When it comes to film, there’s that one R word that absolutely gets under my skin. It’s not ‘restricted’ — I’m fine with a good ol’ Rated-R flick — and it’s not even ‘remake’ (though I sometimes question some of the classics that are chosen to be remade). No, the R word that I loathe is ‘reboot’.
These days, Hollywood’s rebooting franchises left and right and there seems to be no end in sight. While a reboot can sometimes be understood (this year’s GODZILLA made sense because the character has been inactive for years now — plus each new GODZILLA film is usually a reboot to begin with), this new trend is beginning to look like an act of desperation. With a rumored UNDERWORLD reboot on the way, I can honestly say that studios have officially ran out of ideas. Film franchises are suddenly ending on cliffhanger notes without conclusions and it just feels like fans are receiving swift slaps to their faces.
Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN series was flushed down the toilet when the third film failed with critics — though it still brought in over $330-million at the domestic box office. Five years later, Sony — the studio behind the SPIDER-MAN films — replaced Raimi’s films in favor of a hipper take on the character with THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. While that film received a slightly better response from critics, it never came close to the $300-million mark — a milestone to which each one of Raimi’s films soared past. This year’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 barely passed the $200-million mark and is easily the weakest both financially and critically out of all the Spider-Man films yet. Sony’s decision to reboot clearly didn’t pay off the way they were expecting, yet they’ve shown no sign of slowing down. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 3 along with Spidey spin-offs VENOM and THE SINISTER SIX are all in early pre-production.
The superhero film genre is actually one of the most guilty culprits for unneeded reboots. 2004’s THE PUNISHER may not have been all that successful, but for the most part, Frank Castle fans were happy with it. Releasing only four years later, PUNISHER: WAR ZONE gave the character a much-darker tone, but removed a lot of the aspects that made the previous Thomas Jane film so enjoyable. More culprits: the Hulk enjoyed a semi-successful film in 2003, only to receive a reboot titled THE INCREDIBLE HULK five years later. Superman’s 2006 film, SUPERMAN RETURNS, was successful financially, but failed to please fans. Last year’s MAN OF STEEL rebooted the character with — again — a darker tone. That film brought in more cash than SUPERMAN RETURNS, but was a failure once again with Superman fans. It would seem that the perfect Superman film lays somewhere in-between SUPERMAN RETURNS and MAN OF STEEL.
The king of superhero reboots would be Batman. Ever since Tim Burton brought the character back in a big way in 1989, Batman’s received three different series and has been played by five different actors. The first series — BATMAN, BATMAN RETURNS, BATMAN FOREVER and BATMAN & ROBIN — started strong, but ended on a very sour note with the fourth film in 1997. After laying quiet for several years, Christopher Nolan rebooted the character with his new trilogy that included BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Response for that trilogy was huge. Critics were happy, fans were happy (myself included) and the dollars were rolling in. After THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, Warner Bros. and DC didn’t want to put the character to rest. With box office receipts that massive rolling in, it’d be crazy, so it was with no surprise when it was announced that Batman would be appearing in the sequel to Superman’s MAN OF STEEL. Titled BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, the caped crusader will return to theaters in 2016.
Another guilty genre would be horror. Michael Bay’s production company, Platinum Dunes, has been churning out reboots of famous horror icons like no other since their inception in 2001. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET — all of their reboots have been successful financially, but they’ve mostly been panned by the franchises’ lifelong fans. Platinum Dunes’ latest reboot is this year’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, a film that’s been surprisingly more successful than originally expected. That franchise’s fan base has been giving this new incarnation mixed reviews — some seem to love it while others completely hate it — but due to its success, a sequel is already planned for 2016.
Classic horror series EVIL DEAD received the reboot treatment last year, though there’s been some debate whether it’s a true reboot or just a side-story that takes place in the same universe. The original trilogy — THE EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS — followed Bruce Campbell’s character of Ash. The first film was straight-up horror, but its follow-ups became more comedic. The EVIL DEAD reboot, though — you really can’t find a film more horrific than that. With no laughs in sight, EVIL DEAD actually set a new record for most fake blood used in a film. It was dark, gritty and very, very red. It was one of the few reboots where I actually didn’t mind it; though in the end, I definitely missed the presence of Ash.
The most recent reboot on the horizon is for THE TERMINATOR. The fifth film in the franchise, TERMINATOR: GENISYS, will feature the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but rather than continuing the story told by the previous instalments, it’ll be a reboot that’ll star Emilia Clarke of GAME OF THRONES as Sarah Connor (the role previously played by Linda Hamilton in the films and Lena Headey in the TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES television series) and Jai Courtney of SPARTACUS: BLOOD AND SAND as Kyle Reese (previously played by numerous actors, but most famously portrayed by Michael Biehn). The new film has been shrouded in mystery, so not much is known of its story at this time. There’s a chance that it may still somehow connect to the original films, but nobody will know for sure until it has been released.
While there’s the occasional reboot hit, they’re generally misses. They remind me of comic books and the way some publishers think: “If we relaunch this title with a new #1, we’re guaranteed more sales!” Yes, while that new #1 may give you some extra sales for a brief period, your comic will eventually sink back down to its previous numbers — perhaps even lower. Reboots are a temporary fix. They’re a cop-out to the studios who don’t have the proper imagination to just put a franchise back on track.
There’s no reason that films like UNDERWORLD and TERMINATOR are receiving reboots. The last film for both series gave the audience endings that were meant to lead in to the next instalment. If both franchises had been dormant for decades, I’d understand it, but the last TERMINATOR was only 5 years ago; UNDERWORLD only 2 years. Rather than finding the talent to continue those stories, studios have decided to just turn back time and reboot the series. While some fans may be happy, I’m usually not. I’d much rather see Kate Beckinsale return to UNDERWORLD and I’d much rather see that TERMINATOR SALVATION trilogy continue as we were promised years ago. While it’s too late for TERMINATOR, I truly hope that the studios and filmmakers use their sense and leave UNDERWORLD alone.
So what’s your opinion? Do you like reboots? Should UNDERWORLD be rebooted? Chime in below!