Welcome to Nick Picks, a regular column by Nick Spake. There are countless important questions regarding the current state of cinema and I’m here to answer them.
In 2005, we got a horrible Fantastic Four movie from 20th Century Fox and an equally lame sequel a couple years later. When it was announced that Fox would be rebooting the franchise, we all had the same thought: “Well, at least it can’t possibly be worse than the last two movies…right?” Apparently it can indeed get worse as the new Fantastic Four reboot only scored an abysmal 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s not only 18% lower than 2005’s Fantastic Four, but also the lowest RT score for any Marvel movie ever. That’s right, even worse than Howard the Duck, which got 14%.
Fantastic Four is one of the reasons why people cringe whenever they hear the word, “reboot.” You can’t blame them seeing how so many reboots are either bad, unnecessary, or both. The fact that we’ll have gotten two Spider-Man reboots within only five years is proof that there’s something royally wrong with Hollywood. As much as people love to rip on reboots, though, audiences often forget that we’ve gotten a lot of good ones over the past decade.
For every Poltergeist or RoboCop, there’s been a Star Trek or Casino Royale. Most of us had doubts when it was announced that the Starship Enterprise crew would be recast and that a blonde guy would be playing James Bond. With talents like J.J. Abrams and Martin Campbell helming these projects, however, both Star Trek and James Bond were given new lives. These reboots weren’t just good. They contended with the best films their franchises had ever put out.
While not every reboot is going to be in the same league as Star Trek and Casino Royale, they at least give reboots hope. That’s more than could be said twenty years ago when reboots and remakes were guaranteed to suck. Throughout cinematic history, there have been some good retellings of classic movies. The 1959 remake of Imitation of Life is often considered to be even better than the 1934 version. Cecil B. DeMille’s remake of The Ten Commandments gets a lot more attention than his original silent film. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, though, we got a slew of especially horrendous remakes.
In the course of one year, there was an awful American remake of Godzilla and a totally unwarranted shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. These remakes were so appalling that filmmakers started to coin words like “reboot” and “reimagining.” Where a remake is expected to primarily stay loyal to the original’s story, characters, and tone, a reboot can provide an entirely unique spin on a classic movie. Reboots got off to a rough start, though, with films such as Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes.
It wasn’t until 2005 that reboots finally started to show their potential with Batman Begins. Leading up to its release, many people were indifferent to seeing another Batman movie. In their eyes, Tim Burton’s 1989 interpretation was the definitive version and Joel Schumacher killed the franchise in 1997. When Batman Begins actually came out, however, audiences were blown away by just how smart, entertaining, and different the film was. Now when people think of the Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s rebooted trilogy is the incarnation that usually comes to mind first.
Batman Begins showed people that reboots don’t have to suck. They don’t have to live in another movie’s shadow either. They can bring something new to the table while also remaining true to the source material’s spirit. From this, we would get some genuinely fun reboots like 2014’s Godzilla and 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Those films might not have been as good as the originals, but they definitely blew the previous reboots/remakes out of the water.
We’re starting to see a number of great reboots on television too. Sure, the attempts at rebooting Knight Rider, The Bionic Woman, and Charlie’s Angels weren’t so hot, but look at how successful Nickelodeon’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic have been. Where the original TMNT and MLP were solely geared towards kids and only focused on selling toys, the newer versions actually have involving storylines that attract younger and older audiences. They’ve both demonstrated clear evolution and arguably the makings of timeless franchises.
Even a lot of sequels nowadays feel more like reboots than traditional continuations. Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road may have been in the same continuity of earlier films, but both had entirely new actors and mostly new characters too. They were essentially reboots, but both were pretty damn awesome in their own rights. The same can’t be said about Terminator Genisys or the new Vacation, but that just goes to show that there’s always a negative side to a positive side. While that may not be ideal, at least it’s better than only having a negative side.
After the debacle that was Fantastic Four, it’s easy to only see the negative side of reboots. Part of us all wants to scream at Hollywood, “Stop with the reboots already, you unoriginal hacks!” Given all the quality reboots out here, though, maybe we should take the good with the bad. Hollywood is going to produce plenty of reboots that will make us angry. If Batman Begins, Star Trek, and Casino Royale taught us anything, however, it’s that something worthwhile is going to be waiting around the corner. Some movies are untouchable like Citizen Kane and Casablanca, but others are open to new interpretations.
Look at all the classic stories that have been retold over the years, from A Christmas Carol, to Robin Hood, to Greek Mythology. While all of these tales are timeless, none of them have a definitive cinematic version. That’s largely because there’s always a new approach that a talented artist can add to the legacy. The same can be said about Batman and James Bond, who have both become immortal characters. To this date, people still argue whether Michael Keaton was a better Batman than Christian Bale and if Sean Connery was a better James Bond than Daniel Craig. This goes to show that sometimes there doesn’t need to be a conclusive movie version. Some characters have the power to be continually rebooted and thus remain eternal.
Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll even get a good Fantastic Four movie, especially if Marvel takes over the next inevitable reboot. After so many strikeouts, a majority of us are likely ready to give up on the Fantastic Four altogether. As somebody who still has faith in reboots and Hollywood, however, let me leave you with this inspirational quote from Batman Begins:
“Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”