Movie Reboots Might Not Be So Bad After All
From Baywatch to War for the Planet of the Apes, summer 2017 will have no shortage of movie sequels, reboots, and adaptations. Film buffs and film casuals alike have long lamented the fact that Part Twos seemingly dominate the box office year after year while original, stand-alone projects get hung out to dry.
And the concern is understandable—if everyone stuck to remakes and sequels, we never would have gotten modern classics like Inception, Get Out, or the very films upon which those remakes and sequels are based.
But rebooting popular film franchises for contemporary audiences isn’t all bad. As much as Hollywood relies on the hope that die-hard, OG Blade Runner and Jumanji fans will flock to theatres, relying on nostalgia alone isn’t always a good idea—especially if the sexist and/or racist and/or homophobic undertones of an original work are impossible to ignore and are deemed unsuitable for a new, (hopefully) more socially aware audience.
The solution? Create a remake that honours an original work but more accurately reflects contemporary society.
Take this year’s Beauty and the Beast remake, for example. While the widely discussed “exclusively gay moment” between Josh Gad’s LeFou and one of Gaston’s former lackeys was admittedly underwhelming, some of the differences between the 2017 remake and the 1991 animated original are still meaningful and arguably significant. In several interviews, Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson talked about wanting to portray Belle as a woman of confidence and agency. She wasn’t afraid to make suggestions about what Belle should do and say, resulting in a character who tries to pass on her love of reading to the other girls in her “small provincial town” and even invents her own goddamn washing machine.
And speaking of female agency, 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars film to feature a leading female role, Daisy Ridley’s mononymous Rey. Rey is a female lead who is strong yet compassionate, determined but apprehensive—in other words, a character that young girls have been and should be looking up to.
Both The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story also feature several supporting characters played by actors of colour—John Boyega’s Finn, Oscar Isaac’s Poe, and Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi, just to name a few. In the “new” Star Wars universe, people of all races and cultures are capable of leading and joining the fight for good, implying that the same thing could and should happen in the real world.
Despite receiving mixed reviews, the recent reboot of 1984’s Ghostbusters is one of the only action movies I can think of that features an all-female main cast. Abby, Erin, Jillian, and Patty are all distinct and fully-realized characters who hustle, and I’m all for kids and young adults watching the 2016 Ghostbusters remake in addition to the ‘80s original so that they can see both men and women in ghost bustin’ action.
The recently released Power Rangers movie reboot also showcases the abilities of its butt-kicking ladies, Trini and Kimberley. And the core five group of Rangers is more diverse than they’ve ever been—Trini, Zack, and Billy are all people of colour, and Billy is proudly autistic. What’s even better is that Billy’s autism is never portrayed as a hindrance or a disability—if anything, his ability to look at the world slightly differently than his friends is ultimately what leads the Rangers to victory.
The most progressive reboot (slash sequel) of them all, however, might be 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, in which Charlize Theron plays the fierce Imperator Furiosa with such finesse that she manages to steal the spotlight from the titular Max, played by Tom Hardy. In Fury Road, Theron’s Furiosa helps lead a group of five imprisoned and abused female slaves to freedom, a story that clearly highlights women’s ability to help and empower other women. To make this story feel as authentic as possible, Fury Road director George Miller even consulted feminist activist Eve Ensler when writing the script.
Directors, producers, and writers don’t necessarily have to consult activists every time they want to remake a movie, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt. But despite the undeniable nostalgia factor, it’s easier to entice someone with a sequel or reboot if something about the reboot distinguishes it from the original. Though that point of distinction can sometimes be something as superficial as flashier special effects, it seems as if more and more moviemakers are starting to acknowledge that telling a familiar story through a contemporary lens is an effective way of reintroducing old properties to new audiences.
There are exceptions to this, of course, (why in the world did Jurassic World’s Claire have to wear high heels and pristine outfits while working at a dinosaur-themed park?) but if the progressive reboot trend continues, I think that’s enough to justify the existence of reboots for years to come.