Is it just me, or have Hollywood’s idea banks run dry? From “Spiderman” (2002) to “Hellboy”(2019), reboot films have consistently graced the silver screen as of late. The practice of forsaking existing canon of a franchise in favor of re-inventing its characters, backgrounds, and storylines makes reboots costly yet prospective speculation due to its many benefits. Whilst many franchises have trouble garnering a large audience without casting award-winning directors or actresses, rebooted shows often guarantee a sizable audience even before trailers or casting decisions are even announced. Successful examples report box office grosses that pay off their budget several times over, and steady fanbases that guarantee the success of future merchandise sales and potential sequels. However, in their shadows stands a great deal of failed counterparts. So what makes a reboot successful, or more importantly, unsuccessful?
More often than not, original works have archetypal characters who solidify their identities and roles within the given narrative over time. This is especially highlighted in works that air over multiple years. However, reboots often aim to “freshen up” a genre by altering the mannerisms and personality traits of their characters. Though such measures are strategically engineered to present the latest inclusiveness campaign or correct a character’s historical inaccuracies, many attempts often alter the character to an unrecognizable state. The 2018 reboot of the cult classic film “Heathers”(1988) features a glammed-up version of the Heathers comprised of a plus-sized Heather Chandler, genderqueer Heather Duke, and African American Heather McNamara. On the other hand, protagonists Veronica Sawyer and JD retain their white ethnicities, as well as their underdog status in Westerburg High School’s social ladder. Seeing as the Heathers are the antagonists of the film, it is safe to say that creator Jason Micallef may have misunderstood “representation.”
Additionally, with every iconic work popular enough to merit a rehash of the original material comes easter eggs and canonical parameters that reoccurs throughout the show. However, poorly-made reboots often omit such details, or alter them to the point of unrecognition. “Heathers”(1988) heavily relies on color symbolism in order to characterize its main characters. Protagonist Veronica Sawyer shines in her blue blazers, blouses, and leggings, whereas the antagonistic queen bee Heather Chandler is constantly seen wearing red blazers, dresses, and the infamous red scrunchie. Though its rebooted counterpart manages to keep Veronica Sawyer in blue, Heather Chandler’s wardrobe gets a dramatic makeover largely devoid of red clothes. Though such details may seem miniscule to the uninitiated, little touches of concern are what catches the fancy and praise of longtime fans.
The destructive nature of unsuccessful reboots doesn’t stop there. The most abominable alteration of reboots is the alteration and deletion of the values that a show embodies. Gene Roddenberry may have envisioned a future of cooperation, optimism, and cultural inclusiveness in the wake of the Cold War, but the rebooted Star Trek films (affectionately referred to as the “Alternate Original Series”) lack such political statements. While “Star Trek: The Original Series” (1966) envisioned a space ship manned by a white man assisted by a Russian prodigy, a Japanese American, a black woman, and of course, an interracial alien, “Star Trek” (2009) is a washed-out action movie void of political argumentation, whether it be constructive or destructive. The reduction of such content may make a franchise more accessible to a larger public, but also lessens its cultural significance as a work, ultimately disrespecting the very shows that they were originally based on.
That being said, rebooted works are nothing to vilify or discourage. If orchestrated by screenwriters and directors with an extensive knowledge and respect for the original material, reboots have the ability to embellish the wares of a popular franchise and ensure its lasting popularity. Here’s to hoping that future reboots will be a little more considerate and mindful of both its pre-existing and projected fans.