It’s often said that there are no do-overs in life. Thank goodness Hollywood executives live in their own cocoon where the rules that the rest of us follow don’t apply.
Rebooting stalled franchises has become a popular and valuable movie industry practice, because executives would rather trade in their Maserati for a Prius than invest in new ideas. But the track record for re-imagined properties is mixed.
When they work, it’s usually because the new regime recognizes what went wrong in the first place, and necessary adjustments are made. Too often though, franchise makeovers get bungled by too many hands in the creative cookie jar.
So with perhaps the most anticipated reboot in history – J.J. Abrams’ 'Star Trek' – arriving in theaters today, we thought we would look back at the best and worst of Hollywood’s revamps, starting with the Top 5 Best Reboots.
A shout out goes to last summer’s 'The Incredible Hulk' for helping us forget Ang Lee’s misguided father-son mopefest. Lesson we learned from 'Hulk, Vol. 2'? Deep, complex comic book flicks like 'The Dark Knight' are great. Sometimes though, we just want to see Hulk Smash stuff.
Here’s one more: 'Maverick' from 1994. Before he went insane, Mel Gibson used to be the master of action comedies. His goofy grin and physical presence was never better than when he played the most notorious gambler in the Old West. Gibson & Jodie Foster’s sexy banter was inspired, and you can never have too much of Alfred Molina as a bad guy. This actually was one of the first remakes to sidestep the ‘original cast member cameo’ and the original Maverick - James Garner - made director Richard Donner look like a genius by nearly stealing the movie as the shady lawman.
5. Battlestar Galactica
I know this is article’s supposed to be about movies, and I am the producer of a movie show, but there’s no way in good conscience I can do a write-up on the best franchise reboots and not include BSG. Considering the source material was a Star Wars rip-off that was cheesy even by late 70's television standards, the astounding quality of SCI FI’s 'Battlestar Galactica' reboot is even more remarkable.
Political allegory, psycho-drama and action-packed to boot, there has NEVER been a TV show like BSG, on cable or anywhere else. Whereas 'Batman Begins' is the table-setter for comic book revamps, BSG is the gold standard for revisiting a poorly executed small-screen idea and running with it. Ronald Moore’s vision remains so compelling (damn, that final episode was insane!) that even someone like me, who actually has fond childhood memories of the original show, can't bear to watch those old episodes I love me some Lorne Greene, but c'mon – Starbuck as a guy?? That's just ridiculous.
Because $300 million domestic box office cannot be ignored. Neither can the fact that this may be the first Michael Bay film devoid of even one cringe-worthy sequence. I’m sure there’s some sort of irony that Bay’s best work came in directing the live-action adaptation of an 80s cartoon designed to sell toys.
And he ensured Megan Fox would have a long and scantily-clad life in the hearts and sordid imaginations of Junk Food T-shirt wearing dorks from coast to coast.
3. Star Trek (2009)
I've seen Abrams’ new take on Trek, and it's as good as everyone is saying it is. Great even. So good that I have full-blown Trek Fever. As I type this, I have a separate browser window open to follow a bid I have on eBay for a Mego Kirk doll to add to my collection of desk ornaments that drives my wife nuts.
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Abrams followed every one of Nolan’s reboot rules. And while neither Chris Pine or Zachary Quinto are at Christian Bale’s level of acting commitment, they aced their roles. Bringing Eric Bana in as the bad guy was genius too.
And oh yeah. Some guy named Nimoy wasn’t bad. This franchise will...oh hell. How can I NOT say it..? ‘Live Long and Prosper.’
2. Casino Royale (James Bond)
James Bond shared a room with Bruce Wayne in the Fallen Hollywood Icon suite at the Chateau Marmont until producers wised up and realized that having a License to Kill is no fun for audiences if you’re untouchable. So they replaced Pierce Brosnan with a blonde Daniel Craig, dropped the familiar theme music, and (gasp!) actually had their secret agent trying to hide his identity in the movie. Result: Bond movies are event pictures again, even if “Quantum of Solace” was a bit of a letdown.
1. Batman Begins
Christopher Nolan took the battered, beaten and humiliated carcass of the Caped Crusader Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman left behind, and pulled an Oscar Goldman. “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”
Nolan went back to the beginning with bats, stripped the character down to its pulpy, crime-fighting roots and grounded the Batman mythos in a reasonable facsimile of reality.
Aside from reviving the billion-dollar Bat-franchise, he also established the blueprint for comic book reboots:
Cast an actor with street cred as your lead.
Start at the beginning.
Ignore everything that came before your film.
No Bat Nipples!
Writer Michael Avila is the producer for the nationally syndicated movie show Lyons & Bailes REEL TALK. Visit www.REELTALKtv.com to check your local listings.