“Reboot” has become something of a dirty word among movie fans. Hollywood’s obsession with mining old properties for new box office success has reached its peak in recent years. It’s not uncommon to see a franchise spend less than a year or two in dormancy before a studio attempts to resuscitate it with a slightly new angle.
These kind of retreads are often greeted with a certain level of cynicism, but reboots are not always a bad thing. There have been several that were not only creatively viable, but ended up improving on what became before. We live in an era where nostalgia has become a potent weapon in Hollywood’s arsenal, and it’s unrealistic to think they’re not going to use it when so many box office successes thrive off warm childhood memories of prior interpretations.
Still, let’s be honest. For every triumphant cinematic reimagining, there’s an appallingly empty misfire. With the latter, we can at least take a sort of dark solace in the fact that almost no franchise stays dead anymore, and there’s always hope that the next iteration will be the one that gets it right.
These are 8 Movie Reboots That Actually Worked (And 7 That Were Terrible).
15 WORKED: X-Men: First Class
After the massively successful one-two punch of X-Men and X2: X-Men United, the venerable mutant franchise began to crumble. 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand was financially successful, but a massive disappointment to both fans and critics. After the unmitigated disaster of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the franchise was in need of a retool.
That came in the guise of Matthew Vaughn’s sublime X-Men: First Class. A pseudo-prequel to the other X-Men movies, it featured younger version of Charles Xavier and Magneto as they began to form their respective ideologies. Set in the 1960s, the movie embraced the stylistic trappings of that era.
It reinvigorated the franchise, and follow-up movies would borrow its trick of using era-specific nostalgia as an effective framing device.
14 TERRIBLE: Power Rangers
A near constant presence on television and toy shelves since the early '90s, Power Rangers had made a few ventures into the cinema during the height of its popularity two decades ago, to modest success. The 2017 big screen version was a different beast entirely. Sharing few connections to the long-running TV series, this was a complete overhaul of the franchise, a big budget spectacle to pull in both new fans and adults with abundant nostalgia for the show.
The end product was a half-baked slog that pleased very few. A grab bag of tropes pulled from Marvel movies, Michael Bay’s Transformers, and, strangest of all, John Hughes teen dramedies, Power Rangers had no real identity of its own. It's more of an anonymous, hollow attempt to cash in on nostalgia and franchise hysteria.
13 WORKED: Godzilla
Legendary Entertainment's 2014 Godzilla is technically the second Hollywood reboot of the classic Japanese monster movies, but the notorious 1998 bomb was so poorly received on both sides of the Pacific that its infamy loomed over this remake as well.
But Gareth Edwards approached the source material with a reverence that matches the grandeur of its larger-than-life stars, who appeared in only a fraction of the movie but still steal the scene every time. What was most surprising was how this reboot embraces the series' history fully; Godzilla is not the destroyer at our doorstep, but the only thing standing between us and worse monsters.
With sequels planned, giving fans big-budget rematches against old foes like Mothra, Rodan, Ghidrah, and King Kong, it seems the King of the Monsters is back on top.
12 TERRIBLE: The Amazing Spider-Man
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films were a cornerstone of the early '00s comic book movie renaissance that led to our current era, where superheroes are the dominant force at the box office. Well, the first two were, anyway: Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 was a severe enough misstep that Sony abandoned plans for a fourth film in the franchise and decided to reboot the web slinger.
The resulting film was Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, a movie so anodyne and personality-free it’s unlikely the average viewer remembers anything about it. Andrew Garfield was woefully miscast as Peter Parker, mutating Parker’s usual outsider sorrow into leading man angst. The collective shrug earned it enough box office to merit a sequel, though that film solidified Webb’s Spidey as the disappointing middle sibling it was clearly destined to be.
Luckily, better days were just around the corner for Spider-Man…
11 WORKED: Spider-Man: Homecoming
After The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was met with lukewarm reviews and underwhelming box office, Sony realized they had a serious problem. Rather than continuing their death march toward a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe nobody really wanted, Sony made the bold move of teaming with Marvel to introduce a brand new version of the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Beyond the perfunctory action and spectacle, it’s the first time a cinematic Peter Parker has genuinely felt like a high schooler. One-time Batman Michael Keaton steals the show as the villain Vulture, and a scene featuring both Holland and Keaton late in the movie features the best acting in any Spider-Man film by a mile.
Currently racking up strong box office numbers, Spider-Man: Homecoming has put one of the most iconic superheroes back on track.
10 TERRIBLE: The Mummy
One of Universal’s classic monster properties, The Mummy has enjoyed several successful film versions - most notably the Brendan Frasier-starring trilogy that began in 1999. That iteration even featured a spinoff, The Scorpion King, which helped launch the film career of some guy named Dwayne Johnson.
Looking to cash in on the shared universe craze, Universal positioned their 2017 reboot of The Mummy as the first chapter in an overarching world starring all of their monster properties, and even managed to get an A-list movie star in Tom Cruise to headline the affair. The resulting movie was a murky disaster.
First time director Alex Kurtzman was clearly in over his head, as he not only had to direct a complicated big budget action movie, but also set up a world for the other monster properties. He failed on all fronts, and the future of the Universal’s shared universe is looking somewhat dim.
9 WORKED: Ocean’s Eleven
Ocean’s 11 was a 1960 heist film starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, and other members of the legendary Rat Pack. A serviceable film and a modest box office success, it was, like most of their other movies, largely an excuse for Sinatra and friends to hang out and have fun.
Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 reboot is a different beast entirely. A complex, stylish heist film starring a murderer’s row of A-list stars, Ocean’s Eleven was an instant classic. It cemented George Clooney’s status as one of the biggest movie stars of his generation, his Danny Ocean becoming an iconic film grifter. It’s arguably the best example of Soderbergh’s ability to effortlessly leap between genres from scene to scene.
Two well regarded sequels followed, and while the franchise was eventually put to rest, a female-led spinoff called Ocean’s Eight is right around the corner.
8 TERRIBLE: Terminator Genisys
This should have been a home run. Following in the wake of the joyless, Schwarzenegger-free Terminator: Salvation, Terminator Genisys was sold as invoking the spirit of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the most audience friendly version of the time traveling science fiction extravaganza. Schwarzenegger was back, along with Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke as the new Sarah Connor, and Doctor Who star Matt Smith as a mysterious villain.
The confusing, boneheaded Genisys burned all that goodwill almost immediately. A nonsensical mess of a story, the film cratered at the American box office (though it did surprisingly well overseas). The Terminator franchise is once again in limbo. And while someone will surely attempt another reboot soon, it might be best for all involved to simply retire this once great franchise.
7 WORKED: Star Trek
A strong argument can be made that the absolute nadir of Star Trek’s storied history was the late '00s. The Next Generation movies sputtered to a pathetic end with 2002’s horrendous Star Trek: Nemesis, and Enterprise was unceremoniously cancelled in 2005, marking the first time there was no active Star Trek show on television since 1987. After years of trying to figure out how to resuscitate its crown jewel, Paramount eventually brought in J. J. Abrams to power up the Enterprise once again.
Released in 2009, Star Trek rebooted the series in thrilling fashion while also honoring what had come before, establishing the new films as existing in an alternate reality from the previous iterations. Chris Pine was electric as a young, brash James Kirk, and Zachary Quinto’s raw, more human Spock bounced off of Kirk in surprisingly satisfying ways.
While it was a box office and critical success, the Abrams films have long been divisive among Star Trek fans, and the underperformance of 2016’s Star Trek Beyond has left the franchise’s future in question. Let's hope this fall's small screen revival, Star Trek: Discovery, delivers.
6 TERRIBLE: RoboCop
There are often occasions where Hollywood attempts to take a wildly successful film that tells one complete story and turn it into a multiple film franchise. It almost never works.
One of the worst offenders of this phenomenon was 1987’s RoboCop, a blisteringly entertaining sci-fi film that was not only viscerally thrilling, but also had some surprisingly sharp social commentary. It was followed by two film sequels, a TV series, and comic books, all of decidedly lesser quality, before it died off in the mid-90s.
Hollywood decided to give it another try in 2014, with future Suicide Squad star Joel Kinnaman as the titular cyborg. Despite featuring a fantastic supporting cast (Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson), the new RoboCop was toothless, lacking both the original film’s wit and its shockingly graphic violence. The remake was a forgettable PG-13 snooze, making little cash and failing to launch a new franchise.
5 WORKED: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
One of the most beloved film franchise’s of the '60s and '70s, Planet of the Apes was science fiction at its best, featuring fantastic action and evocative imagery as well as important insight into humanity’s shortcomings. The franchise had been dormant until 2001, when Tim Burton attempted a film reboot that was financially successful but unremarkable, and the series would again be retired until 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Rise was in many ways a radical departure from the original, taking place generations before the events of the classic film. A critical and box office success, it chronicles the experiments that led to the apes gaining their intelligence, and the virus that would decimate humanity.
Featuring fantastic performances by James Franco and Andy Serkis, it would be the first entry in a trilogy that solidified the apes as the heroes of the story, and showcased the atrocities mankind is capable of in desperation.
4 TERRIBLE: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an absolute sensation in the '90s, headlining TV shows, video games, comic books, and three live-action films. While the Turtles would stay visible in one form or another over the years, the film franchise had burned out by 1993. While a 2007 animated film was a modest success, a full-on live-action reboot was attempted in 2014.
Produced by Michael Bay, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles features all of the weaknesses of Bay’s Transformers movies with virtually none of their charms. A loud, dumb goof of a film, it was critically reviled but made enough money to warrant a 2016 sequel, Out of the Shadows, before the franchise died with a whimper. Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael deserve so much better than Michael Bay’s droppings.
3 WORKED: Casino Royale
By 2002’s Die Another Day, the James Bond franchise had entered the realm of self parody, a series of increasingly silly films that had more in common with Austin Powers than they’d like to admit. Rather than simply replacing its lead actor as it had done several times before, the producers decided a more drastic reinvention was in order.
2006’s Casino Royale served as essentially an origin story for Bond, where he undertakes his first mission as 007. Gone were the goofy gadgets and groan worthy one-liners, replaced with the gritty intensity of new Bond Daniel Craig. This was a Bond who didn’t give a damn how you made his martini, who wore a tuxedo with disdain.
The film does a remarkable job of charting the loss of Bond’s remaining innocence, as his love affair with Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd opens his eyes to the cruelness of the world in which he operates. When Craig invokes the iconic “Bond, James Bond” in the film’s final frame, it feels like a genesis.
2 TERRIBLE: Fantastic Four
Fox made a couple of Fantastic Four films in the mid-00s, before Iron Man and The Dark Knight upended the idea of what comic book movies were capable of. Those Fantastic Four movies were inoffensive, empty calorie affairs, critically dismissed fluff. Fox decided their reboot of the property would be a serious, gritty take on the story, ignoring the fact that the source material is just about the most non-gritty property in Marvel’s oeuvre.
The resulting film, 2015’s Fantastic Four, was a disaster on virtually every front. A colorless, joyless lump of a film, the project endured horrific reviews and non-existent box office returns. Rumors of director Josh Trank’s bizarre behavior and massive post-production changes dogged the movie early on, but there’s really no excuse for a superhero film in this era to be so utterly tone deaf.
Fans continue to pray Marvel gets the rights back to this one.
1 WORKED: Batman Begins
It’s difficult to articulate how out of fashion Batman was in 2005. 1997’s Batman & Robin had cratered the caped crusader’s reputation, turning him into a joke and killing off his movie franchise in the process. And while films like X-Men and Spider-Man had shown there was genuine interest in well made superhero films, Batman had a lot of work to do to get back into the public’s good graces.
Luckily, Warner Bros. had the good sense to entrust Christopher Nolan with that job. His Batman Begins stripped Batman of all of his silly, larger-than life excess, telling a deeply personal story about fear and corruption. Christian Bale is a revelation as the deeply broken Bruce Wayne, a young man searching for purpose in a city overrun by darkness.
Batman Begins was both a critical and financial success, absolving the character of the crimes of his earlier movies. Nolan would go on to deliver arguably the greatest comic book film of all time in Begins’ follow-up, The Dark Knight. He redefined what superhero movies were artistically capable of, and nothing would ever been the same.
Which remakes do you like? Which do you wish never happened? Sound off in the comments!
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