Mother Brain’s Top 10 Unproduced Movie Sequels

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Mother Brain’s Top 10 Unproduced Movie Sequels
By Mother Brain

The summer of 2012 is going to be like the summer of 1989 where sequels (i.e. Dark Knight Rises, Expendables 2, Men in Black 3, etc) dominate the box office. And if that’s not enough, there’s a whole plethora of sequels in development currently on the way including Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, Blade Runner 2, Transformers 4, Fast & Furious 6, and countless others.  But what about the ones that never made the light of day? That’s why to commemorate this summer movie season, I’ll be looking at my top 10 list of unproduced sequels ever.

While there were lots to choose from, I chose the 10 that had the most interesting histories. Some of these sequels almost went into production while others were reworked or actually still remain in development. Nonetheless, each one has a fascinating history behind it:

10. The Brazilian Job

The 2003 remake of the 60s British caper comedy was fast and fun. It was Ocean’s Eleven with Mini Coopers and an attractive all-star cast including Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Jason Statham just to name a few. Paramount Pictures had so much faith in the movie that they had it re-released at the end of that summer to cross the $100 million mark. Naturally, the studio wanted a follow-up which was set for release in 2005. They optioned a spec screenplay by David Twohy of the Riddick films and the story involved the gang help Theron’s character clear her name after she’s blackmailed into robbing a major diamond company’s vault. But actor schedules and studio brass changes within a 5 year period derailed the project and it became nothing more than as actor Seth Green called it “a wonder myth of IMDb.”

9 . E.T. 2: Nocturnal Fears

The original E.T. did more than break box office records worldwide. It touched people’s lives all over the planet. While most people believed that director Steven Spielberg would never tarnish the film’s legacy (until the 20th Anniversary release), there was a brief period in the summer of 1982 when Spielberg and Universal Pictures heavily considered a follow-up. Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison prepared a treatment with Elliott and company abducted by a more evil race of aliens and have to re-locate E.T. for help. It wasn’t too long before Spielberg realized he was making a mistake and by 1985, he abandoned the project all together; however, some of the story elements, including a visit to the E.T. home planet, were utilized in the E.T. Adventure attraction at the Universal Studios theme parks.

8. Beverly Hills Cop 4

Contrary to popular belief, the 4th adventure of Eddie Murphy’s hip cop from Detroit, Axel Foley, was initially planned after the release of Beverly Hills Cop II when producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer considered an idea to shoot the 3rd and 4th films back to back overseas in Europe and Asia. Eddie’s falling track record, however, killed that idea which resulted in the half-assed Beverly Hills Cop III in 1994. Determined to bring life back into the franchise, Eddie sought after numerous writers to come up with a new premise to return back to the fish out of water roots of Cop I. From the mid 90s and on, screenwriters such as John Ridley (Red Tails) and Dan Gordon (The Hurricane) wrote drafts in which Axel battled terrorists in London and Paris. But the closest it came into production was in 2008 when Brett Ratner was hired to direct a screenplay by Wanted screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas. The premise involved Axel returning to Beverly Hills to avenge the murder of series favorite Billy Rosewood at the hands of dirty cops while gaining a new young cop sidekick intended for Jonah Hill to play. Fans lashed out on the internet over the decision to deep six the supporting characters and Paramount lost faith in Eddie after a string of more family movie failures. Now there’s talk of a TV series about Axel’s son.

7. The Naked Gun: What 4?: The Rhythm of Evil

Not that anyone was begging for one. But the beloved cop movie parody series based on the short lived sitcom almost had a passing of the torch in this potential hit. Alan Spencer, the creator of the 80s cop sitcom Sledge Hammer!, wrote a screenplay that parodied all the big dirty cop movies of the 2000s (Training Day, The Departed, etc) with Leslie Nielsen’s Frank Drebin coming out of retirement to train a new rookie. Spencer even managed to explain the absence of the Nordberg character played infamously by O.J. Simpson. Sadly, financial issues and the passing of Nielsen ended these plans.

6. Roger Rabbit: The Toon Platoon

Although there were many Roger Rabbit shorts produced to open some Disney films in the late 80s and early 90s, an actual sequel was stuck in development for years. The concept of Toon Platoon was a prequel set prior to the events of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in which the character along with other iconic cartoon characters from the golden age were drafted into World War II. Roger fights the Nazis, rescues Jessica Rabbit, and discovers that Bugs Bunny was his father! Then producer Steven Spielberg chose to kill the project after making Schindler’s List, vowing to never satirize the Nazis again. Another draft was written to reveal how Roger was first discovered and early CGI tests were filmed (and leaked). But in 2009, director Robert Zemeckis expressed serious interest in returning to the sequel which made Disney press the reset button on their initial plans.

5. The Thing Part II

Unlike the so-called “prequel” that was released last year, this abandoned project acted as a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece. The written treatment by Garry A. Piazza takes place days after the events of the original when the CIA locates and thaws out the body of R.J. MacReady (the Kurt Russell role). The recovered MacReady soon finds out that these dirty CIA operatives want to contain the Thing for experimentation and all hell breaks loose again. There’s even the addition of an alien bounty hunter who’s been after the Thing for many years who crosses paths (and joins forces) with MacReady. While Carpenter expressed great interest in a sequel over the years, Universal Pictures kept holding it back. Other proposed sequel ideas were later used in a short lived Dark Horse Comics series as well as a Carpenter-approved video game released in 2002.

4. Back to the Future Part IV

Let’s be very clear: Director Robert Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale have constantly shot down any possibility of a 4th installment to their beloved series. Yet, rumors circulated throughout the late 90s of continuation ideas including Doc Brown mentoring a teenage girl tailored for Sarah Michelle Gellar with a cameo by Michael J. Fox as an older Marty McFly. There was also the possibility of a new series along the lines of Team Knight Rider with a team of time travelers riding in different time machines. Both ideas, however, were debunked as Zemeckis and Gale exercised the right in their contract to approve and disapprove any ideas to continue the series. What they have approved since the trilogy ended were the famous Universal Studios ride, an animated series that loosely followed the events of the films, and most recently a new video game written by Gale himself which takes place one year after the end of Part III.

3. Goonies Never Say Die

The legacy of the 1985 kids adventure film has endured for the last few decades. But at the time of its release, The Goonies, while successful financially, was not the record-breaking blockbuster of another Spielberg-produced classic from that year (see above) and Warner Bros. halted any plans for a follow-up. The closest fans ever got to one was an NES game released in 1987 which was a sequel to a video game adaptation only released in Japan. But when director Richard Donner and the original cast reunited for a DVD commentary session in 2001, strong DVD sales numbers helped to spark new interest in a sequel. Only two scripts were considered: One by Transformers writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci which reunited the Goonies as young adults making new discoveries about the legend of One Eyed Willie with the Fratelli Bros and the son of Chester Copperpot out for revenge. The other which almost went into production was written by X2 writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris with the Goonies and their kids on a new adventure involving a runaway train. Ultimately, Donner felt that neither script matched the magic of the original despite the cast doing online petitions to make it still happen.

2. Ghostbusters III: Hellbent

There were lots of reasons why these fab 4 never got back together for years. Ghostbusters II did not meet studio expectations and Bill Murray felt bitter about that sequel’s direction. But after many years had passed, Dan Aykroyd wrote the 3rd installment which would have seen the original Ghostbusters pass the torch to a younger group who must take on a Donald Trump-like Satan who causes Manhattan to merge with the alternate reality of “Manhelton”. Rumors were rampant about the likes of the late Chris Farley, Ben Stiller, and Will Smith as the new team with the original cast either taking supporting roles or making cameos. The project, however, solely depended on Murray who was written to die and become a ghost and he flat out refused to do it. This forced the project to be stuck in development hell for years until new interest sparked at Columbia Pictures with director Ivan Reitman back on board. There’s still tough negotiations going on to bring Murray back even though everyone’s high on moving on without him at this point. Should it never get made, at least we got a great video game that reunited the cast in voiceover form and utilized Aykroyd’s Hellbent screenplay as the basis of the plot.

1. Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII, & IX

We’re not talking about the 3 prequels, the novels, or the Ewoks TV movies. I’m talking about those very original plans George Lucas had before a single frame of Episode IV was ever shot. It was first reported by film reviewer Nicholas Wapshott in 1980 that Lucas wanted a 9 part arc with the original trilogy as the 2nd act. Even Leonard Nimoy announced this back in 1983 on a Return of the Jedi special on his Nickelodeon series, Standby: Lights Camera Action. During Jedi’s release, Time Magazine reported that the final 3 episodes’ “theme will be the necessity for moral choices and the wisdom needed to distinguish right from wrong. There was never any doubt in the films already made; in those the lines were sharply drawn, comic-book-style. Luke Skywalker, who will then be the age Obi-Wan Kenobi is now, someplace in his 60s, will reappear, and so will his friends, assuming that the creator decides to carry the epic further.” But an early outline was recently revealed by former producer Gary Kurtz which would have maintained the tone of Empire Strikes Back:

“The original plan for Return of the Jedi was for Han Solo to die and Leia to become “Queen” of her people. Leia was not originally planned to be Luke’s sister. “Episode VII” was to focus on Luke Skywalker’s life as a Jedi, while “Episode VIII” marked the appearance of Luke’s sister (which was not Leia), and “Episode IX” was to be the first appearance of the Emperor.“

Lucas, in his own hypocritical fashion, eventually decided to abandon the sequels and just keep the story in 6 parts. It wasn’t just the age factor or salary requirements for the actors that were the problem. Some might say it was Lucas’ sensibilities as a filmmaker that had changed over time when merchandising became more important than story. He wanted to please kids with this fall and rise story rather than concentrate on the down to earth darkness that was intended for these last unproduced 3 films. Certainly after the mixed response to the prequels, I’d say it is better to leave the classics alone instead of tarnishing their legacy further. Actually, that’s still happening as we speak.

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