With the forthcoming Man of Steel, the recent release of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man and speculation already mounting as to what might follow Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the topic of comic book movie reboots seems to be a popular talking point of late. New Daredevil and Fantastic Four projects are also progressing, leading to …
With the forthcoming Man of Steel, the recent release of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man and speculation already mounting as to what might follow Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the topic of comic book movie reboots seems to be a popular talking point of late. New Daredevil and Fantastic Four projects are also progressing, leading to frequent complaints about the seemingly endless refreshing of these properties. What is with all these reboots? And are they really a problem?
The true divider of opinions has certainly been Spider-Man. It does not seem so long ago that Tobey Maguire was swinging across our screens as everyone’s favourite wall crawler, only to be replaced in a blink by young upstart Andrew Garfield. The relative merits of Sam Raimi’s trilogy and the new film are up for debate – although we dare you to deny Garfield and co-star Emma Stone’s on-screen chemistry – but many cinemagoers were still surprised by the sudden appearance of a new film, with 2007′s Spider-Man III still feeling fresh in their minds.
Why the hasty reboot then? When Raimi pulled out of the fourth film, a reboot was quickly announced. It is speculated that Columbia, which currently holds the rights to the franchise, had to put out another film or see Spider-Man lapse back to Marvel/Disney. If they could not get another Raimi film, a reboot would have to do. This is also why a Daredevil film is still planned to begin production in autumn by 20th Century Fox despite the recent loss of director David Slade. Sometimes these films feel rushed because, out of necessity, they were.
‘People are very protective of their characters,’ said Ady Brady, head of comics at Forbidden Planet’s London store. ‘It’s great that they care about them. That’s why they are so vocal.’ He added that resistance to new films is often a knee jerk reaction, with many fans coming to quickly love the new material. ‘It’s been like this for years. There are always going to be people who are against these reboots.’
Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel will arrive next year, and has recently debuted a very short and teasing trailer. The tone is promising, and after 2006′s strange, divisive, and forgettable Superman Returns, we are yet to hear too much resistance to handsome Henry Cavill’s new version of the iconic hero (fans at the Comic-Con screening reportedly wept tears of joy). Reboot-exhaustion is at least partly relative, it seems.
Perhaps a problem that people have is not with the reboots themselves, but with the quality and imagination of the storytelling. A major complaint about The Amazing Spider-Man was that it was another origin story, and incredibly similar to Raimi’s 2002 debut outing. An origin story is an easy option, and does not require the filmmakers to have faith in the audience’s intelligence and pop culture knowledge. There is nothing to say that a reboot has to come in the form of another origin.
To understand the rebooting trend better, we will have to take a look at the history of the source material – the comics themselves. The majority of these superhero properties and characters are well over 50 years old, and in that time there have been more reboots, re-jigs, and relaunches than you could count. From DC Comics’ line-wide The New 52 and the controversial Spider-Man story ‘One More Day’, to the subtle and endless reinterpretations of characters from new writers and artists, comics are in a constant state of flux. The original versions of these characters have become very different from their initial portrayals in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
At the same time, there is a part of these heroes that is eternal and unchanging. They retain their youth and vigour forever, and the key facts about them are always the same. Thomas and Martha Wayne never walk away from that alleyway, and the Kents always teach an alien orphan the value of doing good.
To keep this balance between novelty and the unchanging core, reboots are something of a necessity. No one bats an eyelid when a new James Bond is announced, any more than there is a clamour for adventures featuring an ageing Roger Moore dreaming of adventure through lazy days of retirement. If we want to continue to see these films, reboots are going to be part of the package. And of course, with the illness and death of Christopher Reeve, the newer Superman films had to include some sort of rebooted element.
Nolan and his Batman star Christian Bale have both commented to the effect that the strength of the Dark Knight is in the many interpretations of him. ‘When the time is right, whenever someone does whatever the next iteration of the character is, they simply need to be true,’ said the director.
‘Nolan’s Batman was a reboot,’ added Brady. ‘They looked at previous versions and decided on a real world setting. I don’t think his franchise would have existed without the previous films. The reboots learn from previous mistakes, giving fans a more refined version of that character.’
Comic book movie reboots are an inevitable part of the genre. Just think: without them, we might still be stuck with the latest in a long line of Adam West, ’60s style Batmen. Or, heaven forbid, Joel Schumacher’s ultra-camp, nipples-on-breastplates approach. And if we must get a new Fanstastic Four, let it be without Jessica Alba’s terrible dye-job. Rebooting is evolution, and like-or-loathe the latest version of your favourite hero, these films are always moving towards something new.
Watch the Man of Steel trailer below:
Featured Image: Courtesy of Warner Bros UK.