These days, it can often feel like the only type of movie that gets made anymore are those about superheroes. Between Marvel, DC, Fox, Sony, and countless other studios, every single month brings a whole new slate of films about powerful beings and heroic figures. It’s hard to argue with that strategy, though, since they only seem to be growing in popularity.
But one type of superhero movie has always been particularly enticing to studios, far more than any other– the reboot. These are established franchises with well-known titles and recognizable characters, giving them a built-in audience. They can result in huge box office sales, which is why there are so many of them.
However, just because you can remake a popular film doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes the original was already perfect, while other times a decent new interpretation can pale in comparison no matter what.
Of course, there are second attempts that are complete duds, but for every two failed reboots, there are successful ones that manage to outshine their predecessor, right the wrongs of a bad movie, or find new and exciting ways to tell a story viewers can’t get enough of.
Here are the 8 Superhero Movies That Were Way Better Than The Reboots (And 7 That Were Worse).
15. Original Better: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are so beloved that every new iteration of the characters–either in comics, on television, or on the big screen–faces huge expectations.
However, even if Hollywood’s first go at the franchise in 1990 hadn’t been so popular with fans, it’s doubtful many would have been happy with the Michael Bay produced, critically slammed 2014 reboot.
Not only did the Turtles look weird, like strange animal variations of DC’s Doomsday, the movie was inexplicably boring.
Somehow a filmmaker who loves big action sequences and doesn’t always worry about developing characters spearheaded a dull version of a superhero movie that featured heroes everyone already knew and loved. It failed as a standalone movie, but compared to the original it was even worse than that.
14. Reboot Better: The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Hulk (2003)
It’s not that director Ang Lee’s take on the big green guy starring Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner was bad, it was that it didn’t quite live up to what many people expected from a big screen adaptation of the iconic character.
Some viewers thought it was too long and needed more action sequences, and the special effects that brought Hulk to life didn’t look very good.
However it was still slightly surprising when Marvel announced it would be rebooting the character just five years later as part of its new Cinematic Universe.
However, in what might be a case of the power of expectations, there wasn’t as much optimism before The Incredible Hulk came to theaters, which was far better received by fans despite only slightly outdoing the first film at the box office.
13. Original Better: Fantastic Four (2005) – Fantastic Four (2015)
These two films might be exemplify the fact the word “better” is relative, because it would be hard to find many people who would describe the 2005 version– with Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis playing the beloved team– as “good.”
However, when compared to the recent reboot, which starred Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell, the original version looks like Citizen Kane.
The 2015 version was so bad it didn’t just get panned by critics and moviegoers alike, it led to embarrassing public finger pointing before the movie came out by its own director.
That’s right, Josh Trank tweeted before the movie even premiered how fans were never going to see his “fantastic version” of the movie.
12. Reboot Better: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – Captain America (1990)
Captain America: The First Avenger, which saw Chris Evans get to be a part of a good superhero movie after the failure of Fantastic Four, was just the beginning of one of Marvels most beloved and well-reviewed franchises in the MCU.
The only real “criticism” of this reboot is many fans and critics think that the next two Captain America films, Winter Soldier and Civil War, are even better entries for the character.
This was not a problem for the 1990 version, which was so cheesy, so terrible, and so loathed it did not have to worry about being followed by better films, because no one wanted any more. It was as though a bunch of people who knew nothing about the character or his world made a movie without a budget, only worse.
11. Original Better: The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-) – Batman v Superman (2016)
This one stretches the concept of “original and reboot,” since it is comparing a self-contained Batman trilogy with three movies that aren’t defined by being about only the Caped Crusader.
However, it’s impossible not think about the wildly successful movies made by director Christopher Nolan with the divisive films from Zack Snyder that recently brought Batman back to the big screen only a few years after Christian Bale hung up his batsuit.
Batman Begins itself was a reboot to the 1989 Tim Burton/Michael Keaton version of the character, but the two very different takes on the story were both well received.
Meanwhile, the murderous version of Batman Zack Snyder brought to the world earned mixed reviews, with Batman v Superman getting panned overall, even if some fans argued Ben Affleck’s portrayal was one of the few brights spots in the film.
10. Reboot Better: Punisher War Zone (2008) – The Punisher (2004)
It might be a stretch to describe Punisher War Zone, with actor Ray Stevenson in the title role, as an objectively good movie, especially when its Rotten Tomatoes critics score is very similar to 2004’s The Punisher. However, it does have two things the Thomas Jane version was lacking: a sense of fun and people who will always defend it.
That might be because the reboot seemed to do a much better job capturing the tone of the comics, which it did by sticking closer to the source material. Meanwhile the 2004 film, which also starred John Travolta, was so dark and miserable it was hard to understand why Frank Castle was bothering to do anything.
Although in fairness to the 2004 version it too qualifies as a superior reboot, since it was still better than the universally loathed 1989 movie starring Dolph Lundgren. With three big screen cracks at the character disappointing fans it’s no surprise Marvel made the fourth attempt a TV show.
9. Original Better: Spider-Man (2002) – The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Director Sam Raimi found both box office success and critical acclaim with his first two Spider-Man movies starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. Unfortunately the pair couldn’t replicate their winning formula in 2007 with the third entry in the franchise, which closed out their run with the character.
But no one was clamoring for someone else to try in 2012 when The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield came to theaters. It wasn’t that Garfield was a bad Peter Parker, in fact some fans thought he was even better than Maguire.
It wasn’t that the movie was bad, though, as it garnered generally positive reviews. The problem was no one could figure out why it existed.
Sometimes a reboot can be a perfectly good movie, but that doesn’t mean anyone wants or needs it. Fortunately The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was so bad no one had to worry about seeing another bad third entry.
8. Reboot Better: Doctor Strange (2016) – Dr. Strange (1978)
Marvel’s 2016 Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular character, might not rank at the top of anyone’s list of best movies in the MCU, but it still garnered fantastic reviews, with a 90% critics score at Rotten Tomatoes, and an 86% approval from fans.
However, it was basically a guarantee it was going to outshine the failed 1978 Dr. Strange TV movie pilot for CBS, which garnered low ratings and wasn’t picked up. Viewers found the movie with its cheesy special effects to be boring, with actor Peter Hooten’s version of the character mastering his abilities way too easily.
7. Original Better: Ghostbusters (1984) – Ghostbusters (2016)
The gender-swapped reboot was probably never going to get a fair chance to be judged on its own merit, not when a vocal minority of fans of the original publicly complained about the movie’s mere existence before seeing it. While the reboot certainly didn’t ruin anyone’s childhood, it’s hard to argue it matched up to the iconic original movie.
The gritty New York of the 1984 version, which was a character unto itself, was replaced by a shiny, glossy version that made director Paul Feig’s reboot often look like it was taking place in a brand new amusement park.
Also, while the four new Ghostbusters were all funny and likable, that also made the group dynamic feel one note at times, unlike the original foursome who were all very different.
6. Reboot Better: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Poor Andrew Garfield, whose well-received version of Peter Parker doesn’t deserve to be on the wrong side of two of these entries, but sometimes timing is everything.
His movies came out when there wasn’t much desire for new Spider-Man movies, and then it was followed up only a few short years later when Marvel surprisingly got the chance to add the character to their immensely popular Cinematic Universe.
It gave the character a logical reason to be rebooted. It also meant the third iteration of the character with Tom Holland got to have Iron Man in his movie, which made it feel very different.
Also, Holland’s young age added a dynamic to the character the first two movie versions didn’t have, because the kid superhero really did feel like a kid whose great responsibility was robbing him of normal childhood experiences.
5. Original Better: Conan the Barbarian (1982) – Conan the Barbarian (2011)
In the original 1982 Conan the Barbarian, future megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger memorably said the best thing in life was to “crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women!”
However, if you think that sounds harsh, there are much worse things you can do to someone– like make them watch the 2011 reboot on repeat.
The newer version, starring Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones and Justice League, was gorier thanks to amped up violence, had modern day special effects (both good and bad), but was generally pointless with action sequences that made no sense.
4. Reboot Better: Dredd (2012) – Judge Dredd (1995)
No superhero reboot feels more removed from the original quite like Dredd–a hyper-violent, visually stunning movie that perfectly managed to pull off action, drama, comedy, and smart satire all at the same time- -and that’s a good thing, because those are all things that the 1995 film Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone failed to do.
Stallone’s version of the character wasn’t intimidating, and the movie’s convoluted plot and cartoonish tone made it feel more like a poor attempt at a comedy than an action movie.
However, Karl Urban’s masked hero–we never see his face in the film, an unusual move for any film’s star–not only was far more likable, his Dredd was a total menace, both for his fearsome skills and unflinching moral code of justice. Dredd will be a cult classic for years, while Judge Dredd will forever be one of the low points on Sylvester Stallone’s impressive resume.
3. Original Better: RoboCop (1987) – RoboCop (2014)
The original 1987 version of RoboCop, directed Paul Verhoeven, still stands as one of the most beloved sci-fi superhero movies of all time. It managed to perfectly satirize America’s culture of corporate overreach and violence with an original and entertaining story.
That’s why nobody was clamoring for a reboot, but that’s what they got in 2014 from director José Padilha. His version failed to add anything new to the original, while managing to be a far less fun film experience for the audience– and why it can be argued the reboot had a vastly superior cast, and even a tighter script, removing the campy-ness factor of the original and making a better looking film seemed to take away a lot of the charm of the original.
2. Reboot Better: Justice League (2017) – Justice League of America (1997)
When it comes to Zack Snyder’s DC movies it often feels like the real battle doesn’t take place on screen between the heroes and villains, but rather online between the director’s diehard fans and everyone else.
However, with Snyder stepping aside from Justice League for personal reasons, it fell to Josh Whedon to finish the film. Somehow that has led to an even bigger fight over the movie, with Snyder’s biggest supporters demanding Warner Bros. release “his” cut of the film (which might not exist).
And yet despite the mixed reviews for the movie, which took on a lighter tone than Batman v Superman, this is one reboot that didn’t have to worry about falling short of the original. That’s because the 1997 TV movie Justice League of America was hated by everyone equally.
It’s story didn’t make sense, the characters in the group were dramatically different from the comics, and their costumes looked terrible, as did the not-so-special effects.
1. Original Better: Superman (1978) – Superman Returns (2013), Man of Steel (2006)
Superman is arguably the most recognizable superhero of all time. And of all the versions of the character to ever grace the silver screen, no actor ever seemed to capture what made the son of Krypton so beloved by people of all ages quite like the late Christopher Reeve in director Richard Donner’s films.
And those Reeve Superman movies have only grown in stature recently following not one but two inferior reboots, Superman Returns and Man of Steel.
In fairness, the problems with both of those movies didn’t include the men who donned the red cape, as Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill were bright spots in their films. But Superman Returns had an inane plot, and Man of Steel was too dark to capture the optimism that defines Superman.
The first big screen version of Superman still reigns supreme among original superhero movies.
Can you think of any other superhero movies that had better originals or reboots? Let us know in the comments!
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