Tom Jolliffe looks at Hollywood’s preoccupation with reboots, remakes and sequels…
I sit here in the year 2018. Suddenly I find myself compelled to moan about the unimaginative approach to greenlighting Hollywood studio pictures. This is not a new phenomenon, it’s old hat. As of now the vast majority of greenlit, large studio films are adaptations, sequels, reboots or remakes. The whole reboot, sequel and remake malarkey is now merging entirely into one thing.
Currently you have a new Terminator in production which is a reboot, described as a true sequel, which will conveniently forget everything after the second film. I can see why you’d want to forget those, of course, but given the fact that from Terminator 3 onward, every attempted new Terminator film has underwhelmed, you wonder why they bother. Likewise, we’re getting a new Halloween remakebootequel. It will essentially be just another Halloween, following the slasher formula, but at the same time forgetting everything that came before and diving right back to become a direct sequel to the first. So it’ll ignore a whole bunch of sequels, and a couple of reboots (you could probably count H2O as a reboot).
Now there is news of Neill Blomkamp helming a RoboCop rebootqual. It’ll undo everything the sequels, TV show and reboot did and only acknowledge the timeless original. Here’s the thing…Robocop was a sleeper hit, gaining progressive cult status back in the day…in the late 80’s. There was a brief surge in pop culture appeal as the franchise, including the TV series and a cartoon, found a young audience, but since then, the whole Robocop thing has become obsolete. Dwindling film grosses, an expensive flop of a reboot which even with a solid cast and decent director, couldn’t find an audience (the fact it was almost reprehensibility mediocre didn’t help).
Blomkamp has a somewhat chequered record now. District 9 was good, if initially a little over-hyped. I don’t think it’s particularly aging well, but regardless, it was an exceptionally well made and enjoyable romp. His big budget features since have all misfired. An attempted Alien rebootmakequal, which was going to ignore everything after Aliens, never materialised, and Ridley Scott ended up rebootmakequalling his own film with the shower of bollocks that was Alien Covenant. A film so utterly confused that it tried to tie together two properties, both the Alien legacy and Prometheus (which in itself couldn’t quite shake off a desire to connect with Alien).
I recently talked about the right way to remake or reboot. Suspiria as an example, looks like it has approached things the right way, whilst it also happens to be a film that can be approached, and made with an indie sensibility, without having to spend big on doing so. At least financially it’s reasonably low risk. You would assume a Terminator sequel will cost well over 100 million dollars, and a Robocop reboot will cost a fair wedge too. When you spend big on these reboots (or whatever you want to call them), you need a ready-made audience demand. Is anyone seriously going to come out to the cineplex and watch a Robocop film? You’d be better off re-releasing Paul Verhoeven’s classic on a small run as it is prescient and it’s exquisitely made, from the satire, the violence, down to the sheer unrestrained way that Verhoeven, for better and worse, approached his American films. The thing about Robocop, and say Total Recall and Starship Troopers, is that they’re all so distinctly Verhoeven as to be unremakeable. You can’t do something conventional with them (as the recent attempt showed) and you certainly can’t copy, because only Verhoeven can do Verhoeven.
If we say for arguments sake that Robocop will cost 100 million dollars on production alone, is there really enough demand out there to turn a hefty profit after you account for marketing etc? I don’t think there is, in fact I think there’s not even enough desire from audiences for the film to threaten breaking even. If you’re going to spend that much, then why not try and do something different? Something original? Die-hard fans of the original film will be split into two major camps. The side who will not see a new Robocop if you paid them to, and those who watch out of morbid curiosity. This is the thing with cult movies. They’re cherished, the fanbase isn’t Star Wars level in numbers. These are guys largely of my generation (30+) who grew up watching this on video. They’ve already attempted to pull a new generation into cinemas with a youth friendly Robocop. It didn’t work. Adding back satire and violence isn’t going to appeal to enough people. Satire and extreme violence are acquired tastes as it is, not mainstream.
So there we are. I’m certainly not convinced by a large number of sequels that are on the horizon. Let us know what you think? Will you be watching the new Robocop, or the new Terminator? Is it time for Hollywood to be more original?