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.