Few industries enjoy taking really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood, and when we get to this time of the year, there’s rarely much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss. Last week, we reviewed 12 of the year’s top Fresh Developments, and this week, we’re looking at each month’s most Rotten Idea.
Video games continue to be the source of the most Rotten Tomatometer scores (presuming you don’t count video-game-adjacent titles like Wreck-It Ralph and Ready Player One). Regardless, Hollywood is still making lots of these movies, despite the relatively low box office on average. There were several news stories about such projects this year, including Sonic the Hedgehog, Monster Hunter, and Dance Dance Revolution. The project that stands out for 2018, though, is Duke Nukem, if only both because it is a project that’s been in development since the 1990s and because the source games don’t always gets great reviews either. In January, John Cena was reportedly talking to Michael Bay’s production company about starring as Duke Nukem. The involvement of Bay and Cena got a little murky recently, but the project is now also being produced by the people who delivered a Assassin’s Creed (Rotten at 17%), so Duke Nukem remains a dismal prospect.
The first Transformers film following Michael Bay’s departure as director was last week’s Bumblebee, which is currently enjoying a Certified Fresh 92% Tomatometer score. Instead, Bay is now turning his camera flares and limited color grading towards Warner Bros.’ DC Comics projects. In February, Bay started talking to WB about possibly directing their long-in-development Lobo movie, based on the “cosmic bad boy” character who’s sort of a cross between Marvel’s Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy. The film’s budget is currently reported as $200 million, so bringing that down will be one of the challenges Michael Bay will face.
When you follow movie development news, sometimes a story takes on a second life because not everyone picked up on it the first time around. This year, we saw that happen with a story reported not just for the second time, but a third time as well. You see, we first told you that Chris Evans was hanging up his Captain America shield way back in 2017. Then this year, in March, Chris Evans confirmed that with another announcement. Despite telling the world twice, it was Evans’ tweet in October that finally seemed to reach the widest audience. Even so, we expect that people are probably going to be surprised in April as well, when Evans departs as Captain America in Avengers: Endgame. Having said that, maybe he’s not really done with Marvel Comics, particularly with Fantastic Four likely to join the MCU in the 2020s. Is Michael Chiklis still available too?
Not every “Rotten Idea” is based on Tomatometer scores — some stories are Rotten because they mean movies with extremely Fresh potential might not happen. That’s absolutely what happened in April as we learned about a lawsuit that may jeopardize a fan favorite sequel. One of the most surprising films of 2015 was the sequel/reboot Mad Max: Fury Road, which won dozens of awards, including six of the ten Academy Awards it was nominated for. Though Mad Max: Fury Road was a triumph for its director, George Miller, he found himself engaged in what is being called a “bitter court battle” with Warner Bros. over what Miller’s production company claims is “high-handed, insulting, or reprehensible” behavior. The financial crux of Miller’s lawsuit involves what he says were promised bonuses for bringing Mad Max: Fury Road in under budget, and for “breaching a co-financing agreement.” Miller reportedly has had screenplays for both Mad Max 5 and Mad Max 6 completed for years, but for now, he’s directing Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton in Three Thousand Years of Longing instead.
This should surprise absolutely no one, but there isn’t always a clear correlation between Fresh Tomatometer scores and box office returns. Take, for example, Will Smith, who has over a dozen films that earned over $110 million domestically, but who also has only received two Fresh scores among his last 16 films (with an average Tomatometer score of 13%, at that). This year, two of Smith’s Rotten films received sequels, including May’s confirmation that the long-in-development threequel Bad Boys for Life (a sequel to Bad Boys II, Rotten at 22%) is scheduled for January 17, 2020. The year also started with the January news that Netflix is developing a sequel to their fantasy action movie Bright (Rotten at 25%) .
Oh, how quickly things can change. On May 25th, the Top Story in The Weekly Ketchup was about Logan director James Mangold signing on with Lucasfilm for the prequel spinoff Boba Fett: A Star Wars Story. And then the box office numbers for Solo: A Star Wars Story continued to roll in — ouch! — and by June, we were running this story. That meant bad news not just for Boba Fett, but also previously discussed prequel spinoffs for characters like Obi-Wan and Yoda. Several months later, we can also now report that the prequel focus is shifting towards streaming, with Jon Favreau directing The Mandalorian for the upcoming Disney+ subscription service, which will be followed by a Rogue One spinoff series starring Diego Luna.
In July, the Marvel Cinematic Universe went all topsy-turvy when Walt Disney Pictures announced that they had “severed our business relationship” with director James Gunn, who delivered the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies and had been developing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. The reason for Gunn’s dismissal was the re-discovery of several joke tweets from 2008 to 2011. In response, Gunn said in a statement that, “regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today.” Meanwhile, Gunn’s firing inspired a wide spectrum of responses, from this Collider editorial to Dave Bautista being “NOT ok” with it to Selma BLair saying Gunn is “one of the good ones” to this response calling for criminal prosecution. Eventually, in October, Marvel’s “Distinguished Competition” at Warner Bros. snapped up James Gunn to work on their Suicide Squad sequel.
Until recently, it seemed like maybe Hollywood was going to ease off its obsession with remakes a little bit, but what we saw simply might have been a respite as the trends moved on from the 1980s to the 1990s, as three such projects were announced all in one week. First of all, there was a project that is not a remake at all, but instead a prequel to the 1993 kids baseball movie The Sandlot (still, no less nostalgic). That original film’s writer and director, David Mickey Evans, made a deal with 20th Century Fox for a new movie that would delve deeper into the backstory of “The Beast,” the English mastiff that terrorized the original kids in 1962. The Sandlot prequel will actually be the fourth film in the franchise, as there were two direct-to-video sequels in 2005 and 2007. Paramount Players is also now developing a remake of the 1993 drama Indecent Proposal, about a young couple who agree to a arrangement in which the wife will spend one night with a wealthy man for $1 million. The remake is being written by screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, who adapted 2016’s The Girl on the Train and is also working on Disney’s live-action remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Finally, Sony Pictures is also developing a remake of the 1987 Bruce Willis/Kim Basinger romantic comedy Blind Date.
Although 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard was Certified Fresh at 82%, when A Good Day to Die Hard came out six years later, the franchise took a steep dive at a Rotten 14%. That fifth Die Hard movie was a box office disappointment as well, earning the lowest totals of the franchise (especially when you adjust for inflation, ouch). Even so, 20th Century Fox is developing a sixth Die Hard movie, which will be a 1970s-set “origin story” for John McClane. Up until September, the prequel retained Die Hard in the title, as Die Hard: Year One, but we now know that Fox has decided to go in a different direction, as the film is now known as simply McClane. It’s not yet known which younger actor will be cast as the young John McClane.
Following big box office for October’s Halloween, another major slasher franchise also re-entered development for a reboot, although who might be producing it is arguably the bigger story. Basketball star LeBron James, who recently made the move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers, is using his new address to increase his film activity, and apparently, that might now also include producing Friday the 13th movies. James posted this image of himself in 2013 wearing a hockey mask, though he is not expected to be taking on the role as the new Jason Voorhees himself. The negotiations come just a month after original Friday the 13th screenwriter Victor Miller won a lawsuit against producer Sean Cunningham, although the rights are still described as “murky,” which is why the LeBron James news requires a big “might” or “may” in its language.
In 2004 and 2006, Bill Murray starred as the voice of the world’s most famous comic strip cat in Garfield: The Movie (Rotten at 15%) and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties (Rotten at 11%). From one perspective, those low Tomatometer scores could mean that there’s “nowhere to go but up,” but as with video game movies, it’s probably more likely to mean that any future Garfield movies probably won’t be well received either. Those films also weren’t particularly successful financially either, with the first one only earning $75 million domestically from a budget of $50 million and the sequel barely making more than a third of that. Regardless, development is underway on a new animated adaptation of Jim Davis’ popular comic strip character. The challenging prospect of turning the Garfield ship around is being taken on by director Mark Dindal who is best known for Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove (Certified Fresh at 85%) and Chicken Little (Rotten at 37%).
Although both 1984’s The Toxic Avenger and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV received Fresh Tomatometer scores of 70%, the second film has an absolutely Rotten 0% and the third film wasn’t even reviewed enough to earn a score. The Toxic Avenger became such a cult fan favorite, though, that he became the company mascot of Troma Entertainment, the super low-budget production company behind such chestnuts as Blood Sucking Freaks, Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, and Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. Despite its gonzo origins, The Toxic Avenger is now being developed as a new big-budget superhero franchise by Legendary Entertainment, the company behind The Dark Knight, Watchmen, and Godzilla. In addition to the four feature length movies, The Toxic Avenger was also adapted as “a stage musical production, a children’s cartoon TV series, and a Marvel comic.”