In years to come, 2015 will likely be remembered as the year when big-screen reboots of popular franchises truly became the new way of things. Movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Creed and Mad Max: Fury Road – while not full-on reboots – represent Hollywood’s ever-increasing desire to update brands of the past for a new generation. After all, many fans are already speculating on whether the Marvel Cinematic Universe – arguably the most trusted and certainly the highest-grossing current franchise – will ultimately reboot its continuity or simply keep pushing forward.
Regardless of what happens with the MCU, some franchises appear to turn to the concept of a reboot too quickly, choosing to refresh its canon sometimes after just a few years rather than course-correct or allow ample time for fans to demand another approach to their favorite characters. We’re taking a look back at some of the film series to move forward with too many reboots. For the record, franchises like the James Bond films don’t qualify since (with rare exception) the don’t really acknowledge separate continuities.
Here are 13 Movie Series that Have Been Rebooted Too Many Times.
13. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
From the comics to the wildly popular 1980s/1990s animated series, these heroes in a half shell have proved to be among the most beloved superheroes for generations of fans. The 1990 original film was released to impressive box office, and while its two sequels haven’t aged nearly as well (especially that third film), the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has become heralded as a classic comic book adaptation.
However, since that initial film series, the turtles have been rebooted twice on the big screen. Despite its arresting visuals, the CG-animated TMNT disappointed most fans and made little impact financially. However, the 2014 Michael Bay-produced film – although divisive among longtime fans – officially marked the successful relaunch of the turtles’ film careers. Perhaps buoyed by the hit Nickelodeon show, the film brought in nearly $500 million worldwide. For better or worse, it appears that fans are in for more of the same, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows set for release this summer.
12. The Incredible Hulk
Prior to Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk, Bruce Banner and his alter-ego were likely best known to non-comic book fans for the 1978-1982 television series that starred Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as Banner and Hulk, respectively. Although Lee’s film took some creative risks, it wasn’t exactly the film fans were hoping for and failed to inspire a franchise. Likewise, Louis Letterier’s more action-heavy The Incredible Hulk – which starred Edward Norton – is widely considered the black sheep of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That under-appreciated status is no doubt fueled in part by the fact that Norton was recast with Mark Ruffalo by the time Hulk teamed up with fellow leading men Iron Man, Captain America and Thor in The Avengers, with Ruffalo as the third big-screen Banner in less than a decade. Due to a multitude of reasons, Ruffalo is unlikely to head his own Hulk film in the near future, but moviegoers have already seen so many versions of the character anyway.
11. Planet of the Apes
The 1968 Planet of the Apes is considered by many to be a stone-cold sci-fi classic and, along with projects like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the films to demonstrate the best of the era’s high-minded approach to genre fare. That first film even led to several sequels, a live-action television series and an animated show that kept the franchise alive for nearly a full decade following its release.
So anticipation was high when Tim Burton’s 2001 reboot was released to theaters with Mark Wahlberg leading a reimagined version of the classic premise. Yet, the film’s convoluted twist and poor reception by fans and critics alike led the studio to ultimately scrap plans for a sequel. A decade later, Rise of the Planet of the Apes brought a fresher, more satisfying take on the material and gave the world one of the most unforgettable motion-capture characters of all time in Andy Serkis’s Caesar. 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of Apes reaffirmed the series’ return, arguably delivering a richer story and a more visually creative step up from its predecessor. A third film in this rebooted series, War of the Planet of the Apes, will be released next year.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller Psycho undeniably changed the face of the industry forever with its convention-bucking twists and novel approach to onscreen violence. Decades later, Anthony Perkins reprised his role as Norman Bates in a trio of sequels, the last of which -TV movie Psycho IV: The Beginning – served as a prequel of sorts telling the story of Norman’s complicated relationship with his mother.
In 1998, Gus Van Sant directed an ill-conceived shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock’s classic, one which proved to be a critical and commercial disaster. Since then, the Psycho franchise has remained focused on the small screen, with Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga set to return for season 5 of A&E series Bates Motel in 2017. Even so, Psycho will inevitably make its way back to the big screen at some point, if history is any indication.
9. The Punisher
Frank Castle’s relentless vigilante may not be the only Marvel Comics hero with a reboot-heavy filmography, but he’s probably one of the few to have never led a hit film. Dolph Lundgren of Masters of the Universe and Universal Soldier fame played the character in a low-budget 1989 film that was met with overwhelmingly negative reviews. In fact, the film never even received a theatrical run in the United States upon its initial release.
Fifteen years later, Lionsgate released its own Punisher with Thomas Jane in the lead, but while the film grossed $54 million worldwide against a $33 million production budget, it was far from a box office smash. Rather than create a sequel, the studio rebooted it, with Ray Stevenson stepping into the role for 2008 release Punisher: War Zone. Though that film has its defenders, it failed to rein in moviegoers, leaving the character to ultimately be reborn as a supporting player in season 2 of Netflix series Daredevil. Now fans are clamoring for a Punisher show or even another film. Time will tell where the character will pop up next.
8. The Jungle Book
Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 book has been adapted for the big screen countless times over the years, dating all the way back to a Hungarian 1942 film starring Sabu Dastagir as Mowgli. However, over the years, Disney has become most synonymous with the franchise. In addition to the 1967 animated version (and its 203 sequel), the Mouse House released a live-action adaptation starring Jason Scott Lee in 1994 and already has a major hit on its hands with Jon Favreau’s live-action/CGI film.
With a star-studded cast, a more sophisticated take on the story and ground-breaking visuals, Favreau’s The Jungle Book already has a sequel in the works, cementing the long-term future of the series. More interestingly, motion-capture maestro Andy Serkis is set to make his directorial debut with an unrelated Jungle Book film for Warner Bros., leading to the unique case of two dueling – and equally high-profile – approaches to the same property. If that’s not proof that Kipling’s story has been overdone, we don’t know what is.
While big-screen serials featured the Dark Knight’s theatrical debut, he didn’t headline his first feature-length adventure until the Adam West-led 1966 Batman: The Movie, based on the hit show. However, since Tim Burton’s 1989 film, Gotham’s protector has never been too far from the big screen. The notable exception was the eight years between the infamous Batman & Robin, and Christopher Nolan’s “gritty and grounded” reboot in Batman Begins.
Following the conclusion of that franchise in 2012, Warner Bros. decided to keep the Caped Crusader – by far the most successful superhero in the DC stable, from a film perspective – up on the screen, transforming the announced Man of Steel sequel into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The latest film may have divided fans of the genre, but most agreed that Ben Affleck’s Batman was a worthy addition to the franchise. Now he’ll direct and star in his own solo film.
Long before the current comic book movie boom, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man was a phenomenon that brought in more than $400 million at the domestic box office, and its sequel nearly matched that, earning even stronger reviews and an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. However, none of the subsequent three films in the franchise have captured the same warm reception as those first adventures.
Even when Sony scrapped Raimi’s Spider-Man 4 and opted for a reboot instead, The Amazing Spider-Man films never quite captured the character’s broad appeal. Several planned sequels/spinoffs were ultimately shelved, and the future of Spider-Man hung in the balance. However, now that Sony and Marvel Studios are collaborating on the third big-screen version of the character – who will be introduced in Captain America: Civil War – fans are expecting to finally get the best interpretation yet of everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood webslinger.
The mythological hero Hercules naturally lends himself to multiple interpretations. After all, his demigod status and supernatural strength essentially make him as much of a superhero as other characters on this list. Still, the fact that he has appeared in dozens of films dating back to the 1930s may be overdoing it just a bit. In 2014 alone, two separate films – Hercules, based on the Steve Moore comics, and The Legend of Hercules – centered on the hero, with Dwayne Johnson and Kellan Lutz respectively starring.
For the moment, it appears that Hollywood may be turning its attention elsewhere. Neither of the aforementioned Hercules films lit the box office on fire, and Johnson in particular is juggling several franchises, including his upcoming role as Black Adam in the DC Extended Universe. In any case, moviegoers are certain to see another cinematic Hercules make his way to the screen before long.
An aristocrat who dons a mask and creates a secret identity to combat injustice on his home turf? Yup. If Zorro bears a passing resemblance to Batman, there’s a good reason for that. The character – initially created by pulp writer Johnston McCulley in 1919 – was a clear inspiration for the Dark Knight, and like Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego, he has appeared in many films over the years, going all he way back to Douglas Fairbanks’ The Mark of Zorro. Similarly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Robin Hood – centering on another warrior for the people – has been reinterpreted over and over.
In recent years, the Zorro franchise has been put on the backburner. The 2005 release of The Legend of Zorro (itself a sequel to 1998 hit The Mask of Zorro) still stands as the most recent big-screen version, but development on yet another reboot has been in the works for some time, with Gael Garcia Bernal long attached to the lead. The latest news reveals that Gravity writer Jonás Cuarón will write and direct a new version titled simply Z.
3. Peter Pan
The idea of a magical place where children never grow old, and a young boy is a hero who can fly and stand toe-to-toe with a nefarious pirate in a sword battle has childhood wish fulfillment all over it. No wonder then that J.M. Barrie’s play and subsequent novel have inspired so many other interpretations of Peter Pan. From a 1924 silent film to last year’s box office flop Pan, the character remains a constant pop cultural fixture that never truly fades away.
Like many of the other entries on this list, Peter Pan is perhaps best known for the Disney film based on the character. That 1953 animated classic gave way to a 2002 sequel and a series of direct-to-DVD films centering on Tinker Bell and other fairy characters. In keeping with its decision to revisit its archived titles, Disney has recently announced development of a live-action version of the story, though it remains to be seen if it will retain the musical element of the studio’s animated film.
From silent films to big-budget blockbusters, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ ape-man — who first appeared in 1914 novel Tarzan of the Apes — has been the subject of countless big-screen adaptations. Elmo Lincoln played the role in the first film version back in 1918, and other notable interpretations were brought to life by Johnny Weissmuller in the 1930s and 1940s films, Christopher Lambert in 1984 film Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, and the animators at Disney for an Oscar-winning 1999 release.
This summer, director David Yates (the Harry Potter series) brings his own spin on the classic story with The Legend of Tarzan. True Blood star Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad) will star as Tarzan and his beloved Jane, respectively, alongside an ensemble supporting cast that also includes Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, John Hurt, Djimon Hounsou and Jim Broadbent. Whether the film will mark the next iconic Tarzan remains to be seen.
1. The Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum’s fantastical world may be the inspiration behind one of the most cherished films of all time, but the 1939 musical is far from the only film based on his books. The Wiz offered a very different but equally musical take on the material, and 1985 Disney film Return to Oz has become a cult classic for a generation of moviegoers. The Muppets even got in on the action with a direct-to-DVD film starring singer Ashanti as Dorothy.
The most recent big-screen version, however, is the Disney prequel Oz the Great and Powerful (we’ll conveniently forget that animated travesty Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return ever happened). It’s unclear if stars James Franco and Mila Kunis will return for a sequel, though Disney has announced development on it. Even if that doesn’t come to pass, moviegoers can bet that Baum’s imaginative world will be adapted in another form before too long.
BONUS: Every single fairy tale
Although most of the major fairy tales are perhaps best known for their Disney interpretations, stories like Snow White, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast have been adapted many times over the years. Because of their timeless narratives and memorable characters, these stories are designed for re-interpretation, and filmmakers have certainly leapt at the chance to bring them to life time and again. Films like Snow White and the Huntsman and next year’s live-action musical Beauty and the Beast continue to keep these stories alive, ensuring that every generation of moviegoers has its own “definitive” version to call its own.
From comic book superheroes to family-friendly fantasies, these are just a few of the film series that have had an enduring impact on the big screen and continue to attract audiences keen to see fresh interpretations to these classic stories and characters. We’re certain that there are other, equally worthy franchises that could have made our list, and we’re anxious to hear your opinions on the matter.
What film series do you think has been rebooted too many times? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.