Rethinking The Reboot
Hollywood is dead, the prophets of doom and gloom will tell you. And they may be right. For every fantastic, Oscar winning original idea, there are an equal number of empty headed, big budget blockbusters that just bust. We've been buried in an avalanche of sequels, prequels, based on, inspired by, and "from the producer of"s... As as each wave in the tsunami of Hollywood crap crashes ashore in cineplexes around the world, the flotsam and jetsam of the system continues to bring less than stellar quality entertainment and more mind-numbing-why-are-we-paying-for-this crap.
Back in 2004, a new concept word started floating around tinsel town. The Reboot. It really began on television, when Ron Moore took a small, beloved but campy and maligned 70's science fiction show and remolded it into a darker, grittier one. Battlestar Galactica made the Sci-Fi channel into a force to be reckoned with.
In 2006, Christopher Nolan decided to make BATMAN BEGINS, a new, darker take on the Batman legend that would retell his origin story. Friends, I was so far against this idea when it bubbled to the surface of the Hollywood pond scum I didn't even see it first run in the theatre. Why retell the story when it's already been told? Well, obviously I was wrong. Not only did Nolan craft a beautiful movie, it did it's job of universe establishing very well, and was rewarded with good box office.
Unfortunately, that opened the flood gates, as producers everywhere embraced the "everything old is new again" motif and started looking for projects that were ripe for rebooting.
Take James Bond, an action franchise juggernaut, with 20 films under it's belt. Actors have come and gone, but the core remains the same... until producers decide to Reboot the franchise in 2006, starting over with a younger, more inexperienced Bond in CASINO ROYALE. While most critics and fans agree this was a good move, I remain skeptical, not only of Daniel Craig who hasn't won me over as 007 yet, but also of the concept of taking an icon and "moving in a different direction" with him. Um, is that really necessary? After all, doing what worked (and to a certain extent, repeating the formula) is what made him an icon in the first place.
2008 begat THE INCREDIBLE HULK, starting over since HULK underperformed at the box office. And while it's a better film, I still don't understand why we need to continually retell the creation story.
In 2009 we got STAR TREK, which had me so wound up in knots I couldn't sleep. This is my baby, one of the corner stones of my geekdom. The idea of seeing Kirk and Spock in their academy days has been floating around since 1989, and there was a good reason the idea never moved forward. No one wanted to replace William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. After all, they were ICONS. But Paramount moved ahead... and found a way to make the reboot work. In a nifty trick involving time travel and parallel universes, they have allowed the existing Trek continuity to stay continual. This new, hipper, younger STAR TREK wasn't treading on the hallowed ground of fandom, it revered it, and allowed it to exist in it's own right, while still moving into uncharted territory and new directions, truly going where no one has gone before... (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
By the time 2010 rolled around, TV started Hawaii 5-0 and La Femme Nikita (in itself based on a film) over, and even more films cropped up in the pipeline. CONAN, PLANET OF THE APES, SPIDER-MAN (really? SPIDER-MAN? We're gonna reboot a movie that's only ten years old?) and more retold the story of how things began.
The kicker is, that most of these have actually been decent, quality entertainment. Oh sure, there's a few clunkers in the mix, (FRIDAY THE 13TH anyone?) but I've been pleasantly surprised by most despite shuddering every time I hear a new one has been announced. It's a very polarizing idea, some people literally giddy with excitement over the idea of a new... whatever, and others paralyzed with fear that they'll find a way to screw it up. I think most of geek fandom feels the same way, one way or the other depending on the project at hand.
Next year brings MAN OF STEEL, a rebooted Superman story. And a retelling of the origin. Again. And I think to myself... "What? Why?" I mean, unless you yourself ARE an alien from another world, you should know Superman is an alien from another world. I have NEVER read a Superman comic in my life and I know this. I know he has the worst disguise ever and fights for truth, justice and the American way. What is there to reboot? WHY? To allow a fresh perspective on it? Okay, but why cant that fresh perspective come without retelling a story we already know? And then changing it to make it fit your new ideas? Why cant it be:
Act One, Scene One: Exterior Metropolis - A nuclear ICBM roars into frame, fiery contrail blotting out the sky as it nears the great city. SUPERMAN flies close behind, straining to catch it...
See? We're with you already. We get it. You don't need to start everything all over again. Just go. The irony is the film is produced by the afore mentioned Nolan and directed by Zack Snyder (of 300 and WATCHMEN) so I should be all over this, but I just cant get past that starting over point.
And now Hollywood keeps branding about the idea of doing old classics like THE WIZARD OF OZ, CASABLANCA, and THE GODFATHER, to which I reply, would you "reboot" the Mona Lisa? I mean, surely some digital paint would clean that old print right up. Or maybe you'd like to take a stab at rebooting the Magna Carta or the Declaration Of Independence. Surely those could be made fresh and new for today? I myself have been thinking long and hard about tackling Hamlet, cause that one's ripe for updating, don't you think?
It's a slippery slope Hollywood. When you get it right, your silver cinematic magic brings us together as no form of art on this earth can. But when you get it wrong.... ugh.
I submit the following motion: The term reboot should be used for a complete change of style, NOT substance. Origin stories are origin stories for a reason. We all had to begin somewhere. You want a new "fill-in-the-blank" film? Fine. But don't make me pay for a story I already know, and don't change it to fit your needs. Just make a new one and make it good. Focus on storytelling, the rest will take care of itself. And for god sakes... LEAVE THE CLASSICS ALONE. THEY'RE CALLED CLASSICS FOR A REASON!!!
Okay, I'll put away the soap box now. <>