To the casual viewer, it seems that Hollywood is in a rut. Yes, the land where “reel” dreams come true has started to go on a downward spiral. Financially, the film industry is seeing highs for ticket sales and theater attendance. In terms of story and content, however, the battle between television and cinema is at a climax. However, once you realize that most of the upcoming movies for the next few months are somewhat connected to the ’80s or the ’90s, then content is not the problem.
At this very moment, studios are contemplating on whether to greenlight another Terminator movie, or turn the new TMNT film into a potential franchise. While some find reboots to be extremely enjoyable, audiences are clamoring for original ideas and concepts from filmmakers and screenwriters. Hollywood, once a purveyor of dreams and imagination, has become a recycling plant.
Reboots didn’t technically start with the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, there were countless attempts to reboot a well-known brand, but no one succeeded like Marvel. Granted, making a movie about Iron Man is not technically a reboot, but it did wonders for Iron Man’s brand and the company itself. You see, in the 1990s, Marvel sold the film rights of Spider-Man to Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, while the X-Men film rights was acquired by 20th Century Fox. Rather than wallow and cry over spilt milk, or in this case their characters, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige wanted to enhance the brand of Marvel. After eight stand-alone films, and a summer event entitled The Avengers, Marvel is now universally recognized for churning out films that have heart and a witty story. It’s easy to say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has not inspired any reboots, but one has to note that Columbia and Fox greenlighted new “reissues” of film trilogies like X-Men and Spider-Man. The success of Marvel, according to industry experts, have prompted other studios to follow suit, and “retool” their existing properties.
It seems that reboots, at least in Hollywood, stand for reinvention and introduction. Disney, famous for its emotional and nostalgic films, is coming out with a series of films that will pique the interest of adults who grew up with the company, while introducing new audiences to the magic of animation. Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, presents a new take on the classic fairy tale, albeit in the point of view of the infamous villain who is now being hailed as Disney’s greatest villain; it was released in a season full of existing characters and reboots that show a new perspective of a popular brand. Another similarity the film shares with Disney’s modern retellings like Alice in Wonderland and Oz: The Great and Powerful is the tone and themes that are tackled parallel to their animated predecessors; though twisted and dark for children, the films offer a comforting notion that while times have changed, the values that made Disney well-known is still intact.
Going head-to-head with Maleficent this summer season is Godzilla, the reboot heralded by Warner. Bros Pictures and Legendary Pictures as the “epic rebirth of the Toho classic.” Legendary Pictures gives the director’s chair to Gareth Edwards, helmer of the indie Monsters, whose creation of the characters and story paved the way for a monster movie to be filled with heart and intelligence. Before one balks at the idea of a monster movie in 2014, the new Godzilla offers a perspective that film critics and scholars have often attributed to the original 1954 film: a few years after the disasters in Japan, Godzilla was a symbol for nature wreaking havoc in a manner that will scare people, and make them realize something’s wrong. In light of recent events, the new Godzilla is a mirror for society to see the repercussions of an action and its consequence.
Often swigging liquor, James Bond underwent a makeover when the Daniel Craig phase started. Skyfall addressed themes like longevity and death, denoting growth in the series; Bond isn’t just suave anymore – he got stirred. Reboots are an excuse for filmmakers and studios to go darker while exploring a character’s past. One of the greatest examples is Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy which blended popcorn entertainment with an intelligent discussion of ideologies and political themes, and it proved successful because audiences worldwide devoured the series. However, for every Dark Knight, there is the flubber that is Man Of Steel; although financially sound, the movie took a beating for its weak character development. Even if a film is dark and complex, while there are elements going against it, Hollywood will reboot it to the point of oblivion.
Golden age of reboots?
In light of cinema’s reboot madness is television’s golden age; it’s the time when Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones almost aired simultaneously in the States on a Sunday night. With all the potential and talent that is found on television, A-List celebrities and award winners are now flocking to act material from TV writers because of the creative freedom networks are investing in content. Unsurprisingly, television is no stranger to reboots, or at least retellings. Most retellings are related to fairy tales and their dark origins like Grimm whose monstrous roots are weekly told with a modern twist while Once Upon A Time is lighter but still has enough of ABC’s pizzazz and drama to capture the audience’s attention. If one finds this too light, network television offers dramas with “cable stylings” while maintaining a mainstream approach. Cult favorite Hannibal explores the complicated relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter while taking place before the events that transpired in Silence of the Lambs.
It’s also no surprise that characters like Norman Bates and Ichabod Crane are being adapted in television. While Bates Motel happens before Psycho, the repercussions of Norman’s past and his relationship with Norma is examined. Both Bates Motel and Sleepy Hollow are set in the present age; while Bates is primarily in the now, Hollow slips back and forth between Crane’s past and the present to solve the mystery of the Headless Horseman and the signs of doom that accompany it. It is apparent that most reboots on television are brooding, if not dark. However, this isn’t the only kind of reboots audiences get to see on television.
For troubled shows, reboots are employed to freshen up (or beat) the show from dying completely. Diehard Gleeks weren’t surprised by Ryan Murphy’s decision to retool Glee by focusing on fan faves like Rachel Berry in New York City since the show has been waning in quality. “New New York,” one of the episodes in the fifth season, served as an unofficial repilot of the fifth season in terms of series direction. While quality is the issue for Glee, devoted Human Beings were relieved when Dan Harmon came back for the fifth season of Community. With the episode “Repilot,” the latest season got back to its groove with audiences and critics alike hailing the season as one of the best in the show’s run. Television benefits from reboots; if not for ratings, it revitalizes itself before it dies completely.
It has been said that nothing in this world is original anymore. Though it may be true, one can’t help but be enthralled by a new take on something that has been done before. Either for ridicule or for appreciation, reboots have always been a part of Hollywood and sometimes the best outputs come from an existing property. If it is true that Hollywood is a recycling plant, one will be surprised by the random or winning new discovery that could be a result of a saturation of cliches and tropes.