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People have been hating on reboots recently. I can kind of see where they are coming from. When the box office is full of reboots, it suggests that the movie business is fresh out of originality (or at least the producers are no longer taking financial risks with originality). At the same time, I appreciate a director trying to rekindle the past and keep a beloved movie character going. I am actually all for the ‘concept’ of a Robocop reboot, as it brings this interesting character into the eyes of the next generation.

However, reboots are a tricky movie to get right. While the writers don’t need to be original, there are hundreds of other pitfalls. There are thousands of ways to get a reboot wrong and it is nearly impossible to list them all, which is why so many reboots end up crashing, or ending up rather unmemorable. The main flaw is the fact that we can no longer let a movie off the hook for taking risks. I am willing to overlook the problems with the Terminator and original Star Wars movies, because they are so original and fresh. Reboots don’t have that. For the most part, each genre has different flaws, so I am going to take three genres and explore where they could potentially go wrong.

3 – SCI-FI REBOOTS

Let’s start with Sci-Fi, as that is the reboot on everyone’s lips right now. Sci-Fi is actually a really important genre, as most of our cinematic history stands on the shoulders of great Sci-Fi. I think that is why the idea of a Sci-Fi reboot is worrying, because it is the genre that requires the most originality. Out of the 50 highest-grossing sci-fi films ever, only four of them are remakes and none of them touch the top 20.

RoboCop1_0

The thing with Sci-Fi, as this year’s Elysium proved, is that it is a good way to look at a potential dystopian future. Directors can use the genre to bring up a political theme but in a future setting. For example, the Terminator movies are about a fear of our growing dependence on machines. However, when we reboot those movies, sometimes the theme doesn’t stand. The Day on the Earth had to shove in some environmental moral just so the reboot made cultural sense. Sure, it will be cool to see ‘Robocop’ back on our screens, but does the director truly understand the cultural significance that made the first one so cinematically important.

2 – ACTION REBOOTS

Before anyone asks themselves if they want to reboot an action movie, I think it is important for that film-maker to ask themselves: do the fans love the action movie or the action star? For example, Die Hard is my favourite movie, but is that because I like Bruce Willis? Admittedly I want to see the franchise end when Bruce Willis is ready to leave it, rather than let it fall into another actor’s hands, so I guess I have to admit that there is truth in this theory.

I am sure Len Wiseman went into the Total Recall reboot with the best intentions. He had a story to tell and expanded on some of the themes of the first movie. That’s all very well and good, but we kind of all loved Total Recall, because of Arnie. Without Arnie, it didn’t have the same winning power. Colin Farrell is fine as an action hero, but Arnie has a way with movies that makes every terrible piece of dialogue stay in cinematic history. I think once an actor has put his stamp on a particular movie (this is not the same with superhero films, because the film is about the character more than the actor), that movie should be left alone.

1 – HORROR REBOOTS

This is a tricky one, because, in all honesty, horror reboots are the easiest to get right. There is so much material to cover with ‘Nightmare on Elm’s Street’ that it could very well go through reboot after reboot. ‘Alien’ is another horror (although, admittedly, it is less horror more action these days sadly), that could go on until the end of cinema. However, if it is so easy how come almost all horror reboots come across as shadows of their former self.

Nightmare on Elm Street

Mainly because horror films are a tricky genre to get right in the first place. People sometimes breeze over them, because they can be made cheap and done quickly. However, from a director’s point of view, you need to have total control over the atmosphere, which requires every trick in the book. There’s a reason we love James Wan so much and that is because he knows what he is doing, which is quite refreshing in a cinema plagued by terrible horrors. However, with a cheap budget and the easy option of rebooting a previous idea rather than making up your own, horror reboots have become a popular genre for the new film-makers that don’t entirely know what they doing.

They also tend to focus on the wrong areas of the horror. Saw is amazing, because of the intricate plot and the moralistic questions it asks the audience. The sequels focus more on the bloody kills and imaginative death traps. Final Destination and Texas Chainsaw Massacre has gone the same way. The earlier horrors are surprisingly not that bloody, because gore isn’t scary. Atmosphere is. And many directors seem to forget that. My advice for horror reboots is: you will get two thumbs up from me, but please look before you leap. You have the chance to do something great with the material, but don’t go down the obvious route. Please.

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