Want to know the quickest way to ruin a good movie? Make a sequel. Remember “Smokin’ Aces?” Of course you do. It was a great movie involving the Mafia, assassins and the F.B.I. with a twist at the end. “Remember Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassin’s Ball?” No, you do not because the writers/production company decided to ignore everything that made the original movie awesome and just put out a product with the same name, hoping people were too stupid to research films before they handed over their money to see it.
That’s the problem with sequels. They exist because the original movie made so much money; the studios want to milk it dry. Most movies that have sequels were never meant to have them. They are a singularity, meant to convey an entire story in one film. This is what separates original film and sequels from franchises, such as Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings. Those were meant to be more than one movie from the get go.
However, moviegoers have gotten wise to the sequel cash-cow strategy of Hollywood and have, for the most part, stop giving their patronage to these horrendous movies. This usually happens when we have sequels of sequels. Movies that have the number four after their title are doomed to fail. But Hollywood has come up with a new strategy that, when done well, actually produces quality work.
Enter the reboots. Reboots, as opposed to sequels, take the main idea of a movie and remake it, ignoring all story and continuity lines from the previous films and create something new and fresh. Also known as remakes, the purpose of reboots is to reinvent the movie franchise to gain a new audience and, hopefully, make some money. There have been several examples of reboots over the last decade. But what makes a reboot work? What makes reboots successful?
First, get rid of the campy, kitschy things that made the sequels lame to begin with. The Batman franchise is a perfect example of this method. The last time we had a Batman film, it was the awful “Batman & Robin.” Made in 1997, Batman & Robin was pumped full of cheese: from the stupid dialogue, including an unholy amount of ice-related puns for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze to the fact there Batman’s suit had bat-nipples. It was over the top, it was campy and it was stupid. They made Batman look lame.
Jump to 2005 with the release of “Batman Begins.” There was nothing campy or cheesy about this Batman. He was once again dark, tortured. He was the hero with a haunted past. Then kick it up a notch with “The Dark Knight” in 2008. That was the Batman movie we all deserve. It got at the heart of what Batman means: a lonely vigilante who must face off against truly evil, chaotic villains. Get rid of the cheese and give us something real.
Next, redefine the main character to make it new. Remember the James Bonds of yesteryear? I’m not talking about Sean Connery, who is, in my humble opinion, the god of James Bond. I’m talking about Pierce Brosnan, or, as I like to call him, Pretty-Boy Bond. The guy was so country club that in a fight, it was amazing he didn’t get his trashed kicked.
Then, in 2006, we got a new Bond in the form of Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale.” There was a lot of hype about the decision to choose Craig. A blonde Bond? It’s almost sacrilege. But Craig redefined Bond. He was still a lady’s man, no doubt, but he was a more rugged, tough Bond, a more “real” Bond. When asked if he’d like his vodka martini shaken or stirred, he replied with, “Do I look like I give a damn?” This Bond wasn’t raised in the country club. He was there with a license to kill and he was going to use it.
The last example, and what I believe is the most important, comes from 2009’s “Star Trek.” Before this film, Star Trek had been done to death. There were 10 films, six with the original cast and four with the Next Generation cast. Needless to say, there was a dedicated fan base to please.
But not only did “Star Trek” delight die-hard fans with clever, subtle references to the previous franchise, such as finding out how “Bones” got his nickname or Scotty losing Admiral Archer’s beagle, but also packed in enough action and story to draw in a new crowd. When I went to see “Star Trek,” I saw it with my mother who, like me, is a true Trekker, and my brother, who couldn’t care less about the franchise. We all walked out of the movie theater delighted. “Star Trek” paid enough tribute to the old to please old fans while still drawing in a new audience.
Whether we like it or not, reboots are here to stay. Like most sequels, not all of them are going to be worth our time. But if Hollywood would remember these three examples and follow their standards, we will have many more fun films to look forward to.
Written by Kelly Cannon, a self-proclaimed cinephile, Cannonized Cinema will cover everything within the world of film. Whether they’re classic, cult, foreign or family-friendly, any film has potential to be Cannonized.