Thursday, November 26, 2015

Sequels, remakes, and reboots (oh my!)

There are a lot of sequels, remakes, and reboots on the table in Hollywood land right now. I have to be honest and admit I don't really grok the reboot concept. To me, reboots are just remakes. I guess I kind of see it in the Star Trek series, insofar as the latest two movies "reimagined" the Star Trek universe by killing off Kirk's father, thus delaying his rise to the captaincy of the Enterprise (but he does get there, all the same). Still, I don't know that "reboot" is a needed characterization. Of course, some say that reboots refer to a series of films, alone. Thus, one remakes a single film, but reboots a series. Sequels we all understand, I think. Though I guess maybe I should have included "prequels," as well (but that would have ruined by Wizard of Oz reference).

Regardless, the point is that these are the kinds of movies that seem to be dominating Hollywood right now and have been for some time. I have heard or read about a number of the upcoming ones, many slated to go into production soon, others still trying to get all their ducks in a row, but I have to admit that I had no idea until yesterday that a Point Break remake was coming out this year (it's scheduled to be released on Christmas Day). Only just recently, I watched the original with my fifteen year old son (I've been taking him on a tour of the "classics" for some time now). And not all that long ago, I heard that the Rock was interested in doing a remake of Big Trouble in Little China (one of favorite goofy action movies of all time).

I know a lot of people kinda get annoyed at all of these productions, especially people with artistic/creative bents (like many of my writer friends at AbsoluteWrite). The basic argument against them, especially reboots and remakes: the original movie(s) was(were) great, what's the point in doing it over again? The point, of course, is to make money. Still, the response to that is simple as well: there are plenty of original movies that can still be made.

Personally, new versions of older films (or new sequels to the same) don't bother me much in theory. If the story is good and lends itself to a new telling, why not? After all, some of my favorite movies of all time are actually remakes, like Ben-Hur (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), and The Thing (1982). And apparently, there is another remake of The Magnificent Seven in the works starring Chris Pratt. The point is, remakes can be good things, if done well.

The problem is, in practice they are not always done well, are they? Still, so what if a remake sucks? It doesn't diminish the original (or the previous remake that was good) at all, in my opinion. And of course plenty of non-remakes are released that suck mightily, too. Ultimately, the cultish kind of response to remakes—"how dare they remake that movie"—is kind of empty-headed, I think. To be sure, I've engaged in it. When I first heard about the Point Break remake, this was the first thought that flashed through my mind.

But then I slowed down and thought it through. I had the same initial reaction when I heard about Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Then I took my kids to see it. It was great. So there is always that possibility in a remake (or a reboot): it could be as good or better than the original. Still, some might say—given the number of awful remakes and reboots (I include the new Superman and Spiderman movies in this group, along with the new Total Recall, of course)—the probability is too small to justify this barrage of remakes, reboots, and sequels coming out of Hollywood (which currently includes remakes of The Birds, The Wild Bunch, and Wargames, by the way). A fair point, but I think there's something else at play here.

Once upon a time, movies could only be seen in movie theaters. With the advent of television, that changed somewhat, as some movies would eventually make their way to the small screen, albeit after some extended period of time. Gone With the Wind, for instance, premiered in theaters in 1939. It wasn't seen on television until 1976. Now, it's on every year. Think about that for a moment. The movie was re-released a number of times after its original run, to be sure, but for people born after its release (or who were very young at the time), it was something of an unknown quantity.

Then came home video. Then, finally, the video-streaming world of today. One can now watch pretty much any movie at anytime. And this has bred a familiarity with themes, I think, to the extent that filmmakers really know what people like to watch. Not only that, such watching habits prep people for similar films. Remakes, reboots, and sequels make sense, not only financially, but also—oddly enough—artistically. Even the players, the actors, are falling into this line of thinking. The big stars have favorite movies just as we all do and the non-stop availability of the past probably influences their tastes just as much as it does ours.

That said, there is an underlying banality to all of this, a kind of red-lining for creativity in general. And there is that creeping notion of "everything's been done before." It all suggests a rather blah future for movie-making, insofar as the hype becomes more important than the actual product. Still, if the product is good, it is good, no? I guess we'll have to wait and see...