Thursday, July 05, 2012

Re: Reboots, remakes, retreads

This week I want to talk about reboots. Not the kind that the guys on “I.T. Crowd” refer to when they answer the phone and instead of saying “hello” say “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on?”

I’m talking about remaking things that worked well enough the first time. Restarting franchises. Reworking old concepts. Or worse, reworking new concepts.

I don’t know about you, but as a consumer of movies, TV and other mass media, I’m getting tired of reboots. Even the ones that are good (and some are very good indeed).

In recent years, we’ve seen “Clash of the Titans,” “The Thing” (presented as a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 movie “The Thing”), “Footloose,” “X-Men: First Class” (a reboot that threw out continuity established in the initial X-Men films), “The Karate Kid,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Arthur,” “Conan,” “Fright Night,” “Hawaii 5-0,” “Nikita,” “Teen Wolf,” “Thundercats,” “True Grit,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Three Stooges” and “Star Trek.”

(I’m sure there were many more, but these were the ones that came to mind. I haven’t included here movies or TV shows based on classic literature and that so often are adapted, such as “Sherlock Holmes” or “The Three Musketeers.”)

And don’t forget the lesser English language versions of recent foreign films “Let the Right One In” (remade as “Let Me In”) and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Here’s a partial list of remakes/reboots either currently playing or coming soon to a media outlet near you: “Mockingbird Lane” (a TV reboot of “The Munsters”), “Total Recall,” “Dallas,” “Dark Shadows,” “The Crow,” “Red Dawn,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Dredd,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Robocop,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a reboot of a perfectly good movie released in 2002.

Since the third Spider-Man film came out in 2007, only five years ago, doesn’t it seem too early to retell his origin? Or are we supposed to be so much better than 2002 already that we can improve upon the Sam Raimi version? It’s gotten to the point that you almost would expect reboots a month or two after the original.

That’s what DC Comics seems to be embracing. The company rebooted its 70-something-year-old history last September (that’s just 10 months ago) with new versions of classic characters, re-establishing their origins in an attempt to modernize them and entice new readers. A few months later, DC’s “second wave” of titles launched with “Earth 2,” an alternate world where the same basic heroes have slightly different origins.

This September, DC is putting out “No. 0” issues of each book, telling the origin stories of these characters (something the ongoing books have at least addressed already). Meanwhile, the company is releasing a series of original graphic novels subtitled “Earth One” that — again — reveal alternative modern origins for classic characters such as Batman and Superman.

And next summer, a new Superman film will hit theaters and focus on another new origin story. We will get to see Russell Crowe play Jor-El (Marlon Brando’s character in the Christopher Reeve series of films) and Kevin Costner as Pa Kent. That’s only a handful of years after “Superman Returns” (2006) failed to reboot the franchise.

Couldn’t they just turn it off and turn it back on again?


This was my column for this week's and The News Herald.
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