Call it what you want, reboot, remake, rehash, retooling, reimagining, or in the case of the illfated return to the Halloween franchise, recalibration, these corporate attempts to make a quick buck off the moviegoing public are despised by most everyone on the Internet, and yet, for the most part, continue to make money at the box office. It is truly an interesting paradox in that while these films are considered blasphemous when they are announced, they are still seen by those who were previously condemning them for pop culture sacrilege. I continue to be baffled by this sensation, having sat through many a conversation that goes something like this:
Them: I can’t believe they’re remaking Robocop. This is the last straw. Robocop is so sacred, and they’re going and spitting all over its name. It’s awful. I can’t believe it.
Me: You know you don’t have to see it.
Them: Oh, I’m going to see it. I’ll be there opening night.
Them: I just CAN’T BELIEVE it.
This sort of exchange makes no logical sense, and yet it happens time and time again, all with one of two eventual outcomes. Either they leave believing it to be the worst thing ever to come out of human existence, or they leave completely resound in the belief that this is the best movie ever made. Naturally neither of these things are probably true in the grand scheme of things, but this best ever/worst ever mentality is seen pretty consistently, to the point that its almost like clockwork. Let’s investigate this a little closer.
Before we get into the two sides of the reboot/remakes scenario, I’d like to clarify my position on the concept of remaking a film in the first place. Obviously first and foremost I believe that original ideas are always better than recycled ones, and would much rather that films surrounding new and interesting concepts get made first and reboots second, but I also am not a naieve person and recognize that this process is inevitable as Hollywood is a business, and furthermore a business that puts the generation of revenue ahead of the cultivation of creativity. There is a difference between reboots and remakes mind you, reboots being a return to a franchise either in the capacity of a sequel/prequel a la Prometheus or simply a new storyline like The Hobbit, but for the purpose of this piece, let’s lump them both together; in the grand scheme of things they both serve to cash-in on a familiar property anyhow. As far as reboots go, every successful franchise ever will be rebooted somehow, regardless of how “sacred” the original material is, so protesting such a thing is illogical. If it sold once, they’ll try to sell it again. Remakes on the other hand, are a bit of a different story as not every movie gets remade. For me, I have a standby rule when it comes to remakes. If you want to remake a movie, it needs to meet two criteria. First, it must be good enough to be remembered, but secondly, it can’t be good enough to not be able to match the quality of the original. Space Jam is a perfect movie to remake. Ben-Hur is not. So to summarize, I am alright with the concept of remakes and reboots, I’d just prefer they not take precedence over original ideas. Alright, now that we’re all squared away, let’s get into this.
Scenario 1: The WORST Thing Ever
Ghostbusters. Oh boy. Now I’ve already gone in-depth into the phenomenon behind the making of this film, but since that was written opening weekend. In the months following, we’ve seen a response that is completely representative of the first rule. Ghostbusters, despite what you may have heard via its many disparagers on Twitter, is not a bad film. It’s a mildly funny, mildly entertaining, mildly fun movie. What it is not, is anything even remotely like the original Ghostbusters. The writers of this new film attempted to make something new and seperate from its predecessor, but rather than being praised for their individuality, they were panned by the masses for not making a film as good as their astronomical expectations given their love for the original. Thus, people came out of the movie with nothing but ravenous hatred fueling their thumbs as they took to social media, declaring this film to be “the worst thing ever” simply because it didn’t live up to their expectations. The movie wasn’t horrible, it was just okay. But people let their passions drive them to despise it. They allowed their preconceived notions of what this film should’ve been to skew their opinion of the film in a particularly aggressive manner, which caused people who may have liked it to avoid the theatre like the plague, effectively killing the franchise for another thirty years. This scenario is completely unjust, as the film was just okay, but it was ultimately detrimental to the franchise as a whole. That being said, it’s not the only eventuality that can end this way.
Scenario 2: The BEST Thing Ever
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Given the recentness of this release, it is possible that I will be given a lot of flack for saying this, but such is the nature of scenario two: Beasts is once again, a just okay movie. It has many problems, mainly in the pacing and a weak story and cast of characters, but is overall a mildly entertaining movie. It’s not bad per se, but it definitely hasn’t warranted the response its gotten. Without fail, most of the people I’ve talked with about this movie (these aren’t critics mind you, but more of the general movie-going public) have been absolutely over-the-moon about it. They give it undying praise in the same way that they did the far more deserving Harry Potter franchise. Why? It’s not because the movie is particularly sensational, because it’s not, but because the previous eight were sensational. People are taking their devoted love for the potter franchise and carrying it over to Fantastic Beasts without stopping to think if this film merits such a strong adoration. The same effect was seen when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey first came out. Or last year, when we were graced with the remake disguised as a reboot, Jurassic World. So what, you might ask, so people like the film, how can that be a bad thing? It’s not a bad thing that people liked the film, I’m glad that people found enjoyment in it, I did as well for the most part, but it is a bad thing that they are revering it as profusely as they are. Let me explain why. First, it detracts from the public opinion of the original. For instance, if someone hears how brilliant the Lord of the Rings franchise is, and in turn that The Hobbit is every bit as ingenious, so they sit down to watch An Unexpected Journey as their first foray into the franchise, how do you think they’ll feel? They’ll probably look at it and think, “Okay, I don’t get what all the fuss is about. This is really just alright. Now I have absolutely zero interest in one day watching The Fellowship of The Ring.” A second, more subtle problem, is it convinces the movie studio that this is a new bankable franchise. Thus the studio pours all of their money into finishing out the series, only to be met with diminishing returns each time over. Once again, this was evident with the Hobbit franchise, a series that made progressively less and less money as people got more and more burned out and conscious to the fact that the movies weren’t as good as they originally thought. While not as economically catastrophic as scenario one, it is in the long run once again ultimately detrimental to the franchise.
Exceptions To The Rule
The first exception is found in movies like Independence Day Resurgence, which are actually awful. This is where people are justified in hating the film for reasons beyond it simply not living up to the original, as it is actually, and this statement is recognized as being remarkably unfounded, the worst thing ever.
Exception number two is when the movie is actually really really good. This is found in reboots like last year’s Creed or this year’s remake of The Jungle Book. Again, not necessarily the best thing ever, but pretty close.
I suppose in the end what I am trying to say is that while I am not opposed to the idea of reboots, they are in the end, almost always worse off in the long run. I still have hope that the practice will die back a bit in the coming years, but I remain resolved in the belief that reboots are always a double-edged sword. I suggest to you to be careful going forward after you see a reboot or a remake and think to yourself, “Wait a minute, is this actually the best/worst thing ever? Or is it just okay?” Thanks.
Grades for the films mentioned in this piece:
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: C+
Jurassic World: C
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: B
Independence Day: Resurgence: D-
Images in descending order: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, a Warner Brothers Film, Ghostbusters, by Sony, Fantastic Beasts, Independence Day: Resurgence, distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, Creed, by MGM