Tom Jolliffe looks at the ever-increasing frequency of reboots…
This won’t come as any surprise but the notion of the reboot, remake, or whatever you call it is nothing new. We’ve all seen three live action Spider-Man incarnations in just 10 years from Tobey Maguire’s final fling, through Andrew Garfield, to Tom Holland who is currently heading into his fourth and fifth films as the webslinger (unless I lost count somewhere).
In this tech age of instant gratification and disposable entertainment, disposable artists and an unquenchable desire for the next thing, have audiences lost their attention spans and loyalties to the point that we need to keep hitting the reset button to refresh the same repeated characters and franchises? Here’s the thing…if it weren’t already, it’s getting very silly now. Ben Affleck donned the Batsuit off the back of a huge dose of contention among the fan communities. Many thought the casting choice was terrible. He then made his appearances, garnering positive vibes in some corners for his performance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As many seemed to like his version as the naysayers felt validated in their vitriolic stance against Batfleck. In the end, if you look objectively, he’s giving an average performance in a pretty dour and mediocre film. By Justice League, having already been subject to countless rumours of getting the can before they’d even begun shooting, he was going through the motions. In principal, for a character with recurring franchise potential, if the actor in question looks bored out of his arse, it’s probably time for a change.
Still, Christopher Nolan’s excellent trilogy (even if the third was a narrative mess, with some surprisingly awful moments) set a high bar. Christian Bale gets more stick than he should, in no small part due to being overshadowed in The Dark Knight (which for me was what made it inherently more interesting as a comic book film). Word to the wise too, everyone is going to put on a stupid voice, no matter who plays Batman. So now Batfleck has finally been given the heave ho. He’ll barely be remembered in the cape in 5 years time. Meanwhile we’ve had Jared Leto take on the Joker, we’ve also got Todd Phillips’ Joker film (with inspiring casting of Joaquin Phoenix), which of course exists separate from the DCEU, but still marks another portrayal of an established character.
Then we receive word that James Gunn, forced to defect from Marvel home runs to the risky world of DCEU experimentation, is about to reboot Suicide Squad, and the majority of roles will probably be recast or replaced with new characters. It would seem highly unlikely that Margot Robbie will be recast or booted as Harley Quinn. For one she’s playing Quinn in her own solo film, but for another, Robbie is absolutely on fire right now. She’s as hot a property as you’re going to get. The remainder of the cast from 2016’s version are pretty much expendable. What if the purple prankster himself returns? Leto’s contentious performance as the clown prince means he’d probably be lucky to get called back. Would studio politics allow for Phoenix to bring his incarnation over to the DCEU? Would he want to? So another iconic character could have another performer, in a mere 2 and a bit years.
This is getting silly now. One phase of the MCU is due to close. Likewise we’ve seen Hugh Jackman hang up his adamantium claws. Zac Efron among a string of other names has already been rumoured for a reboot. We could see a new Captain America, Iron Man, hell probably another Spidey, we’re due aren’t we? James Bond has been rebooting for decades of course, but Daniel Craig hasn’t even loaded his PPK for his last outing, or even been 100% confirmed to be leaving after, and bookies have been wildly speculating for years about his replacement. His bored to tears performance in Spectre didn’t aid matters of course.
The point is, it’s exhausting. It would be nice to see more focus on new characters and debuts. We are getting Captain Marvel this year of course. Further, it would be good to just see some more original content, or at least leave things a decade before rebooting something or hitting the Mulligan. Even financial success seems no guarantee of being safe from the reset button. Suicide Squad may have been savaged by critics, and received rather indifferently by viewers, but it made a shed load of cash. It didn’t make Marvel money I grant you, and Aquaman has now set a massive new bar for future DCEU films, but still, to sweep Ayer’s work, no matter it’s questionable quality, under the rug seems a little harsh.
The trouble is, the vast majority of reboots these days tend to be simply down to a lack of imagination within studios. In many cases these are films which don’t have a huge demand from audiences to be seen. We’ve long rumoured reboots of everything from He-Man, to The Crow to Highlander. Some of these could do well, but is there really a massive demand? Even below that, recent reboots of things like RoboCop (with another rebootqual due), Alien, Point Break, any number of 80’s video nasties never seem to make much money, and in cases where a big budget was blown, end in disaster. I loved Blade Runner 2049. I think it’s one of the best films in recent years and it’s beautifully crafted, but who on Earth thought spending an enormous sum of money remaking Blade Runner was economically viable? Who decided this could lead onto a franchise rebirth? A masterpiece the original might be, but it’s not box office gold. I’m glad it was made as it’s artistically rewarding (in keeping with the original) but it was an epic flop of misguided audience expectation.
There’s a danger of going to the well once too often (if we’ve not passed that stage already). How much can the audiences take? How long before they become genuinely surprised when they turn up to watch a franchise picture and expect a different actor they saw in the last film, only to be surprised by the appearance of a replacement. I’ve debated this before, but we’re in an era where, bar a few exceptions, the box office Golden Goose superstars are dwindling. The character or the franchise, or the adaptation is paramount. People just want Spider-Man, and whoever plays him is interchangeable…it seems. With few exceptions there aren’t many superstars who could sell a tent pole off their name predominantly. One of those being Dwayne Johnson, but even he knows he needs the power of the franchise to keep his profile at its apex. Whatever he touches turns to gold at the moment. Even Skyscraper, dubbed a domestic flop, battered the box office worldwide and made an enormous amount. He’s bullet proof at the moment. Even doing the likes of Rampage and Skyscraper. But there’s not really anyone else. Keanu Reeves is a superstar again thanks to John Wick, but put him in anything else and he goes straight to video.
As my head continues to perpetually spin in a haze of new Batmen, Supermen and everything else, I just wish Hollywood would take their foot off the pedal before the engine catches fire. At some point the audiences will twig, that they’ve probably long since seen as good a Batman as they’ll get, or Spider-Man.
Are you tired of a never-ending reset? Are you tired of always hitting the snake, going to jail, or crashing your behind back on square one? Let us know in the comments below.
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has three features due out on DVD/VOD in 2019 and a number of shorts hitting festivals… https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/