The Reboot Rebuke

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we ca… we ca…

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There is a single dimension that is well known to man. It is a dimension as vacuous and repetitive as infinity. It is the grey area between new and old, between unneeded and unnecessary, and it lies between the peak of man’s fears and the pit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of zero imagination. It is an area which we call… The Reboot Zone.

Welcome to the first part of The Phage’s editorial piece on the scourge / saviour of the box office: the reboot. Over the next fortnight I’ll be acting as the prosecutor and defence team in the case of “The People vs. D.A. Reboot”. Schizophrenic? You bet we are!

I’d love to say that you’ll ultimately be the judge… but I probably will, as a) I like the sound of my own voice keyboard clacking, and b) we’re quite a new site and our readership so far are a lot like peeping Toms: often here, but as invisible as the awards in Adam Sandler‘s trophy cabinet. But hey – I’m an exhibitionist, so carry on coming back to feast your eyes folks, I’ll give you a show! Speaking of which… let’s get the aforementioned on the road…

The Prosecution

Beautiful ladies and handsome gentlemen of the jury, I come to you today to demonstrate that lightning never successfully strikes the same place twice. And should you brandish a lightning rod to force the strike, you inevitably get burned. I will present evidence that will show you beyond reasonable doubt, that the defendent, D.A. Reboot, is guilty of destroying actors’ careers and modern cinema as a whole.

I urge you to think of your most cherished memory or experience involving a movie. You can still remember the sights, smells and sounds of that day. Perhaps you were with a loved one: a first date, the first connection of hands, or a stolen first kiss? Now imagine that your leading man or leading lady has been replaced by Rob Schneider doing his normal “derp-de-derp” routine (see Exhibit A: the YouTube video below) and the plot is essentially the same, but has been sapped of all charm, excitement and wonder. And what’s that smell? Oh God! The room you’re watching in smells inexplicably of sewage. Your date? Well they are not happy – you never got that first kiss, in fact he/she spread rumours that you have a weird, depraved fetish that no-one in the Western world condones (outside of Amsterdam). Yeah, that one. Not pleasant is it? Not pleasant at all. This is essentially what Hollywood is doing to so many people’s favourite films: defecating on them and sullying people’s memories. And making you out to be a pervert.

Exhibit B: Bubo the Owl. A casualty of the reboot.

I’d like to draw your attention to 2010’s abomination that was Clash of the Titans (straplined “Titans Will Clash“, honestly!): a reboot of the 1981 stop-motion classic. The UK’s Guardian newspaper put it best, stating that it is “at its best during its breakneck second half, when the 3D effects distract from the 2D protagonists and the risible dialogue is drowned out by the clash of steel and the gnash of pincers.” I applaud Xan Brooks’ scathingly backhanded compliment, which highlights the problem with so many reboots: all style, no substance. And they scrapped the lynch pin of the movie: Bubo the adorable, robotic owl. Some things cannot be forgiven, or forgotten.

But it continues: Robocop, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Godzilla… the list of reboots continues to grow. Godzilla, already rebooted in 1998, is again being rebooted in 2014. Perhaps without a rockin’ Jamiroquai theme song this time.

Exhibit C: Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Some will argue that an “adequate period” always passes before a reboot is released: typically 20 years. I refute this, highlighting 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man as a copy of the 2002’s Spider-Man, or Death At A Funeral – a 2010 remake of a 2007 original. Mistake me not, I am not citing films that re-use the title, but change the film, such as X-Men and X-Men: First Class, or any James Bond movie, as these are obviously worthy films in their own right. The prosecution draws issues with the retelling of tales that are either a) uncalled for, b) already told recently, or c) retold so appallingly that they trigger widespread disgust amongst critics and the public alike.

I now read you an account from a witness, whose identity is withheld:

“I grew up adoring The Pink Panther movies, but was so scarred by Steve Martin‘s reboot that I had a severe psychiatric trauma, which caused me to draw a moustache on my face with a marker, paint my chest pink, and parade around in a pair of torn white underpants yelling “I am le Pink Pom-Pom”. This went on from dawn ’til dusk for a good 3 weeks. I was arrested on several occasions. For unsettled legal reasons I’m unable to talk of the horrors that occurred after The Pink Panther 2 was released. But I can tell you it did involve a spate of sexual activity with packs of supermarket brand streaky-back bacon and a love for all things Rob Schneider. Reboots ruined my derp, derp, de-derp life.”

Shocking words. Shocking, bizarre words. But I hope it illustrates how damaging a reboot can be; not just to the actors and film studios involved, but to people like you – the viewers. You may be sitting there now saying “never me”, but what if your cherished series was next on the block? Could you handle it? Ever noticed how obsessed you’re becoming with food and cookery shows recently? Well that’s symptom #1 of what doctors* are referring to as “Reboot Rebuke”, or the street slang Schneideritis.

I hope that you agree with me that reboots are a plague on our cinemas: robbing truly gifted, imaginative film-makers of the opportunity to begin novel franchises. Novel franchises that amaze, captivate, and begin so many more “cherished moments” that will last a lifetime. And not only this, but the same reboots smash the memories of those that loved the original. I leave you with a question: would you rather eat your favourite flavour of ice cream for the rest of your life; knowing that every new scoop would taste more and more like sewage every time you ate it, until the point it was inedible? Or would you rather try a new flavour every time? Sure you’d eventually hit that appalling coffee flavour that no-one likes, but the next scoop is bound to be tastier! The same is true for films. If you’re with me, then I urge you to find D.A. Reboot guilty on all charges.

*Doctors accredited by the same University as Dr. Dre, Dr. Who and Dr. Nick Riviera from The Simpsons.
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A Superhero Movie Too Far?

Batman slaps Robin

If we don’t talk about it, we won’t jinx it!!

Batman 1999 v 2012

Batman ’99 vs Batman ’12: Pretty accurate portrayal of the public’s view of a comic book movie. From frumpy to bad ass.

If you mentioned that you liked comics back in 2000, people would assume one of two things: a) you’re a small child, or b) you’re probably a bit of a social pariah and that you should probably avoid a). Then a movie came along that changed everything: X-Men. It featured a relatively unknown cast of actors, spare a couple of big names such as Captain Picard and Gandalf (before he was Gandalf), and told the tale of a group of genetic mutants who had fantastic powers. And boy did it resonate with audiences. Sure, there was the brilliant Blade in 1998, which could be argued as the “first” big movie, but it wasn’t that much of a hit! The success of X-Men and Spider-Man two years later opened the floodgates to a slew of superhero movies from major and minor characters alike, culminating this year in the juggernauts of the box office that are Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises. But now the question is: what next? And more importantly, how much longer can Hollywood’s latest fetish survive before it implodes? Too big to fail you say? Now where have we heard that before…?

Humble Beginnings

Undoubtedly, we’re right now riding the wave that is the Golden Age of comic book adaptations. Marvel Studios’ success with their tales of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk and Thor, and Warner / DC’s success with Nolan‘s Batman universe have cumulatively brought in over $5,400,000,000 (you need the noughts just to realise how many McDonald’s cheeseburgers that could buy you), with the split being $3.7 billion to Marvel and $1.7 billion to Warner (so far; the Bat is still flying). But crikey Batman, how the golly did we get to such jeeperiffic figures? They’re just comics!

The secret to their success, I believe, is two-fold. On one hand you have a collection of stories that are on-the-whole believable, or at least plausible for the most part, which is something I’ll come to later. And on the other hand you can’t help but notice that they’re somewhat a symptom of the times: gloom. It’s the same perfect storm that results in fast food sales soaring during times of economic hardship; this manifests in the need for escapism and heroes at the box office. Sure, some of the first big hits came pre-2008 meltdown, but all the gargantuan films: the Dark Knights and Iron Man(s) came post-2008. Hell, if you were being really analytical, you could even say the threat of global terrorism following 2001 also fed the public’s need for heroes. That’s a controversial point, but I think it’s valid. So… so long as the world is still at risk of going bankrupt or blowing itself up, the superhero can do no wrong right? I mean, the public tolerated Nic Cage‘s antics as Ghost Rider (twice!), Superman‘s lacklustre return and watched the Blade, Spider-Man and X-Men franchises tie themselves in knots; yet all was forgiven when the latter two returned recently. Not sure we’re going to see Wesley Snipes stopping people “ice skating up a hill” any time soon though. Unless the IRS lets him… Or Twilight takes a hard left turn in its final bow later this year.

Blade: Breaking Twilight

But can the studios sustain this enormous momentum, or is something looming on the horizon that could bring the whole house of cards crashing down?

There’s a Storm Coming…

The Guardians of the Galaxy

The Guardians of the Galaxy: The Four Horsemen (and a Tree) of the Comic Book Apocalypse?

As I mentioned in my round-up of Comic-Con 2012, Marvel made some peculiar announcements this year, namely by choosing The Guardians of the Galaxy as a flagship film franchise. For those unfamiliar with this group, they’re essentially a cosmic group of heroes who fly around in space, preventing intergalactic tyranny. Sounds like a typical sci-fi film right? And there-in lies the problem. The most successful comic book movies have more-or-less had some semblance of reality, whether its being bitten by a spider, having genetic mutations, or building a high-tech suit of armour. Thor, who for all intents and purposes is classed as a “God” was explained through comparing magic and science and saying they’re the same thing (hokey, but it worked). So he’s essentially just a scientific freak who wears chainmail. And is ripped. But I haven’t got to the outworldy part yet… is the public willing to accept a living tree, some aliens and a talking raccoon (cumulatively known as The Guardians of the Galaxy) as superheroes? I know Disney are involved nowadays, but a talking raccoon and tree? Last I remember, the TV series The Raccoons ended in 1991… maybe that’ll have a resurgence? God I hope not.

And in the non-Marvel Studios stable, we hear rumblings that Warner is looking to open Pandora’s box and unleash all manner of oddities on the cinema-going public, now that their baby bat has flown the nest. The Metal Men? Lobo? Really? It’s a case of a studio reaching the “terrible 2’s”, seeing what Marvel has and saying “I want, I want”. Add this to the in-production reboots of failed franchises such as Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Green Lantern and you’re risking meltdown with the public, being the fickle beings they are, not caring any more.

What’s my opinion? Hell, I love the comic book genre, and was one of those little kids that read about Spider-Man and X-Men and religiously watched the cartoons on Saturday mornings. And I’ll no doubt watch every movie that comes out, even the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance‘s, Elektra‘s and The Punisher‘s of this world. The only fear I have is that we’ll return to that pre-2000 mindset, where only us nostalgic fans remain… in our rooms… talking of the now mythical Golden Age of comic book movies. But then again, people have been predicting this bubble will burst for years now, so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Possibly a tree that isn’t a superhero.

Sound off in our Comments section below…

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Money Spider

You can’t help but approach this film with some trepidation. Most film-goers over the age of 11 will have at some point seen some of Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man trilogy from the early 2000’s, and for that reason will be very familiar with the whole “geek gets bitten by a spider… gets super powers… gets told he should be responsible… saves the city… gets the girl” scenario. In fact, I’m not even sure that you need to have seen Spider-Man on the silver screen to be aware of how this hero gets his powers, but that’s what we get here in the Marc Webb-directed The Amazing Spider-Man.

“My Spidey-Sense is tingling… no wait, it’s just my silver-rimmed shoes being fabulous.”

Let me get one confession out the way early: “My name’s the Phage… and I’m a comic-aholic, and in recent years I’ve relapsed with waves of sweet, sweet comic ecstasy pouring straight into my eyes and ears like a junkie. I don’t repent.” For this reason, I can’t help but adopt an almost snobbish attitude to comic book movies, especially those stemming from the Marvel stable. And recent stellar output from Marvel Studios (Avengers Assemble, ThorCaptain America: The First AvengerThe Robert Downey Jr. Show Iron Man) really makes it an uphill battle for Sony Pictures’ ol’ webhead to shine on the screen, even for the non-comic loving viewer. Does he succeed? Well… almost.

First things first, Andrew Garfield is inspired casting as Peter Parker. He brings that nervous, awkward energy with him, which sits perfectly with the insular Parker, but also breaks out the wit when his alter-ego merits it. In my opinion, a far better choice than Tobey Maguire, who could never bring out the sarcasm of Spider-Man… add to this the fact that Garfield didn’t sweep his hair to one side and dance down a street in one of the most cringe-worthy moments of Spider-Man 3, and we’re golden. Probably not a routine that Maguire insisted on, so he may not be totally to blame; but it’s his face that’s burned into my retinas, so he’ll take the fall here. Go on… have another look and live it again.

So where does the film fall down for me? No, it’s not the fact that this is essentially just a (well crafted) love story between Garfield and Emma Stone, where one of them just happens to have superpowers. It’s more the fact that you can’t shake away the feeling of déja-vu. The film hits the same beats as its predecessor, even down to the villain. Sure, William DaFoe‘s Norman Osborn / Green Goblin is a different physical entity to Rhys Ifans’ Curt Connors / Lizard, but they’re essentially the same with both gradually losing their respective grips on reality before inevitably being whooped by our hero. However, it is refreshing to see a Spider-Man film where the villain is not defeated with such… “finality”… as previous iterations. Wise move Sony… wise move indeed.

So all this begs the question as to why this was even rebooted. The cynic in me just screams “money you fool – money!“, hence the hokey 3D job to tag a few more dollars / pounds onto the ticket price. Also, with Sony making this movie they avoid the sticky issue of giving the rights to Spider-Man back to Marvel Studios. And let’s be honest, Sony marketing this as the “untold story” of Peter’s parents was unnecessary with the story barely licking the surface of that particular plot. However, the optimist in me is telling me that this reboot could rejuvenate the franchise and clear the sour taste that Spider-Man 3 left in every fan-boy’s mouth. At least the origin story is now done with, and we can progress to bigger and better things in the 2014 sequel…

Origin stories, when done right, leave the viewer feeling invigorated and filled with wonder. However, retelling the origin is like opening your Christmas presents, having a day of play and then wrapping them up again for next year. Yes, it’s fun to play with those familiar things again… it’s just not all that exciting or surprising. That being said, I’ve high hopes for the sequel, where hopefully we’ll see more of the cocky guy in the blue and red suit, as opposed to him learning about responsibility. Again.

Phage Factor:

3.5 Star