Friday, March 13, 2009

The New Dirty Word: Reboot

There are plenty of dirty words in the hollywood studio guidebook, and in the right context, they each have the power to make a person shiver. Without over thinking it the terms sequel, prequel, remake, reimagining, and, the newest of the bunch, reboot, come to mind. It's likely that a person could think of a good example of each of these-- but for each justified entity, there's a hundred abominations. Fox studios has been spending a lot of time thinking about reboots recently, in fact, they've considered taking the undo button to both the Fantastic Four and Daredevil franchises. 

 You'd probably be hard pressed to find anyone (except perhaps a youngster) who wouldn't mind seeing these franchises retooled. The fact is that both of them failed to deliver for fans of the source material, many critics, and it seems likely many average movie goers. It makes logical since that they should be re-tooled and brought back so that they can meet the expectations of the public. These films don't have the support that franchises like Batman or Iron Man have after all and because of that they should be given another go, right? Wrong. Let's get down to the heart of the matter: Reboots are a bad idea. 

The point proponents of a reboot for these franchises are going to make is that the reboot for Batman worked so well. Yes, both Batman Begins and the Dark Knight were terrific movies but it's important to remember that Batman Begins came eight years after Batman & Robin and the total decimation of the franchise. Also important to note is that Warner Brothers has no super-hero properties besides those at DC comics justifiably availible to them. Why pay for a super-hero's rights of use when you're sitting on a mountain of them? Marvel also has the advantage of displaying its properties on film for the first time (Minus a select few features). Warner Brothers was pinned into a corner: bring back proven commercial entities, or risk it with characters like Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. It may have been a financial move, but it was the necessary play to make in order to enter into the super-hero genre safely.

That is the biggest difference between the Batman franchise, and those held by Fox. Looking for a profit is one of the necessary evils of being in the film industry unfortunately, but that doesn't mean there aren't certain ethics involved either. The fact is that in the early 2000s the super-hero genre was hot, and it still is. Warner Brothers repackaged something, and did it well to meet auidience expectation. Fox, by contrast, didn't take the source material for their films seriously-- the result was a set of films with mediocre reviews, and mediocre returns at the box office. Now fox wants to retool what they already botched before the market for super-hero films falls out. 

There is a certain degree of accountability for product that needs to be had. The batman franchise started strong and fell out over time. Neither Fantastic Four nor Daredevil can say the same. Fox failed to give those films the degree of creative talent, and seriousness that they deserved, and the results were art-less pieces of trash. Although the characters of those franchises deserve better, the studio that shamelessly expoited them for money once shouldn't be able to do it again. To do so only helps to prove that there is no art or merit in hollywood, and that insults films like the Dark Knight which were crafted with expert care. Reboots are cheap excuses to get a higher box office after a horrible set of bad films, while a property is hot and you still have the rights. It's the worst aspect of hollywood film making, in the same vain as remakes like Halloween and Friday the 13th. 

All this is to say nothing of those franchises that have been rebooted already. Punisher has managed to have three films, none of them connected (or good), in less than twenty years! Hulk is more of a complicated beast, as some like Ang Lee's directing (I don't) and like the original theatrical film. Some hate Lee's complete disregaurd for the material and favor the reboot (Which I also thought didn't do the franchise justice, but closer). 

The two qualifing attributes to a justified reboot are a change in public mentality (IE the genre is popular again), and/or a level of merrit to the entire or part of the origional franchise. God help you if both nothing has changed and it was crap to begin with. Otherwise you're operating at the lowest artistic level, and accountability for work is tossed completely out the window. Besides, Fantastic Four has already been ruined twice, do you really need to fuck it up again? Please Fox, have some artistic integrity and stop ruminating on reboots. 


Kiriska said...

Hmmm. I have mixed feelings about reboots, really. (I'd also have to say that Daredevil is infinitely better as the Director's Cut rather than the theatrical release. Infinitely better.) I suppose you're right that waiting longer between releases would help make it seem like they're actually trying rather than continuously giving false hope of doing some kind of justice to the title. Then again, if Batman Begins and the Dark Knight are the benchmark for success, the reboots will have to happen to titles with a much more established place in culture. That said, I'm curious -- how did you like Superman Returns?

Joe said...

I thought Superman returns was an admirable attempt to reinvigorate the franchise. It's only a semi-reboot, after all, choosing to erase the last two films: one that suffered from studio involvement and another that was never given the proper budget.

I thought the movie itself was wonderfully entertaining; those who disliked it were either too hung up on Superman's child, the parallels to the Donner original, or are the kind of people who prefer movies like Die Hard 17 to anything with subtitles because they don't want to read. Since I didn't mind the Super-kid, the Donner parallels and I'm not an action junkie, I was rather pleased.

I believe the Superman films have had talks of another reboot as well, to wipe away what Returns threw in. I think that's silly. The Superman movies have never really been an exact translation of the comics-- after all, Jonathan Kent dies in the first film and Luthor's shick is real estate -- who cares if Superman has a baby in THAT universe?