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10 Movies That Set Up Nonexistent Sequels

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Hollywood is the place of big dreams, but sometimes those dreams are too big—as in, “Oh crap, I thought I was directing a movie that would definitely get a sequel, only it turns out no one wanted to see this one.” Here are 10 such would-be franchise-starters that flew too close to the sun.

1. THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984)

The end credits of cult favorite The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a campy, bonkers homage to pulp sci-fi serials, famously promised a sequel. It’s now more than 30 years later, and Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League is nowhere to be found. “If the movie had gone out to make a fortune, we would have done it,” director W.D. Richter told Moviefone in 2011. But by now, “the paper trail for the rights is almost impossible to follow … PolyGram sold it to MGM as a big bundle—all these films move around.”

On top of that, Richter said late producer David Begelman “was a notorious double dealer,” who might have made deals that no one knows about; even if someone is “enthusiastic about doing a sequel, they'll say, ‘our legal department is saying we don't have a clear chain of title here, so we're not going to stick our heads up, invest money, and then discover that some guy says, ‘Oh, by the way, I have all the international rights.’” Still, Richter has not given up hope, noting that “Technically, we have not violated our promise to the audience. We try to keep the franchise and the brand alive, anyway, because we never know when somebody is going to say, ‘Yeah, make something else.’”

2. MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1987)

In the days before Iron Man, post-credit scenes weren’t nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. Still, Masters of the Universe snuck one in back in 1987. In it, Skeletor (a facial prosthetics-laden Frank Langella), having been vanquished by He-Man (Dolph Lundgren), emerges from the pit into which he presumably fell to his doom and gleefully announces “I’ll be back!” He was supposed to be: Cannon Films fully intended to make a low-budget sequel to Masters of the Universe, but their licensing check to rights-holder Mattel bounced and, well, that was the end of that. The sets and costumes Cannon had already built were integrated into a different film, the Jean-Claude Van Damme-starring Cyborg (1989).

3. MAC AND ME (1988)

Mac and Me, best known to some as the movie Paul Rudd keeps trolling Conan O’Brien with, ends with the cute/terrifying (mostly terrifying) alien Mac blowing a gum bubble with the words “We’ll be back!” on it. He never was. Critics hated Mac and Me, specifically its overt product placement. (Peter Travers described it as “A blatant commercial for McDonald’s and Coca-Cola disguised as an E.T. ripoff.”) It earned only $6.4 million worldwide and was nominated for four Razzies, two of which (Worst Director and Worst New Star) it “won.”

4. SUPER MARIO BROS. (1993)

Super Mario Bros. wraps up everything quite nicely—King Koopa (Dennis Hopper) defeated, Daisy (Samantha Mathis) reunited with her newly non-fungoid royal father in Dinohattan, Mario (Bob Hoskins) and Luigi (John Leguizamo) returned to their normal life back in New York—until, in the film’s final seconds, a weapon-toting Daisy busts into the brothers’ apartment and tells them, “You gotta come with me! I need your help … You’re never gonna believe this.” And … scene. The film was a famous disaster (and Hoskins’s biggest regret), so we never found out what, exactly, Daisy had gotten herself into until 2013, when fans Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss collaborated with one of the film’s screenwriters on an unofficial webcomic sequel.

5. GODZILLA (1998)

Roland Emmerich’s critically maligned version of Godzilla ends with ‘zilla dead, our heroes (played by Matthew Broderick and Maria Pitillo) reunited, and New York saved … plus one of Godzilla’s eggs, thought to all be destroyed when Madison Square Garden was bombed, hatching all by its lonesome. Presumably someone came along and stepped on Baby Godzilla before it got big enough to cause trouble, because a sequel never happened and the world stayed safe from big green monsters until director Gareth Edwards’s 2014 reboot.

6. ERAGON (2006)

The movie world is filled with teen and YA franchises that someone, somewhere thought would be a good idea, only for them to crash and burn after one movie. The Golden Compass (see below). Beautiful Creatures. Vampire Academy. The Last Airbender. I Am Number Four. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Some of these manage to tell a complete story, whereas others end on an epic cliffhanger fated to never be resolved. A particularly egregious example of this latter type is Stefen Fangmeier’s Eragon, a fantasy movie about a young boy who discovers he’s a “dragon rider.” With a little help from his friends, dragon and non-dragon alike, Eragon (Ed Speleers) defeats the evil sorcerer Durza (Robert Carlyle). This angers Durza’s boss, Galbatorix (John Malkovich), a despotic king who’s about to enter into a large-scale war against Eragon’s elfin allies. It’s revealed that Galbatorix has a scary-looking dragon of his very own, and then … the movie ends. Though it made a fair amount of money internationally, Eragon wasn’t successful enough for Fox to commit to a sequel; viewers who want to find out how it ends will just have to read the rest of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle.

7. THE GOLDEN COMPASS (2007)

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Fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy were shocked when the film adaptation of the first book in the series, The Golden Compass, lopped off the last few chapters of its source material. In the movie, young heroine Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) and her companions set off to find Lyra’s father, Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig). In the book, Lyra finds her father only to witness him murder her best friend as part of his investigation into the mysterious particle known as “Dust.” In the final pages, she follows her father through a portal into another dimension.

The film’s director, Chris Weitz, later explained his decision to move this sequence (which was shot but cut out) to the beginning of the second movie: “My job is to make sure that all of Pullman’s story will be told, not to flame out gloriously with one film. The juncture at which to leave audiences hoping for more was before Lyra sets off to find Asriel. She has fulfilled the initial reason for her journey (to save her friend Roger), but there is a further tangible aim for her … [D]ifficult to handle/difficult to swallow material, which is to say dark material (no pun intended) can work perfectly well in the second film of a trilogy (cf. The Empire Strikes Back).” Ironically, given that “all of Pullman’s story” statement, The Golden Compass was reviled by critics and fans alike, and plans for a sequel were scrapped despite a fairly successful international run.        

8. THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

The Incredible Hulk kind of did get a follow-up and kind of didn’t. It’s part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in which The Hulk is obviously still kicking around, though there’s been no movement in terms of another standalone film. William Hurt, who played General Ross, was even brought back for a supporting role in this summer’s Captain America: Civil War. But it’s pretty clear that The Incredible Hulk intended to set certain wheels in motion that never actually started spinning. Chief among them: In the comics, Samuel Sterns, the character played by Tim Blake Nelson, eventually becomes The Leader, a hyper-intelligent nemesis of Bruce Banner/The Hulk. In the movie, Sterns is infected by Banner’s blood, and his head starts to mutate; Nelson has confirmed that he was supposed to be The Leader in subsequent films. But the MCU’s Hulk went in a different direction, with a different actor (from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo) and a different way of joining the Avengers than what The Incredible Hulk’s post-credits scene initially set up. And nary a peep from Sterns, whom your casual Marvel moviegoer probably doesn’t even remember exists. It’s not going too far out on a limb to say this particular dangling thread will likely never be woven back into the whole.

9. GREEN LANTERN (2011)

Midway through the Green Lantern credits, Sinestro, the mentor of hero Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), gets himself a new bauble in the form of a yellow power ring. It’s a sequence that was meant to act as “a nod to where the trilogy was intending to head to,” said Sinestro actor Mark Strong—namely, the comic book story arc where Sinestro goes evil and creates a sort of bizarro version of the peacekeeping Green Lantern Corps. But the critically despised Green Lantern tanked, barely earning back its $200 million production budget (and that’s not even taking into account all the money it spent on marketing). Movies two and three never happened, with Warner Bros. instead opting to reboot the property with 2020’s Green Lantern Corps. For Strong’s part, he says that “the putting on of the ring and the whole suit turning yellow would have been great fun.”

10. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)

Over the course of two Spider-Movies, director Marc Webb teased audiences with hints that Peter Parker’s father, who supposedly died in a plane crash when Parker (Andrew Garfield) was a boy, was alive after all. The mysterious Man in the Shadows (later revealed to be criminal mastermind Gustav Fiers, a.k.a. The Gentleman) asked villain The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) if he told Parker “the truth about his father” in The Amazing Spider-Man’s mid-credit sequence, while The Amazing Spider-Man 2 actually had a deleted scene where Parker meets his pops. That was it for Papa Parker’s screentime, though, as a deal between Sony and Disney integrated Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with younger actor Tom Holland stepping into Garfield’s tights.

Chris Cooper, who played Harry Osborn’s father Norman in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, has since spoken out about the “huge role” he would have had in the third movie, had it been made. It involves his head in a box.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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17 Things to Know About René Descartes
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The French polymath René Descartes (1596-1650) lived after the Renaissance, but he personified that age's interest in mathematics, philosophy, art, and the nature of humanity. He made numerous discoveries and argued for ideas that people continue to grapple with. (His dualist distinction between mind and the brain, for example, continues to be debated by psychologists.) Get to know him better!

1. NOBODY CALLED HIM RENÉ.

Descartes went by a nickname and often introduced himself as “Poitevin” and signed letters as “du Perron.” Sometimes, he went so far to call himself the “Lord of Perron.” That’s because he had inherited a farm from his mother’s family in Poitou, in western France.

2. SCHOOL MADE HIM FEEL DUMBER.

From the age of 11 to 18, Descartes attended one of the best schools in Europe, the Jesuit College of Henry IV in La Flèche, France. In his later work Discourse on the Method, Descartes wrote that, upon leaving school, “I found myself involved in so many doubts and errors, that I was convinced I had advanced no farther in all my attempts at learning, than the discovery at every turn of my own ignorance."

3. HIS DAD WANTED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

Descartes’s family was chock-full of lawyers, and the budding intellectual was expected to join them. He studied law at the University of Poitiers and even came home with a law degree in 1616. But he never entered the practice. In 1618, a 22-year-old Descartes enlisted as a mercenary in the Dutch States Army instead. There, he would study military engineering and become fascinated with math and physics.

4. HE CHANGED CAREER PATHS THANKS TO A SERIES OF DREAMS.

In 1618, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand II, attempted to impose Catholicism on anybody living within his domain. The result of this policy would be the Thirty Years' War. It would also prompt Descartes, a Catholic, to switch allegiances to a Bavarian army fighting for the Catholic side. But on his travels, he stopped in the town of Ulm. There, on the night of November 10, he had three dreams that convinced him to change his life’s path. “Descartes took from them the message that he should set out to reform all knowledge,” philosopher Gary Hatfield writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

5. HE COULD BE EASILY DISTRACTED BY BRIGHT AND SHINY OBJECTS.

In 1628, Descartes moved to the Netherlands and spent nine months doggedly working on a theory of metaphysics. Then he got distracted. In 1629, a number of false suns—called parhelia, or “sun dogs”—were seen near Rome. Descartes put his beloved metaphysics treatise on the back burner and devoted his time to explaining the phenomenon. It was a lucky distraction: It led to his work The World, or Treatise on Light.

6. HE LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR ANALYTIC GEOMETRY ...

In 1637, Descartes published his groundbreaking Discourse on the Method, where he took the revolutionary step of describing lines through mathematical equations. According to Hatfield, “[Descartes] considered his algebraic techniques to provide a powerful alternative to actual compass-and-ruler constructions when the latter became too intricate.” You might have encountered his system in high school algebra: They’re called Cartesian coordinates.

7. ... AND THE REST OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY.

Everybody knows Descartes for his phrase Cogito, ergo sum (which originally appeared in French as "Je pense, donc je suis"), or "I think, therefore I am." The concept appeared in many of his texts. To understand what it means, some context is helpful: At the time, many philosophers claimed that truth was acquired through sense impressions. Descartes disagreed. He argued that our senses are unreliable. An ill person can hallucinate. An amputee can feel phantom limb pain. People are regularly deceived by their own eyes, dreams, and imaginations. Descartes, however, realized that his argument opened a door for "radical doubt": That is, what was stopping people from doubting the existence of, well, everything? The cogito argument is his remedy: Even if you doubt the existence of everything, you cannot doubt the existence of your own mind—because doubting indicates thinking, and thinking indicates existing. Descartes argued that self-evident truths like this—and not the senses—must be the foundation of philosophical investigations.

8. HE'S THE REASON YOUR MATH TEACHER MAKES YOU CHECK YOUR WORK.

Descartes was obsessed with certainty. In his book Rules for the Direction of the Mind, “he sought to generalize the methods of mathematics so as to provide a route to clear knowledge of everything that human beings can know,” Hatfield writes. His advice included this classic chestnut: To solve a big problem, break it up into small, easy-to-understand parts—and check each step often.

9. HE LIKED TO HIDE.

Descartes had a motto, which he took from Ovid: “Who lives well hidden, lives well.” When he moved to the Netherlands, he regularly changed apartments and deliberately kept his address a secret. Some say it's because he simply desired privacy for his philosophical work, or that he was avoiding his disapproving family. In his book titled Descartes, philosopher A. C. Grayling makes another suggestion: "Descartes was a spy."

10. HE WASN'T AFRAID OF CRITICS. IN FACT, HE RE-PUBLISHED THEM.

When Descartes was revising his Meditations on First Philosophy [PDF], he planned to send the manuscript to “the 20 or 30 most learned theologians” for criticism—a sort of proto-peer review. He collected seven objections and published them in the work. (Descartes, of course, had the last word: He responded to each criticism.)

11. HE COULD THROW SHADE WITH THE BEST OF THEM.

In the 1640s, Descartes’s pupil and friend Henricus Regius published a broadsheet that distorted Descartes’s theory of the mind. (Which, put briefly, posits that the material body and immaterial mind are separate and distinct.) The two men had a falling out, and Descartes wrote a rebuttal with a barbed title that refused to even acknowledge Regius’s manifesto by name: It was simply called “Comments on a Certain Broadsheet.”

12. HE NEVER BELIEVED MONKEYS COULD TALK.

There’s a “fun fact” parading around that suggests Descartes believed monkeys and apes could talk. He believed no such thing. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Descartes denied that animals were even conscious, let alone capable of speech. The factoid comes from a misreading of a letter Descartes had written in 1646, in which he attributed the belief to “savages.”

13. HE TOTALLY HAD THE HOTS FOR CROSS-EYED WOMEN.

In a letter to Queen Christina of Sweden, Descartes explained that he had a cross-eyed playmate as a child. “I loved a girl of my own age ... who was slightly cross-eyed; by which means, the impression made in my brain when I looked at her wandering eyes was joined so much to that which also occurred when the passion of love moved me, that for a long time afterward, in seeing cross-eyed women, I felt more inclined to love them than others.”

14. WHEN HE MET BLAISE PASCAL, THEY GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT ... ABOUT VACUUMS.

In 1647, a 51-year-old Descartes visited the 24-year-old prodigy and physicist Blaise Pascal. Their meeting quickly devolved into a heated argument over the concept of a vacuum—that is, the idea that air pressure could ever be reduced to zero. (Descartes said it was impossible; Pascal disagreed.) Later, Descartes wrote a letter that, depending on your translation, said that Pascal had “too much vacuum in his head.”

15. HIS WORK WAS BANNED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

Back in the late 1630s, the theologian Gisbert Voetius had convinced the academic senate of the University of Utrecht to condemn the philosopher’s work. (Descartes was Catholic, but his suggestion that the universe began as a “chaotic soup of particles in motion,” in Hatfield's words, was contrary to orthodox theology.) In the 1660s, his works were placed on the church’s Index of Prohibited Books.

16. HE REGULARLY SLEPT UNTIL NOON (AND TRYING TO BREAK THE HABIT MIGHT HAVE KILLED HIM).

Descartes was not a morning person. He often snoozed 12 hours a night, from midnight until lunchtime. In fact, he worked in bed. (Sleep, he wisely wrote, was a time of “nourishment for the brain.”) But according to the Journal of Historical Neuroscience, he may have had a sleep disorder that helped end his life. A year before his death, Descartes had moved to Stockholm to take a job tutoring Queen Christina, a devoted early-riser who forced Descartes to change his sleep schedule. Some believe the resulting sleep deprivation weakened his immune system and eventually killed him.

17. HIS SKELETON HAS TRAVELED FAR AND WIDE.

Descartes died in Stockholm in 1650 and was buried outside the city. Sixteen years later, his corpse was exhumed and taken to Paris. During the French Revolution, his bones were moved to an Egyptian sarcophagus at the Museum of French Monuments. Decades later, when plans were made to rebury Descartes in an abbey, officials discovered that most of his bones—including his skull—were missing. Shortly after, a Swedish scientist discovered a newspaper advertisement attempting to sell the polymath’s noggin [PDF]. Today, his head is in a collection at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.

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