If you’re a filmmaker in 2015 and you’re trying to continue a dead franchise you’ve got limited options. Good thing is there are logical steps to take. You can either reboot your movie and run the risk of alienating the audience that has stuck with you for awhile, or look elsewhere. That’s right, we’re talking spin-offs. It’s a measure that has found a surprising and multi-faceted success over the years on the small-screen (Frasier, Better Call Saul, The Colbert Report, Angel, etc.), but hasn’t really caught on with any big-screen triumphs.
Star Wars might change that by continuing to spin-off far after we’re all dead and gone. But if the reviews of this week’s Rocky spin-off Creed have anything to say, it’s that the spin-off drought might be over. Otherwise, here’s a brief breakdown of the state of movie spin-offs.
It’s tough out there for a spin-off, it’s a cold and lonely life filled with initial optimism and left with an inevitable sense that it may not have all been worth the fuss. A good spin-off is good insofar as the idea makes sense on an organic level.
No one has been able to do this better recently than Judd Apatow, who has fostered one by producing the Forgetting Sarah Marshall spin-off, Get Him to the Greek, and made one himself with the Knocked Up spin-off, This Is 40. While the relative worth of these movies is still up for debate, they adequately continued the story featuring characters within the little comedic world Apatow created.
It’s the same kind of world-broadening that happens with lots of comic book movies (which we’ll definitely get to later). But the best comic spin-off has to be 2013’s The Wolverine, which succeeded for the reasons stated above. Wolverine wasn’t a side character, but The Wolverine took him into territory that just couldn’t have been covered within the main movies he’s known for. It was too specific for the character, but it was a story about him that needed to be told.
There are exceptions to this too. Did we really need Minions, and did it really build on the world of Despicable Me? Not really, but $1.1 billion later and it looks like a good idea. Too bad the makers of Penguins of Madagascar couldn’t say the same thing.
There are Wolverine stories that needed to be told, and Wolverine stories that don’t need to be told. Kudos to the makers of X-Men Origins: Wolverine for trying to pull off something similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe model by spinning off the X-Men, but all kudos are erased because of what they came up with. It’s a movie that was doomed from the start because a blatant origin story didn’t have to be told for that character since it was already at play in earlier movies. There needed to be more than that.
There also needed to be more to something like Dwayne Johnson’s first starring role in The Scorpion King, which just seemed like the makers of The Mummy Returns said, “Put that guy and whatever character he played in another movie,” and no one thought a second time about what that movie should be about. Did anyone stop and think about making the villain of one movie into the hero of another?
The same goes for movies that exist on name recognition alone. A studio executive thought an adaptation of [a comic book](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AliensVersus_Predator(comics) that threw the xenomorph from Alien and the Predator from Predator would be great, but then stopped thinking about it past the fact that they just fight each other. Before anyone knew it there were two Alien vs. Predator movies. The same goes for Freddy vs. Jason.
Let’s forget about these; agreed? The spin-offs in this category came about because they were inherently bad from the get-go based on casting or production troubles. Hollywood execs, please allow us to voice our humble opinion for a moment: If the original talent doesn’t want to return, don’t do another movie. Matt Damon didn’t want to come back for another Bourne movie, which made Jeremy Renner join up for a movie called The Bourne Legacy that doesn’t even include Jason Bourne. It wasn’t very good, so Damon was convinced to come back again. Jim Carrey didn’t want to play god a second time, and Evan Almighty became a notorious box office bomb.
Also, we have to mention Elektra and Catwoman, two of the most woefully executed movie spin-offs of all time. They were bad ideas from start to finish meant to gain a quick buck from more recognizable movies. These basically filled the female-led superhero property for a long time.