Sunday Discussion: The Mighty Hollywood Reboot Trend
by Alex Billington
October 6, 2008
I thought I'd throw out this idea that's been swirling around in my head for a while. It seems like every week we see an announcement for another old franchise that's being rebooted, re-imagined, or remade. On one hand, some reboots turn out great (need I mention The Dark Knight?), on the other, some turn out worse than the original (like Dukes of Hazard). However, I'm interested in idea that Hollywood seems to be relying on these reboots to keep them floating in the black. And to be clear, this isn't about how Hollywood makes nothing original any more. Instead, this is about the idea of reboots and how they might potentially be what is helping Hollywood progress into the next big revolution - if you can believe it.
In my conversations with an industry regular a few months back, we talked about how it was safety that is making this trend so popular. With the economy getting worse, every movie made is a big risk for the studios. When they reboot a franchise that already has an established fanbase, whether minuscule or massive, they can tap into the pre-existing familiarity with the property. Thus there is less risk in bringing back a character or a franchise that audiences already know, because its been successful at least once before (so why not again?). Obviously a reboot could ruin the original repertoire, but that's a story for another day.
This idea of risk and safety is the underlying theme for this entire Hollywood trend. By referencing some actual projects in development, I'll say that I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing by any means. We at least get to potentially see a reboot of Ghostbusters and another live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, on top of another badass Terminator sequel and a RoboCop reboot. But then there are projects like the Daredevil reboot (which is taking place a mere 5 years after the first film) and, of course, The Incredible Hulk from earlier this summer, which in the end fulfilled most moviegoer's desires for a true Hulk film (in opposition to Ang Lee's 2003 version). Most of the reboots I can think of seem to be good ideas.
So if most of the reboots that are in development look like they could turn out great, does this mean Hollywood is actually getting smart about their filmmaking decisions? For example, with Ghostbusters, we all know that the first two will forever be classics. But this potential reboot might bring in producer Judd Apatow, who (if you forgot) was called Entertainment Weekly's Smartest Person in Hollywood. If he does get involved, I know I'll step back and say that this Ghostbusters revival might be the next best thing since sliced bread. A decade ago and I would've thought that no one could've done anything with that franchise and topped the original two, there was just no way, but now it has the chance to do just that.
What I'm trying to get at is that this "trend" (if it is indeed a passing thing) may not be as bad as it initially comes off. I think the reboots and remakes in works will turn out great and that may be because Hollywood is progressing into its next revolution. What exactly it is, I can't say? If I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn't be writing this discussion today. Maybe there are just numerous filmmakers out there who are finally being given the right films to direct (e.g. Jon Favreau, Michael Bay, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky). Who wouldn't want to see another Ghostbusters? Of course, there is always someone who doesn't, but I guarantee if Apatow does get involved, there won't be too many people shrugging that one off.
I do know that I'm very excited to see where this industry heads. Will this reboot trend eventually die off? Will Hollywood ever go back to producing more original work than adaptations or remakes? Or are we destined to continue to see reboots for so long that in another 10 years even The Dark Knight itself will be rebooted again? For now I'll sit back in my overstuffed recliner, pop in that Blu-Ray copy of Casino Royale, and smile while I think about how great it'll be to see Daniel Craig returning again in Quantum of Solace even though I'm the biggest fan of the classic James Bond movies. Because if it weren't for these reboots, we'd never have been able to enjoy such great entertainment. What do you think?
Power button photo courtesy of gongemonge on Flickr.