The title of this entry may have a redundancy: I’m not sure there’s ever been such a thing as a reboot that anyone did want. But, that aside….
To begin with, I suppose we should define a few terms. Like reboot. Which works like this:
Rebooting is derived from bootstrapping—a relatively goofy idiom from the nineteenth century equating a given task to the impossible act of lifting oneself off the ground by, basically, pulling one’s feet into the air; it was modded for computers [and largely shortened to boot’ing] to describe the relatively impossible task of prepopulating a system with the software lurking in the Basic Input/Output System [BIOS] prior or concurrent to starting the computer so that the computer could prepopulate itself with the software it needed to prepopulate itself with in order to prepopulate itself with the software from the BIOS it would need in order to prepopulate itself with the software from the BIOS.
Add a splash of thinkiness, and restarting a computer, so it can bootstrap the software from the BIOS, annoyingly became known as rebooting the system. Meaning, really, that you’re restarting the system by returning to the ground and then removing your feet from it again. Or, more applicably, meaning that noises fall outta people’s heads because they might otherwise forget that they exist.
Now, welcome to Hollywood, where the average computer expert will write a GUI to mainframe the ROM and TCP the IP in order to AirGap the ISP and RAM the MultiCore while announcing I’m in! at anyone who hasn’t murdered him for being that stupid yet. And the same calibre of people who thought that this made anything rhyming with sense…
Gunnery Sergeant Luddite to the Sad Trombone Rescue
…thinkabouted reboot into a term for making a remake of a film which…I guess displays the selfawareness to grok that it’s a remake of a film.
If there’s one good thing about reboots, it’s that they’ve handed me the perfect way to explain why reboots suck. I present The Thing.
Once upon a century, The Thing was a seriously remarkable novella by John Campbell:
If you’ve never read this, then we can’t be friends anymore; or, go do that, and I’ll wait.
Published in 1938, a couple months before people reportedly fell for a radio broadcast about War of the Worlds, Campbell’s little story predicted bloodbourne diseases [Ebola, HIV, et cetera] and blamed them on a microscopic alien creature; the story was made—really badly—into a fifties horror matinee flick called The Thing from Another World.
Arguably the least terrifying thing James Arness ever did.
For thirty years, The Thing from Another World remained an embarrassment of missing the damned point. Until, in 1982, having made Halloween and The Fog and Escape from New York [and, okay: Dark Star], John Carpenter released a remake, based almost perfectly on the novella, and called, simply, The Thing.
I’ve seen a lot of films. To me, Carpenter’s Thing is doubtlessly in the Top Five; whether it’s technically better than Ridley Scott’s Alien depends on my mood when you ask. When I wrote the zombiebook, a decade or so ago, I couldn’t not base it in part on Carpenter’s film; if I’d tried, I’d still be sitting here trying to write it.
Add another thirty years. In round numbers. In 2011, sixty years after James Arness sucked at us, some idiot got the thinky idea to reboot The Thing.
And this is where the terminology becomes important. The reboot in 2011 wasn’t remaking a carrotmonster film with James Arness, and it wasn’t remaking a viralien film with Kurt Plissken Russell and Wilford Diabeetus Brimley; it was rebooting [technically prebooting] Carpenter’s film by selfimpressingly retconning things no one ever cared about in order to answer questions no one ever asked. Like How Did That Axe Get There—which had apparently kept trilbied geeks theoryating in their parents’ basements for three decades.
In short: a remake looks at an existing film, sees its flaws, and comes out [optimally] as an improved version, much the way any given film might look at an existing novel, see which bits would translate well, and comes out as a means of telling the story without expecting people to know how to read; a reboot looks at an existing film, doesn’t get why anyone ever liked it, and comes out as a dismal mess incapable of going five minutes without referencing the original simply to assure us that its makers also saw the original film we’ve seen.
‘Come with me if you wanna hear “come with me if you wanna live” again, and again, for ever.’
Ultimately, a reboot is what happens when a moron who can’t think up a new film throws his narcissism at an existing one, saying, That’s cool; I can do better with my own FanFic.
That established [and a bit oversimplified; we’ll get back to this later], let’s look at a few reboots no one ever wanted to see….
‘I vant to ask if you’re happy with your current insurance provider….’
I’m starting with Fright Night largely because I almost didn’t hate it. Like, the first half of it. The original, from the eighties, was always a bit weak [to put this into perspective, for its first few years, it was confused by the masses with Vamp—a truly useless vampire film attempting to get anyone to care about Grace Jones]; it was all about the supporting cast—Roddy McDowall as a sorta English Male Elvira BGrade Film Presenter who…also was somehow some sort of vampire slayer, and the neighbour chick from Married with Children, and Chris Wait a Couple Years and I’ll be the Villain in Princess Bride Sarandon as a vampire battling against Edward Herrmann for the honour of being known as the least intimidating vampire of the eighties [the nineties would introduce Seeley Booth as EmoVamp, followed this century by Sparkles McBloodIsn’tWhatISuck], and maybe Stephen Geoffreys as The Geek Unaccountably Cooler than the Hero in approximately his final role before trying to carry 976-EVIL as a warning against letting Fred Krueger direct any more films, and I should stop subreferencing now—and, as time went on, it was about being pretty much the first film anyone ever saw in which vampires were constrained by rules: inviting a vampire into your house gives it all the power; killing a vampire may cause it to explode and dissipate completely; everything The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer came to rely on as plot devices.
Then, someone rebooted that.
The primary problem with rebooting Fright Night was similar to the primary problem with rebooting V. It was too late. It was no longer possible to introduce these neat rules, when everyone else had already copied them. Toward the beginning of the V reboot, someone selfawarishly notes that the aliens invading are just like what happened in ID4. An unsubtle indictment of ID4 stealing most of its plot from V in the eighties. Nevermind that V, in the eighties, had stolen its plotline from Arthur I Wrote Stuff apart from 2001 Clarke; the reboot had to fling its outrage over tertiary plagiarism at the audience, because Hi There.
But what really sucked about Fright Night was the reboot yanking Prince Humperdinck into itself so the new Dandrige could kill the old one. Because wow. What’s more powerful than a film pretty much literally eating its own basis. For, like, ten or fifteen seconds of hilariously boring screentime.
As a reboot, Fright Night had its marginal upsides, wasted though they might have been. Like this one:
‘Hermahgerd it’s the Doctor who isn’t the Doctor who was the badguy in Twenty-eight Days Later!!!1′ —Some Histrionic Geek Somewhere
As casting went, they coulda done a lot worse than getting Tennant as the updated Elvira character. Or, they coulda not made this thing at all, because replacing McDowall hasn’t worked since they tried it in Reboot of the Apes.
Moving on to this one because it has a couple things in common with Fright Night. One’s that it’s got Colin Farrell again [who’s starting to make me wonder whether Seven Psychopaths was a reboot, lest he might ever have been in anything that wasn’t one]; the other’s that, in a lot of ways, it was an improvement over the original.
The original suffered from being made at the end of the eighties. Meaning that the effects were laughable, and that one of the effects was a prop known as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Verhoeven’s Total Recall may have had less to do with its source novella than Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers had to do with its source novella. What I’m saying here is that Verhoeven’s least ridiculous film may have been Showgirls. You just think about that….
‘He also made Flesh Plus Blood!!!1′ Yes. Yes he did.
Even so, the reboot was unnecessary. Sure, the original film lost the plot around the opening credits; but, apart from most of it taking place on Mars…for some reason…it did what it was supposed to do: show that PKD was psychotic. The ending was left all…not hammered into you, I guess; whether the whole thing was just a psychotic episode or not was meant to be left up to the audience to get into flamewars over [the answer: it actually happened; otherwise, the parts with Michael Ironside telling his lackey not to think (good advice which I throw at people to this day) wouldn’t have been in the film, because Quaid wasn’t there to observe them]; ignoring the limitations in the effects [including, again, most of the cast], the film was a decent story which is exactly as good today as it was before the Berlin Wall fell.
Cut to the reboot. And we have the telltale signs of rebootitude. This is one:
Filed under We Saw the Original Too.
And this is the other:
Rule Number One: Get Reboots Rated As PG13, Because Grownups Won’t Bother Seeing Them Either Way
I haven’t seen this one yet. Obviously. It hasn’t been filmed yet. But, based on what we know to date about reboots, I’ve got some predictions.
By its nature, Chickbusters can’t do anything but suck. And the reason isn’t that it’s a group of chicks this time. That’s just genius marketing: when the film sucks—and by nature it will—anyone noting that it sucks will be misogynistic in the way that anyone noting that Gitmo wasn’t closed by 2010 is racistic.
In fact, Ghostbooters will suck for the same reason it sucked last time, in 1989: Ghostbusters, in 1984, was fundamentally an origin film, like Men in Black, and The Matrix, and Back to the Future, and every basis for any painfully inferior sequel. Sequels, and by implication reboots, are made for a single, simple reason: to get money from morons who can’t be expected to go through the process of learning new names. The exceptions are so rare as to be legendary. Wanna see?
In 1977, a guy made this sorta dragracing film with swords and fighterplanes…in space. He called it Star Wars. Eventually. Because no one was gonna see anything called The Journal of the Whills.
Journal of the Whills
This is the story of Mace Windy, a revered Jedi-bendu of Ophuchi, as related to us by C.J. Thorpe, padawaan learner to the famed Jedi.
I am Chuiee Two Thorpe of Kissel. My father is Han Dardell Thorpe, chief pilot of the renown galactic cruiser Tarnack. As a family we were not rich, except in honor, and valuing this above all mundane possessions, I chose the profession of my father, rather than a more profitable career. I was 16, I believe, and pilot of the trawler Balmung, when my ambitions demanded that I enter the exalted Intersystems Academy to train as a potential Jedi-Templer. It is here that I became padawaan learner to the great Mace Windy, highest of all the Jedi-bendu masters, and at that time, Warlord to the Chairman of the Alliance of Independent Systems.
Never shall I forget the occasion upon which I first set eyes upon Mace Windy. It was at the great feast of the Pleabs. There were gathered under one roof, the most powerful warriors in the Galaxy, and although I realize my adoration of the Master might easily influence my memory, when he entered the hall, these great and noble warlords fell silent. It was said he was the most gifted and powerful man in the Independent Systems. Some felt he was even more powerful than the Imperial leader of the Galactic Empire.
Adventure. Excitement. A space opera needs not these things.
The guy—pariah to geeks everywhere who’d once spent sixteen years ordering him to make a trilogy of prequels—made Star Wars for a few million bucks, and then got the bright idea to write a sequel.
But, before he could film that little abortion, Star Wars took off, making all the money, and the guy A) brought in a bullpen to write the sequel and B) brought in a real director to film it.
The result was The Empire Strikes Back—or, as it’s generally called, The Best of the Six.
Unfortunately, after Empire did better than the first film, the guy made a third, without a guy called Gary Kurtz. And so we got some muppets.
‘I used to live here, you know.’ ‘Uh…yeah: this is where we met, you idiot.’
Then, because you asked for it—and you totally did; I saw you; I was there—the prequels happened. And guess why those flunked. Right: because they were retconning the damned origin story.
By its nature, Ghostbooters is gonna hafta do the same thing. If, that is, the intention is to reboot the series. If the plan is in fact to cram Melissa McCarthy into Venkman’s role, then the reboot will get stuck trying to introduce a concept people shooting arrows at helicopters south of Sri Lanka are familiar with.
Not that McCarthy doesn’t kinda look the part….
If the plan isn’t to reboot Ghostbusters, then, A) this film won’t belong on this list and B) it’ll only suck to the extent that GhostbustersII did when it tried to carry The Further Adventures of Four Guys Whose Story Was Told Five Years Ago but Slimer Is Now a Character.
This one’s barely been announced. Like, there’s just been this kinda lingering threat about it for a few years. But, the nature of those threats being about rebooting the thing instead of writing another sequel, we could talk about this electronic suicide note.
First, I should probably clarify something: I never cared all that much about Gremlins. Personally. I noticed that it was a thing, of course; it exploits this coincidence where its and my name contain a lot of the same letters. But that’s about the end of our relations. I’d imagine that anyone named Joe would share my reaction to your expectation that he should be in every way identical to Peter Boyle. Also, if you wanna see a gremlin I actually dig, he looks like this:
‘Throw water on me—I dare you, Bitch.’
To the extent that this reboot has been announced, you can probably guess what the illiterati are already whimpering about at imdb.com:
The Opinionation SuperHighway
That image represents pretty much everything wrong with reboots, the people who like reboots, and the people who hate reboots. And also just people in general, really.
go true horror
I wouldn’t disagree, in principle; in practise: get real; the thing’s got to be PG13—see above.
Get a job.
You almost can’t tell this is going to be a pointless CGI crapfestival
Good. I’ve been meaning to talk about this. I think I’ve figured out why there are those who call CG CG and those who call CG CGI. It’s that the people calling CG Common Gateway Interface are morons who don’t know what CG is, let alone how to do it. Or, if I wanted to be more charitable, CG is what you never notice in decent films, while CGI is what the SyFy Channel have.
One of my favourite films ever – HOW DARE THEY!!!
Call a cop.
Why don’t they just make it a sequel? The magic is still there.
Remember how I said we’d get back to the reasons why people reboot things? Now is that time.
Specific to your question, Gremlins 2: The Wrath of Satire was twenty-five years ago. Half the cast are dead; the other half kinda look it. There’s actually no advantage, at this point, in making a sequel. And, if they tried to do that anyway, the first hour would be that awkward retconnish I Used to Live Here, You Know thing. It’s not the next day anymore; a true sequel would make a failed attempt to explain away the chunk of years between 1990 and 20XX.
The more general answer is that a reboot has these arguable advantages:
It’s already written; short of a bit of scriptdoctoring to remove whatever references to the eighties, someone can yarf out a filmscript that the studio already paid for.
By rebooting, the studio can recycle what they think you liked about the original, while discarding the context making it likeable, and end up with a trailer evoking whatever nostalgia thing you people have.
They can get Corey Feldman and whoever to show up as cameos; and we’re back to Hermagerd someone I know from somewhere!!!1
And, most importantly, they can release something that they know you’ll go see for the singleminded purpose of whimpering about it online and getting other people also to go see how totally they catholicked your childhood; any given reboot is virtually guaranteed to make back ten times its budget, simply by daring you to go see how horrible a job they did.