Good article over on the always entertaining Onion AV Club about "failed attempts to start a franchise."
Buckaroo Banzai. I love this movie and even have it on DVD. It falls in with Big Trouble in Little China as a bizarro, comedic fusion of genres that is endlessly entertaining. There's much to love here, including the first time I remember the use of the phrase "no matter where you go, there you are," and the non-sequiter about the oddly placed watermelon. Peter Weller makes for a great lead as the rock star/neurosurgeon/presidential adviser/crime fighter of the title, and it's too bad the rights have been tied up in messy litigation, as this would make a spectacularly enjoyable cult television series.
The Rocketeer. Great pulp fun, and a throwback to the serials of yore.
Daredevil. I agree that Affleck wasn't a bad choice, and in the hands of another writer/director, it might not have been such a mess.
Dick Tracy. Beautifully done production values, mining the comic palette for a unique visual look, and a great score and music. Also, Madonna's high point as a actress.
Wing Commander. I'm embarrassed to say I actually watched this on HBO. Simply awful, but I tuned in for the always sexy Saffron Burrows.
The Phantom and The Shadow. Two movies that deserved a wider audience than they got. I love the pulp origins of both franchises, and both movies were respectfully handled and entertaining. The Phantom was the first time I saw Catherine Zeta Jones and went "wow! Who the hell is that?" and Alec Baldwin was a great choice as The Shadow. (And Johnathon Winters as the police chief? How cool is that?) Interesting tidbit: Sam Raimi loved The Shadow and tried diligently to get the rights. However, they turned the movie over to Russell Mulcahey (best known for directing Duran Duran videos) and Sam made do with his own creation, Darkman. Creating the ambiance and mood of a 30s/40s setting is probably difficult and cost-prohibitive, but I would love to see The Shadow as a regular TV show. Another similar property that I loved as a kid that would lend itself to a miniseries/TV show revival is Doc Savage.
Wild, Wild West. Another "wink/wink" high concept that should have been better executed. I'm a fan of Will Smith's talent, but he totally smugged and phoned his way through this one (probably understandable, given the mess of the plot and direction). And what was with the all the racist bullshit given to Dr. Loveless? A complete and total misfire. If you've ever watched An Evening with Kevin Smith, then you know about producer Jon Peters' fascination with "giant spiders" (he wanted to have Superman fight one. Smith's telling of this story is a classic) and he finally got his wish here. Not that it helped.