The Reboot Redemption

The Reboot Redemption

Reboots: much maligned and much deplored by many a movie-goer. Here at Film Phage, we’re continuing to act as both the prosecution and defence on behalf of D.A. Reboot, who is accused of besmirching Hollywood’s good name. We now follow on from our first entry in The Reboot Zone saga: The Reboot Rebuke, and re-join proceedings, where I believe the council for the defence is about to make its gambit. Will we see more surprise guest appearances, or any more mention of Rob Schneider? Read on to find out.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am here today to show you why I respectfully disagree with myself with regards to the innocence of my client, D.A. Reboot. I am here to show you that retelling and re-adapting a concept is not a new premise; indeed without such practice one would not have stories passed from generation to generation. To borrow from the London 2012 Olympics, these new interpretations are needed to “inspire a generation” – maybe not your generation, but those after you. I will present evidence that is our own selfish desires to oppose change that makes us so vehemently opposed to the mere concept of a reboot and that reboots are not necessarily bad. If you agree with me, I urge you to vote to acquit D.A. Reboot of all charges.

We all have our favourite memories, and some of those will undoubtedly tie themselves to films. My honourable friend likened a reboot to a first date: one where you don’t get that first kiss and end up being brandished a pervert, somehow. To use the same analogy: do you remember those dates that didn’t work so well? Ones filled with regrets? Perhaps you moved too soon, or didn’t move at all. An opportunity wasted. An opportunity squandered. An opportunity to never be had again. What if you could go back and alter things; tinkering with the very basis of the experience. Would you? I’m willing to bet you would. A bit like 50 First Dates, but with less Rob Schneider.

This is a lot like the entire concept of a reboot. It goes back and undoes and alters what went before. Let’s take an example: Batman. The Batman movies have been commonplace since the 1980’s, but have been picked up and played with by numerous directors. The character’s origin story was explored in 1989’s Batman. Several questionable sequels followed. As I’m sure you’re all well aware, the character was reborn, or rebooted, in 2005 courtesy of Chris Nolan. I think you’ll agree that this reboot was regarded as something of a success. It takes nothing away from the 1989 original; that too is still a great movie in its own right. Some would argue the original isn’t even dated, and I would agree, yet I’m sure some decried some upstart director (Nolan) retelling the origin story of Batman again. If you preferred the original, then great. If you preferred Nolan’s take, then also: great.

“There can only be one.” Not always.

Another example of such “rebooting” with beloved franchise involves a group almost as vocal as comic book fans: Star Trek fans. Everyone’s aware of Captain Kirk’s Star Trek from 1966. This was rebooted in 2009, with new Kirk’s, Spock’s and Scotty’s. People were at first a little hesitant, but the film was a hit; with a sequel currently in the works that may itself be a remake of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan. Reboots clearly can work.

To summarise my first point: reboots aren’t always a failure, and if you don’t like the remake, so what? You still have the original. It’s not like the reboot has erased the originals from existence is it? Some will like the new, some will like the old.

Still scary by today’s horror standards? Probably not. Is it therefore “dated”?

This leads me to my final point on the matter: who these reboots are aimed at. You’d be naive if you thought that a remake of something like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was for the same audience that saw it back in 1974. Of course it isn’t. It’s for a new generation: new youngsters to the genre. By anyone’s admission, the horror movies of the 1960’s-1980’s are tame by today’s standards. The Exorcist was once banned and deemed too terrifying for public consumption. Nowadays? Well… we have The Human Centipede. Whether you like it or not, a film’s appearance holds a lot of sway in whether a newcomer will watch the movie.

Not the bleeding edge of cool.

Let’s put it in the context of technology. I grew up playing video game consoles: the Sega Mega Drive and original brick-like Game Boy. These were cutting edge in the early 1990’s. Can you imagine giving Tetris to your average 12 year old nowadays? They’d be disgusted at how “retro”, “boring” and dated it is. Technology isn’t like the fashion industry: it’s not cyclical. It will not come back. Movies are the same. If something was filmed in analogue and just looks dated, then regardless of plot, it will be rejected by many. Stick a teenager in front of Teen Wolf, and they’ll just scoff. Hell – look at adult entertainment. Do you still like the chica-chica-wow-wow wah-pedal driven, moustachioed, all around “dodgy” take of the 1970’s, where all the male “actors” look like Super Mario? Well, some of you might – but you’re unique. In general, people aren’t always interested in “classics”. You want something relatable and immersive? You need to re-do it. Shallow? Maybe. But does it make business sense? Totally.

To outline my case, reboots can falter, but it’s not always pre-determined. Some are fantastic re-inventions, and if it is bad then you still have the original. What have you lost? If you’re that desperate to not sully a film’s memory, then don’t see the new version, as it’s probably not even for you. Do you think the new Total Recall is for you if you saw the original? How about the in-the-works new The Running Man? Both Arnie juggernauts back in the day, but many teens and 20-somethings will find it hard to relate to these movies. That’s just the culture we live in.

Although my tone is more solemn than that of me, I hope I have convinced you that reboots are not the Antichrist reincarnate. Nor are they Rob Schneider. I urge you to forgive and exonerate the outcast of the movie industry, the leper of films, the blight of Hollywood. We are here to redeem the reboot.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises… and Soars.

No-one can question the monstrous popularity of Chris Nolan‘s take on the wealthy guy with the gruff voice, cape and penchant for telling women his secret identity. So with the final entry in Nolan’s trilogy rolling into town, can the film live up to its hype to surpass the success of its predecessors and the other tentpole superhero movies of the summer?

Let’s just skip the formalities and foreplay and bare all – this is a stunning film and a fitting climax for the current iteration of “The Batman”. Without explaining anything substantial about the plot, this essentially picks up the story some years after the events of The Dark Knight and follows Bruce Wayne / Batman (Christian Bale) as he contends with Bane (Tom Hardy) – the new bad boy on the scene, who’s got a number of plans for the city of Gotham. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot, so safely read on…

Casting was once again spot on. Just as with Heath Ledger‘s casting announcement in The Dark Knight, Anne Hathaway‘s selection as Catwoman was a bit peculiar for some, myself included. But it worked. It really worked. But for me, it’s the role of Bane that held the movie together, with Tom Hardy proving a great choice.  His role in last year’s criminally overlooked Warrior showed his physical capabilities and he’s clearly trained hard to achieve the juggernaut-esque build of Bane, much like he did with Bronson. Thankfully the ‘roid raging, grunting imbecile in a luciador’s mask from 1997’s Batman & Robin is no-where to be seen; this one is far smarter, more devious and more sinister. Kudos to Nolan and his wardrobe team as the costumes, especially Hardy‘s, just worked so well. The only real under-used element is actually Bale himself for reasons that will become apparent when you watch the film. For a guy with such fantastic acting skills (The Machinist, The Fighter) it’s a shame, but that’s the nature of the beast that is Batman. A further honourable mention has to go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt who continues his run of form from Inception and 50/50 and really rounds out the lead cast despite his lack of cowl, mask or “I’m in disguise”-voice.

Batman and Bane tussle over which is more fashionable: cowl with ears or ventilator.

Sure, the film had its flaws and plot-holes, such as a teleporting Bruce Wayne and a seemingly unclimbable rope (like the one from your gym class when you were 12), but it’s called the ‘suspension of disbelief’. Maybe it’s a compliment to Nolan‘s world that we pick up on these inconsistencies as you almost forget that this is a comic book tale. It’s not a documentary, don’t treat it like one – the guy’s dressed as a bat gallivanting around New York (Gotham) afterall…

People will inevitably ask “Ok Phage, who is the better villain? Ledger‘s Joker or Hardy‘s Bane?” and “Oi, Phage, which is the better comic book movie of the summer? Avengers Assemble or The Dark Knight Rises?” And if you weren’t, you probably are now. Or you’re at least mildly curious. Well, I’ll ask you – what do you prefer: breathing or eating? Unless you have a grudge against staying alive, you’ll say both because they’re things you can’t choose between or compare, and the same is true here. The two villains are stylistically and ideologically distinct and both Ledger and Hardy do those characters real justice. You’ve also got to take into account that Hardy’s Bane wears a huge piece of breathing apparatus on his face – you’re not going to get nuanced facial ticks – it’s all based off of physical presence, dialogue and manner of delivery (I truly loved the King of the Gypsies-inspired accent). Similarly, Marvel and DC’s summer blockbusters are worlds apart in tone, with Avengers Assemble arguably sticking more to the ‘comic book’ template than Nolan‘s grounded take on the Bat. Both are great examples of adapting comics for the silver screen.

Attentions will now turn to Nolan‘s next turn at being (partially) involved with a superhero: Man of Steel, due in June 2013 (check out the trailer here). Will lightning strike twice and it now be the turn of Superman to get his moment in the sun? Or will Zack Snyder oversaturate the screen, add some little skirts and put the whole film in slow-mo? Time will tell. Until then, we have the hero we need right now up on our screens.

Nolan‘s Batman began, became a knight and has risen to unassailable heights at the cinema, but you can’t help but have mixed feelings about his final entry in the Batman franchise. On one hand it’s a fantastic slice of cinema and is what summers were made for, but on the other… what can we next expect from the world of Batman, which the public has clearly taken to heart? Hopefully Warner make some good decisions before we see the inevitable reboot in 5 years time.

And in a summer choc-full of superhero shenanigans, people will argue over which was the “hit” of the year, regardless of box office figures. Ultimately, the only winner is the general public getting two great, must-see movies in a summer (and Spider-Man…); unless you’re a Marvel (Avengers etc) or DC (Batman etc) fan-boy then you’ll blindly argue that ‘your’ film was best and the other was ‘bloated and predictable’… A bit like your comments.

Enjoy the comic book adaptation Golden Age!

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