Four major franchises look to make a fourth film — but should they? [Updated]

Oct. 05, 2009 | 2:04 p.m.


They are four of the biggest franchises in Hollywood history and each is at a major crossroads. This week the Hero Complex will look at “The Lord of the Rings,” “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” and size up their future as they attempt to move past their original trilogies and into a new decade.

Tuesday “Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit“: How can Guillermo del Toro possibly match up to Peter Jackson’s magical conquests ($2.92 billion in global box office and 17 Oscars including best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay)? At least he has Jackson on his side …

Wednesday Spider-Man: Director Sam Raimi and stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are back for more and that’s no surprise considering “Spider-Man 3” had the highest-grossing opening weekend of the wall-crawling films — and went on to make $891 million worldwide. Still, the last film got decidedly mixed reviews, and some fans are wondering if the magic is gone.

Thursday: “X-Men“: The summer 2000 release of Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” truly signaled the beginning of the modern era of superhero cinema and its new ambitions. While the 2006 release of “X-Men: The Last Stand” led to commercial success ($459 million), the hero-snuffing plot, the finality of the title and those cruel reviews all suggested the run was over. Now, though, producers are looking for a return to the mutant chronicles…

Friday “Pirates of the Caribbean” : The fourth film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” hits theaters in 2011, but after a shake-up at the top of Walt Disney Studios, star Johnny Depp said he is feeling glum about the project. If he’s not excited, should you be?

Check back to read them all, but in the meantime, give us your opinion: Which franchise would be making the biggest mistake by continuing past the original trilogy? Vote below …

— Geoff Boucher

Photos from left, Ian McKellen in “Lord of the Rings,” Tobey Maguire in “Spider-Man,” Halle Berry in “X-Men: The Last Stand” and Johnny Depp in “Pirates of the Caribbean.”  Credits from left: New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios.

UPDATED: Previous version of this post had an incorrect year of release on one of the X-films.


28 Responses to Four major franchises look to make a fourth film — but should they? [Updated]

  1. shaun roberts says:

    X Men: The Last Stand was released in 2006, not 2004.

  2. Geoff Boucher says:

    Thanks Shaun, I fixed that year…

  3. Peter Lange says:

    To me, the Pirates Movies were fantastic, ecstatic, and definitely final. I think Disney really should have stopped with the 3rd one. A 4th one is anti-climatic.
    X-men stank and will continue to stink probably, but they do have a small chance to pull off a 4th movie. The third movie set the stage pretty much for a whole new X-men team lead by Wolverine. If you think Wolverine, Nightcrawler possibly, Iceman, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Colossus you have a great team full of fan boy favorites. Put them up against Mr. Sinister, or the Hellfire Club (or anyone BUT Magneto) and you have a chance the movie will be at least equal to the bland pablum quality (but great sales and excitement) of the first one.
    On the otherhand, I think Spider-man is still very viable as a franchise flick. It holds true to the basic tenets of comic books in that the status quo has remained the same throughout all three movies, there are plenty of cool Spidey Villans left to portray, and a good script can really make this shine like it did for Iron Man.
    Hobbit I am kinda torn by. I think that the market is there, and I think that Guillermo Del Torro could probably do a better one than Peter Jackson even, but I just dont know if we can handle two more Hobbit movies. I think that market might just be over saturated at this point. But I could be easily swayed to the dark side by some cool trailers.

  4. Sheldon says:

    After the devastating creative blow the X-Men franchise has taken with Last Stand and the mess that was Wolverine, it's definitely time to lay off the X-Men for awhile – even if the Magneto movie and First Class are in pre-production!
    I enjoyed the Pirates trilogy, but the last chapter was overly-inflated in practically every way. Since #4 has been greenlighted, the only way the film will work is if they take it down a notch and work on getting a really good story. Otherwise, forget it.
    Spider-Man 3 was four potentially great movies squished into a single, ultra-lame movie [the studio persuaded Raimi to add the Venom arc – he wasn't going to do that, originally]. If Raimi picks one, or two [maximum] villains and a terrific story, Spidey 4 might work. Unfortunately, the studio will probably insist on its "more is better" philosophy" and get in his way, again. Kill it now.
    The Hobbit could work out well. Unlike the other franchises, it will be based on a novel that has come to be accepted as being as much of a classic as Lord of the Rings. Plus, we've got Guillermo del Toro at the helm, and Peter Jackson producing. I'm leery of spreading the story over two movies, but my respect for both del Toro and Jackson goes a long way toward expecting a couple of terrific films. Then the whole story will be told cinematically and the franchise will end with it.

  5. Arno says:

    Tim Powers wrote a terrific pirate novel a number of years ago called On Stranger Tides. I have no idea if the 4th Pirates movie is being adapted from that book, but if it is, then there is a very good chance of reinvigorating the franchise. Powers' book had zombies and all kinds of other strangeness that would make a great film if done right.

  6. Steve says:

    The Pirates has the most potential for sure. 3 ended with me wanting more.

  7. RichRoss says:

    The Pirates franchise is a keeper. The other three, not so much.

  8. Geoff Boucher says:

    Congrats, Mr. Ross, on your new job….

  9. iDepp says:

    Johnny Depp and his interpretation of Jack Sparrow will be immortal! I will go to see the 4th Pirates Movie, just to see Johnny being Jack again.
    Spider-Man 4, I think will be the same as the other 3, nothing marvelous, it's just ok to me.
    X-Man 4, oh no!
    The Hobbit, not my type.

  10. Max Sloves says:

    The question posed appears to be backwards. The issue is less about which franchise should fade away (this assumes the other three all deserve to sail forward) but rather which single franchise should in fact continue (this suggests that the remaining three soap operas should fade into the blissful post-celluloid Eden of DVD rentals, cable reruns, and eternally attenuating residuals…which they should). That being said, the Lord of the Rings "franchise" is the only one that makes any sense whatsoever. This is because there is actually a book to base it on and – more importantly – nothing else. As the fourth (well, first) and final book of the Hobbit/LOTR epic, a Hobbit project is a logical prequel to LOTR and unless the lost works of JRR Tolkien are suddenly unearthed, the audience can achieve a sense closure with the series. Pirates is simply played out. Each installment was entertaining but painfully forced. X-Men has already abandoned the core franchise in favor of spinoffs so what point would there be in getting the gang back together? And Spiderman…well…if people are going to keep paying money to see over-budget pieces of poop… you certainly can't blame Raimi et al. for continuing to make them… but I would vote they put Spidey out to pasture. With a glut of superhero movies in the pipeline – most of which will probably be better than any 4th incarnation of Peter Parker – Spiderman’s only guaranteed audience is the extreme Stan Lee stalker / Comic-Con types and the little kids who like the Happy Meals – two categories that are not mutually exclusive, so beware of double counting. Moreover, LOTR has continued to build momentum (critical as well as box office) while the others seem to be withering on the vine – a lucrative vine – but not a pretty one to look at. Finally, LOTR fans are big dorks of the highest caliber (and I say that with pure admiration). They will go ape for another flick if only for the opportunity to love it or hate it or spend many celibate nights debating its fidelity to the book.

  11. Lee Millington says:

    Do not want. Do not care. That vile beast that is Hollywood should forget about this sequel culture and come up with some fresh genius. Yes, the Pirates movies were genius, but frankly they lost their edtge after No.1. I am frustrated with being fed plots that exist to fulfil the desire for more money, they bore me and utterly serve no point to anyone.
    Case No. 1 – Harry Potter. The Horcrux – a stupid plot device that was just 'invented' to carry the franchise on. Really, it should have been planted at the beginning of the series for it to have any meaning whatsoever, apart from extending the life of the vapid series.
    Case No. 2 – Star Wars – The Clone Wars – How much CAN you fit into 3 years of lore? There are books, novels, DVDs already. Give up!
    Shall I go on?

  12. j hames says:

    "The Hobbit" is at least a simple road story in a fantasy realm, as opposed to "LOTR" which was about the massive collision of good and evil told over an epic landscape and as the inevitable result of many centuries' events. It shows what an achievement the "Rings" cycle was. I'm looking forward to "The Hobbit" — but it will not be a real 4th movie (with the narrative coming first and the plot points being relevant to the "LOTR" but hardly vital, and depth and breadth of the story being of a wholesale different quality).
    "Spiderman" "X-Men" "Pirates"… it's not like they're adding 3 acts to the end of "Romeo and Juliet" there. Sheesh, they're just movies, little more than cartoons. I'm sure some people didn't care for all those "Thin Man" sequels either at the time. How many "Sherlock Holmes" movies were too many?
    Really, bring em on.

  13. Steven Bell says:

    The Hobbit is a well known's a legitimate project.
    The foundation for Spiderman's character and motivation for being a hero was undermined by the third movie's resolution of his uncle's death. Not only was he killed by someone other than the criminal Peter Parker let by, but it turned out to be an accidental shooting???
    X-Men was left open for a sequel. Obviously there was more than meets the eye in the events of the third movie.

  14. Ryan McSweeney says:

    My vote would have gone to Pirates, an overblown fun ride run amok, until the news broke about using Tim Powers' work as a basis for the fourth installment. That was enough to keep me hanging on to see whether there's still life in the franchise. Now I would lean more toward axing X-Men, which killed off or neutralized most of the interesting characters in the last installment and already has a passel of prequels and spin-offs in the works.
    In response to Lee Millington's rant about Harry Potter — whatever you may think of the film series, the Horcrux plot twist was not a money-grubbing Hollywood invention, but part of J.K. Rowling's original series of books, and definitely planned from the beginning.

  15. Sarah says:

    The first Pirates film was magic, absolutely fantastic and easily one of the best adventure films produced in the last decade. It should have ended there. The two sequels were utterly horrendous, especially the third installment; At World's End. The story became overblown and ludicrous, it completely ruined what was a rip roaring, schwashbuckling adventure into another time and place.
    I really do lament sequels… they rarely work and often ruin the original work.
    Only some films can pull it off, and that's usually something to do with being based on a well written novel. So, there is some hope for Pirates 4… but by now it's all feeling a bit too little too late for me.
    X Men and Spiderman will likely have utterly rubbish plotlines and completely fail to live up to expectations. Though I think The Hobit has a chance of being a glittering return to the universe of the Lord of the Rings as the book it is based on is as much a well loved classic as Lord of the Rings itself. Just please, someone make sure they don't start eyeing up The Silmarillion for a movie adaption!

  16. Jake says:

    Well Well Well yet again Disney comes into the fold and Dick Cooks departure. You guys will sink to any level to ruin a movie before it is even made. LA Times is still pissed off because their friend Cook and their benefits have all gone. It doeas not matter which movie you vote for The end justifies the means and LA Times will do anything to get back at Disney for booting out Cook.

  17. Geoff Boucher says:

    Jake, Cook was there 35+ years and has been gone less than a month. It's not exactly ancient history.
    I'm not sure how anyone could write an update on the "Pirates" series and NOT mention his departure.
    More to the point, if Johnny Depp believes Cook's firing is a seriuous matter facing the franchise then it is.

  18. Nick Brush says:

    Hobbit I am kinda torn by. I think that the market is there, and I think that Guillermo Del Torro could probably do a better one than Peter Jackson even, but I just dont know if we can handle two more Hobbit movies. I think that market might just be over saturated at this point. But I could be easily swayed to the dark side by some cool trailers.
    This was by Peter Lange. You said the market is there…. then the market is over saturated. You think Del Torro could do even better job than peter Jackson, but you dont know……
    I honestly think that the book "The Hobbit" is more well known than the LTOR trilogy. The Hobbit I was forced to read in middle school. Not as good of a story I must say, but I'd love to see Gollum again. I'm 1000% for this movie being made

  19. Demitri says:

    There was NO discussion about these films. NONE. There is SOOOOO much more info that has been out for the last year on all of these films- that's the best they got?
    HOBBIT: Del Toro did a couple films called Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy…I think he is more that fit to direct the Hobbit (which by the way is a Part 1 & 2
    SPIDERMAN: First a two-part comeback, now a trilogy that has shaken up the entire make-up and outcome of everyone involved, because the studios can't decide what script is better. This should NOT be happening. Spidey needs a long break.
    X-MEN: It should be noted that Bryan Singer is in talks to either do X-MEN 4 or X-MEN ORIGINS: MAGNETO. This has been going on for some time now. Brett Ratner's X-MEN: THE LAST STAND was such a dissapointment and slap to Singer's first two, that we NEED Singer to come back and make up for it.
    PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Stop the madness now…please.

  20. Virginia Perry says:

    I personally loved P2 and P3, which introduced some great new characters and some incredible scenes – thought the writers did a hell of a job. So did the makers of LOTR, even when Jackson changed up some stuff that I didn't like (expanding Arwen's role). For POTC and The Hobbit, isn't this a kind of moot question? POTC 4 and Hobbit are supposed to be "reboots" – some recognizable characters, but more or less starting at the beginning. So sure, bring on the reboots/sequels – if you have great characters why not give them more stories? That said, hopefully the industry DOES listen to input from the fans/audience, – like listening to general alarm over a Depp-less POTC4 and what seemed to be a lot of unhappiness over the short screen time for Venom. Things that seem blatantly obvious to the paying audience, unless studios like sending movies straight to DVD.

  21. Bob Wiggles says:

    Choo Chooo all abord the money train, because basicly that's all these movies are for. Some fun over the-top summer blockbuster, Don't get me wrong i use to like these francises but now a days it seems like they keep making sequal even if there is absoultly no nees for them

  22. It's hard to see new entries in Spider Man, X-Men and Pirates as the third movie in each of these series was pretty weak. Still, if they can come up with something good, I'd love to see them continue.

  23. Pete Blatchford says:

    It's a hard one, Spiderman and X-Men can run and run but something original would be nice. LotR and The Hobbit are different films from the same 'universe', much like X-Men/Spiderman/Hulk/Ironman etc are all part of the same Marvel Universe so I don't think you can really consider them the same unless you consider spiderman 4 to really be X-Men 14 (or however many Marvel films there have been). Pirates 4 Doesn't surprise me from the studio which brought you Cinderella 2 and 3, Little Mermaid 2 etc. I'm sure it will be just as memorable.

  24. Geoff Boucher says:

    Martin, it's a good point, I agree. I'm a fan so I'd love ALL of these franchises to come back with some startling new success. "The Hobbit" certainly is poised to to do just that. The others though will need to turn things around after their third films.

  25. Ryan says:

    Why would you vote for The Hobbit? That's not a sequel, it's something that they've been planning for a while, in which has a GREAT source material already, something that the other 3 do not.
    Spider Man 4 – Go ahead… Just redeem it from the disappointing 3rd movie.
    Pirates 4 – No. The first one was good, and thats about all I can say.
    X-Men – None of the movies were that good to begin with, including wolverine. Just stop.

  26. Derric says:

    As bad as the third Pirates and Spider-man were, the third X-Men was by far the worst. Everyone dying. Boring plot. Stupid acting. I simply can't take much more of Halle Berry's white wig, nothing to do, silly lines character. Stay dead, X-Men. Stay dead.

  27. Milknut says:

    I don't think I ever want to see another Spiderman or X-Men after the third movie of each franchise, both of which sucked. (If Brian Singer comes back for X-Men maaaaybe).
    Pirates I think should stay dead. I enjoyed the first the most, because we all know it was the best, the second was okay, and the third one teetered. Still, if I'm convinced that they're taking it in a sufficiently fresh direction, I might be tempted to see it.
    I am a million percent behind the Hobbit. It's not a money-grabbing sequel and I don't even know why it's been put on the same list as these others. The Hobbit is a wonderful and independent book that will translate well into a movie, so it's not like they have to dig up some new plot. I mean, in most cases when a sequel is made and it's the same people who made the previous movies doing it again (as is the case with this movie, except for Del Toro, who will do a great job anyway), they have to come up with a whole new script, which is difficult and usually fails. (exhibit A: Pirates) This is still based directly on the work of Tolkein, though, so I see no reason for it not to be fantastic.

  28. LLJB3 says:

    It's funny how everyone bashes the third Pirates the most. As far as all of those third movies go in each franchise, Spiderman 3 was the worst. That had four major storylines in one and it got way too confusing and stupid during the middle. It really didn't even finish at all.
    At least Pirates 3 only really focused on that love story and getting all the pirates together for their last stand like X-Men. I personally will take part 3 over part 2 anyday.
    Speaking of X-Men, this part 3 wasn't as bad as the other 3 parts sans LOTR. But too many changes to characters and a huge storyline getting over shadowed by another caused me to dislike the film. I love the Phoenix saga, but I love the M-Day saga even more, and it should have been done differently than a drug. Maybe Marvel'll tell these writers to only stick to one storyline of their franchises. It'll be more money in the long run, and the movies will most likely have better reception.
    LOTR, I don't need to go there. I wouldn't watch the movies because of its length, but I ended up doing that, and I actually like the books a lot, including the Hobbit, so as a Pirates fan, the LOTR franchise makes the most sense.
    @Lee Millington: The Horcrux in Harry Potter was actually introduced in the second film, you just won't know it until the last film. Read the books before stating that sir. But I agree with Clone Wars. I only watch for the CG. Game artists gotta learn from some places.

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