The Man From What?

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came out Friday and it has gotten decent reviews. It’s the new movie from Guy Ritchie, the director of Snatch and the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies. It looks like a solid, fun movie but what is with the title? What does The Man From U.N.C.L.E.mean?  

The new movie is actually an adaptation of a television show with the same name. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?  I never heard of it. Is it from the 90’s or something? No. More recent? No. The 80’s? No. The 70’s? No, the television show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was on from 1964-1968. It was originally in black and white. That’s why you don’t know the name.


Usually when studios decide to adapt an existing idea it’s something popular that people know already. They made The Hunger Games movies because the Hunger Games books were really popular. Star Wars Episode VII comes out this year because Star Wars Episodes I-VI made a ton of money. Yes, very few people heard of The Guardians of the Galaxy before last year and it made tons of money. But that movie was part of the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe that has proven to be really popular. So why adapt The Man From U.N.C.L.E.? The people who go to see movies most often won’t even know about the TV show.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is not the first time Hollywood has tried to adapt an old, forgotten idea. Sometimes it works out but most of the time it does not. Here are some other examples:

The Equalizer

Remember that Denzel Washington movie that came out last year. The one where he goes Liam Neeson on a bunch of Russian mafia guys. It’s based on a 1980’s TV series about a retired intelligence operative who helps strangers out. The movie was a success but I doubt half the people who saw it even know it was based on a TV show.

Dark Shadows

The Tim Burton and Johnny Depp combination is one of the most successful Hollywood relationships. This was maybe their worst project together. It didn’t get good reviews and made a lot less money than the previous Burton-Depp movies. Maybe it failed because it was based on a 1960’s soap opera.


The Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson movie was a middling comedy. It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t good either. That actually makes it one of the better Eddie Murphy movies. It happened to be based on a show from the 1960’s. That show starred someone named Robert Culp and a serial rapist who would go onto become very famous. That didn’t help as it was still a huge box office bomb.

The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp makes the list a second time. This time he re teamed with Gore Verbinski, who directed Depp in Rango and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The movie was a total flop. It made a good amount of money but it cost a ton to make and was expected to be one of the big blockbusters of the summer. How could it fail? The Lone Ranger had been part of American Culture for 80 years. It started as radio show in 1933. Yes, 1933. FDR was president when America first heard the Lone Ranger. The Lone Ranger predates most of our grandparents. Maybe that’s why nobody wanted to see it.  

The Green Hornet

Seth Rogen is one of the biggest stars in comedy. Remember when he tried to be an action star? Rogen chose another radio series from the 30’s to try to do it. In his defense the Green Hornet is character is best know from the 60’s TV series starring Bruce Lee. So, the Green Hornet is best known for the more famous guy playing the sidekick and that guy happens to have been dead for over forty years now. Seth, there are so many superheroes out there. Why did you choose The Green Hornet.


The 60’s TV show was a huge hit. The 2005 movie was not. This movie was huge mistake for Will Ferrell. This was his first big movie after Anchorman. It was so bad it killed his career. No, not really but it was so bad maybe it should have. I think this video represents how most people felt about it.  

Land of the Lost

Why Will Ferrell? You make a lot of good things. Why do you end up making so much garbage as well? This movie had some laughs but in between was just excruciating. Danny McBride couldn’t even save this movie. You decided to adapt a show from the 1970’s that’s best remembered for being awful. By making a Land of the Lost movie you were trying to show everybody how you were in on the joke. The real joke was that people paid to see this movie.

Wild Wild West


I must have seen parts of this movie over a dozen times. It was always on TV. Even then I knew it was terrible. Entertaining, but terrible. Remember the climax of the movie included the legless villain controlling a giant mechanical spider. Well, this awful movie was based on a TV show from the 1960’s. It doesn’t look like fans of the TV show came to see the movies as it was financial failure as well.  

Get Smart

The Steve Carrell comedy was a minor success. The critics didn’t hate it and it made a good amount of money on a not huge budget. The 60’s TV show was a success as well. I don’t know if people went to see the movie because they were fans of the TV series. Maybe the fans of the TV series took their grand-kids to see it.


I liked the movie S.W.A.T. The star, Colin Farrell, was a really hot actor at the time. If you watched this season True Detective you’d know it was for a good reason. He still hasn’t become a huge movie star but this movie wasn’t the reason why.

There was a time when I thought of Jeremy Renner as the guy from S.W.A.T. Do you remember him in it? He was Farrell’s partner in the beginning who of course had to come back in some way at the end. It was a nice movie. It was actually written by David Ayer who made End of Watch, Fury, and the upcoming Suicide Squad. This movie was an adaptation of a 1970’s show best known for its theme song. Here’s a terrible re-imagining of the theme song for the movie.

Adapting old shows is a hit or miss idea, but mostly includes misses. Even though these old shows are existing properties, they have no name recognition. They don’t get people in the theaters. The movies has to stand by itself.

Look at the ones that are successful. An action movie where Denzel Washington kicks ass. It doesn’t matter if that’s based on anything, people will watch that. A family comedy starring Steve Carell. That’s not going to be a disaster. Most of the movies failed not because no one knew about the shows they were based on. They failed because they were shitty movies. Last week’s Fantastic Four flopped even though everyone knows the Fantastic Four. It flopped because everyone knows it sucks.  

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