Rebooting today is more popular in the cinematic universe and film industry than IT developers working in sales departments. Hollywood seems to have exhausted all creative ideas, viewing a remake as a clear solution to churn out another picture. There are plenty of benefits to this process – the script is already there, brand recognition already established and putting a quirky or gritty spin on an original can reap critical plaudits. But in all honesty, how worthwhile are reboots and to what point can the genie be put back in the bottle?
There are exceptions to every rule, not to say that rebooting in and of itself is a terrible concept. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy spanned 8 years with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Dark Knight Rises to transform the superhero genre and reinvigorate a character that had clearly lost it’s way on the big screen. When George Clooney admitted that his portrayal as the caped crusader during 1997 in the widely panned Batman & Robin almost killed the franchise, he wasn’t wrong. Fortunately, Nolan stepped in and now the mantle of responsibility has been passed to Ben Affleck and Zac Synder to continue the legacy and maintain Bruce Wayne’s integrity. One installment in with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and it is clear those two have a lot of work ahead of them.
There is a great amount of nostalgia attached to these projects. The return of Star Wars and Star Trek gives Millennials an opportunity to tap into the fantasy and adventure experienced by their parents and next of kin twenty or thirty years ago when they were their age. For all the derision and maligning of the reboots, these classic stories do still stand the test of time. That is at one end of the spectrum, then there are the classics that should not have been touched ever again. Much like Lance Armstrong returning to the track to be found guilty of systematic doping, these pictures should have stayed in their casing to be remembered for the good they did.
15. Superman Returns (2006)
The ill-fated turn of Brandon Routh during his brief flirtation with stardom and the savior of the world, Superman Returns was an unfortunate take on the character in 2006 that either was, or was not a reboot depending on who you ask. If only to prove how misguided the production of this picture was, in some respects it was considered a sequel to the 1980 film Superman II, forgetting that they actually made one of those in 1983 and again in 1987 with Christopher Reeve. Old footage of Marlon Brando was rehashed from the original, who had passed away two years prior to filming. Kevin Spacey provided an able take on Lex Luthor, especially in comparison to the most recent appraisal of the villain from Jesse Eisenberg, and although it received a healthy return at the box office it pales in comparison to its predecessors. Not to mention it is far less visually stunning than the Man of Steel reboot that came out 7 years later.
14. Terminator Genisys (2015)
A film that should never have been allowed to get off the ground, 2015’s Terminator Genisys sprung off the tarmac before twisting and turning to crash into the ground at full speed. The iconic Terminator franchise scored big not only commercially but critically with 1984’s low budget original The Terminator and arguably one of the greatest sequels of all time 7 years later in T2: Judgment Day. To this date, those films are the standout in a long and decorated action career for Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron, utilizing a terrific mixture of special effects, dramatic tension and dark undertones to establish a dystopian future where everything is at stake. The series lost its way in 2003 via Rise of the Machines, while this latest incarnation recasts Kyle Reese, John and Sarah Connor with no payoff for the viewer. The screenwriting is muddled, the acting below par and the action sequences are overdone.
13. Halloween (2007)
1978’s breakout hit Halloween was not only a watershed moment for future star of the big screen Jamie Lee Curtis, but an indication of how a low budget, independent slasher film can work. John Carpenter’s clever use of lighting and cinematography enabled the Michael Myers character to move in between the shadows without ever being detected by his victims until it was too late. The visual techniques were taboo at the time and many critics panned it for shooting Myers in the first person, arguing that it is sympathetic to the killer. However, years later that practice would be replicated and it is considered a classic by any measure. That makes the 2007 remake a horrible disappointment, with the Rob Zombie installment retelling the same script while turning the gore and blood up to 11 on the Richter scale. Whereas the recasting of a young Myers offered a refreshing take, the movie plunged deep into cheap horror gimmicks that never paid off.
12. Psycho (1998)
Casting Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche to shoot an Alfred Hitchcock classic was never going to end well. 1998’s reboot of the iconic horror picture Psycho failed to hit the mark and the series would not be given its due respect in Hollywood circles until the television series Bates Motel came to be years later. With the casting of the two most famous characters of the picture missing the mark, the remake followed the dialogue and mise-en-scenes virtually to an identical replica, making the entire exercise a waste. The original movie from Hitchcock was a watermark not just of horror productions, but film in general. The performances from Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh lit up the screen while the infamous use of the blood-curling music score is the archetypal track for impending doom and violence ever since 1960. If Gus Van Sant used the opportunity to give Psycho a modern take then perhaps a reboot would have been worthwhile, something that has been achieved of late on the small screen but not in 1998.
11. Godzilla (1998)
For those that love a binge on nostalgia, the god awful 1998 film adaptation of Godzilla did provide a terrific soundtrack that masked the many deficiencies of the picture, with standout tracks from Jamiroquai, Rage Against the Machine, Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page, Foo Fighters, Green Day and more. But the reboot of the original 1954 Japanese movie offered little in terms of acting talent, with Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, and Hank Azaria giving forgettable performances in the lead roles. The original actors criticized the look of the specimen, explaining that it had an appearance more akin to a frog than a monster as well as providing a boring and predictable script that struggled to build dramatic suspense. Where the 1954 picture succeeded was tapping into the paranoia and tragedy of the bombs dropped on Japan in WW2, utilizing the fears of the public and transcending it onto the big screen. The 1998 version did neither and even makes the 2014 re-reboot with Bryan Cranston, look better on reflection.
10. A Nightmare on Elm St (2010)
How does one production of the same script produce a picture that garners 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, while a reboot of the same name receives 15% by the same critics? This is the classic horror story A Nightmare on Elm St from Wes Craven, a movie that was released in 1984 and put Johnny Depp officially on the map of Hollywood. But with a combination of a stunning screenplay where twists and horrific turns are on every scene, the portrayal of Freddy Krueger by Robert Englund made the film a classic. His perverse enjoyment at disemboweling teenagers gave the feature a different dimension. Fast forward to 2010 and the contrast could not be different. Firstly, Jackie Earle Haley as Krueger offered a hard-nosed version without any of the black humor and with a failing screenplay, the gore, and special effects were the focus rather than the story. It was a perfect case study for the declining standards in filmmaking, defaulting to big budget techniques over substance.
9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
The 1971 feature Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was the ideal adaptation of the 1964 novel, giving Gene Wilder the perfect platform to portray a character full of complexity and eccentric song and dance numbers in a mysterious world of candy and chocolate. Closer to the post-war period, The Candy Man tunes were actually nominated alongside the whole score for the picture for an Academy Award and while the movie was something of a flop upon its release on the big screen, the VHS release caught fire and became a constant in the living rooms up and down the country.
34 years later, Johnny Depp wanted to take his Pirates of the Caribbean shtick of Jack Sparrow and put something of a modern twist on the movie. But what ensued was a production that missed the mark and outside of a handful of visually stunning effects, the weirdness was off the charts and the comedy was all astray to boot. Wilder eventually called the reboot an “insult” to the screenplay, such was his disgust.
8. The Pink Panther (2006)
Steve Martin has had his role in more classic comedy films than most actors have made in a lifetime, so it is easy to forgive the comic genius for his ill-fated part in the 2006 remake of The Pink Panther. Although it received a healthy reward from box office takings, the critics were far less generous for Martin’s portrayal of bumbling French detective Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Alongside Kevin Kline and Beyonce Knowles, Martin could not find his rhythm or channel the brilliant works of Peter Sellers in the 1963 original. The late English actor was compared to the great Charlie Chaplin for providing a mixture of great comic timing and physical comedy that made The Pink Panther a classic of the genre. While on face value Steve Martin was a perfect modern day choice to play Clouseau, the unique challenge of that character combined with faults in screenwriting ultimately let down the reboot.
7. Planet of the Apes (2001)
This film was not let down for its aesthetic appeal. The makeup and design to transform Paul Giamatti, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter and the late Michael Clarke Duncan set a new benchmark for the industry. Visually, there was very little lacking in the 2001 adaptation of the 1968 classic, but the performance of the lead character and the plot left a lot to be desired. Charlton Heston’s portrayal of George Taylor in the original Planet of the Apes was iconic, more than can be said for Mark Wahlberg‘s attempt on the character.
Acting next to a mute Estella Warren, Wahlberg’s character embarks on a similar journey only to return to an earth that is run by apes. Roth was publicly critical of the ending saying that it made no sense while the apparent sequel the screenplay promised never came to pass until the franchise was rebooted yet again. Not one of Marky Mark’s finest performances on the big screen.
6. The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
So soon after finishing off The Matrix trilogy in 2008, Keanu Reeves put his hand up to reboot a genuine 1951 classic that had every intention to do justice to the original picture The Day the Earth Stood Still. That feature tapped into the fears felt in America at the time over the Cold War with the impending dread of an invading force coming into the country to wreak havoc. The black and white science fiction blockbuster (at least of its time) utilized a robot called Gort with an alien named Klaatu, who originally came in peace until the human race intervened. There are modern spins and variations to the 1951 version, but the screenwriting and excessive CGI effects made it appear like a new Independence Day rather than something that reimagines and reboots the classic. Even the kindest critics could not muster much in terms of affinity or praise, saying at best it was a “good” effort.
5. Death At A Funeral (2010)
Sometimes American movie-goers have to put their hands up and admit that the Brits can make a great film and when they do, it is best not to always put an American spin on it. Only three years between the English original being released in 2007 with a low budget and unheralded cast (outside of Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame), the picture flew under the radar but exemplified the quirky tongue-in-cheek sense of humor they’re best known for.
The African-American ensemble remake almost copied the same movie three years prior, but just changed the names and faces of the cast. Featuring such talents as Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover, Zoe Saldana, Kevin Hart and funnily enough, Peter Dinklage again, the reboot was merely an exercise in importing an identical picture but purely to package it for the purpose of a US audience. In most cases, a remake is god awful because of how poorly it fails to live up to the original yet in this case it fails to implement any creativity or originality.
4. Clash of the Titans (2010)
The original Clash of the Titans fails to stand up to the test of time when the special effects are under the microscope, but 1981 was a different time where acting had to be the standard-bearer for the picture, not the CGI incorporated afterwards. The storyline follows a fantasy world where the god Zeus unleashes a myriad of monsters, including the sea monster Kraken while the mere mortal Perseus saves the day. The 1981 cast featured such legends of the screen as Laurence Oliver and Burgess Meredith and although lead actor Harry Hamlin is more famous in television circles, his portrayal as Perseus is still his most titled role.
The 2010 remake abandoned a number of key plot points and with Australian Sam Worthington failing to carry another heavily digitally-produced picture a year after Avatar. Despite being awful, there was still a sequel made, Wrath of the Titans, before a third installment in the form of Revenge of the Titans was duly canceled. Most complaints about the reboot derived from an overuse of 3D that ruined the aesthetic appeal of the feature.
3. Rollerball (2002)
“Panned by critics” is a term thrown around in Hollywood parlors a lot these days, but the phrase was no more relevant than the 2002 theatrical release of Rollerball, a reboot of a 1975 cult classic. In the original, James Caan starred as Jonathan E., a veteran rollerball star in 2018 who fights and ultimately beats the ultra-violent system where the future sport descends into chaos. Caan’s performance won many plaudits and allowed the film to stand out amongst its peers.
Then the movie was revived 27 years later with an all B-grade cast of Chris Klein, Jean Reno and LL Cool J. The over-the-top heavy metal soundtrack featuring Slipknot, Rob Zombie, Drowning Pool and P.O.D. made it a testosterone-fueled binge where the plot became irrelevant. It was so bad, cast member Rebecca Romijn was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award that year and the author of the original novel explained that he had no intent on ever watching the 2002 version.
2. The Karate Kid (2010)
Why go back and tread all over the great stories of Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi? The iconic Karate Kid 80s franchise told the tale of a down-on-his-luck American teen who found confidence and discipline thanks to his older mentor, battling the evil Cobra Kai where there was more than humiliation on the line. The underdog narrative stood out among many of its generation while receiving critical acclaim and a huge profit at the box office.
All of this makes the 2010 reboot so soul destroying. Young Jaden Smith’s character with his mentor Jackie Chan offers a far more PG-13 feel to an emotionally vulnerable and raw script, being produced by the actor’s parents Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. The transition from a high school environment to middle school removes a lot of the drama experienced in the original and it delivers a flat, diet version of the 1984 picture.
1. The Wicker Man (2006)
During Nicolas Cage’s plunge into the depths of mediocrity, The Wicker Man stands out as arguably his worst feature film to date. This includes Drive Angry, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, National Treasure, Bangkok Dangerous and Rage. Not only is his performance chaotic and nonsensical but his 2006 remake is so bad that many people see it as a black comedy such is the absurdity of the portrayal. The 1973 original starring Edward Woodward in the Cage role flew under the radar until it came to people’s attention years later. The story of a policeman searching for his lost daughter on a pagan-run island has a grim outcome and while the 1973 classic gave the script a fitting ending, Cage’s take had audience members either falling asleep or laughing hysterically. The actor has publicly acknowledged its shortcomings to his credit, yet that doubt over the production would have served him better before filming had taken place. The B-grade nature of The Wicker Man was intended to be taken seriously and fell spectacularly short of that objective.