Why do studios do it? What ever happened to the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” The notion that existing iconic characters can be remade and re-imagined isn’t really a new one, but recently there have been a spate of extremely successful restarts. These monster hits prove that characters, which have run their natural course, can be taken in a slightly different direction, striking box office gold.
A Formula Rooted in Comic Books:
This type of operation is done in comic books on a regular basis. When new creators and new energy are infused into a book or franchise, the reboot gives the new artists the creative freedom to take the story in a different direction. This is a tried and true formula that grabs fans’ attention and revitalizes the characters.
DC Comics is famous for this. Superman and Batman have gone through at least four reboots, the most current being a company-wide relaunch called “The New 52.” Whether this works remains to be seen, but from what I can see, it’s looking like they’re following the reboot formula — not messing too much with the characters, but tweaking their stories a slight bit while introducing some new elements. DC has a lot riding on this, and I look forward to seeing how that all unfolds. Who knows; it might spawn a bunch of new movies.
Marvel Comics takes a slightly different approach. They don’t always change the original book; they start up a new one with slightly different takes on established characters and stories. They have dubbed this the Ultimate line, which features The Avengers, The X-Men and Spiderman. This concept has proved to be a good reference tool for Hollywood when making Marvel Comic films.
Movie reboots take a different angle, oftentimes bringing new glory to broken franchises such as X-Men and Batman. However, some don’t fair so well, such as Superman Returns and Conan: The Barbarian. Many of the movie franchises that have been remade have several movies under their belt, doing just about everything you can think of to the existing characters. They deconstruct the plot-lines, bring them to their roots, and then sprinkle them in slightly new elements.
Let’s take a look at the latest re-starts, as well as some that might make good ones.
I don’t think there is a franchise around with more mythology and lore, but the movies had taken a rather dull turn, becoming like extended television episodes. However, JJ Abrams successfully brought James T. Kirk and Spock back from the doldrums, taking the story back to its origins, telling the story of how the characters came to be. He followed all the basic tenets of the plot, but smartly created back stories establishing the characters in a new reality. Abrams also utilized casting, bringing in hot, younger actors to portray the classic characters. Melding these aspects while taking full advantage of the most cutting edge special effects and makeup that are available today, created a larger-than-life reincarnation of the storied franchise.
There were five feature length movies with three leading men playing the infamous Dark Knight–Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney–before the seminal Batman Begins was released. Some of these movies are great, in particular Tim Burton”s productions. However, the final one before the Nolan reboot, Batman and Robin, made me a bit sad, and it seems that the fans agreed with me. BO sales fell sharply, and the studios stopped making them. (There was a Catwoman spin-off in 2004.) Fast-forward to 2005, the year Batman Begins, an edgy take on the Dark Knight and a retelling of Batman’s origins that fans could not get enough of, was released. The film’s follow up, The Dark Knight, has achieved epic status with the Oscar-winning performance that the late Heath Ledger gives as the Joker. No one had seen anything like these versions, and they remain the template for all rebooted franchises.
Superman has gone through many ups and downs in his movie career. The franchise went from a great origin movie starring Christopher Reeve, to an even greater sequel featuring the great Terrence Stamp as General Zod, who escapes the phantom zone to cause havoc on Earth. After that, it was downhill from there. Superman 3 and 4 are embarrassing “paycheck” movies, best left unexplained.
In 2006, 19 years after the last movie, director Bryan Singer tried a different tack with Superman Returns, still missing the mark. The film is too much like a Lifetime television movie, concentrating on the lost romance of Lois and Superman and not delivering enough action. It was one of Singer’s few misses. The only real bright spot in Superman Returns is Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. With his acting prowess, Spacey brought nuances and depth to the character, ultimately ending up being much better than Gene Hackman’s version of the character, which was a little too cheesy. Hopefully the next reboot, The Man of Steel, will succeed in bringing the action, not having Superman pining for Lois Lane.
007 – James Bond
One of the more controversial recent reboots is that of the James Bond franchise. Pierce Brosnan had been playing the super secret agent 007, but the studio had decided it was time for a change. While I thought Brosnan seemed born to play Bond, I was pleasantly surprised by his replacement, Daniel Craig. Craig brought edge, a much-needed update, and a degree of emotion to the character that had never been seen before. Whether you’re a Sean Connery, Roger Moore, George Lazenby or Pierce Brosnan fan, you really have to give it to the producers for catching lightning in a bottle with Craig.
With three feature films and a Wolverine spin-off film, the X-Men franchise had run its course by 2009. The studios decided that the story needed a fresh new take in X-Men: First Class, and turned to Bryan Singer, the maestro of the revolutionary first X-Men movie. The reboot has been an incredible success, taking the X-Men back to their roots and infusing the story with some historical fiction, making a solid character-driven action film. This is one reboot that I’m ecstatic about. I can’t wait to see the next one.
Planet of the Apes
Rise of Planet of The Apes premiered to little fanfare, but has proven to be a very fresh take on the intelligent primates. This movie took a clever tack to tell the story — through the ape’s eyes, making audiences empathize and understand the Apes perspective. With a good cast and unbelievable special effects — look for some Oscar nominations here — this is one franchise that we’ll definitely be seeing more of.
After three films and creative differences with Sam Raimi, Sony Pictures has decided to jump on the “reboot train,” and the studio is remaking Peter Parker, this time a younger version of the web slinger we are used to seeing. My guess is that they will be mirroring Marvel’s alternate “Ultimate Spiderman.” I’m hoping this does not mean a “One Tree Hill” version of Spiderman.
Conan: The Barbarian
Unfortunately, they just didn’t get the balance right between plot and violence here, coming up with an inferior movie that took itself too seriously, not really paying homage to the movies that came before it.
Movies that would be successful reboots:
This could be box office gold, delivering a whole new fan base for Indy. I think that the studio was setting up at least a sequel with Shia Lebouf at the end of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; there is more than enough new material to make this happen — Steven Spielberg, take notice.
This classic cautionary tale of a dingy future Earth, where cloning science has gone haywire, would be a perfect remake or retelling. The storyline stands the test of time, and as science advances at an amazing pace, it would be extremely poignant. Lucky for me, a film is in the works. “Filmmakers haven’t hired a writer yet, and are still figuring out what the story will be,” producer Andrew Kosove told TheWrap. The film will be either a prequel or sequel directed by who else but Ridley Scott. I say, it’s about time for this one.
The Cannonball Run
This one is kinda silly, I know, but this has to be my favorite cross-country chase movie. Aside from Smoky and the Bandit, Burt Reynolds and Dom Deluise headed a cast that included Jackie Chan, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and the immortal Jamie Farr. It’s just begging for an update. Please?
Many folks say that reboots are retread movies, because Hollywood is out of new ideas. If you really think about it, we ran out of truly unique ideas a long time ago, certainly long before this genre came along. When done right, reboots can be a great thing and Hollywood sure seems to have caught on. Straw Dogs, a remake of the 1971 original, hits theaters this September 16th. Reboots and remakes are certainly not limited to the comic-book genre: Footloose (2011), The Crow (2013), Barbarella (2014) and even Dirty Dancing(2013) are all getting remakes alongside the Man-of-Steel and the Web-Slinger. What film do you think deserves a re-make or re-boot?