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June 27, 2016

How Many Reboots is Too Many?

First things first: even though the title has “reboots” in it, I’m extending the scope of this post to include reboots, remasters, and reimaginings.  Also, I’m tacking on sequels to the mix, especially if they pick up on a long-dormant canon or franchise.  So…yeah, you just know this’ll be a fun post.

Anyway, Independence Day: Resurgence has hit theaters -- a little before the actual Independence Day, but close enough to it.  Supposedly, it’s a continuation of the movie that it shares a name with; the aliens that ran amok in ’96 are back with a vengeance, and now it’s up to the good guys to fight them off.  Or something.  I can’t say I’m in any rush to see it -- which is to say I’d rather give a piggyback ride to a rhinoceros -- and the reviews out so far suggest that dodging it is probably a good idea.  So my brother asked me if I wanted to go see it, because of course he did.  I politely refused, because he was the same person who thought seeing RoboCop 2014 was a good idea.

Side note: I was thinking about that movie when I accidentally scraped my middle finger.  I blame RoboCop ’14 for my minor injury, and relish the fact that it was my middle finger.

You know, one of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog was about reboots.  That was back in 2012, when it seemed like all we had to worry about was Tomb Raider and DmC.  But that was in the game space, and…well, things are a little different in Hollywood.  That’s not to say games aren’t willing to mine the past for “new” content; we just got a new Doom, a new Quake is on the way, Crash Bandicoot is coming back, etc.  But in the movie space, things are a little more noticeable.  Like I said, Independence Day just got a “revitalizing” sequel.  Ghostbusters has long since earned attention and ire.  Star Trek is about to get its third entry in its rebooted continuity.  Next year we’ll be tormented by graced with the first big-screen Power Rangers movie in decades.  Well, assuming you don’t count the Super Sentai entries.

There have been more examples than that, of course.  RoboCop ’14 is one example; the remake of The Thing from a few years back is another.  When it comes to Disney fare, we’ve seen new spins on Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty (via Maleficent).  Total Recall and Mad Max have seen revivals.  So has Planet of the Apes.  So has Jem and the Holograms.  Obviously, not all reboots/remakes/reimaginings are created equal.  There are some good ones, and there are some bad ones; it’s a matter of judging each one individually on their own merits, and not the name attached to them.  Still, that begs the question: why does it seem like we’re getting so many products based on a name from the past?

Not to be a cynic, but I can think of one reason.

About a year ago, Jurassic World showed up and offered the first major sequel to the dino-filled franchise in more than a decade -- itself built on the fond memories of the first movie.  It ended up being a money-making juggernaut, breaking records all over the place.  The only thing that could oust it from its ruby-encrusted throne was Star Wars: The Force AwakensThat’s kind of a given when you’re offering up a sequel to what might as well be the backbone of modern culture…if not civilization in general.  People really friggin’ love Star Wars, is what I’m trying to say here.

I think I know enough about the industry to expect many, many more years of “follow the leader”.  Those two movies made enough money to buy a continent and fill it up with solid gold cities, so it’s a safe bet that a lot of executives will try to make the same thing happen.  Not that they haven’t been doing that so far, but a precedent has been set.  In the same sense that studios and companies are scrambling to build cinematic universes in the wake of The Avengers -- because there’s a massive audience begging for a shared universe of movie monsters -- we’re probably going to keep seeing more new entries in old franchises.  Or, alternatively, the execs will burn down the old and replace it with the new.

Is that a bad thing?  Ehhhhhhh…probably, but it’s not a binary yes or no.  Reboots (and the like) might incite hell upon us all, but they can be really strong pieces of fiction as well.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is proof of that; the story of men forced to deal with a horde of ever-evolving simians may be a road long since traveled, but it’s no less valid today (especially if the movie ends up being a prophecy committed to film).  It takes the old concept, explores it, and updates it with a fresh coat of modern-day paint.  That’s a level of effort and skill worth respecting. 

And of course, there’s one obvious benefit: exposure.  Somehow, Voltron ended up making a comeback on Netflix, so now audiences old and new can enjoy the gripping narrative of five combining robot lions.  For those that missed it the first time around -- which is entirely possible, given that I once had a minor freak-out when a friend said she’d never seen it -- it’s a chance to see a different version and maybe build interest in the franchise.  Alternatively, it’s a chance to see a better version.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I can’t help but feel like the animation, at least, is an improvement.  I feel the same way about the much-lauded Thundercats; sure, that intro is hype, but damned if I could make it through a single episode without needing a nap.  Giving certain properties a reboot means giving it a second chance -- the opportunity to become the ideal we all envision.

That’s a rosy take on the situation, though.  Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to take the high road when it comes to a reboot; it’s not only easy for things to go off the rails, but in some cases it’s practically guaranteed.  It’s as if you should expect a reboot to miss the point, or otherwise be a step down from the original…if not an impromptu tumble down a flight of stairs.  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hasn’t exactly gone down in history as a masterpiece.  Neither has Terminator: Genisys, by the looks of things.  The Lone Ranger cost Disney some serious coin.  The list goes on, and each point on that list features some legitimate complaints.

Like, apparently there’s some controversy over a reboot of The Powerpuff Girls.  First of all, it strikes me as odd that there’s been a reboot in the first place -- though since apparently the entertainment industry likes to pull material from 20 years prior, it’s about that time.  Whatever the case, not a lot of people are happy with the end result; it’s replaced humor with memes, action with inaction, and generally done the whole “missing of the point” that you’d expect from the worst of the reboot fare.  Also, there are apparently a ton of animation errors.

So I guess I have a new question: why?  Why reboot, remake, reimagine, or whatever if you’ve essentially decided from the get-go that you’re not going to do a better job than the original work?

I’m sure none of the creators and crews behind reboots intended to make a bad story/movie/game/holophonor projection.  But I would think that rule number one when it comes to revitalizing a franchise is to intimately know every last detail of what you’re revitalizing.  Understand it.  Know what makes it tick.  Figure out why it worked in the first place, what you can do to improve it, and then find a way to produce your spin while paying respect to the franchise.  And the legacy, as well.  I’m no authority, but I’d like to think that I at least understood that much when I made my own treatment for a Power Rangers movie

I get it.  When you’re updating a franchise or work for a modern audience, there need to be changes.  Certain elements may end up being anachronistic if handled poorly.  But you don’t have to kowtow to what’s expected of your audience (or your shareholders) just to try and succeed.  You can do well.  You can do more.  And really, you SHOULD do more; banking on names, iconography, and references comes off as cheap and disingenuous.  Plus, it begs the question of why you’re even bothering with a reboot if you’re hell-bent on rehashing what’s already been shown on screen five, ten, twenty, or fifty years prior.

But back to the question at hand.  How many reboots is too many?  My personal answer is that right now, we already have too many reboots.  I know, I know, the entertainment industry -- across tons of mediums -- has become risk-averse and would rather bank on the safe option than play the slots with a new story.  I don’t think I need to tell you that we’re poorer for it.  We have an infinite canvas available to us, and various companies have an armada’s worth of resources…and yet the first thing that comes to mind is to bring back something long since finished?  What the hell kind of world do we live in when Full House gets trotted out for another run?

Let’s be real here.  We’re going to keep getting reboots, no matter what one afro-haired blogger has to say.  Fine.  I get that.  Gotta make money somehow, even if it’s with some dirty tricks.  But what gets to me -- what I’m worried about in the future -- is that we’re depriving future generations of their own stories just so we can keep getting stuff we recognize regurgitated.  If the entertainment world keeps things up at this pace, then does that mean we’re going to have Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as part of the cultural zeitgeist for the next century, reborn every decade (or less) whenever there’s a lull?  Are the creators going to be forced to scrape the bottom of every last barrel to find a nostalgic property worth milking?  What’s it going to take for a line to be drawn?

I don’t know.  But I sure hope it stops before we have to reboot our reboots.


Well, I’ve made my peace.  What about you?  What do you think?  How many reboots is too many?  Feel free to weigh in, and say whatever you feel like saying.

And when you’re done?  Join me in prayer, and let us hope that the Power Rangers movie doesn’t suck.  Even though it probably will, but whatever.  There’s always the Sentai.



…Shut up, it’s a deep and meaningful franchise.

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