For as much as Hollywood loves rebooting old movie properties, unfortunately not all cinematic reboots work out. In many fans’ estimation, it took Sony three tries to finally get Spider-Man right. In this week’s Roundtable, we’re rebooting the reboots. What other movie franchises that have already been rebooted once before could use another spin of the reboot dial?
Usually with these Roundtables I try to pick something a little off the beaten path, but why not go after the obvious this week? Last year’s ‘Ghostbusters‘ reboot was a complete disaster, and it really didn’t have to be. For years, Dan Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman worked to get a sequel greenlit by Sony, but the studio execs were never willing to pull the trigger without the participation of Bill Murray, who kept turning down pitches and scripts. By the time the studio decided to go ahead with a new movie, they wanted a complete reboot and an all-female cast.
Fans went bonkers, but most of them (myself included) weren’t upset about the casting of women – despite what the studio and director Paul Feig will tell you. Most were upset that the new reboot totally ignored the original characters, setting the movie in a universe where the original team never existed. Sure, there were a few crazies out there who spewed misogynist rants over the new cast, but for most of us, that was never the problem. To add insult to injury, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson all agreed to cameo in the film – making us wonder why they didn’t just return as their original characters.
Feig, whose movies have been more slapstick-oriented and lack character development, was a horrible choice from the get-go, and the result was disastrous. While a few (including some reviewers who write for this web site) defended the movie, I stand by my opinion that it was poorly conceived, poorly written, and most importantly completely unfunny. While the film didn’t bomb at the box office (it was Sony’s highest grossing movie of 2016), it still couldn’t make back its bloated budget (at least domestically). Not long after its run in theaters, Sony announced that there would be no sequel.
Now the future of ‘Ghostbusters’ is unclear. It’s unlikely we’ll ever get another movie with the original cast playing their original characters. The only hope of any sort of franchise revival at this moment seems to be through the path of animation. It’s really a shame, but it’s a good lesson why studios shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds them.
I’m in the minority of those who didn’t hate the ‘RoboCop‘ reboot. After all, it wasn’t as bad as ‘RoboCop 3’. In my opinion, it just lacked one major element: personality. The original ‘RoboCop’ had its own flavor. It was campy, fun and violent. “I’d buy that for a dollar” is still uttered frequently in several Hickman households. Thinking back on the remake, it didn’t do anything to make me hate it, but it certainly didn’t do anything memorable either. Sony should hand the brand over to someone who knows how to fuse personality into movies.
The first names that come to mind are a duo that should get together every five years to make cinematic magic like they did before: Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon. I’m not particularly a big fan of either of them on their own, but based on what they brought out of one another with ‘Cabin in the Woods’, I think they could make an extremely entertaining and satisfying ‘RoboCop’ movie, one that stands entirely on its own legs as it applies new absurd content grounded with the framework established in the original.
I’d buy that for a dollar.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’d been an avid reader of comics as far back as I can remember, but back in 1989, it was Marvel’s ‘Fantastic Four‘ that propelled them from something I’d grab off the rack at a gas station to an all-consuming obsession. As many attempts as there have been to bring the FF to the big screen, no one’s ever managed to stick the landing.
I can’t even count the independent 1994 film that never has and never will enjoy any sort of official release. That’s a shame, as it can’t really be any worse than Tim Story’s big-budget take on the comics a decade later. For most of its runtime, the four title heroes are aggressively unlikeable, they barely function as a team, the dialogue is stilted and tin-eared from start to finish, and its cheesy, clumsy sense of humor elicits even more groans now than it did back in 2005. It’s the only take on the Fantastic Four that I’ve come across where Victor Von Doom is right to pin the blame for all his woes on Reed Richards. In a lot of ways, the Fantastic Four are the villains of the piece, responsible for the bulk of the havoc that’s wrought. At best, they’re just cleaning up their own messes. The only things I remember about the sequel are the recasting of Galactus as a nebulous cloud and Mr. Fantastic wiggling his oversized arms to the rhythm of some forgotten hip-hop number at a trendy nightclub.
The even-more-disastrous 2015 reboot fundamentally fails to understand anything that makes the ‘Fantastic Four’ comics work. Most every last frame is joyless and bleak. Sue Storm has long been portrayed as the strongest member of the team — both emotionally and in terms of her power set — but she’s quietly relegated to the background for too much of the reboot. (Sue isn’t even invited to join in on mankind’s first journey to another dimension!) The sense of family that has defined the FF for so many decades is nowhere to be found. When the movie’s half over and they finally do get their powers, the reboot prefers to keep them divided, with Reed spending the better part of a year isolating himself while the friends he abandoned become murderous military assets. Dr. Doom’s extradimensional motives for world domination/destruction make no sense. The movie seems embarrassed to associate itself with anything recognizably comic book-y, to the point that Josh Trank would rather indulge in Cronenbergian body horror and a parade of ‘Scanners’-esque exploding heads. The pacing is leaden, there are too few standout set-pieces, and the story relies on smart people doing indefensibly stupid things to keep inching forward.
The Fantastic Four aren’t just costumed superheroes; they’re explorers. The four of them are a family, with all the love and turmoil that suggests. More than sixty years’ worth of comics make for a wealth of compelling material to mine. There’s a terrific movie to be had here, and maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to watch it.
M. Enois Duarte
I’m going to lump three lame reboots into one giant pile of “stupid waste of my time.” All are in serious need of being rebooted once more. To me, the dumbest rehashing has to be the trend of revisiting and reimagining horror classics, specifically those from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes production company.
I know there’s a devoted fan base for the stupid Rob Zombie ‘Halloween‘ movies, but simply liking something does not automatically make it good. These movie are ultimately stylized garbage and nothing more, a bunch of crap nonsense cobbled together from Zombie’s dumbest fantasies as though true, hardened horror-hounds wouldn’t notice that he lacks imagination or a unique voice of his own.
After that, Bay’s company hired filmmakers to do more of the same and mimic Zombie’s gimmick. However, the failure of ‘Friday the 13th‘ (2009) and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street‘ (2010) comes down to the stupid attempt at gritty realism, stripping away the nightmarish fantasy that made the originals scary in the first place.
These filmmakers don’t know a damn thing about horror or how to generate a creepy atmosphere. Here are some suggestions for making a better reboot: First, don’t freaking humanize the monsters! They’re monsters precisely because they either lack humanity or defy our understanding of what makes them human. Second, indulge in the fantasy with only a semblance of realism, not this ridiculous uber-realism that attempts to explain the killers’ motivations. That should be a mystery, not a reason for the audience to sympathize. In all honesty, I’m glad ‘Rings’ did poorly at the box office and Paramount canceled another lame reboot of ‘Friday of the 13th’ scheduled for October 2017. Hopefully, this is a sign that the trend is finally coming to an end. Still, deep down inside, I wouldn’t mind seeing another reboot of this trio of horror classics so as to erase the memories of the recent garbage.
I enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ first ‘Star Trek‘ reboot in 2009. I had some quibbles with the plotting and dumb comic relief elements, but it was a fun rejuvenation for a franchise that had decidedly stalled out at that time. Although the first sequel, 2013’s ‘Star Trek into Darkness’, was kind of a dog, last year’s ‘Star Trek Beyond’ was mostly a step back in the right direction (if not without its own faults). Nevertheless, the entire alternate reboot timeline feels like a needless distraction from the real ‘Star Trek’, and I think it’s probably run its course.
This fall’s upcoming ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ TV series will reportedly return to the so-called “Prime” timeline. With a setting ten years before the U.S.S. Enterprise or the time breach that triggered the “Kelvin” timeline, it could technically be part of both continuities. I have my hopes for that show, but would still like to see a new theatrical reboot.
I don’t really understand why the powers-that-be who run this property keep trying to go backwards in time, first with ‘Enterprise’, then the Abrams reboot, and now ‘Discovery’. To my mind, the best thing this franchise could do is propel us forward another century or two beyond ‘The Next Generation’, introduce a whole new cast, and start fresh from there. Given enough distance, the differences between the Prime timeline and the Kelvin timeline wouldn’t even matter, as they’d all be in the rearview of history anyway.
What reboots do you feel need to be rebooted again? Tell us in the Comments.