A CASE OF THE RE’S: THE REBOOT, REMAKE, & REIMAGINING 2.0 (Mania.com)
Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
While driving in Hollywood last fall, I looked up to see three billboards for movies soon to hit theaters. It made me laugh when I realized that I had seen all three movies before: FOOTLOOSE, THE THING and THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Save for the gas prices, I imagined that this would confuse the hell out of any time travelers in the vicinity. The 21st century seems to be about how everything that is old is new again. Is it because of a lack of ideas and originality that we almost on a weekly basis are given an option to see what we have already seen? Albeit most of the time we are told that although the same, the property we just forked over $13 is surely different. This phenomenon, like 3D, does not seem to be at its apex yet with no less than 50 “RE-“ projects in the Hollywood pipeline. Has the movie industry become creatively bankrupt with no original ideas or are they just living risk-free sticking with a proven formula that assures them an in the black weekend or two?
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, one of two tentpole live-action flicks for MARVEL/DISNEY in 2012 is a reboot of an extraordinarily successful franchise that just over ten years ago seemed unlikely to ever happen. Stuck in legal battles for years, our favorite web-slinger seemed destined to only entertain the inside of a courtroom. But when the gavel was banged and the property was given the green light, Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN spun its golden web at the box office. The first installment made over $100 million in its opening weekend in 2002 breaking records faster than you could say “THWIP”. So successful was the feature that Columbia Pictures/Sony (the studio behind the picture) gave their offices the day off the Monday after Spidey’s debut. Now THAT is the sign of a monster hit; a day off in the movie biz. But now as winter comes to a close and summer is on the horizon, and the last SPIDER-MAN installment less than 5 years old, the entire franchise is being rebooted. A big reset button is being pushed on the entire multi-billion dollar success of the series for what the studios perceive as a “new generation.” It is as if Sam Raimi’s SPIDER-MAN trilogy never existed as this new and ‘AMAZING’ installment is a complete head to toe reboot. So a new wall crawler will drop in July with a new kid friendly cast, an unproven director and a tag line that claims this is “The Untold Story.” Hey at least I finally get my wish of seeing non-organic webshooters.
So the lag time between a franchises end and its new beginning has certainly gone down. It took SCARFACE over 50 years to be redone but SPIDER-MAN clocks in at barely half a decade. And next is DC’s flagship Superman returning in 2013 under the MAN OF STEEL moniker with Zack Snyder at the helm. Again just seven years removed from Bryan Singer’s supposed reboot of “Big Blue” in SUPERMAN RETURNS. Singer’s take was supposed to be the Last Son of Krypton’s continuing from the beloved Christopher Reeve series. Taking place five years after 1980’s SUPERMAN II and a self-imposed exile, Superman returns to Metropolis in the form of actor Brandon Routh who was not given much of anything to do for two and half hours except pine over Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth). So now we will bear witness to the impossible, the reboot of the just rebooted. At least SPIDER-MAN had a proven box office track record by the time the third and last installment rolled around in 2007. At a rumored quarter billion dollar budget before marketing costs, and a much more Bat-centric movie going public, there just may not be an audience for another new SUPERMAN after such a disappointing restart in ’06.
Remakes or reboots or whatever “re” word you want to use is nothing new in Hollywood. SCARFACE, FATHER OF THE BRIDE and CAPE FEAR are just three that come to mind without putting a whole of thought into it. THE DEPARTED, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and even THE THING are all remakes of movies either foreign or domestic. It is not that people did not know about those iterations when they hit the theaters, it is that they were spread out over time. Now, every successful property is made to be redone even before the proverbial final “Cut” is yelled. Clearly there is a generational breakdown when it comes to remakes but five years seems to be an awful short time to “look back” on a series especially when it is successful. Franchises like THE MUMMY, PLANET OF THE APES, and STAR WARS will probably never die. They are pop culture stalwart phenomena that are ingrained in the mind of the public psyche. And whether we like it or not, we do accept them. But there is a huge difference between your favorite band covering a Stones hit and your favorite filmmaker remaking an already good and palatable movie when there is plenty of new and undiscovered storylines out there. For every STAR TREK from JJ ABRAMS, we have to contend with FRIGHT NIGHT and CONAN THE BARBARIAN; movies that were not that great the first time around. I enjoyed STAR TREK tremendously and I have never seen an episode of the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or any other TREK show.
Is it better to see a reboot/remake or an ailing franchise go on without its original stars and pedigree of filmmakers? Latest news has the long dormant GHOSTBUSTERS series making a return WITHOUT Bill Murray and a possible recasting of the Peter Venkman character. That is the geek equivalent of remaking THE 10 COMMANDMENTS with a CGI Moses. No one wants to sit through a ROCKY V or even an OCEAN’S TWELVE again. At least those are two examples who realized they neglected what made those franchises hits and came back around to do it right in a final chapter. And yes I know that OCEAN’S ELEVEN was a remake of the Sinatra caper flick of the same name. ROCKY BALBOA and OCEAN’s THIRTEEN were not the biggest of the franchises as far as money makers but they both righted the ship in a damaged series. Still a formula is a formula. Inherently, the original THE KARATE KID from 1984 is a teenage ROCKY (coincidentally both directed by John G. Advilsen) and both movies still hold up. I watched 2010’s THE KARATE KID with an open mind and thought it was awful. Not for a minute did I feel that the kid was in too deep the way I did with Ralph Macchio’s “Daniel-san”. Plus, I did not believe that a ten year old would not be insulated and protected from the big, bad bullies of today. But the movie made money with an 80 pound pre-pubescent in a special effects laden “Kung Fu” final tournament that was laughable.That is what makes me believe that there really is no “Moneyball” type formula for movies.; when THE KARATE KID remake does well without any of the heart and soul of the original.
Granted Hollywood has always been obsessed with the surefire formula of risk-free entertainment that will make them a tidy sum. After all, AVATAR, the current box office champ is just a retelling of the same old “cowboys and Indians” formula that has worked since the silent era. OK so Pandora is a little more CGI than the old West but fundamentally it is just DANCES WITH WOLVES on a steroid infused budget. And it is in 3D. God forbid we do not pay an extra $5 to have shields, arrows and blood come at us for two hours. For me 3D peaked with JAWS 3D in ’83 when I was six. Whichever way you slice it, it is still the same goofy gimmick that makes me at least once kick the seat in front of me or drop my own popcorn. I would rather pay less for a lousy 2D movie than an additional $5 for the same movie with a hokey gimmick. The return of Smell-O-vision has to be right around the corner.
FOOTLOOSE did the best of the three at the B.O. with a decent showing and a solid Rotten Tomatoes score but THE THREE MUSKETEERS and the third go-round of THE THING (touted as a prequel) all fell flat last Fall. I deduced that because FOOTLOOSE was the deserved “soundtrack of a generation,” it held up reasonably well with the new Millennial generation. But since JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING still kicks ass and there are over 20 versions of THE THREE MUSKETEERS when I attempted to wade through the IMDB, both releases fell flat. So when you hear that POLICE ACADEMY and PORKY’S are in the works, it really makes you scratch your head. Especially when movies like the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY trilogy still show that an enormous profit can be made on an original idea and a super lean budget. But that will not stop Hollywood from making what they consider to be the safe money. Yes we are psyched for better, updated versions of movies like DREDD (Judge Dredd) but simply stated, enough time has not gone by where AMERICAN PSYCHO and STARSHIP TROOPERS get the remake/reboot/updated treatment. I understand when I see a bunch of AMERICAN PIE direct to DVD sequels and then the original cast reunites for one last hurrah in AMERICAN REUNION. Those actors have to pay rent too I guess. Like most industries, Hollywood is of no exception to sticking with what works. The difference is that Hollywood has now gotten into the business of remaking/rebooting/reimagining movies that were not exactly blockbusters to begin with. I shudder to think of the reactions of the recent crop of film school grads armed with fresh scripts and shorts only to be told that the studio is sticking with the DROP DEAD FRED remake. And no, I am not making that up.