And lo, the weary reader reaches the land of the reboot; easily the most negatively received of all the remakes.
Before getting into it, a clarification should be given as to what makes a reboot different from a standard remake. Usually a reboot is a remake of the first movie in an established franchise, intended to take that story back to the beginning and then tell it again, maybe in a different direction and spawn a new franchise (J.J. Abrams’ version of Star Trek, with it’s destruction of Vulcan and subsequent alternate timeline, is a perfect example of this). A straight remake is usually just a reworking of a stand-alone film that follows pretty much the same story, while a reboot may take the overarching themes of the original, but take it in a different (sometimes unexpected) direction.
At face value, it’s easy to see why people would be contentious at the idea of a reboot. Generally, the movie being rebooted is a classic in whatever genre it belongs to (as well as sometimes being a classic movie overall) and that coupled with nostalgia is a powerful mix.
What is sometimes forgotten is that nostalgia stems from the fact you were a lot younger when you watched it, so it might not be as good as you remember (although a fair few of the movies genuinely are great). A great way to explain this is to think of the great cartoons you watched as a kid (I feel my generation lucked out here) then try and go back and watch them now. A lot of these shows are actually awful when viewed through the lens of an adult mind.
Another comment you’ll hear over and over is that the reboot will “ruin the original”. Let’s make on thing clear; a reboot will never ruin an original movie for you unless you let it ruin the original movie for you.
I mean, the acting, directing, story, etc, will not suddenly become worse just because a newer version suddenly exists. The recent reboot of RoboCop was vehemently accused of doing just this, which is ridiculous when you look at it. If anything, RoboCop 3 (and, to a lesser extent, RoboCop 2) did more damage to the character / franchise than any remake.
Paul Verhoeven’s original is an amazing movie that still holds up today. Peter Weller’s performance in the title role is fantastic and the look, sound (both the quotes and the actual sound effects), the Prime Directives and THAT GUN of RoboCop himself all becoming pop-culture icons in their own right. You then have a classic cadre of villains, led by Clarence Boddicker in Kurtwood Smith’s most famous (and best?) role.
The time period when the film was made / released also played a part in what makes the original such a magical movie. Due to the age we live in now, it would be impossible to capture that atmosphere and tone, so the reboot was smart to not even try. For example, the news broadcasts on the 1987 film were a parody, but in today’s round-the-clock networks, they are pretty much what real news is like and with the extremes of television game shows / reality TV, the Bixby Snyder segments would seen tame in today’s environment.
Due to that, the reboot avoiding this by taking the core elements of the original and adapting them for a modern audience. No-one would be able to touch Smith’s turn as Clarence, so they wisely elected to not even try and instead went with a different villain, while maintaining the through thread of the first movie. Similarly, what passed for cutting-edge robotics in 1987 would be laughable by today’s standards, so having this all updated makes sense from a logic standpoint as well as simple aesthetics.
I really enjoyed the 2014 RoboCop and thought the performances, the effects and the changes all made it a great companion to the original while there are enough elements and call-backs to the 1987 version to please the nostalgic element in all of us.
Without reboots, we would not have had Batman Begins, thus no The Dark Knight and no Heath Ledger as The Joker, etc. We also would not have had Man of Steel and in turn no Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. Again, had the “everything must be left alone” bandwagon had its way, Nolan’s epic trilogy would be lost to us and the potential Justice League shared universe just a pipedream.
Similarly, the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be a much different place as there would have been no Captain America (already done in 1990) and Nick Fury would still be The Hoff. Just think about that for a minute; David Hasselhoff instead of Samuel L. Jackson. We also wouldn’t have had The Incredible Hulk with Ed Norton, which was a reboot-with-acknowledgments of Hulk by Ang Lee, thus (possibly – rights can be notoriously tricky) no Hulk for The Avengers and no “Puny God” meme to enjoy forever.
Outside the MCU (for now at least), we would have missed out on both the Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson Punisher movies, as well as the better-than-it-gets-credit-for The Amazing Spider-Man and the upcoming The Crow.
Comic-book characters are ripe for reboots (Superman, Batman, Captain America, Punisher, Hulk and others), but there is one genre possibly even more open to the possibility of rebooting and that’s horror.
With Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes seemingly single-handedly driving forward the Horror Movie Reboot Revolution™, the recent run has been given a massive amount of criticism; again usually as a knee-jerk reaction at the mere announcement of the films, even before anything to do with casting, director, tone, etc, have even been decided. This is usually coupled with an “Oh, they’re making it PG-13; IT’S GOING TO SUCK”, like the rating of a film automatically increases or decreases the quality.
One of the aspects that is normally forgotten in this strain of the argument is that what made for an 18 / R-rated movie in the 80s and early 90s does not translate to what governs the same in the modern era.
If some of these movies were presented to the BBFC or MPAA today, they would probably be given a 12/15 or PG-13 rating due to the change in both tolerance and what is considered appropriate in 2015.
Starting with the rather good The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which continued with the better-than-expected The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), they have also rebooted (to varying degrees of success), The Amityville Horror, The Hitcher, Friday the 13th (actually rebooting the first four movies into one) and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Each of these movies paid enough of a homage to the originals, while creating their own take on the material at the same time. As has been mentioned earlier, the cry of “this will ruin the original” was bandied around, seemingly ignoring (as said previously) that the originals will not diminish in quality just by proxy of the reboots existing, but also that each of these films had sequels already that did more damage to the legacy of the characters / franchises that the reboots could ever achieve.
Horror movie sequels are unique to the movie world in so much that it is the antagonist who will continually return rather than the heroes of the movie. Sure, Nancy turned up in two other Nightmare movies, Dr. Loomis was pretty much an ever-present in Halloween and Tommy Jarvis featured in three Friday the 13ths in a row, but for the most part it’s the main villain who is the selling point of these films.
Due to this, the sequels can tend to retread the exact same scenario as before and the only thing changing is the kills (the amount, the level of violence / gore and the frequency).
I touched upon this in an earlier article; horror movies are the camp-fire tales told from one generation to the next in celluloid form. We went from verbal retellings, through the written word and into the medium of film. The mutable nature of storytelling allows the vision to change, but the core conceit remains the same.
The rebooting of the horror movie is just this generation’s way of retelling the tale for a modern audience and in that sense, they can be deemed relative successes.
Jason Voorhees is my personal favourite horror icon, so any movie with him in it is going to peak my interest. As he is pretty much the sole selling point of any Ft13th movie, the 2009 reboot intelligently moved past the first movie (where Jason is not the killer and is barely featured), while also honouring Mrs. Voorhees by having her feature in the opening scenes (as well as having a wheelchair in Jason’s lair as a homage to Part 2), which were the final scenes in the original.
Unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed Friday the 13th, the representation of Jason, the actors chosen for the roles and what they did with the mythos. Besides, US$91.4 million at the box-office from a US$19 million budget is not to be sniffed at for a horror movie (for any movie).
Similarly, their reworking of A Nightmare on Elm Street deserves credit for honouring what came before while taking its own path. While I prefer Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, this retelling of Freddy Krueger v Nancy was really well done, with updating of the themes (and what we know of the human brain when it comes to sleeping / lapsing into subconscious dreaming) to great effect.
Stepping away from Platinum Dunes, there were also relaunches for The Evil Dead and Halloween. The latter was released in 2007 to almost universal derision at the mere announcement that the film was going to happen.
Having Rob Zombie involved only increased the vitriol, but the White Zombie front-man delivered a brilliant take on the characters, with Tyler Mane (former WCW wrestler and Sabretooth from the first X-Men movie) physically imposing and impressive as Michael Myers, while Malcolm McDowell kills it (pun intended) as Dr. Sam Loomis. Add in sterling support from genre stalwarts Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris (who starred in two of the original franchise’s films), Sherrie Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley and William Forsythe, plus a genuinely sympathetic turn from Danny Trejo as an attendant at the hospital who looks after Michael and the movie isn’t lacking on the acting front.
Special praise needs to be given to Daeg Faerch as the young Michael Myers as Rob Zombie takes the first half of the movie to tell the story of how this kid evolves into a killer and then into the best / worst thing that ever happened to Dr. Loomis and the town of Haddonfield.
It was a radical departure from the original and showed what can be done when rebooting a beloved character (as well as revive the character after the less-than-stellar Halloween 4-6).
As Halloween showed, a departure can be beneficial, but sometimes revamping the established canon can be just as effective. This is true of Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead, which also had help in the shape of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi being on board as producers.
While it’s accepted that Evil Dead II is a remake-then-sequel to The Evil Dead (similarly to John Carpenter’s The Thing – another that has the argument of whether it’s a remake or a sequel), to actually reboot the franchise can be considered a brave move when you take into account how beloved the film, the character of Ash and Bruce Campbell are.
Smartly avoiding recasting someone as Ash, we have new set of hapless soon-to-be-victims set to stumble across something they have no idea the power of.
One of the genius ideas is that this is set in the exact same cabin as the Ash movies (the classic Raimi Oldsmobile is even present) and thus has this cabin / woods be the domain of The Evil, so anyone who ventures here could be in danger.
With enough nods to what came before and twists on what we expect, plus as much gore, violence, genuine wincing from the audience at the pain on show and A LOT OF BLOOD, this version of Evil Dead was absolutely fantastic to watch, possibly the zenith of the sub-genre. Plus a killer last scene will leave everyone happy.
As stated earlier, horror is possibly more ripe for remakes / reboots than any genre, with great examples being those above, plus The Fly, Dawn of the Dead (arguably what kick-started the whole current shebang), My Bloody Valentine, Fright Night, The Mummy, (arguably a horror) Curse of Chucky, The Crazies, The Hills Have Eyes (this is brutal), I Spit on Your Grave, Last House on the Left, Maniac, The Omen, Piranha 3D, Thirteen Ghosts (this is one of my favourite films to just put on and enjoy for what it is), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Uninvited and The Town That Dreaded Sundown (at the recommendation of a friend, I sought this out and loved it), as well as passable versions of April Fool’s Day, The Blob, Mirrors, Silent Night, Sorority Row, All Cheerleaders Die, Prom Night and When a Stranger Calls.
Of course, this also has the best chance of releasing a movie that sucks, such as The Fog, House of Wax, Children of the Corn, the misguided and misjudged Day of the Dead and the nadir of horror remakes… The Wicker Man.
Future movies set to join the above selection include Poltergeist (which looks like it could be one of the better remakes), IT and The Crow (if you consider the themes applicable to horror), as well as rumoured reworkings of Near Dark and Hellraiser.
If all of this talk of remakes and reboots still makes your blood boil and nothing I have written has come close to swaying your mind to the idea that they are not automatically a terrible, terrible thing, then perhaps you should check out The Remake, a slasher film that has a killer taking out his frustrations on the cast and crew on a movie set where they are remaking his favourite horror movie.
Retreading on some classic kills from other movies (knowingly ironic due to the stance the antagonist has on originality – although it makes sense too because he is a fan of horror movies, thus this is his reference point for slaying methods), it’s an original idea perversely done due to aforementioned revisiting of classic kills (although there are some unique ones too).
First of all, thank you for reading this far and taking the time to join me on the quest to redeem the good the name of the movie remake.
Hopefully you will have seen enough to convince you that remakes / reboots (and, by association, sequels / prequels / etc) are not automatically “A VERY BAD THING”. When done correctly, they can honour what has come before while introducing the characters and concepts to a whole new audience.
This in turn increases the chance the originals will be introduced to a whole new audience, while also taking the time to enjoy “their” version of events, leading to the time when the reboot / remake cycle begins again and the new generation get to introduce the next generation to these classic tales.
Original movies can co-exist with remakes and it’s only those with knee-jerk negativity that seem to think you can only have one or the other. If you do not wish to entertain remakes / reboots, then that’s fine. No-one is telling you that you must endure the retellings, but by the same token, you shouldn’t be telling those who do wish to see these films that they should not be made.
There is nothing stopping you just sticking with the originals, if they actually are originals in the first place and you aren’t unknowingly sticking up for a remake in an ironic twist. Watching a remake should not affect your enjoyment of the original and if it does, then maybe the problem isn’t with the films.
Remakes are not a new concept and for as long as we are making movies, they will continue to exist.
Embrace them for what they are and take note that if those who vilify remakes at their merest mention had their way, none of the films mentioned in this article would have seen the light of day.
No-one, not even The Fan Killer from The Remake, should want that.