The art of the film franchise reboot
To celebrate the release of Guy Ritchie's surprisingly successful modern retooling of the Sherlock Holmes movies, Time Out offers the ultimate past, present and future guide to reviving a film franchise
BatmanThe original Wobbly batmobile; unpersuasive Gotham; agreeable but randomly selected leading man.Updated because Mr Freeze's 'Cool it!' puns; global neon shortage.The reboot The camp meltdown of the Joel ‘If It Moves, Tie a Glowstick to It!’ Schumacher movies (‘A Batman Christmas’, ‘Batman Gets Fabulous’) left the caped crusader in dire need of a refit. Strange that it should fall to a floppy-haired English toff and a garbling Welsh non-actor to resurrect this towering American icon, but Messrs Nolan and Bale restored the Dark Knight’s battered dignity and have delivered two absolutely thumping installments so far. Our bet for the next outing: Paul Bettany as an effete, laconic Riddler holding Gotham to ransom with an gigantic whoopee cushion.
Mission: Impossible The original A crafty crew of cool customers in crew cuts and crew necks. Updated because Pre-existing theme-music awareness.The reboot With the help of screenwriter Robert Towne and director Brian De Palma, Tom Cruise slung out the stealth aspect of the swinging '60s TV series in favour of tortuous plotting and grade-A pyrotechnics that propelled the first ‘M:I’ through a clutch of elaborately conceived set-pieces. The second and third films were mostly horrible, mistaking excess for excitement, but if a rumoured fourth episode were to get back to basics we could well be watching these until the Earth gets toasted by a solar flare.
SupermanThe original Prim do-gooder with corset and kiss-curl flies around the place being jolly decent.
Updated because See above.
The reboot Bryan Singer’s monumentally boring retread ‘Superman: Superman Lifts Things Up’ was quite simply more of the same straight-arrow all-American guff. Supes has been off in space going through some largely undisclosed cosmic mid-life crisis and now he’s back and – other than Lois having dropped a sprog – nothing’s really changed: Lex Luthor’s still around, world domination is still high on the agenda and there’s even a scene where the Man of Steel is exposed to Kryptonite and staggers around for a bit before falling to his knees clutching his guts. Same old, same old.
RockyThe original '70s/'80s Philly is rendered as a frosty dump from which Stallone’s lovable lunk rises high.
Updated because Stallone’s CV was starting to get log-jammed with entries like ‘Avenging Angelo’, ‘Get Carter’, ‘D-Tox’ and ‘Taxi 3’ (Uncredited).
The reboot 2006's 'Rocky Balboa' unabashedly traded on the nostalgia of the source material with the added dangling of the old ‘is there one last fight in the old bludger?’ question. While attempts were made to mould ‘Rock’ as the classic tragic has-been in the opening reels, there was nothing more tragic than a film that asked us to witness a 60-year-old man taking on (and almost beating) a misc mouthy whippersnapper.
The ExorcistThe original The gold standard of '70s religious shockers sees some serious pea soup shit going down in Georgetown.
Updated because The (inevitable) franchise treatment it originally received didn’t quite work out when John Boorman muffed up the second part, but William Blatty did pull things together for the underrated third in 1990.
The reboot Giving new life to the fond moniker ‘master of disaster’, Renny Harlin's ‘Exorcist: The Beginning' was a crass, wrongheaded attempt to dull the ferocious intellect of the original and make a straight genre chiller to play to the lager-swilling late night posse. But that was after Paul Schrader had had a crack at something a little more cerebral with ‘Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist’, which filled in some of the blanks of the Father Merrin backstory but, alas, was also a load of old chob.
RoboCopThe original Peter Weller fails to read the small print on his organ donor card and wakes up as a clanking android super-rozzer.
Updated because If you think of anything, let us know.
The reboot The prospect of Darren Aronofsky’s on-again-off-again update of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 unhinged sci-fi satire is like yanking off a sticking plaster: it’s got to happen sooner or later, so why not get it over with and out of the way? It’ll no doubt hurt, but hopefully we’ll have forgotten about it soon enough and everything’ll be back to normal.
TronThe original Laid-back hippie/crash-hot programmer Jeff Bridges is zapped with a ray gun and blasted into cyberspace.Updated because Charm, wit and invention v CGI? There’s only going to be one winner.The reboot It all sounds good so far: Bridges is back, John Hurt and Michael Sheen are lined up for some day-glo thesping and Daft Punk are manning the soundtrack. Despite the charm the original effects still hold, it’ll be fascinating to see what CGI does with the light cycles, recognizers and, er… frisbees that’ll surely all be present and correct in ‘Tron Legacy’. That said, it will almost certainly be utterly horrible.
The Black Hole
The original Silly, plasticky big-budget ‘Star Wars’ cash-in that puzzled adults and bored kids.
Updated because You have to admit, it’s a very cool title…
The reboot Set to be directed by Joseph ‘Tron Legacy’ Kosinski, this has all the makings of a hard sci-fi classic. Whether it melds pop-science with edge-of-the-event-horizon thrills or – as it’s predecessors managed – crowbars antediluvian claptrap into a plot with more holes than a darts player’s pockets we’ll just have to wait and see.
The Karate KidThe original '80s high school underdog nightmare in which a fast-mouthed street-punk spunkbag (Ralph Macchio) solves all of his problems with unchecked aggression.Updated because People always like seeing other people demonstrating the social application of karate (read: staving heads in to impress birds).
The reboot Red hot from ‘The Pink Panther 2’, director Harald Zwart helms this modern retooling of the ‘KK’ saga, with Jackie Chan in as the Miyagi figure (replacing the late Pat Morita) and Jaden (son of Will) Smith as the cutesy nerd who learns that the best way to overcome a tricky situation is to crane-kick it in the temples.
Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe original The original, live action ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ – released at the height of, ahem, ‘Turtlemania’ in the early '90s – was, for a time, the highest-grossing independent film of all time, despite the fact that it was, again, chob.
Updated because A semi-successful digimation was released in 2007, suggesting there may still be an appetite for pizza-chomping green goons with nunchucks.The reboot Though no director is yet attached, this refit is due for 2012, with original creators Eastman and Laird pencilled in for writing duties.
And five they should have a go at...
Look Who’s TalkingApart from flying blue 3D space monkeys, is there anything more foolproof in the movie world at the moment than babies with adult inner-monologues? If there’s any desire to introduce ‘Look Who’s Talking’ to a new generation, may we suggest doing a controversial concept swicheroo and have a ‘Benjamin Button’-style oldster with the thought patterns of a snark-talking toddler?
Revenge of the NerdsThe typical Hollywood nerd (checked shirt tucked into rubber pants, elastoplast over thick, black specs, greasy centre parting) has been changed irrefutably by recent Michael Cera-infested modern depictions of highschool malaise, so we hope that an Apatow, a Gordon Green or maybe even a Linklater might deign to place their directorial defibrillators on this so-bad-it’s-bad kitsch comedy classic.
Uptown Saturday Night/Let's Do It AgainThis couple of freewheeling '70s wingdings starring Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby as two good-time Charlies are a franchise just waiting for rediscovery. Call Mos Def, Ice Cube and QT and slap down a bootylicious soundtrack and you’ve got yourself a goldmine.
The Thin ManA couple of fast-talking, self-mocking charmers solve murders among New York's glamorous hoity-toities, while somehow managing to remain just this side of an alcoholic coma. Haul in the writers of 'Arrested Development', cast Jason Bateman as Nick and anyone but SJP as Norah, and watch the snappy, snippy sparks fly...
Films about trucksBack in the day we had ‘Convoy', 'Duel' and Stephen King-directed loonarama 'Maximum Overdrive', but there just aren’t enough films about trucks around any more. There really should be more films about trucks. Trucks.
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