warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Are Movie Reboots The Bane Of Original Ideas?

Grayson Abele |
December 10, 2014 | 3:16 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Chris Pratt stars in "Jurassic World," the fourth installment in the "Jurassic Park" series. (Twitter/@dinersrevista)
Chris Pratt stars in "Jurassic World," the fourth installment in the "Jurassic Park" series. (Twitter/@dinersrevista)

There seems to be no shortage of reboots, remakes, or very-late sequels to franchises in the modern movie industry, and just recently trailers for "Jurassic World," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and "Terminator: Genisys" have been released. It's fairly easy to get up on a soapbox and claim that this seeming lack of originality is killing the modern movie industry, but while there may be an arguable point that it is slightly damaging the movie industry the overall claim isn't true.

Reboots are not the golden calves before which creativity and originnality are sacrificed for profit. There will always be original movies to be shown in theatres, so the argument that reboots are the single worst thing to happen to the film industry in recent memory isn't a fair accusation. Reboots shouldn't be treated like any other films because there are certain expectations the audience has, but even reboots have the chance to be commercially and critically successful.

However, I am certainly not saying that all reboots are equally capable of success given the subject matter alone. Reboots are bound to the core concepts of the original film(s), that is literally what defines it as a reboot. A "Jaws" reboot will have a shark, "Speed" will have a vehicle moving very fast, and a "Halloween" film will have teenagers with the self-preservation instincts of lemmings. The point is, the defining ideas of films have to be retained in reboots but sometimes the ideas themselves hold up worse which make them poor candidates for reboots. So in honor of the three main reboots on slate for 2015, here is a breakdown of their individual capacities for success:

"Jurassic Park" is arguably the simplest film plot-wise of the original three which isn't necessarily a point in its favor. "Jurassic Park" was critically acclaimed in 1994 for an excellent use of practical effects and praise-worthy directing by Steven Spielberg. The thing is, it essentially boils down to "Let's take a slasher film and add dinosaurs," and that was enough to make over $350 million in the U.S. alone. However, what made the original film so novel was that dinosaurs had never been so realistically portrayed on film—honestly, the practical effects still hold up even by modern standards of special effects—but you can't ignore the fact that there is no shortage of portrayals of dinosaurs in popular media.

"Jurassic World" has a hurdle right out of the gate because the original concept is no longer so novel as it was in 1994, so it will have to differentiate itself in other ways. One way to not differentiate itself, however, is to cram its trailer with the same scenes from the original film such as "kid hides from dinosaur in kitchen," "man runs away from raptors," and "man runs away from big dinosaur as audience watches the dinosaur's legs." Overall, if "Jurassic World" wants to capture the same sense of awe or shock as "Jurassic Park," then it has to do some serious innovating. While that doesn't doom the film, it certainly will add a level of challenge overall. 

"Star Wars," however, has no problem with transitioning its core concept to modern culture. The original "Star Wars" films are so timeless because they make an effort to make their universe seem expansive and imply the audience is only seeing a small, interesting piece of it. That concept alone was enough to make the "Star Wars" franchise one of the most, if not the most, successful franchises in film history.

The new teaser trailer for the upcoming "Star Wars" reboot/sequel left out all plot and focused on the overall look of the film—and to be fair it actually looks pretty good visually-speaking. The concept of watching space-faring people negotiate their differences via laser fire fits absolutely perfectly in modern movie culture—at this point I have to include a reminder that "Guardians of the Galaxy" made over $300 million. So even though "Star Wars" itself is the oldest movie of the three its concept is the most at-home in modern culture, it feels the most natural to reboot. 

And now we have arrived at the low point of the upcoming reboots: "Terminator: Genisys." From a reboot perspective, "Terminator's" concept has aged pretty well. The prospect of watching people fight a killer robot from the future remains as intriguing, if not as original, as it was 30 years ago when the original film was released.

However, every single thing about the released trailer makes me doubt the chances of the critical success of the film. The trailer was comprised entirely of references/rip-offs to the preceding films of the franchise and the logic seems to be to combine the plot and antagonist from "Terminator 2," the post-apocalyptic landscape from "Terminator: Salvation," a few iconic scenes from the original film and then top it all off with a rehash of a few of the franchise's famous one-liners. An effort that seeks to garner good will from fans and only spawns unintentional laughter at the films expense. (Also, this may be a low-blow but the CGI does not look great by modern standards or even by the standards set by previous films.)

"Genisys," based solely on the trailer—which by no means is a sure-fire implication of quality—seems to be the definition of the wrong way to do a reboot: Clump together successful aspects from previous films and call it a day before remembering to add any new or innovative ideas. A reboot should take a concept from an earlier film and take it in a bold, new, or at least interesting direction, but Genisys seems convinced that having Arnold Schwarzenegger blandly say "I'll be Back" is enough to justify the franchise's own seemingly-dull return.

Overall, reboots aren't anything special in the film industry. As long as there are original ideas there will be reboots and remakes, but no amount of re-doing films will ever stop the creation of original ideas. All reboots thus have just as much of a chance of success as original films, but the crop of remakes set for 2015 have varying likelihoods of success. 

Reach staff reporter Grayson Abele here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.