K & M Commentary – The Challenges of the Franchise Reboot

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Even the most casual moviegoer can recognize that the reboot and remake bug has spread through almost all of Hollywood. Remakes must be the believed remedy for Hollywood’s current bouts with lack of originality and general lack of inspiration. We seem to get loads of them each year. In 2013 alone we get “Lone Ranger”, “Evil Dead”, “Carrie”, “Oldboy”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and more. And there doesn’t seem to be a film that’s exempt from this current craze. I mean regardless of how obviously stupid the idea was, “Footloose” even managed to get a remake.

And then you have franchise reboots which are something different. Through recent years we’ve seen Hollywood attempt to reboot past franchises which hasn’t always been a good idea. Sensing another series of movies and a hefty profit, studios are eager to breath new life into older franchises sometimes at the expense of the property. But reboots bring up a great topic of discussion. How much leniency do you give filmmakers when they’re rebooting or remaking cherished material? How much should be forgiven or overlooked in the name of a fresh new vision?

I’ve heard some people say that only fanboys get worked up over this type of thing. Some are able to completely disassociate the new reboot from the original film or series it’s based on. Those invested find the source material sacred and feel that a serious divergence from it is criminal. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m all for having a new vision but it has to be tempered with respect for the source material. This is an even bigger deal when you’re attempting to remake a property that has a deep and beloved history as well as a firm following.

Just last week we saw the release of “Star Trek Into Darkness“, the second film since the franchise was rebooted in 2009. The first movie was widely successful and most have really embraced it as a great reboot. Personally I can’t call it great because of its mangling of some key points in the source material and its redefining of some big characters. Yet others, many of them Star Trek fans, have given the movie a pass for this. Am I too attached to the original material? Are they too flippant with it? I think the answer lies in the overall quality of the movie. Even with its flaws, “Star Trek” is still a fun and highly entertaining film. It’s a lot easier to overlook blemishes or freedoms when the overall product is so strong.

But there are examples of reboots (or in this case an attempted reboot) that can’t overcome the altered vision of the filmmakers. 2006’s “Superman Returns” was the vehicle that would get another Surperman franchise up and running. While the film had a good box office showing, infighting and dissatisfaction with the film and the Superman character scratched the planned sequel. That was a good idea because “Superman Returns” was a reboot that didn’t work in large part due to the treatment of the characters. It’s an okay movie up until the end where the source material is flushed and a new more modern twist had me and many others checking out. This “vision” from the filmmakers helped kill this franchise before it got started.

These same liberties have also killed other franchises particularly in the superhero/comic book genre. “X-Men: The Last Stand” was an atrocious trampling of the X-Men’s near 50 year-long history. Killing Cyclops within the first 5 minutes of the film on top of several other lesser but equally uncalled for liberties ended up burying the franchise. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was hoped to be the first of several X-Men origin films but the absurd obliteration of these characters and their history proved to be a bad move. In the end it was a bad movie and the “X-Men Origins” idea was canned. Once again the sacrifice of the rich source material for new visions didn’t pay off.

There’s a fine line that a filmmaker must walk when it comes to rebooting new material. For some it just comes down to whether or not it’s a good movie. For others, the film’s appreciation and respect for the source material is part of what makes the movie good. Do I think filmmakers should be stripped of any creativity and vision when rebooting a popular property? Absolutely not. A simple rehash of what’s already been done offers nothing new or fresh. But when you have a beloved series, book, comic book character, etc. the history should always be respected. And if you the filmmakers choose to drastically alter that, don’t be surprised if there aren’t those who take issue with it.

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32 thoughts on “K & M Commentary – The Challenges of the Franchise Reboot

  1. Awesome post! I am always skeptical about reboots, I will not lie. Some things you should just not touch on. For instance, the reboot they tried for Nightmare on Elm Street in 2010 just rubbed me up the wrong way. What the hell was that? (Yep, fangirl moment right here) They were NOT loyal to the story, the history or the character, and it was grating. But then you get films like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy which has completely obliterated the predecessors as well as set the bar really high. I have high hopes for the Superman reboot coming with Man of Steel, though. If they can revolutionize that on Dark Knight standards, then we are in for a treat!

    I can imagine that attempting to reboot a franchise cannot be easy, what with all the expectations, etc. I feel that it is very hit and miss at the best of times. Nobody wants to see regurgitated materials. The lack of anything new and original is why I am such a sucker for old movies, no matter what the effects were. They had solid scripts to back them, good stories and fresh ideas. It has been a really long time since I watched something that was new to me.

    • Great comments! You really hit on several things that hit home with me! I love what you said about the classics. They certainly weren’t effects driven or dependent, were they?

      There’s definitely a lot of talent required to reboot a popular franchise. But we’ve certainly seen it done well. Unfortunately we’ve also seen it done bad, really bad.

      • Not at all. The films relied heavily on the actors/actresses and their abilities. If they were not good, the movie suffered, too.

        And it is because of that that cynicism and skepticism run rampant when a reboot gets announced!

  2. I often feel that reboots only work if they act different than the original series rather than emulate it. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series worked because of this and I hope he can do the same for the new Superman movie. Nice post.

  3. Great post, Keith. Reboots usually don’t work so what I do is I don’t expect much from them (the names attached to them DO affect the way about a particular reboot film, though).

  4. “I’m all for having a new vision but it has to be tempered with respect for the source material” – I think that’s spot on Keith. If you reboot or remake something then it can’t be 100% faithful or what’s the point in doing it, but it can’t be too different or it will alienate people and become a whole other entity entirely.

    I think reboots generally work better than remakes as it allows slightly more freedom to work with. If you call it a remake then you have to stick pretty closely to the original, whereas a reboot has more scope for a writer and director to bring in their own ideas.

    There’s also the issue of English language remakes of films. That’s a whole other kettle of fish! 🙂

    Really great post Keith.

    • Ugh!!! The dreaded English language remake! This can often drive me nuts! For example I have read where Weinstein has bought the rights to “The Intouchables” with the intent of making an English version. WHY??? Because so many are scared of subtitles. That’s a perfectly good movie that stands on its own and doesn’t need a remake.

    • I’m a bit worried about Star Wars myself. I am excited about new SW films but I just want them to be good and to fit in with the established universe.

  5. I hate seeing origin stories retold over and over again. Like Man of Steel, do we really need to see Superman’s origin again? Are there some people out there who think he’s a truck driver from Pittsburgh who found a magic cape and became Superman?

    • I don’t know. A fresh retelling could be interesting BUT your point is a good one. At some point we become so familiar with the origins that we really don’t need to see another one. Man of Steel definitely has my attention though!

  6. Great commentary Keith! Reboot and remake is like a plague in Hollywood, and there’s no end in sight! That said, some are better than others of course. I think you’re right it’s difficult to balance doing an homage to the ‘original’ franchise whilst injecting something fresh and new (otherwise what’s the point right?) Superman Returns is interesting because Singer was supposedly paying homage to Donner but then the twist at the end w/ the kid thing is just so WTF material (sorry!) that no wonder it crash and burn. I still like parts of the movie, but overall I think the direction was ill-advised.

    Btw, Ted wrote this post a while back comparing some original movies w/ remakes and there’s one movie where he actually prefers the remake: http://wp.me/pxXPC-3Sf

    I for one likes the Sabrina remake versus the original (yes I caught flak for that but it is what it is!) 😀

    • You’re right. The idea of a remake or a reboot isn’t repellent in and of itself. Heck, I have no problem with a good remake or even seeing a franchise given a fresh new look. But there are so many creative liberties that completely squash some of these attempts.

      And you hit the nail on the head in regards to Superman Returns. That in being infuriated me and it stood in such stark contrast to the character himself. There were so many other directions they could have went but instead they chose to sink the ship. Bad move. Like you there were several things I really liked about that movie. But the ending undid them all.

      I’ll definitely check out Ted’s piece. As for Sabrina, well as you probably know I am a Humphrey Bogart nut so naturally my allegiance is with the older film. But I did like the remake. Not a bad film at all.

  7. I think it’s essential for the filmmakers to achieve a balance between being respectful to the original material but also bringing something new to the table. If they’re too respectful of the material, they’re basically doing the same thing all over again. But if they take too many liberties and do so many new stuff, they are doing something entirely different that just happens to share a name with an older franchise. It’s a tough thing to do, I think.

  8. Interesting post, Keith! Always the cynic, i do tend to think that reboots are made as money spinners, but there are a few that have worked. I can’t think of any right now though, haha! ps: very low hopes for Oldboy remake…

  9. Very thought-provoking. I pretty much agree with you on this one. Some things filmmakers should be given freedom for in remakes, but there are somethings they should not change. Superman should definitely not be messed with. But you know, old films of mediocre quality with little reputation, ones that could actually be improved, could be remade without much concern for staying true to the original. Of course, the studios are mostly interested in remaking movies with fan bases or ones that made money years ago. But I think if they remade mediocre films, the filmmakers could see their personal visions realized without stepping on anyone’s toes.

    Maybe it’s a weird thought, but it’s all I’ve got. 🙂

    • I think you make a great point. I heard someone say once that remaking crappy movies would seem like a better idea assuming the crappy movies had good ideas behind them. Like you said, there wouldn’t be rabid fans to contend with and you would be praised if you made a better movie than the original. Makes perfect sense.

  10. Nice topic Keith, my issue with that Star Trek reboot is the stubborn refusal to boldly go where the series has not been before. Show me some new worlds and strange new life forms not stuff i watched in 1982.

    Speaking of reboots I heard some rumors that Will Smith wants to produce and star in a remake of The Wild Bunch. That may be the worst idea I have ever heard. 😉

  11. Good post, Keith. I agree with you about the need for both quality and novelty in a reboot. I also think it shouldn’t be “too soon”, and that there are some things which should just be left alone.

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