8 Rejected Ideas for Movie Sequels
Although some movies are popular enough to get a sequel, what you see on the screen is often not the first suggested story idea. We’ve written before about proposed sequels that (thankfully) never happened. Here are eight more rejected ideas for movie sequels.
1. ROGER RABBIT II: THE TOON PLATOON
Written by screenwriter Nat Mauldin, Roger Rabbit II: The Toon Platoon took place in 1941, six years before the events of the first film. After he learns he was adopted, Roger moves to Hollywood from the Midwest with Richie Davenport, his human best friend, to try to find his real parents. Once in L.A., Roger meets Jessica Krupnick, who would later become his wife. Roger and Richie enlist in the U.S. Army when Jessica gets kidnapped by a Nazi spy. Roger and Richie then go to Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II to save Jessica. After the pair saves the day, they all return to Hollywood where they get a hero’s greeting with a parade. Roger is then reunited with his parents and discovers that his real father is Bugs Bunny.
In the 1990s, the title was changed to Who Discovered Roger Rabbit, but executive producer Steven Spielberg had no interest in returning for the sequel. He felt that it would be in poor taste to satirize and lampoon the Nazis after making Schindler's List. Once the development budget ballooned, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner canceled the sequel entirely and shifted the studio’s attention to CGI animation after the success of Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. Test footage was commissioned in 1998, but the result was an awkward mix of CGI and live action.
"It was never in the cards, we could never get the planets back into alignment," co-producer Don Hahn said of the would-be sequel. "There was something very special about that time when animation was not as much in the forefront as it is now."
2. JURASSIC PARK IV
Before Jurassic World hit theaters last year, Universal Pictures spent much of the 2000s trying to get Jurassic Park IV off the ground. Screenwriter William Monahan was hired to write a script, while John Sayles was hired for rewrites. Jurassic Park IV would’ve featured dinosaurs escaping Site A for the mainland, while a team of deinonychuses was being trained for a rescue mission and genetically modified dinosaur-human hybrids were being used as mercenaries. Sam Neill and Richard Attenborough were set to reprise their roles as Dr. Alan Grant and John Hammond, respectively. Keira Knightley was also reportedly in talks to take a supporting role.
The sequel was in development for years, but the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike delayed the project further, as producers weren’t happy with draft after draft of screenplays from Mark Protosevich and writing team Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.
"He felt neither of [the drafts] balanced the science and adventure elements effectively,” special effects wizard Stan Winston told IGN.com of producer Steven Spielberg’s thoughts on the original sequel’s development. “It's a tough compromise to reach, as too much science will make the movie too talky, but too much adventure will make it seem hollow."
In 2013, writer/director Colin Trevorrow was brought on to the project with a new and improved version of the Jurassic Park IV screenplay, which was now titled Jurassic World, set for release during the summer of 2015, and went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of all-time.
3. BATMAN UNCHAINED
Sometimes called Batman Triumphant, Batman Unchained would’ve been the fifth movie in the Batman franchise, and was set for release during the summer of 1999. However, after the very disappointing box office and critical response to Batman & Robin, the sequel was scrapped, and the franchise laid dormant until Christopher Nolan rebooted it with Batman Begins in 2005.
Screenwriter Mark Protosevich (yep, same guy from Jurassic Park IV) was hired to write Batman Unchained, which would have followed The Scarecrow terrorizing Gotham with his fear toxin, while The Joker returned to the franchise, as a fear-induced hallucination. Harley Quinn was written as The Joker’s daughter instead of his lover, as she was set to avenge his death. George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, and Alicia Silverstone were all ready to return to their roles as Batman, Robin, and Batgirl, respectively, while Nicolas Cage was considered for The Scarecrow. Madonna and Courtney Love were rumored for the role of Harley Quinn.
“I'm getting a call from Joel [Schumacher], whose main comment was that I had written maybe the most expensive movie ever made. Then I remember I never heard from the executive at Warner Bros. I called many times, never got any kind of response," Protosevich told The Hollywood Reporter. "This got into a period of weeks and then a month, and my agent pestering Warners. And the next thing I knew, they were pulling the plug on the whole project. They were going to wait and see what they were going to do with Batman. The Joel Schumacher-driven Batman train was taken off the rails."
4. INDIANA JONES AND THE MONKEY KING
In 1984, George Lucas wrote an eight-page treatment titled Indiana Jones and the Monkey King. It would’ve been the third installment in the series before Steven Spielberg and Lucas developed Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The film would have opened in Scotland in 1937, with Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) fighting the ghost of Baron Seamus Seagrove III before heading to Africa to search for the Fountain of Youth, which was later changed to the Garden of Immortal Peaches. Indy’s old friend Scraggy Brier, Dr. Clare Clarke (a Katharine Hepburn-type), and a 200-year old pygmy would join him on an adventure in Africa trying to get away from the Nazis. Indiana Jones dies in the story, only to be resurrected by the Monkey King.
Chris Columbus was brought on to write a script, but after four drafts, Spielberg and Lucas ultimately passed on the story because they felt it would be too difficult to film.
"It was upbeat and full of the same nostalgia that we tapped into in Raiders of the Lost Ark, so in that sense Chris was right on the money,” Spielberg recalled. “But I don't think any of us wanted to go to Africa for four months and try to get Indy to ride a rhinoceros in a multi-vehicular chase, which was one of the sequences Chris had written. Once I got into the script, I began to feel very old, too old to direct it.”
5. BEETLEJUICE GOES HAWAIIAN
In 1990, Warner Bros. wanted Tim Burton to direct a Beetlejuice sequel—and to do so as soon as possible. However, Burton wasn’t interested in making sequels at the time, so he pitched an idea that he figured the studio would reject: Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian saw the Deetz family moving to Hawaii, only to discover the tropical resort they’re developing sits on top of an ancient burial ground of a Hawaiian Kahuna. Once again, they call upon the services of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) to scare the spirits and ghosts away, while he also gets a suntan, wins a surfing contest, and tries to marry Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) again.
Surprisingly, Warner Bros. loved the idea and Keaton and Ryder were interested, too—as long as Burton was directing. But the filmmaker was busy making Batman Returns. According to screenwriter Jonathan Gems, “Tim thought it would be funny to match the surfing backdrop of a beach movie with some sort of German Expressionism, because they’re totally wrong together.”
6. ALIEN 3
In 1986, after the release of Aliens, Twentieth Century Fox was anxious to turn Alien into a franchise, but quickly ran into story problems while developing the third film over the next six years. A number of writers were brought on to write a screenplay that involved the survivors of the Sulaco either going to the Xenomorph’s home planet or the killer aliens coming to Earth. The movie studio even made a trailer that strongly suggested and teased the latter—even though it never happened in Alien 3.
In 1987, one promising action-heavy idea came from cyberpunk author William Gibson, who wrote a version of Alien 3 where Hicks (Michael Biehn) discovers the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is making an Alien army, while the people of a floating space station fight back against an invasion. The idea was scrapped when Fox wanted more screen time for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, who was in a coma throughout a majority of the film. "Sigourney Weaver is the centerpiece of the series," Fox president Joe Roth said. Ripley was "really the only female warrior we have in our movie mythology."
In 1990, New Zealand filmmaker Vincent Ward was hired to direct Alien 3, based on a pitch he came up with on the flight to Los Angeles. He thought of Ripley crash landing on a planet made completely out of wood and discovering a monastery full of all-male monks who see the Alien as a punishment from God. The sequel would’ve been an examination of Ripley’s soul and psyche throughout the series—and a fitting end for the character.
Fox quickly fired Ward and brought on a young David Fincher to make an action-heavy thriller about Ripley crash landing on a prison planet, as a new Xenomorph picks off the prisoners one by one, which made it more similar to the original Alien movie. Alien 3 opened in May 1992 to lukewarm reviews and moderate box office numbers.
7. SUPERMAN LIVES
Before the release of Superman Returns in 2006, there were a number of sequel and reboot ideas surrounding the Man of Steel that were abandoned or canceled—most notably 1996's Superman Lives. Filmmaker Kevin Smith (who was also offered the writing job on Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian) was commissioned to write a screenplay for producer Jon Peters that featured Superman dressed in all black, fighting a polar bear at the Fortress of Solitude, then fighting a giant spider in the film’s climax. Nicolas Cage was cast as Superman, while Tim Burton was hired to direct. Superman Lives also featured two villains, Brainiac and Lex Luthor, who teamed up to destroy the Man of Steel.
Superman Lives was slated for release during the summer of 1998 for the 60th anniversary of the character’s comic book debut. However, after various rewrites, delays, and dropouts, the superhero movie was canceled (even after Warner Bros. spent more than $30 million over four years of pre-production and planning). The film The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? documents almost every aspect of what went wrong and why the film wasn’t made
“The only thing I’ll say about that—because that is such a lightning rod hot topic and if I say anything at all it just seems to snowball—but I will say that I had great belief in that movie and in what Tim Burton’s vision was going to be for that movie,” Cage told Yahoo! Movies. “I would’ve loved to have seen it, but I feel that in many ways, it was sort of a win/win because of the power of the imagination. I think people can actually see the movie in their minds now and imagine it and in many ways that might resonate more deeply than the finished project.”
8. CHRONICLE 2: MARTYR
In 2012, Twentieth Century Fox hired Max Landis to write a follow-up to his surprise hit, Chronicle. He wrote a darker sequel called Chronicle 2: Martyr, which featured a female villain named Miranda, who had the same superpowers as the protagonists from the first film—and was also schizophrenic.
“There’s this really interesting moment where she’s turned into this supervillain, she has a mechanized suit—like a real thing they can build now that would cost $20 million, but if you’re a genius you can do it—and she’s totally insane, living in this house with garbage everywhere, filming herself and talking to the camera on drones like it’s her boyfriend,” Landis told The Daily Beast. “It’s one of my better scripts. It’s very dark. It’s not Chronicle. It has a much happier ending than Chronicle!”
Landis also had another pitch that would bring the original trio from Chronicle back to the sequel via time travel. Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell), and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) discover that they can now manipulate and control time after they go on the run from the government. Andrew and Matt then die in a shootout, as Steve looks into the camera and rewinds time back to the middle of the movie.
“Steve looks at the camera and goes, ‘This didn’t happen this way.’ And just like that, it rewinds to the beginning of the second act of Chronicle 2 and you see them being filmed by these French girls that they were hanging out with, and you see Steve go, ‘We’ve gotta go,’” Landis explained.
However, Fox didn’t like either pitch and removed Landis from the project. The sequel is still in development, with screenwriter Jack Stanley currently writing an all-new script.