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Why film reboots are not as bad as people think

By Johanna Christoph Nov 9, 2016
No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage Mandatory Credit: Photo by Columbia Pictures/Courtesy/REX/Shutterstock (5793905o)

An army of ghosts wreaking havoc in New York, the iconic Marshmallow Man waltzing through the city, and a group of weird paranormal scientists with special equipment gave cinema-goers the feeling of being thrown right back into the year of 1984.

The reboot of the class Ghostbusters is just one of many franchises that received the rejuvenating treatment.

Since Christopher Nolan resurrected the iconic figure of Batman, which resulted in becoming the first film in history that made $1bn (roughly £820m). Classic franchises like The Amazing Spiderman and Superman also returned to the big screen.

With the exception of the Fantastic Four reboot, the resurrections of these iconic stories have been fairly popular and did well at the box office- The Amazing Spiderman made almost £620m and Man of Steel grossed nearly £549m.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Warner Bros/DC Comics/REX/Shutterstock (5885982ai)
No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Warner Bros/DC Comics/REX/Shutterstock (5885982ai)

Now one may argue that Hollywood uses the reboots to avoid having to create brand-new stories, as the return of iconic narratives to the big screen would lower the risk at failing at the box office for the fans who would go and see the film.

“The charge that Hollywood is ‘losing its creativity’ is a frequent complaint. As many scholars have argued, sequels, remakes and adaptations have been a key feature of the cinematic landscape since the medium’s inception. Still, there does appear to be a significant shift towards franchise properties with an inbuilt recognition factor. At the same time, however, one must understand that differentiation is as important as repetition. Would you claim that The Dark Knight is not ‘creative’?” said Dr William Proctor, author of Reboot Culture: Comics, Cinema, Transmedia and lecturer for media, culture and communication at Bournemouth University.

Rebooting a movie not only means to rejuvenate and revitalise the material established in an iconic franchise. A reboot “wipes clean the slate”, as Proctor puts it. The reboots differ form the remake as they attempt to establish a new beginning for a whole series. Nolan’s Batman Begins was the start for the trilogy and discarded everything that had happened in the previous film made by Tim Burton in 1989 and Joel Schumacher in 1995.

Batman as the protagonist was completely re-established. But that does not mean there is no creativity flowing into the rebuilding of the series. A movie reboot enables a franchise however established, to begin from “year one”, according to Proctor.

The re-start of such a recognisable series liek Spiderman could make it easier for new viewers to get into, as well as inviting old fans to come and see the beloved franchise re-imagined and re-interpreted on the big screen.

“Perhaps most importantly, a reboot seeks an audience consisting of many different kinds and not specifically for fandom. If only fans attended the cinema, the film would surely fail,” Proctor said, pointing out that the aim of a reboot is to draw new fans in and not only please the fandom.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Columbia Pictures/REX/Shutterstock (5886089av)
No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Columbia Pictures/REX/Shutterstock (5886089av)

Third-year film student Sara Louise Kooheji, 21, is “generally in favour of reboots”.

“I think it’s a way to bring some of the cult classics back. The benefits would be to attract maybe a new or younger audience and also gives filmmakers a chance to revamp the reboots”.

She did not see the reboots as a sign for Hollywood’s lack of imagination, but enjoyed instead what directors make of the old material.

“It is interesting to see what they change and what stays the same. For example the new Ghostbusters and the all-female cast. It shows strong female leads and Paul Feig probably thought the female audiences would feel empowered,” said Kooheji.

Third year KU film student, Nayem Momin, 20, is convinced Hollywood has not lost its creativity for making original films “however it does tap into work we have previously seen”.

“I like that Hollywood does create these reboots because it creates a sense of nostalgia for the audience who have already seen the original and allows a younger audience to experience classic films like Ghostbusters. At the end of the day, Hollywood creates these films as they know they will make a ton of money from them, personally I don’t mind that as I like seeing a rebooted classic back on screen,” said Momin.

Stuart Brennan, director of the London Horror Film Festival, however is convinced that the reboots and remakes of horror classics such as A Nightmare on Elm Street or  Carrie are a sign for “lack of imagination by the Hollywood studios”.

“To invest large sums of money into a project, a proven brand makes the most sense – it shows the bankers trying to be artists. As the horror genre proves time and again, it’s not about creating films that you think will make money, it’s about making good original films,” said Brennan.

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