This weekend brings the bubbling, scheming and extremely entertaining penguins to our shore. Penguins of Madagascar. This movie is a spin-off of the successful Madagascar franchise of DreamWorks Animation, a series which has garnered close to $1.9 billion worldwide over three movies. Rather than continuing the story of the lion, hippo, giraffe and zebra, the studio decided to move away slightly by building something around the lovable penguins in the series. Spin-offs aren’t a bad idea at all, a casing point in the animated world itself being Puss in Boots which developed from the Shrek series. As long as the studio works hard enough to give the spin-off film a genuine feel of its own, then the presence of a character we are already familiar with acts as a bonus. But it does not always come out right. Poor spin-off attempts may not be that hard to find, and these four movies were the first to pop up in my mind. Hopefully, Penguins of Madagascar is not headed in that direction.
The Scorpion King
The Scorpion King from 2002 was a spin-off of the popular The Mummy series. Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock had made his Hollywood debut in a brief cameo as “The Scorpion King” character in The Mummy Returns. It was a nice little cameo and it should have stayed that way, until The Scorpion King came out a year later. This movie will make you cringe at the poor attempts to carve something substantial. Weak acting, direction and even cinematography makes it appear as a distant cousin of the otherwise entertaining The Mummy series. Quite surprisingly, The Scorpion King was a financial success resulting in two sequels which were released direct-to-video. Dwayne Johnson stepped away from the franchise, and thankfully, went on to do better things in Hollywood.
Catwoman is an extremely popular character from the world of Batman in the DC Comics. In 2004, Halle Berry was at her peak in Hollywood. It was a good enough combination which led to this $100 million budget film getting the green signal. Oh, but what a terrible movie it was! The departure from Selina Kyle’s story, and its meek replacement with something quite bland (about something that goes on inside a cosmetics company which makes little sense), killed the whole energy and spark of Catwoman. The movie bombed at the box-office and was panned by the critics, which comes as no surprise. Christopher Nolan mercifully gave this character a new lease of life later on and Anne Hathaway did it justice with her nimble performance as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. But for Anne, we may still have been cursing Halle for having agreed to such a role!
I like Jennifer Garner. She may not be the greatest of the actresses, but she carries out her work with sincerity and with a dignity that would warm anyone’s heart. So whatever fault lies with Elektra, the spin-off from Daredevil movie, I lay it on the doorstep of the scriptwriter and director. And also the studio. This spin-off should never have happened. Daredevil did modestly at the box-office but was no big winner. Neither was the character of Elektra so popular that people were rooting for her own movie. But for some odd reason, quite a bit of money was spent on this movie. If they had come out with something entertaining, it may still have had a shot. But its 10% score on Rottentomatoes tells you how the movie was received by the critics. The movie flopped, and Daredevil and Elektra remain sidelined now from the much growing superhero space in Hollywood.
Son of the Mask
The 2005 flick Son of the Mask was a spin-off / sequel of the Jim Carrey hit movie Mask. It took the film-makers 11 years to come out with the new Mask film and that itself was a bad idea. The fact that it had no Jim Carrey was another bad idea. The absence of the over-the-top bold humour of the original was the third and final bad idea which led to the fall of Son of the Mask. The movie was so bad that it won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Remake or Sequel. It also failed at the box-office and I wonder what the studio executives were smoking when they signed off on the $84 million budget for this movie. Needless to say, for many lovers of the original Mask movie, there has been no spin-off made, ever!