“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.