Few industries enjoy taking really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood does, so 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 looked at some of the year’s Freshest movie development news stories, and this week, we’re doing a month-by-month review of some of the year’s most Rotten ones. To put 2022 in perspective, some of last year’s most unfortunate announcements included a Peeps movie and remakes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Munsters (the latter of which did come out this year with a Rotten score of 48%). Here’s a look at what we got this year.
(Photo by Warner Bros.)
Hollywood studios have really odd algorithms or metrics that they use to determine which films get sequels. The 2018 giant shark movie The Meg (Rotten at 42%) was a mid-August release that earned over $530 million worldwide, but the budget was also reportedly in the $130 million range. So, the No. 21 domestic earner of 2018 is receiving a sequel from Warner Bros. with Jason Statham returning to star, presumably based more on its international box office potential than its domestic appeal. Now titled Meg 2: The Trench (8/4/2023), the sequel is being directed by England’s Ben Wheatley in something of a Hollywood debut after several indie thrillers like Kill List (Certified Fresh at 78%), High-Rise (Fresh at 60%), and most recently, In the Earth (Certified Fresh at 80%).
(Photo by ©Sony Pictures)
It’s arguable that some film critics use a different scale for animated kids movies than they do, say, adult-starring dramas, but no one seemed to cut any slack for 2011’s The Smurfs (Rotten at 21%) and its 2013 sequel The Smurfs 2 (Rotten at 14%). Those films were a combination of animation and live-action, so Sony decided to go fully animated for 2017’s Smurfs: The Lost Village (Rotten at 40%) and fared a little better with critics, but in early 2022, we got some unexpected news regarding the franchise. After securing the rights to The Smurfs, Paramount and Nickelodeon Animation announced in February that they have made plans to produce four new Smurfs movies, including a musical that is scheduled for release on February 14, 2025. We might be able to glean what The Smurfs musical might be like from the filmography of screenwriter Pam Brady, who is making her feature film debut after being a long-time collaborator with Matt Stone and Trey Parker on projects like South Park and Team America: World Police (Certified Fresh at 77%).
(Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images)
Late March brought us the devastating news that former action star Bruce Willis is retiring from acting due to his struggles with the symptoms of a communication disorder called aphasia, which also impacts cognitive abilities. Willis’ work in recent years has mostly consisted of small roles in low-budget thrillers that required minimal dialogue (despite usually being the “star” of each film), which actually led to speculation about his health before his family’s official announcement on his behalf.
(Photo by JA/Everett Collection)
The comic book superhero franchise The Crow (Certified Fresh at 84%) began rather tragically in 1994 with the on-set death of its star, Brandon Lee. The franchise went on to cast a variety of different actors in the far inferior sequels The Crow: City of Angels (Rotten at 11%), The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (Rotten at 20%), The Crow: Salvation (Rotten at 18%), and The Crow: Wicked Prayer (Rotten at 0%) — if you didn’t know so many sequels existed, well, it’s probably fair to say you weren’t missing anything. That said, various producers have been trying to reboot The Crow for at least a decade (including a period when Jason Momoa might have starred), but it never happened, and all of that finally changed in 2022. The actor who will star in The Crow in 2023 or 2024 will be Bill Skarsgård, who is probably still best known for playing Pennywise the evil clown in IT (Certified Fresh at 86%) and IT: Chapter Two (Fresh at 62%), and who also played a prominent role in the recent horror hit Barbarian (Certified Fresh at 92%).
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
Even the most respected or award-winning comic books may find the transition to the big screen difficult; the list of failed adaptations includes The Spirit (Rotten at 14%), the most recent Hellboy (Rotten at 17%), and Art School Confidential (Rotten at 35%). A fan-favorite comic book writer with a particularly rocky cinematic history is Alan Moore, whose works have been adapted as movies like From Hell (Rotten at 57%), 2009’s Watchmen (65% Fresh), and probably the most successful of the bunch, V for Vendetta (Certified Fresh at 73%). The lowest Tomatometer score for an Alan Moore adaptation was 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Rotten at 17%), despite the accolades earned by Moore’s eponymous comic series. Fans of LXG are getting a second chance with the news that Hulu is developing a reboot adaptation, but part of the challenge will no doubt be overcoming the Rotten reputation that the first film still has today. Does the project have potential? Sure, but so did the first one, and look how that turned out.
(Photo by Everett Collection)
Twenty years ago in 2002, Nia Vardalos’ indie romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Certified Fresh at 76%) was a surprise blockbuster hit, earning over $368 million worldwide from a budget of just $5 million. Fourteen years later, Vardalos and co-star John Corbett returned for the sequel My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (Rotten at 27%), but it was neither a critical nor a box office hit. In 2022, Vardalos appeared to be undaunted by the second film’s performance, announcing that she and her co-stars were returning to the locations in Greece for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, which is now expected to be released sometime in 2023 or 2024. Let’s hope the third time’s the charm.
(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)
We’ve only begun to see video game adaptations earn Fresh Tomatometer scores in the last few years — before 2019, there were some 30 years of movies in the genre that received nothing but Rotten scores. One of the near-Fresh recent films was Warner Bros.’ 2021 reboot of Mortal Kombat (Rotten at 54%), which was one of the films that were released day-and-date with streaming on HBO Max that year. Despite that Rotten score, though, it was actually the highest Mortal Kombat feature film score following 1995’s Mortal Kombat (Rotten at 45%) and its sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Rotten at 4%). Accordingly, back in July, Warner Bros. announced a sequel, which might be a dream come true for fans who loved the reboot, but not so much for everyone else who found it sadly disappointing.
(Photo by @lesliegrace)
Pretty much all major Hollywood movies go through extended periods of development that can last anywhere from two to 20 years, and in that time, many films are quietly shelved without much press (read any Weekly Ketchup from several years ago for dozens of examples of movies that never happened). What is so rare as to be shocking, however, is for a major studio to permanently shelve an expensive project that has already been completed, without even the option to go “straight to video” (or, nowadays, direct-to-streaming). In August, fans and insiders alike were surprised by the announcement that Warner Bros. Discovery was doing exactly that to the already-filmed adaptation of the DC Comics superheroine Batgirl, starring Leslie Grace (In the Heights) in the title role and Michael Keaton as Batman. As the year would conclude, Batgirl would prove to be just the first of several similar casualties of the Warner Bros.-Discovery merger, but it remains the only DC Comics movie that actually finished filming and won’t see the light of day.
(Photo by Vera Drew)
In between what happened to Batgirl in August and what would become of various DC Comics movies in December, there was also the case in September of the independent satire The People’s Joker, which was yanked from festivals and apparently distribution after just one screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. The People’s Joker is described as an “illegal comedy” set in a version of DC Comics’ Gotham City in which characters like Harley Quinn, The Joker (“Mr. J” here), Batman, and many others are presented through an LGBTQ+ prism. The film was clearly produced outside the Warner Bros. studio system and apparently without permission, but the immediate scuttling of the film following the apparent involvement of WB’s legal department can also be seen as somewhat shortsighted. Was WB well within its rights to shut The People’s Joker down? Certainly. Did director and star Vera Drew have a point when she argued for “fair use” by stating “no one watching would associate it with an official DC or Warner Bros. production?” Sure. This is just one of those situations when nobody comes out of it looking good.
(Photo by Steve Wilkie/©Lionsgate)
The popularity of a franchise isn’t always reflected in the Tomatometer scores for its films, and nowhere is that better represented than by the Saw horror franchise, which began in 2004 with a 49% Tomatometer and has never matched that score since. The last few efforts were Saw VI (Rotten at 39%), Saw: The Final Chapter (Rotten at 9%), Jigsaw (Rotten at 32%), and Spiral: From the Book of Saw (Rotten at 37%). The tenth film in the series, appropriately titled Saw X, started filming in late 2022, with Tobin Bell returning to play the villain Jigsaw in some capacity, and it’s currently scheduled for release just before next Halloween, on October 27, 2023.
(Photo by Everett Collection)
There’s a common thought among movie fans that the best candidates for a movie remake are generally “flawed” films, as they can be improved upon, and for classic films, remakes can only, at best, be worse. And yet, each year, we continue to hear stories about remakes or reboots of classic films that are indeed in development. One of the worst ideas in that vein this year is a remake of the classic 1969 biker movie Easy Rider (Certified Fresh at 84%). Not only is Easy Rider just a great film, it was a surprise smash hit that announced the arrival of a “New Hollywood” generation of filmmakers and stars, in addition to inspiring dozens of copycat movies about motorcycles and rebellious hippies. In other words, good luck trying to replicate that, let alone top it. If there is going to be a movie like Easy Rider any time soon, it probably won’t be anything like Easy Rider.
(Photo by Clay Enos/©Warner Bros. Pictures)
Years from now, one of the odder scenes in a 2022 movie might just be the mid-credits scene of Black Adam (Rotten at 39%), which featured Dwayne Johnson’s title character meeting Henry Cavill’s Superman in what amounted to a tease of Cavill’s return as Superman in the years to come. However, just a few days later, James Gunn and Peter Safran were named as the new co-leads of DC Studios, and in the weeks to come, their new direction for DC Comics movies post-2023 or so would mean that several DC Comics projects that had been in development would either be shelved or recast with new actors. That included Henry Cavill in Man of Steel 2, as well as director Nancy Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 3 (Gal Gadot has not yet been officially announced as being done as Wonder Woman, but that news may come in 2023). James Gunn is currently working on a new Superman film featuring a younger Clark Kent (who has just arrived in Metropolis), but no other post-2023 DC Studios projects have been officially announced yet. The last films to be released from the pre-Gunn/Safran era will be Shazam! Fury of the Gods (3/17/2023), The Flash (6/16/2023), Blue Beetle (8/18/2023), and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (12/25/2023), all due out in 2023.