In today’s world of escalating production and marketing costs, the major Hollywood studios have rather infamously put a priority on revamping and milking established, proven brands to turn a quick profit on their investment. Remakes, reboots, and adaptations have dominated the industry of late, for the simple fact that they do tend to be more successful commercially than original programming (though that may be the fault of the studios).
With a growing desire for executives to embrace new ideas, an announced reboot is usually met with as many rolled eyes as cheers. Considering a series is in need of a reboot after its forward momentum has been lost, the actual interest or value is openly questioned (criticism validated with every failed remake). Then there are the reboots that show the other side: confirming that there is room to produce exciting, new spins on old brands and reinvigorate the enthusiasm we have for classic characters.
Here are Screen Rant’s 5 Movie Reboots That Surprised Everyone (NOTE: Films are presented in order by year of release. Only film franchise reboots, not TV shows turned into movies were eligible for inclusion).
Batman Begins (2005)
Batman & Robin (1997) didn’t just destroy the caped crusader’s cinematic reputation – it almost killed all comic book movies, period. Of course, Batman’s standing in the pop culture zeitgeist was reaffirmed with Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight trilogy, which earned critical acclaim and scored $2.5 billion at the worldwide box office. But long before the days of Heath Ledger and Bane memes, the series had humble beginnings: the 2005 reboot, Batman Begins.
Starring then-relative-unknown Christian Bale in the title role, and directed by the untested (on a grand scale) Christopher Nolan, nobody knew what to make of Batman Begins before it hit theaters. However, it proved to be just what the superhero needed, thanks to its darker, more grounded depiction of the Batman mythos (which fit the character like a glove), and a compelling story about standing up for justice and fighting corruption. The film was given an extra dose of credibility due to grounded performances by the likes of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson, showing casual audiences that a “comic book movie” could be taken seriously when handled properly.
Casino Royale (2006)
There will always be demand for a new James Bond film, but in the early 2000s, 007 was in danger of losing his license to sell tickets. Though 2002’s Die Another Day was a box office success at $431.9 million worldwide, it took a critical thrashing that left even series fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. A glut of CGI, ludicrous gadgets (invisible cars?), and over-the-top action put Bond in a precarious situation, especially after The Bourne Identity had changed the spy thriller game months earlier.
EON Productions decided a reboot was in order to restart the franchise from scratch, sending fans into a frenzy when the blonde (GASP!) Daniel Craig was cast as the new Bond. Despite protests from the 007 purists who demanded Pierce Brosnan return, Casino Royale arrived as scheduled, and took the character in a sleek new direction. Martin Campbell’s film is considered one of the best in the character’s long run, as the stunts were rooted in reality and the story (which looked to humanize Bond) was relatable and heart wrenching. Craig proved a suitable heir to Sean Connery’s throne, injecting Bond with a sense of cool and dry wit that made him stand out from his predecessors. Casino Royale showed why James Bond is still the top spy out there, and the Craig era has been one of the most successful runs the series has ever seen.
Star Trek (2009)
Star Trek: Nemesis did the iconic sci-fi franchise more harm than good, as its critical derision and $67.3 million worldwide box office take seemed to confirm that there wasn’t much left of the final frontier to explore. But after giving the U.S.S. Enterprise some time off, Paramount decided a new generation of moviegoers needed to be introduced to Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. That task fell to director J.J. Abrams and a fresh-faced cast of newcomers, challenged to reboot The Original Series – a gamble that paid off for all involved.
Though die hard Trekkies expressed displeasure in Abrams steering Star Trek more towards “space action” than “space exploration,” the 2009 film was the shot in the arm the property needed. Fast-paced and exciting, the creative team was able to deliver a thrilling story that offered high stakes, and the actors were largely able to escape the looming shadows of the ones who came before them, nailing the key characteristics while putting their own stamps on the Enterprise crew. Star Trek was definitely a great surprise, as its quality was so high even the uninitiated became interested, suggesting that the series had found a way to live long and prosper after all.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Planet of the Apes is an untouchable classic of the sci-fi genre, but that standing didn’t hold much weight with modern moviegoers when Tim Burton teamed up with Mark Wahlberg for a remake in 2001. Though that film made money at the box office, it was a critical dud, and any hopes for a new franchise were dashed as a result of the poor word-of-mouth. Ten years later, Fox tried to bring back the property – again – with the prequel/reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. After the project went through multiple title changes and settled on a less-than-lucrative early August release, many doubted that it had the potential to bring the apes back to the forefront of pop culture.
But, Rise exceeded those modest expectations by showcasing a rich and engrossing narrative for its protagonist, Caesar (Andy Serkis), an intelligent ape raised by humans. Caesar’s character arc was highly affecting, and Serkis’ mesmerizing mo-cap performance was strong enough to cover any of the movie’s perceived flaws (the depth of the human players, for example). Eschewing the B-movie feel of the original series, Rise looked to inject some hard (albeit, flawed) science into the proceedings and elevate the franchise to the next level of blockbuster filmmaking. Signaling a new era for visual effects and providing a strong foundation on which to build, the movie was a sleeper in 2011 – and its impressive sequel makes those early doubts even harder to believe.
The 1995 version of Judge Dredd is far from memorable, more a tonally inconsistent action vehicle for Sylvester Stallone than a faithful interpretation of the comic source material. So when Lionsgate sought to amend those wrongs nearly two decades later, few thought it stood a chance of delivering hard-hitting action, even with star Karl Urban delivering a ruthless (and always-helmeted) executioner in the style of the comic. Throw in the fact that the plot read derivative of The Raid, and audiences had plenty of reasons to be skeptical.
But those fears were tossed aside when the film arrived: Dredd proved a wholly entertaining ride full of stylish visuals (emphasized by the effects of the “Slo-Mo” drug) and a reliance on old-school techniques (providing vicious gun battles that hit home). Urban showed he was a perfect choice for the title role, bringing the best traits of his comic counterpart to the screen. It wasn’t the deepest character study the genre has seen – in a way, perfectly faithful to the comic – but Dredd still earned a faithful following. Its low box office return makes it one of the few fan-favorite reboots that won’t spawn a full franchise, but that doesn’t diminish the justice it did to its iconic hero.
Just as some original films turn out to be mixed bags (or worse), a reboot doesn’t always symbolize the “death of creativity” the naysayers believe it does. If the project is entrusted to the right people, with a clear vision for returning respectability to a brand, they have every chance of creating another generation of fans (while giving studios brand new, bankable tentpoles).
So the next time you’re ready to storm the gates at Hollywood and demand the cancel whatever revival is planned next, remember that hitting the reset button can yield positive results. As always, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so be sure to share some of your favorite film franchise reboots in the comments below.