Christopher Nolan, Sam Raimi, Ang Lee, Bryan Singer, McG - Rebooting the Hollywood franchise

Nathan O'Hagan 08/03/2010

Those poor Hollywood execs, you almost feel sorry for them. They try so hard, but they just can't come up with any ideas. You can imagine them, sitting there in their office on the Paramount or Warner Brothers back lot, staring up at their 'Citizen Kane' or 'Sunset Boulevard' posters, praying to the departed spirits of Hitchcock, Huston and Kubrick to make a divine intervention, to press a celestial finger to their foreheads and inspire them with that one idea that will win them an Oscar, or at least make the studio a shit load of money. But it rarely happens. So what is a poor, desperate exec to do?

Judging by Hollywood's output during recent history, there are only two options open to them; run a finger down the New York Bestseller's list, and see which successful novel can be readily adapted to the screen (literary adaptations, if well picked, can act as a studios 'prestige production' for the year, and already brings with it an in-built audience) or simply make a sequel to an already successful movie. Or, if the movie is too old for a sequel, just remake it. Sequels and remakes have recently felt like the only thing coming out of Tinsel Town, providing one of the few steady sources of income, while simultaneously acting as a symbol of the absolute dearth of original ideas (or the industry's reticence to take even the smallest of risks). In the last few years, even film series' which seemed to have run their course have been being dusted down and continued, with little regard for the ageing of their leading men, hence we have had a chrome-domed Bruce Willis dragging his paunch around in the anaemic 'Die Hard 4.0' and Harrison Ford, who at the last count was approximately 93 years of age, being somehow coaxed back to make another Indiana Jones film. At least the latter didn't ignore Ford's cragginess, making it something of a running joke, but the film was truly dreadful.

But there is a limit even to how many sequels Hollywood can make, with various elements often standing in their way; characters are killed off, actors die or their career moves on too much for them to revisit an old character. So what is to be done, when the usually reliable cash-cow's can not be counted upon to fill the multiplexes and pay for high-class hookers at industry parties? There is only one thing to be done; “REBOOT THE FRANCHISE!”. Yes, there is a new method of making films without original ideas. Once a franchise (a movie term that I feel very uncomfortable with, and try to avoid using) has run it's natural course, and even the most determined team of ten hack screenwriters cannot fathom a way to carry it on, the course of action is clear; go back to the beginning, start all over again, and make a whole new franchise. That way, another three or four movies can be made without actually having to come up with anything new.

Actually, that may be a little unfair, this prevalent trend really began with Christopher Nolan's brilliant redevelopment of the moribund Batman franchise with 'Batman Begins' in 2005, which decided to simply ignore the crap films that had gone before, and go back to square one. Since then, countless movies have done the same, with varying degrees of success. 'Casino Royale' took a similar tack to 'Batman Begins' with a grittier origins story and made a boat load of money. Soon, it seemed like every film series was getting its own reboot. Bryan Singer made an uneven attempt at breathing life into the man of steel with 'Superman Returns', which was not quite a prequel or a sequel, instead pitching itself somewhere in the gap between 'Superman 2' and 'Superman 3'. After Ang Lee's none-too-popular 'Hulk', that character even had an Ed Norton-starring reboot after just one film. Last year the ludicrously monikered McG made the awful 'Terminator: Salvation', which proved to be anything but for that particular franchise, and Robocop, Nightmare on Elm Street and Predator are all apparently set to be given the reboot treatment. Most people would agree that 'Spiderman 3' was poor, but it still made enough money to guarantee a sequel, but Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire both quit the project as Raimi felt he couldn't make the planned release date without compromising the integrity of the film (God knows what happened with 3 then). So what did the studio do? Yes, of course, they announced a REBOOT OF THE FRANCHISE! Bizarrely, the studio apparently wants a prequel, despite the fact that we already saw Peter Parker acquire his powers and become Spiderman in the first film.

So it seems no movie series, no matter how old, rubbish or inappropriate, is immune to the reboot. So what can we expect next? Perhaps a prequel to the 'Weekend at Bernies' series, in which Sam Rockwell plays a young Bernie? The summer of 2012 could see the arrival of 'Police Academy; The Beginning', starring Shia Labeouf as a young Mahoney. Or we might yet even see a pre-school Harry Potter.

As long as there is still money to be made by simply recycling the same old ideas in one format or another, don't rule any of these out.