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The Real Reasons These Movies Were Canceled In 2018

There's an old adage attributed to carpenters that advises to "measure twice, cut once." That can be applied to many disciplines, because all it means is "plan carefully before you act." Movies, perhaps more than any field other than architecture or nation-building, require a staggering amount of planning. There are so many different elements to manage, such as getting together tens of millions of dollars to pay for everything, then hiring a director, actors, designers, crew members, and extras. Then somebody has to edit the thing together, another person has to put music on it, and then an entirely different army of workers come in to market the thing. All of this takes many months if not years... all to result in a piece of entertainment that lasts about two hours.

So many factors means there are a lot more areas where something can go wrong — and sometimes even destroy the movie's prospects altogether. Here are some recent films that made headlines for getting started but not finishing — and the real reasons these movies were canceled in 2018.

Solo sealed Fett's fate

On paper, Solo: A Star Wars Story was the movie Star Wars buffs had wanted for 40 years — an origin story for dashing space pirate Han Solo, portrayed by Harrison Ford in the original Star Wars trilogy. The May 2018 release starred Alden Ehrenreich as Solo, with a supporting cast featuring Donald Glover as young Lando Calrissian and Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke.

Despite all that, the film didn't deliver on fans' (or even critics') lofty expectations. "The tropes and twists of shamelessly recycled clichés are presented throughout with an absurd earnestness," said Richard Brody of The New Yorker. Fan reaction could be gauged by the numbers. Solo earned $213 million at the box office, a shockingly low sum for a Star Wars movie, particularly a film about one of the franchise's most famous characters. It's also a lot less than what immediate predecessors took in — The Last Jedi grossed $620 million and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story took home $532 million.

Responsible parties Disney and Lucasfilm thusly retreated. "Sources with knowledge of the situation" told Collider that in light of the wishy-washy response to Solo, Lucasfilm decided to indefinitely delay two Star Wars spinoffs already in the works, focusing on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett, respectively.

Cowboy Ninja Viking…nothing

Imagine a movie that combined cowboys, ninjas, and Vikings. That would probably be pretty awesome, and it was almost a reality: Cowboy Ninja Viking. Even better, it would've starred Chris Pratt, one of our most fun movie stars, who has already fought off evil Lego villains and Jurassic creatures and guarded the galaxy twice. Based on the 2009-2010 comic book by A.J. Lieberman and Riley Rossmo, Pratt joined the film to play main character Duncan, a super-soldier with a personality disorder, which meant he had three separate identities (and power sets) of cowboy, ninja, and viking. Priyanka Chopra joined the cast in July 2018, but just a week later, Universal took the film off its release schedule, canceling a June 28, 2019 opening date. About $65 million had been budgeted, but script issues plagued the production; The Hollywood Reporter said rumors of the film's shutdown flew around Hollywood for months. Cowboy Ninja Viking isn't necessarily dead, but it's at least resting. Universal says they'll keep the movie in "active development" for a possible release a few years down the line.

Unlike the Crow in The Crow, a remake of The Crow is dead

The violent supernatural goth classic The Crow hit theaters in 1994, which is far enough in the past to place the film into remake territory. Hollywood has had a surprisingly hard time getting one going, however.

Blade director Stephen Norrington told Variety in 2008 that he planned to make a Crow that was "realistic and hard-edged," as opposed to the original's "stylized" feel. By 2011, Norrington had left the film, and a succession of directors came and went, including Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later), F. Javier Guitiérrez (Rings), and Corin Hardy (The Nun). Several actors reportedly considered playing the lead role of undead avenger Eric Draven, such as Tom Hiddleston, Alexander Skarsgard, and Luke Evans.

Production was finally set to begin in 2015 with Jack Huston (or maybe Nicholas Hoult or Jack O'Connell) as Eric, but the bankruptcy of production company Relativity Media prevented that from happening. In late 2016, all the necessary rights and financing had been locked down, with Jason Momoa and Corin Hardy as the most recently attached star and director, respectively. In March 2018, Variety reported that distributor Sony planned to release The Crow on October 11, 2019. Just over two months later, Deadline broke the news that Momoa and Hardy had moved on. Not long after that, Sony took the movie off its schedule.

The Community movie, like Community the show, is canceled

"Six seasons and a movie!" That was the rallying cry for devoted fans of Community, the inventive and perpetually little-watched NBC sitcom. It ran on the Peacock for five seasons, and then for a final round of episodes on the short-lived Yahoo! Screen streaming service. That took care of the "six seasons" part, while the possibility of a movie seemed on the horizon. After all, if similarly canceled-too-soon cult classics like Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls could get a revival, why not Community? The sixth season aired way back in 2015, and three years later, there hadn't been much progress.

The Joel McHale Show Starring Joel McHale producer Paul Feig appeared in a 2018 segment on the show to troll fans. "The Community reunion movie is canceled," Feig quipped. "I want the entire fanboy audience to know that I, Paul Feig, who rebooted Ghostbusters with all women, canceled the long-awaited Community movie." When USA Today asked McHale if Feig was kidding or not, McHale said, "At this point, Paul Feig's right." It's all a matter of time, in that the creator and actors don't have any — for example, Community showrunner Dan Harmon helps run Rick & Morty, and cast members like McHale, Alison Brie (GLOW), and Donald Glover (Solo: A Star Wars Story) are very busy.

Firebase destroyed

Neil Blomkamp is a visionary filmmaker who has injected energy and new ideas into science fiction. His first feature film, District 9 (2009), is one of the few films in that genre to ever earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. In addition to full-length follow-ups Elysium and Chappie, Blomkamp makes a lot of short films, and in 2017 he founded Oats Studio to do just that. That year, he made a 27-minute short called "Firebase," set in the Vietnam War and focusing on some American soldiers who experience some very freaky occurrences.

Oats released "Firebase" to YouTube, Facebook, and Steam, and then announced plans to adapt it into a full-length feature... if a crowdfunding drive was successful enough. In April 2018, Oats Studios tweeted the news that the it hadn't generated enough income, and that the longer version of Firebase was dead: "Unfortunately we didn't raise enough to do something truley [sic] awesome. We would rather over deliver than create an average film. We thank the thousands of people who did back us."

Metro, no

Metro 2033 followed an interesting adaptation trajectory — properties don't usually go from novel to video game to movie. At least the first two iterations happened, when THQ and 4A Games made a series based on Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky's tale of a nightmarish future dystopia, in which survivors of a nuclear holocaust live in the subway tunnels underneath Moscow. MGM  planned to make its film adaptation more palatable to American audiences by changing the Moscow setting to Washington, D.C. 

According to an interview Glukhovsky gave VG24/7 (via Variety), Americanizing it warped the concept to where it was unworkable. "In Washington D.C., Nazis don't work, Communists don't work at all," Glukhovsky said, referring to two Eurocentric elements in his book. Also problematic: the novel's Dark Ones, a villainous race of dark-skinned humanoids. "They had to replace the Dark Ones with some kind of random beasts, and as long as the beasts don't look human, the entire story of xenophobia doesn't work."

The film didn't get made in time, and the rights went back to Glukhovsky. For a Metro 2033 movie to ever exist, another studio will have to buy the rights, which could take years.

A strike against Air Strike

Initially scheduled for a fall 2018 release, Air Strike sounds like a big hit with broad commercial appeal. It's an action thriller set during World War II that stars living legend Bruce Willis, Oscar winner Adrien Brody, and Fan Bingbing. While that name may not be familiar to American audiences, Fan is one of the biggest movie stars in the world, a major box-office draw in her home country of China on par with Jennifer Lawrence (or Bruce Willis). 

After making an appearance at a children's hospital in July 2018, Fan disappeared from public view and social media. She emerged three months later. While fans feared she'd met some grisly fate, she was actually keeping a low profile while she sorted out some major tax stuff with the Chinese government. Bing reportedly owed authorities the equivalent of $130 million, which she'd evaded in part by keeping two very different contracts for Air Strike. "I am unworthy of the trust of the society and let down the fans who love me," Fan wrote on her blog in October 2018.

The tainted film's release was totally canceled. Director Xiao Feng posted on his blog that he had no choice but to "let go" of Air Strike and move on... even though it's complete and he spent eight years working on it.

Call Me By Your Name… later

Call Me By Your Name, an Oscar-nominated romantic drama that delivers a gut-punch of an ending, isn't the kind of movie that usually gets a sequel. But on the red carpet before the Academy Awards ceremony at which the original was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor (for Timothée Chalamet) among other awards, director Luca Guadagnino told USA Today that he was working on a sequel. "I'm already conceiving the story with André Aciman," Guadagnino said, referring to the author of the film's source novel. "It's gonna be a new movie, a different tone." 

Not so fast, Aciman told the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks later: "I spoke to the director and he would like to do a sequel but he has quite a few projects in line and so do I. So we are flirting with each other about the sequel but I don't know if we are very serious." Guadagnino, undeterred, shared some of his plot ideas with the media, almost forcing Aciman's hand on the issue. In December 2018, Aciman tweeted that he "would actually love a sequel to Call Me By Your Name. In fact I am writing one." It takes a long time to write a book, and a long time to make a movie, so if Recall Me By Your Name Again or Call Me By Your Name 2: The Quickening (just some title possibilities) does happen, it's not going to hit screens in 2019.

City of Excuses

Two decades after the mysterious, unsolved death of rapper the Notorious B.I.G., Hollywood decided to hop on the case with the movie City of Lies. Based on Randall Sullivan's book LAbyrinth, the film starred Johnny Depp as LAPD detective Russell Poole, who takes a second look at the investigation into Biggie's death 20 years after the fact. Global Road Entertainment planned to release City of Lies to theaters on September 7, 2018... until it canceled the canceled the rollout about a month beforehand. The distributor didn't reveal an exact reason, but it perhaps had something to do with Depp's very bad year. A few weeks before the cancellation, City of Lies location manager Greg "Rocky" Brooks filed a lawsuit which alleged Depp verbal and physically abused him on the set. Earlier in 2018, Depp settled a multimillion-dollar fraud suit against his business manager, and he also faced allegations of domestic abuse from his former wife, actress Amber Heard, during their divorce proceedings.

City of Lies will likely sit in a vault for the foreseeable future. On September 6, 2018, Global Road Entertainment filed for bankruptcy, which means it'll take a long while to sort out all the legal red tape surrounding its unreleased films.

This was the worst for Hearst

In February 1974, a criminal group called the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped 19-year-old newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. Two months later, Hearst recorded an audio message pledging allegiance to the SLA and then helped the group in its bank robbery and extortion exploits. In late 1975, the FBI captured Hearst; a court convicted her of bank robbery and issued a 35-year prison sentence. By 1979, she was out of jail, after President Jimmy Carter commuted her term. 

The story of a rich girl gone bad (and possible victim of Stockholm syndrome) remains fascinating, so much so that Fox 2000 had a Hearst movie called American Heiress in the works. Based on the 2016 book of the same name by Jeffrey Toobin, James Mangold (Logan) signed on to direct, with Elle Fanning set to star as Hearst. The movie didn't happen once Patricia Hearst herself thoroughly condemned the book and the adaptation. In a statement, Hearst said she was "saddened and appalled" by the film, as well as a CNN documentary on her kidnapping that she said helped "perpetuate a one-sided dialogue romanticizing my torture and rape."

Woody Allen will have to speak to his analyst about this

Woody Allen is not only one of the most famous writer/directors in film, but he's also extremely productive. Between 1977 and 2017, a period of 40 years, Allen made 41 features. There won't be a Woody Allen movie hitting arthouses in 2018, however, the first time since 1976 that's happened. It's not due to age slowing him down (Allen turned 83 this year), or Allen not actually making a movie. He completed a New York-set romantic comedy called A Rainy Day in New York, starring TImothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning, but it won't be released until 2019 at the earliest, if at all.

The movie completed photography in fall 2018, before the #MeToo movement ruptured Hollywood, and brought renewed attention to Allen's many alleged past misdeeds, especially allegations that he abused Dylan Farrow, his adopted daughter. In the wake of that, Amazon, which distributes Allen's films, shelved A Rainy Day in New York with no future release date planned.