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The 7 Greatest TV and Movie Do-Overs, From ‘Dune’ to ‘Deadpool’

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Disney/Netflix/Universal/Everett
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Disney/Netflix/Universal/Everett

Adaptations are hard—so hard, in fact, that when they don’t work out, the IP is often shelved and forgotten. For every Barbie, Iron Man, Hunger Games, or Chicago, dozens of Green Lanterns, Cats, and unfinished Divergent franchises never have another chance to “get it right.” Sometimes, these adaptations are massive disasters that bring entire studios to their knees, losing millions and making the IP radioactive for another go. Most of the time, which is even sadder, these works are modest-enough successes that remaking them into something more satisfying isn’t worth the effort. I live every day in fear that I will never see a proper filmed adaptation of Into the Woods, Les Misérables, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, or Phantom of the Opera, because their existing adaptations are, you knowfine.

Why try it again with something that already didn’t work? Because sometimes, in a few rare instances, the second time’s the charm. (In the case of Netflix’s recent Avatar: The Last Airbender re-remake, however, sometimes even a second take doesn’t cut it—and it’s better to stop while you’re already behind.)

Below, we ranked seven films and TV series that gave beloved stories a second chance at life on-screen after a disastrous first start from pretty successful to most successful, based on how much of an impact—and improvement—they made over the original adaptations.

Netflix Should Never Have Taken ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Off Ice

Charlie Cox in a still from 'Daredevil'
Sarah Shatz/Netflix

7. Daredevil (2015)

Daredevil didn’t know what it wanted or needed to be as a film, a potential franchise-starter, or an adaptation of one of Marvel’s most popular properties. Marvel is littered with many bright, optimistic characters trying to save the world, one quip at a time: Tony Stark is an alcoholic with daddy issues, but he’s great with a wisecrack; Spider-Man misses poor, dead Uncle Ben and Gwen Stacy, but he’s a Borscht Belt comedian; Matt Murdock (a.k.a. Daredevil) is racked with Catholic guilt over every. Single. Aspect. Of. His. Existence. This movie was released smack in the middle of light and breezy Spider-Man and dark and brooding Batman Begins. It wanted to be both, and it ended up being neither.

When Marvel Television launched its Netflix universe of street-level heroes with a new iteration of Daredevil in 2015, Charlie Cox immediately arrived as a much better fit for the role. The whole endeavor was more suited to the story’s tone and tenor that fans of the comic book were clamoring for. While Marvel eventually jettisoned Daredevil and the other Netflix shows from the MCU continuity for a time, Cox’s Daredevil has since popped up in She-Hulk, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and January’s Echo. At some point in the near-to-distant future, he will once again headline his own show, Daredevil: Born Again, the ultimate do-over title.

6. Reacher (2022)

This is the only do-over I can think of that is based primarily on the physical size of its star. In Lee Child’s book series, Jack Reacher is described as “physically imposing” and “six-foot-five with a broad, muscular build.” Naturally, the 2012 film adaptation casts Tom Cruise, who is five-foot-seven inches while standing on a textbook. Fans were as pleased as Tom Cruise was tall. Jack Reacher and its sequel, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, were met with a reception that was, at best, polite—not ideal for an adaptation of a book series that has sold over 100 million copies.

Lee Child later admitted that Cruise’s massive star power couldn’t make him a foot taller and 100 pounds more hulking. In 2022, the beloved property was remade as a Prime Video series with a much better-suited new Reacher at the fore: Alan Ritchson, who looks like two Tom Cruises standing on top of each other under a trench coat. The show premiered to solid reviews, many of which cited the physically imposing Ritchson as part of the success—and improvement over—of the adaptation. A second season premiered in late 2023 to even more positive notices, with production on Season 3 currently underway.

Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in a still from 'One Day'
Netflix

5. One Day (2024)

One Day, Dave Nicholls’ hit novel, checks in on Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew every July 15 over two decades, starting from the day they meet at their college graduation. Emma is mousy by 2009’s standards but today would simply be any average Brooklynite; Dexter is the impossibly beautiful golden boy who inevitably becomes a TV star. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess were cast in the film adaptation, and they were a seemingly perfect fit—until both the film and Anne’s Yorkshire accent arrived, to the tune of a “rotten” 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and $13 million dollars at the domestic box office.

Fifteen years later, on this past Feb. 8, Netflix dropped a limited-series adaptation of One Day starring relative unknown Ambika Mod as Emma and Leo Woodall, fresh off White Lotus Season 2 (and Tom Hollander), as Dex. Given the novel’s episodic structure, a TV series was always going to be a better fit to properly explore Emma and Dex’s long, windy, complicated history and unique bond. And it was—the show received critical acclaim and streaming success.

How the ‘Percy Jackson’ Team Made an Adaptation ‘Designed to be Difficult’

The cast of Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Disney

4. Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2023)

Excitement was through the roof when Chris Columbus, director of the first two Harry Potter films, signed on to bring the first novel in the beloved Percy Jackson book series to the big screen. Future internet boyfriend Logan Lerman was cast as Percy with a colorful supporting cast playing various demons and gods.

Author Rick Riordan, was famously quite frustrated with both his inclusion in the adaptation process and the final product. Fans of the book series were enraged and wanted heads turned to stone for the novel-to-screen changes. Unfortunately, the film disappointed at the box office yet garnered enough mild interest to sputter out an even less enthusiastically-received sequel.

Nearly 15 years later, with a full season of episodes to work with and Riordan aboard as a co-creator and producer, Percy Jackson and the Olympians premiered on Disney+ to rapturous reviews from critics and fans alike. This adaptation had the strong guiding hand of Riordan righting many of the wrongs of the film adaptations: age-appropriate actors for the trio of protagonists, a tone that was both funny and genuinely thrilling and closer adherence to the source material without being handcuffed to it. Also, it wasn’t boring. But the TV series borrowed the one thing that the films got right, boasting a fun supporting cast of its own—come for Megan Mullaly severely playing against type as one of Hades’ Furies and stay for Lance Reddick in his final television role as, who else, Zeus.

3. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

In 1993, deep in the grip of Super Mario fever, a film adaptation seemed like a slam dunk. The apparent best way for Hollywood to cash in on this phenomenon was to cast a British character actor and a stand-up comedian, both famously non-Italian, to play Mario and Luigi, in an overly complicated quest to fight Dennis Hopper’s King Koopa in an alternate dimension. The movie was a disaster, and as the first-ever film adaptation of a video game, it paved the way for decades of mediocrity.

It may have taken 30 years, but in 2023, the animated Super Mario Bros. Movie finally got it right. While casting Chris Pratt as the voice of Mario was met with everything from skepticism to the fiery rage of Yoshi’s fireballs, the movie was in on the joke, making Mario’s thick Italian accent a gag from the start. While it received somewhat mixed critical reviews, the movie made $1 billion, seating it among the biggest animated films of all time. Bett yet, it even subverted stereotypes by making Luigi the damsel in distress, while giving Princess Peach some agency to kick ass. Also, “Peaches,” Bowser's ballad of longing for the princess, is genuinely iconic.

A still from 'Deadpool'
Joe Lederer/20th Century Fox

2. Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool was a long-time fan favorite in the X-Men comics canon for his regenerative healing powers, fourth-wall-breaking humor and irreverent violence. Ryan Reynolds had long been vocal about his interest in playing the character if he ever made the live-action jump to the big screen. Despite being best known as one of the two guys in the sitcom Two Guys a Girl and a Pizza Place (and a string of serviceable-to-good rom coms), Reynolds was cast as the Merc with the Mouth in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a spinoff focused on Hugh Jackman’s fan-favorite mutant.

Reynolds was perfect for the role of someone both very funny and very punchable, but the movie was a complete disaster—so thoroughly missing the assignment that the filmmakers kept Deadpool silent for much of the film.

Seven years later, Reynolds was given a second chance at the character, this time fronting his own Deadpool movie. It was a phenomenon: With the character restored to its original glory, Deadpool won over fans and grossed nearly $800 million at the global box office, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time—until its 2018 sequel dethroned it. Deadpool was nominated for two Golden Globes, a Writer’s Guild Award for adapted screenplay, and, in one of the silliest awards show curio of the last 20 years, landed on the Producers Guild Awards Top 10 list. The threequel, Deadpool and Wolverine, is expected to save the MCU later this year.

The Gigantic, Glorious ‘Dune: Part Two’ Squishes Other Epics Like Ants

Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac in a still form 'Dune'
Everett Collection

1. Dune (2021)

Director David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation of Dune, based on Frank Herbert’s best-selling book series, was meant to launch the next Star Wars-style sci-fi franchise. Instead, it became a punchline for years (though it has its charms). The Sting and Kyle MacLachlan-starring movie only grossed $30 million on a $42 million budget (a lot of spice in 1984), shelving all sequel possibilities. Lynch removed his name from subsequent versions of the film and would never helm a project with a budget of more than $15 million again. Gene Siskel, speaking for critics and audiences alike, simply said he “hated watching [it].”

In 2021, nearly 40 years later, Denis Villeneuve got Warner Brothers to reinvest in the war for Arrakis. Armed with Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya in the starring roles, Villeneuve set off to establish a multi-film franchise. Despite premiering both during the pandemic and simultaneously on streaming, Dune raked in more than $400 million at the global box office and 10 Oscar nominations (with six wins). This March, its instantly acclaimed sequel is expected to build on the success of the first film. Finally, the amount of spice was just right.

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