Here is the third installment in the series about unfinished movie adaptations of book series. In this post, all three were produced with high hopes for a series but failed spectacularly. All three had a good fan base, but nevertheless, the movie was not critically well received or made good money at the box office. Let’s check out these movies which failed to start a franchise based on the book series.
In 1981, Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis had the rights to Dune, written by Frank Herbert and the sequels that were written at the time. David Lynch was approached to direct and he agreed to write screenplay too, despite having never read the Dune novels. The movie Dune was made for $40 million and was required to be close to two hours long. (it was ultimately 2 hours and 16 minutes). Dune was released on December 14, 1984, and critical reception was mixed to negative. Of the reviews that are currently online about Dune, Rotten Tomatoes holds a 57% score. Dune opened second behind Beverly Hills Cop and ultimately only made $30.9 million in the US, and is considered a box office disappointment. Plans for the Dune sequels were shelved. However, there are some fans of the movie which have regulated the movie to cult status, but Dune is still mostly remembered as one of the biggest adaptation failures of all time.
In 2001, New Line Cinema bought the rights to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and set to make a movie based on the first book, Northern Lights (released as The Golden Compass in the U.S.), with the title The Golden Compass. After several false starts, Chris Weitz was announced as director: he was asked earlier but dropped out due to the challenges of making such a big scale film; he agreed again after the second director stepped down. In the end, The Golden Compass was an extremely expensive film, costing $180 million. The Golden Compass was released on December 5, 2007, in the UK and received a disappointing 43% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie ultimately made $372 million at the worldwide box office ($70 million US), however, New Line had sold the international rights in order fund the movie, which meant New Line did not see much of the $302 million made outside of the US. Ultimately, the sequels were shelved and never made.
In February 2004, an adaptation of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, (however, it should be noted, only Eragon was available when the production started) was announced, with Stefan Fangmeier directing. Unlike the previous two examples, the pre-production history was rather uncomplicated. Eragon was made with a $100 million budget and filmed partly in Hungary and Slovakia. However, when the movie was released on December 16, 2006 (the first sequel, Eldest, was also released that year), it received scathing reviews, getting only 16% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Eragon ultimately made $249 million worldwide ($75 million US). No news about the sequels based on subsequent books has ever been released, but if the movie had been a critical and box office success, it would be far more likely that the sequels would be made.
All three of these movies were made with high hopes, but lackluster reception to each of these adaptations sealed the fate of these franchises. The first two also suffered from a troubled pre-production in which the studio struggled to find a suitable director. Unfortunately, the sequels to Dune, The Golden Compass and Eragon were never made, leaving the movie series unfinished.