To reboot, or not to reboot?

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Jessica Brennan on Hollywood’s creative recycling

In 1992, long before Stephenie Meyer forced “Twilight” upon the world, screenwriter Joss Whedon’s creation “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” hit the big screen.

The film starred Kristy Swanson and was a minimal box office success despite facing criticism from it’s creator. But a matter of weeks ago, 18 years after the film’s initial release, Warner Bros announced that they are officially rebooting the franchise.

On the surface this seems like a lucrative move. In fact after the film faded into obscurity Joss Whedon did his own reboot, launching “Buffy…” the TV series in 1997. The TV series was Whedon’s biggest success: It spanned 7 seasons, spawned a successful spin off series and created a thriving cult following which still remains 7 years after the original series ended it’s run.

So it would seem sensible for Warner Brothers to want to cash in on “Buffy” after the recent vampire revival. But surprisingly the majority of “Buffy” fans are furious at the announcement.

Despite several central cast members being open to the idea of a film Warner Brothers have decided that the new “Buffy” project will have no involvement from Whedon or the original cast. The franchise will be helmed by unknown scriptwriter Whit Anderson. It’s now easy to see why the show’s die hard fans are less than thrilled with this reboot.

It isn’t just “Buffy” which is in line for a reboot. In the past few years countless franchises have been given new life: “Star Trek” was rebooted with a younger (rather attractive) cast 30 years after the initial movie; and “Casino Royale”, the 21st James Bond film and another reboot, grossed nearly $600 million.

So surely the reboot is for the best? These reboots have been promoted by some of the most talented filmmakers of our generation and “The Dark Knight” is the 7th highest grossing film of all time. In theory the reboot rebrands films for a new generation.

But for some the current reboot obsession is ruining the film industry. Most of the high profile studios have a plethora of reboots on the cards. Original films are becoming almost non-existent and even the most talented filmmakers seem to be reliant on rebooting dead franchises. Whedon himself blames the reboot of his beloved series on a lack of creativity:
“People must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths – just because they can’t think of an original idea”

This is nothing new: since Hollywood became dominant over the film industry ideas have been “borrowed” from other sources. A multitude of films were inspired by books, from “Gone with the Wind” to “Rear Window”. Film is an industry built on borrowing from other sources and developing past ideas. Therefore it seems as if rebooting is the natural step in filmmaking. It may be a completely organic development.

The problem with reboots is the frequency with which a dying franchise is targeted. It took 23 years before Tim Burton decided to reboot the “Batman” franchise and Nolan’s own reboot, the spark for the reboot frenzy, came 8 years after the last “Batman” film.

Seeing how lucrative film reboots could be the reason that the gap between the end of one franchise and it’s reboot is shortening rapidly. It was recently announced that “Spiderman” is being rebooted just 3 years after the last film in the franchise, apparently due to Tobey Maguire’s high salary demands; and worryingly there is a planned reboot of “The Planet of the Apes”. We’ve grown so obsessed with reboots that we support a reboot of a reboot.

So are the reboots so damaging for film? There have been some catastrophic reboots in recent years but there have also been successes too. When done well these films can reignite our love for long forgotten films. Even Joss Whedon, who was so vocal about his hatred of the reboot, has been confirmed as the director of a film reboot of “The Avengers.”

Either way it seems as if reboots are something we’ll have to get used to.

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