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Sequel Baiting Endings That Didn't Work

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Some films can’t leave well enough alone. Before – or just after – the credits roll, they crowbar in a little snippet designed to leave us gagging for more. Heck, this summer has already seen several major films leave us with endings that just beg for a sequel, and not one of them involved Nick Fury. As the practice becomes increasingly common in blockbusters, from the well-conceived to the unrealistically optimistic, we take a look at the finales that set up a sequel that never happened. Spoilers, obviously, follow.

What’s it all about?
In a Heroes / X-Men-like world where some people are born with – and persecuted for having – special powers, Nick (Chris Evans) and Cassie (Dakota Fanning) are two such: he has telekinetic abilities and she’s a prophet. Chris Evans as a superhero, you know it makes sense. The problem is the “pushers” who can control your thoughts, and the government department, Division, that wants to gather in all these supers. One “pusher” caught in the middle is Camilla Belle’s Kira, who has Division Agent Carver (Djimon Hounsou) on her tail.

How does it end?
An insanely complicated plan by our heroes, involving precognition and a Post Office’s worth of envelopes, works out and Nick and Cassie escape Division. But Kira has been “pushed” into thinking she is a Division agent and boards a plane with Carver back to base. One final envelope reveals the truth, causing Kira – as the screen blacks out – to assassinate Carver and return to join Nick.

So where’s the sequel bait?
Well, the film leaves Division still working away, Cassie’s mother still in their custody, and a whole heap of plot threads hanging like one of Nick’s threadbare jumpers. It’s a shame, in a way, that this coincided with Heroes screening on TV; it might have been better off on TV in the first place, given that the effort of explaining what was going on took a good third of the movie.

What’s it all about?
Eragon (Edward Speleers), a farmboy, finds a strange stone – only for a dragon to hatch from it. This dragon, Saphira (Rachel Weisz), bonds with the boy, but monstrous egg-hunter Ra’zac (Robert Carlyle) threatens them and they have to leave home, along with an older mentor (Jeremy Irons). The two are soon embroiled in a war.

How does it end?
Eragon unites with a band of outlaws at their base and fights off the Ra’zac, his bizarre shadow-dragon thing, and the forces of the evil King Galbatorix (John Malkovich), who isn’t present. But in the final moments of the film we see Galbatorix unleash his own dragon, black Shruikan, to head after the upstart Eragon and Saphira. OH NOES!

So where’s the sequel bait?
Well, Shruikan heads out for the big face-off that will, hopefully, finish in Saphira winning and Galbatorix’s evil reign ending... but we don’t see the hoped-for dragon clash in this film. Or, indeed, at all. Eragon took $249m worldwide, which isn’t disastrous, but that’s on an estimated $100m budget and the worst reviews this side of a Martin Lawrence movie, so no sequel was forthcoming. Anyway, the next few books are all about elf-training and are well boring, so it was probably just as well.

What’s it all about?*
**In a high-larious twist on the Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court / Bill & Ted tradition, a modern slacker working at a medieval theme park is transported back to Ye Olde Medievale Times but instead of being Bing Crosby or Keanu Reeves, it’s Martin Lawrence*. Much chaos ensues as a series of misunderstandings lead him to be identified as a Moorish ambassador to the vaguely English court.

How does it end?
Lawrence’s Jamal restores the rightful Queen to the throne, with the help of a slumming-it Tom Wilkinson, and returns home a reformed man. There, he meets a carbon copy of his medieval love interest – but when he chases after her to get her phone number, he falls in the moat of the theme park castle where he works...

So where’s the sequel bait?
…And he finds himself in an ancient Roman arena straight out of a cut-price Gladiator. There are lions instead of tigers, and of course Martin Lawrence instead of Russell Crowe. Thankfully, this film made a loss on its $50m budget and we never got to see it, leaving this plot thread hanging.

What’s it all about?
One of the most cynical films of the 1980s (and that’s saying something), this is essentially a vehicle for the most blatant product placement ever to have defaced the silver screen. Yes, even worse than The Island. The plot? You’ve seen E.T., right? OK, imagine that, but without any of the charm or wonder or intelligence or score or directorial flare or ANYTHING.

How does it end?
MAC (“Mysterious Alien Creature”, rather than being a blatant McDonalds tie-in… NOT) is reunited with his family, who were lost in the desert, as evil government agents catch up with the escaped weirdo. His young human friend is shot in the crossfire, but miraculously restored by the aliens’ magic powers. Which just goes to show that someone can look like an empty sausage casing on top of a frog but still be useful for something.

So where’s the sequel bait?
Well, after the aliens are made US citizens for no obvious reason, they drive off into the sunset in a car with a sign on the back that reads, “We’ll be back”. In response the world cried with one voice “DEAR GOD NO!” and the sequel, happily, never happened.

What’s it all about?
A magnificently cheesy update of the 1930s comic strip, this sees likeable lug Sam J. Jones play the American football star turned galaxy saviour of the title opposite Max von Sydow’s dastardly Emperor Ming the Merciless (the clue’s in the name, people). And it’s all set to the strains of an astonishing Queen soundtrack.

How does it end?
Could there be any doubt? Despite apparently dying, Flash leads a multi-planet rebellion against Ming with the help of Brian Blessed’s hawk man (“GORDON’S ALIVE?!”) and overthrows the tyrant (to be precise, he impales him on a rocket), making the galaxy safe for hawk persons, humans and Timothy Dalton alike. Hurrah! He really did save every one of us, like Freddie Mercury promised.

So where’s the sequel bait?
After Ming has been vaporised by his own power ring, a dark hand appears to lift it out of the rubble (perhaps belonging to Ming’s sinister and presumed-dead Klytus) and the words “The End” are followed by a question mark. Classic! Unfortunately, however, 1980 audiences only returned $27m on a $35m budget, and there was no sequel. PEOPLE! Did you not HEAR Brian Blessed? What was wrong with you? Did perming your hair melt your brains?

What’s it all about?
Paul Bettany plays the archangel Michael which, you know what, makes a lot of sense to us. But he’s bailed on heaven because he refuses to accept the inevitability of, y’know, that whole Armageddon thing (not the Bruce Willis one). So he’s in a last stand against the massed forces of Heaven and Hell to defend an unborn child who may yet redeem humanity, in a diner that’s quite literally at the end of the world.

How does it end?
Michael wins, because it turns out that god quite likes him and decided to back him in the end instead of Gabriel. Why? Well, it’s ineffable innit, and there’s no point in being the Almighty if you’re not permitted to change your mind. Gabriel slinks off, Michael flies back to heaven, and the baby rides off into the sunset (with adult supervision).

So where’s the sequel bait?
Well, the final scene of the film sees the baby’s guardians, Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) and Jeep (Lucas Black), tooling up to protect the saviour of the world against, well, all comers really. After all, all that the Almighty has agreed to is a second chance. Armageddon could still happen (and not the Bruce Willis kind). It’s a very cliffhanger-y ending. But a $68m return on a $26m budget wasn’t enough to make it happen. Shame. A sequel featuring more Paul Bettany as Michael and fewer whiny humans could have been fun.

What’s it all about?
He-Man (Dolph Lundgren) is leading the defence of the kingdom of Eternia against the dastardly Skeletor (Frank Langella), who has seized Castle Greyskull. With Skeletor's troops in hot pursuit, He-Man and his allies escape to Earth (because, one suspects, it's cheaper shooting here than on Eternia) and befriend two teenagers, one of whom is Courtney Cox. They have to find the Key that brought them there despite the best efforts of Skeletor's pursuing cronies, get back to Eternia and defeat him before he acquires godlike powers thanks to a cosmic alignment of the planets. Another one of those, eh?

How does it end?
Skeletor succeeds in his plan, but He-Man still beats him through sheer pluck / the loyalty of his friends / the power of Greyskull, throwing him into a practically bottomless pit. Take that, skullface! The American kids are sent home in time to save Courtney Cox' parents from a fatal plane crash, which is nice, and He-Man continues his life in peace, wandering about shirtless and (presumably) trying to figure out where Battle Cat has got to (he's run off, one suspects, because giant green war tigers were difficult to bring to life pre-CG).

So where’s the sequel bait?
After the credits, Skeletor's head emerges from beneath the dark liquid at the bottom of the pit and he proclaims "I'll be back!" Unlike Arnie, he didn't deliver on his promise. Cannon Films planned a low-budget sequel after this flopped at the US box office, but couldn't get permission from Mattel so used the props and sets they'd put together in pre-production for that on Cyborg instead. Thrifty!

What’s it all about?
Highly-regarded gaming series Max Payne got its inevitable cinematic adaptation thanks to Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg and John “The Omen remake” Moore. In it, sharp-shooting detective Payne is dragged into an elaborate conspiracy involving super soldier serum, Viking mythology and dark angels flinging drug users to their doom. To crack the case, Max pairs up with sultry sexpot Mona Sax (Mila Kunis) and shoots pretty much everything that moves. Well, eventually, anyway.

How does it end?
Dropped into an icy river with weights around his ankles, Payne wriggles free and gets back onto dry land. There, he gulps down two vials of the frequently lethal super soldier serum ‘Valkyr’ and goes on a rampage through the ever-so-evil Aesir corporation’s head offices. Hundreds of bullet-ridden corpses later, a barely alive Max kills the big bad (Beau Bridges as B.B. Hensley) on the rooftop helipad before collapsing into a heap of apparently-dead.

So where’s the sequel bait?
They thought it was all over, but that was just wishful thinking. A voiceover in the distance tells us “He’s still alive!” and after the credits a sting with Max and Mona in a bar reminds the audience that there was another big bad even bigger and badder than B.B. Hensley: Kate Burton’s Nicole Horne. Plus, as Mona's newspaper shows us, Aesir is going from strength to strength (despite their offices and staff getting blasted to bits). Still, given the film's disappointing box-office and Mark Wahlberg's many and varied projects, don't hold your breath.