who hold it up as Shyamalan’s best movie (to be honest, not a hard choice considering he’s made two excellent movies, one very good movie, and then a cavalcade of shite). When Unbreakable under-performed, Shyamalan ditched his plans for a trilogy, and deprived his viewers of the bigger story of David Dunne and his arch-nemesis Mr. Glass (a trend with the movies on this list).
All of the movies listed here are the ones that were released to poor numbers before gaining momentum after leaving the Box Office. It’s hard for a studio to pitch a sequel to a movie that might gain a huge following, so we find ourselves years down the road looking down the barrel of a Big Trouble in Little China remake starring The Rock, rather than a Blu-Ray release of The Big Trilogy in Little China (an alternative infinitely more appealing).