Reboots & Reimagining

Entertainment Weekly recently released a image of Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa in the upcoming Power Rangers reboot.  Some people like it.  Some hate it.  I think I’m one of the few people who said good job for not giving her the Madonna cone bra.

I don’t know how the Power Rangers reboot will do, but I do know it’s among the latest in a long string of reboots pumped out by Hollywood.  The reboot of Ghostbusters is just around the corner.  Godzilla and RoboCop were just done.  And yes, folks, Hanna-Barbera is about to compete with the Marvel and DC universes with their own shared universe starting with S.C.O.O.B. in 2018 (guess who that’s about?).

I’m not saying any of this is necessarily bad.  Worst-case scenario is that you’ve got a crappy movie that helped pay rent for a very hardworking crew.  However, it’s so easy to pick a piece of intellectual property for production rather than original material that I think we need to take a step back and understand what the point is of a reboot or reimagining.

A reboot takes the source material and starts from scratch, treating it as a brand new concept.  For example, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy shows us Bruce Wayne building himself from the ground up in a world where Adam West is probably around but did something else during the 60s.  Maybe he and Burt Ward were in a army sitcom called Major Danger.  A nice little side note, by the way, is that the animated series of the 90s had a wonderful homage to the 60s series by having West voice the Grey Ghost, an old TV crime fighter that Bruce Wayne idolized as a child.

A reimagining is a different kind of reboot, taking the source material and then seeing how it could develop in different ways.  The JJ Abrams Star Trek films takes what we know about the original series – Kirk, Spock, tribbles, the Kobayashi Maru test, KHAAAAAN – essentially, the same ingredients, and makes a new recipe out of it.

So why reboot a film at all, especially now?

To answer the second part of that question, I think a good story goes through cycles of roughly thirty years.  Dracula is a great example of this.  The novel came out just before 1900 and then you saw Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Gary Oldman play the character in the 1930s, 60s, and 90s respectively.  Luke Evans’s 2014 portrayal of Dracula may not have been a straight adaptation of the book, but the character is still someone audiences are drawn to.

I think Dracula’s cycles began with cost-effectiveness.  The Lugosi film as actually adapted from the 1927 Broadway production written by playwright Hamilton Deane (starring Lugosi, in fact).  The Broadway Dracula was considerably different from the decrepit creature in Stoker’s novel, more gentlemanly, less violent, and already more in line with the taste of audiences at the time.  When Hammer Films started doing Dracula with Lee in 1958, moviegoers were okay with more blood and sex.  Yes, I’m talking to you, Melissa Stribling’s nightgown!  That trend continued with Oldman’s Dracula.

As of now, I have heard nothing about a Dracula film for 2020, the next of that thirty-year mark, but I won’t be surprised if it happens.  The concern I have is that it would be more action-oriented in the wake of Evans’s Dracula Untold, which is intended to be part of Universal’s – you guessed it – planned cinematic universe of their classic monster films.

Speaking for myself, I’m just waiting for Rob Zombie to do a remake of The Blob.  I know he’s reportedly turned his back on that project, but I can still have my precious nightmares.

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