Film fans love to romanticize what canceled movies could have been. And it makes sense why: When studios promise sequels to our favorite films, or cinematic adaptations to the books we adore, we can’t help but conceive grandiose idealizations of the projects. Oftentimes, however, these films are scrapped for one reason or another, and our idealizations are all that remain. Here are 5 film projects that were canceled amidst massive fan anticipation. Do you think they would have lived up to the hype surrounding them?
While undeniably silly, 2000’s Gladiator is a solid ~150 minutes of action-packed entertainment. Despite its being historically inaccurate, it never veered into the realm of pure fantasy. The planned sequel, however, intended to completely throw realism out the window. Director Ridley Scott claimed that the film would [spoiler] bring protagonist Maximus back to life via “a portal.”
A later draft of the script—interestingly enough, penned by musician Nick Cave—saw Maximus in purgatory, where he would strike a deal with the Roman gods to be brought back to life under the condition that he kills Jesus Christ (as Christianity would eventually lead the Roman people away from the pagan gods). Made to be immortal, Maximus would go on to take part in the crusades and fight in both world wars. The film would conclude with him working in a modern-day Pentagon.
Had Gladiator 2 been made, it’s safe to say that it would have been, at the very least, among the most interesting sequels of all time.
For those old enough to remember, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy was a driving force in both the revival of the superhero genre and the establishment of a new generation of Marvel fandom. When The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Andrew Garfield as the titular hero, was released in 2012, fans wondered why a reboot had been necessary, especially considering that Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 had been a box office hit only five years prior. A now-famous tweet from Sony Pictures—dated March 13, 2009—even announces, “Sony Pictures to release Spider-Man 4 on May 6, 2011.”
While we may never know the whole story of Spider-Man 4’s cancelation, the primary theory is that Sam Raimi was unhappy with the script and did not believe that a quality film could be made from it by the nearing release date. Instead of giving him more time, Sony simply scrapped the film and rebooted the entire series, throwing in a more “hip” Peter Parker.
In 2005, the Halo video game series was at the height of its popularity: If you were a kid back then, it was no doubt the go-to game at any given sleepover. The production of a Halo movie didn’t just feel right, it felt necessary. So, when Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame was announced to be the producer of the upcoming film adaptation, fans understandably lost their minds.
Halo was supposed to be huge. Microsoft spent millions on pre-production alone. Neill Blomkamp, who would go on to direct sci-fi hit District 9, was signed on as the film’s director, and while his inexperience made the studio nervous, he worked enthusiastically on the project. Ultimately, however, studio executives were less than impressed at his early interpretations of the Halo universe.
“I told Tom Rothman [co-Chairman of Fox Filmed Entertainment] that I was genetically created to direct Halo.” Blomkamp said. “Rothman hated me. I think he would have gotten rid of me if he could have… The suits weren’t happy with the direction I was going. Thing was, though, I’d played Halo, and I play videogames. I’m that generation more than they are and I know that my version of Halo would have been insanely cool.”
Ultimately, it was Blomkamp who was responsible for the demise of Halo. Constant clashing between Microsoft, Fox, and Universal (the latter two studios were the primary sources of funding for the film) over finances and creative differences led to the project being shelved.
Here's some more art for The Dream Machine also known as Satoshi Kon's unfinished anime masterpiece pic.twitter.com/a3AVDzJvdS— Art of Lost and Cancelled Media (@ArtofLostandCan) January 26, 2020
Dreaming Machine was the last project worked on by Satoshi Kon, the director of classic anime films such as Perfect Blue and Paprika. Unfortunately, he passed away before it could be completed. Production was continued using his director’s notes, but ultimately, with a lack of funding and the absence of Kon, the studio had no choice but to scrap it.
According to legend, about 600 of the approximately 1,500 shots were animated before the film’s cancellation. There is a slight chance that, if a studio were ever up to the challenge, Dreaming Machine could be finished one day.
Universal’s Dark Universe
In the late 2010s, Universal announced plans to reboot the classic horror films that put the studio on the map in the ‘30s and ‘40s (i.e. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, etc…). The interconnected films were placed under the umbrella of Universal’s Dark Universe, a series that was heavily promoted before the first film was even released.
However, the first Dark Universe film, 2017’s The Mummy—starring Tom Cruise—also ended up being the only Dark Universe film. Not only did it flop commercially, but it was met with horrendous reviews. Director Alex Kurtzman even called the film “probably the biggest failure of [his] life.”