The Age of the Reboot…

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“Hey did you hear about the new Spider-man film coming out?…No, not the fourth in the series, the reboot… No, I know the Spider-man franchise only just finished a couple of years ago, it’s a different film entirely, get it?… No, the characters and setting are the same; it’s like what they did with that Hulk film…no the other Hulk film…”

This sort of confusing conversation – the end result of which I can only describe as a intense brain freeze – is becoming increasingly common and necessary between comic book fans and movie sleuths. Why? Well it’s all the result of a new obsession with franchise reboots, which has become something of a problem predominantly in the Marvel and DC movie world. Don’t get me wrong, reboots have their appeal: they give diehard fans the characters and story arcs they want with a sparkly finish of popular actors and slap-up CGI. But with multiple movie do-overs occurring within a few years of one another, is hero-recycling getting out of hand?

Christopher Nolan without a doubt set the ball rolling towards this cash-piñata in 2005, with his direction of the critically acclaimed Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – certainly a far cry from the dark Joel Schumacher days of camp humour and slapstick sound effects in Batman and Robin. Nolan made the message clear – make superhero movies well, and take your time to get them just right. That was the dream, and times were good. However, following the dismal box office response of Ang Lee’s emotionally stricken Hulk in 2003, director Louis Leterrier swooped in with a plan didn’t quite follow suit with Nolan’s message. Thus The Incredible Hulk was rushed out 5 years later, and only 3 years after the success of Batman Begins. Despite the glamour of Leterrier’s labour, it’s fair to assume that a decision to cast Liv Tyler as a science professor may hint towards a project that was a little too commercially driven. After the moderate success of Hulk 2.0, the message changed – when the franchise dwindles, bring out a reboot so fast that everyone forgets about the first one. As such, we have a veritable candy store of fast tracked reboot delights to look forward to, including Daredevil, Spiderman, Superman and even Fantastic Four, following an apparent dip in t-shirt sales.

It’s become clear that Marvel and DC have succumbed to a sort of gold rush mentality, with directors rushing down to the river to snag even the tiniest nugget of superhero blockbuster immortality. Although, considering the up and coming releases of Thor, Green Lantern and Captain America, it’s a growing concern that gold reserves could fast be running dry. This leaves the comic book powerhouses with one choice – resort to B-list superheroes, or simply churn out even more reboots. Well, with the disappointing reception for the likes of alternative graphic novel adaptations Scott Pilgrim and Kickass, we could be seeing a lot more pitches along the lines of “we need a darker, grittier Superman” and “imagine the Hulk, but in space!”. But hopefully, with the much anticipated release of The Avengers in 2012, which will be bringing several big screen superhero names together to battle evil (including…yes that’s right, another new Hulk!), the creative minds of the comic world will be able to take a breather – and start bouncing around some more lasting ideas that won’t need to be saved by Captain Reboot.

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  1. avatar
    Josh (origamikid) on

    Well firstly i’d like to point out that Kick Ass preformed well at the box office, way past estimated, and Scott Pilgrim was a critical success and success with fans but due to the rather small audience that such a niche flick carrys didn’t sell well at the cinema (It will be a DVD cult hit though).

    As for HULK the problems with that revolved around the cast. They wanted Ed Norton to stay, but after he made some rather unsatisfactory comments about Marvel and the directors they of course didn’t want him back… the new HULK (if there is one) or any movies hulk stars in will stay within the continuity of that Ed Norton movie… just like Tim Burton and his Batman movies. Batman actor changed every single movie, no one complained then… so why should we now?!

    There is in fact no indication that interest for these movies is slowing down, what with RED launching end of this month, but with Marvel launching Thor, Captain America, Avengers, Iron Man 3, X-Men 4, X-Men First Class, Wolverine 2 AND Deadpool…. and DC hitting back with Green Lantern, Flash, Batman 3 and a much rumored Justice League movie… oh and what about the Snyder directing and Nolan producing Superman movie?

    Interest and money for these movies is anything BUT slowing down, in fact popularity is just getting going. If the right actor isn’t found then why shouldn’t they reboot the continuity. Sam Rami couldn’t film Spiderman 4 in 3D so they fired him and decided, “what the hell” let’s do it right!

    Superhero movies are just getting started, they just had a transitional period finding how they would work, Nolan for example had to recast the lead female roll in his Batman movies, but we’ve had our Citizen Cane and now it’s time for the fun times to roll in.

    • avatar

      I totally agree with what you’re saying, and this was by no means mean to be a “be all and end all” kind of article – more of just a “what if” scenario if that makes sense. Trust me, if I could have had another 500 or even 1000 words I would have loved to include the points that you’ve mentioned and given it more context, but it was really more about emphasising the idea that because, as you say, interest is sky rocketing, then there’s every chance it could all reach some kind of critical mass (that may be an overly dramatic way of putting it). Interest indeed is unlikely to stop but the amount of Marvel/ DC superhero concepts is finite, so one could easily run out before the other. I personally don’t think the Justice League movie is going to happen – well at least definitely not with Nolan’s Batman or new Superman – I mean I love Justice League but it seems like it would be a much harder to concept to pull off than Avengers, that is if they want to stay true to the original story. I’d be interested to know what you think though. That was the gist of it, but thanks for giving another perspective on the idea, much appreciated.

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