Been a while since I made one of these kinda posts, huh?
So I’d like to talk about a subject matter that’s been bothering me for several years now, and it’s a trend that’s pretty much been a mainstay in a lot of forms of entertainment: Reboots, prequels and decanonizing earlier installments of a franchise.
As a rule, I generally am not too fond of many of them… But I also understand the need for them.
With reboots, sometimes the story is just plain DONE and you’re wanting to retell it for a new audience. If you’re wanting to reboot the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, it’s probably not a bad thing. Robert Englund is 71. And really, the Nightmare franchise hasn’t had it’s stride since the 80s. Sure, there’s been a few movies since. But you’re going to want an actor who can carry the movie for the next decade or so, and the reboot’s Jackie Earle Haley is pushing 60 as well. Hell, I’m not even sure how Freddy vs Jason happened, because in the previous movie, the underrated New Nightmare was a separate continuity from the movie series (as it was in the “real world”) and it wasn’t actually Freddy but a entity who took Freddy’s form. And in the previous movie before that… He was stripped of his power and outright destroyed with no hint of a resurrection. Anyway, sometimes reboots are needed, but I ain’t too fond of them.
But most of times, they’re completely unnecessary. Let’s take the 2014 Robocop movie. I know a lot of people had issues with it. And understandably so. But here’s the thing: I don’t think it’s a bad movie. There’s actual theme and motivations in there. Micheal Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson are great in it. Usage of drones and the higher speed robots make a lot of sense. And the inverse of the theme where in the original, it was a machine trying to recover his humanity… In this one, it’s a man trying to preserve his humanity. It’s not a bad movie, but it didn’t need to be a reboot of Alex Murphy’s story.
Let's say we take that movie, and we change the main character’s name from Alex Murphy to Joe Smith. (Ideally it’d be a better name, but work with me, please.) Keep it the same damn movie, but insert one scene of Micheal Keaton’s character talking about a previous cyborg program they had success with. Suddenly, the movie is no longer an unneeded reboot, but a sequel. It’s Robocop: the Next Generation. It doesn’t take away from the original movie, but adds to it. You can still have the original good movie, and be able the really bad stuff. The movie would still have it’s problems, but tell me that wouldn’t have been a better idea?
We know this would work, because it worked with Creed. Rocky IV still happened, Paulie had a robot, James Brown was there when his dad died, and his mentor ended the Cold War. (God I love that movie!) But you just ignore it and just tell good stories.
It’s the ultimate device to move on from bad stories. You move past it and tell good ones.
And with prequels, sometimes there’s a legit good story to tell about how something happened in the past and it needs to be told. Take the Insidious movies. Spoilers for a movie that came out in 2010, the character Elsie Rainer died in the first movie. But Lin Shaye is an awesome actress who has the acting gravitas to carry a silly franchise like Insidious. So instead of doing a silly resurrection movie or trying to get us to give a shit about a new character… They make the following movies prequels so they can still tell stories with the character and have Lin Shaye around. (And by the way, can we give props to a movie franchise who’s lead character is a woman in her 70s?)
Monsters University and the Godfather II were also amazing prequels. We all understandably deride the Star Wars Prequels, but the Clone Wars TV show, Rebels and even Rogue One were all pretty good. If there’s a good story to tell, then… Tell it.
Unfortunately, as of late, it’s when the last movie or book didn’t do as well as they hoped, and they decide to make a prequel… Mainly to serve as a potential soft reboot of the franchise for them. Such as how X-Men First Class did, or how I’m pretty sure the Bumblebee movie will be. Sometimes, this works out awesomely. Other times in the case of Rob Zombie’s Halloween… It does not.
It becomes someone soulless there. It’s less they have a good movie and more that they want to keep the franchise going and they’re desperate to try new things. And by new things, I mean retell the old stories over again, and hope it’s new again. (Not holding out much hope for Dark Phoenix, I’m afraid… If it EVER gets released.)
Which does lead me to the trend of ignoring entries in a series. And since I mentioned Halloween there, let’s use that movie. (As it’s still in the theaters, I will not mention any spoilers for it, other than I thought it was really damn good.)
Halloween is the poster child for all these things I’m talking about. (A title formerly held by the Highlander movies.) I’m sure you all know that the new Halloween movie is actually the third Halloween 2 movie. Movie 3 got ignore when 4 came out. Movies 3-6 got ignored by H20. The ending of H20 was ignored by Resurrection. Rob Zombie’s fusterclucks ignored everything, but gave the hint that it was a prequel, that ended up being a retelling of the first movie. And I won’t even get into the mess that’s was the sequel there.
Highlander was hilarious. First movie is great, the second is awesomely bad. (I love it too! It’s so awful!) The third movie ignored the second movie just to make a sequel to the first, that just told the same story over again. The Renegade Cut of Highlander 2 removed the alien planet bullshit, but kept the dystopia future, which now made it more fitting with Highlander 5. Highlander 4 ignored Highlander 3, but brought in the TV show, which immediately took a Cleveland Steamer on the entire mythos.
These two are the most egregious examples of this, but in almost every case… Decanonizing a movie entry is almost never needed. Ideally, you want to try and not make a piece of crap in the first place. But in all long running franchises, it happens. You get a Moonraker, or a Star Trek V, or a Spider-Man Clone Saga, or a Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, or an Episode II. The solution isn’t to freak out and start cutting entries from a series, but to just ignore it, move forward and counter it with a better story. Movies, comics, anime, books… That’s ALWAYS been the best solution.
And I’ve never seen it fail. Ever. But the key word there is “A BETTER STORY.” If you just try to counter the crappy story with a crappier story, that just leads you to a reboot faster.
But at what point in time do you push the reboot button?
It’s a good question, actually. Sometimes, it’s a mixed bag. In the case of the James Bond franchise, Die Another Day really sucked, but I’m certain it wasn’t any worse than License to Kill or Moonraker. Though Casino Royale was pretty good… So that worked out all right. And as did the recent Halloween movie. But what about other movies? Highlander: The Source was awful. It decided to jump ahead to a dystopian future where it looked less like a recognizable world and more like the bad second season of War of the Worlds. Superman Returns left Lois married to Cyclops who thinks Superman’s kid is his. How do you resolve THAT? Without murdering the kid, making Lois look worse, or having to hire sexual predators Bryan Singer and Kevin Spacey again? (Can someone please ask Tristan Lake Leabu if he’s okay?)
So in summary, because this is the internet and no one likes reading, unless it’s in Buzzfeed List forms or 280 characters or less. Reboots suck, unless it cannot be avoided or ignored. I’m tired of prequels, but if there’s a good story involved, it’s cool. But if it’s just an attempt to prolong a franchise with a hidden reboot, it’s a little less cool. And just decanonizing entire movies, because you think Superman as a deadbeat dad and Lois as a manipulative bitch is a better story idea than the Nuclear Man is just… Just no.
Look I truly believe that the only time the reboot button needs to be pushed is when your franchise has veered so far from it’s original source, and you cannot get it back there without “Days of Future Pasting” it…
Then it’s probably okay to push the button, Frank.
P.S. I have mixed feelings on the Transformers franchises in all it's multiple forms and the whole idea of reboots. If people are really interested in it, I can go into it. But yeah... That's there.