There’s been a little bit of confusion (especially here at MovieChopShop) about whether J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek is a remake, a prequel, a reimagining, a reboot, or any other strange term that you’d like to pull out of your ass. (Why just read Quaid’s article on the matter!) Last week, I labelled the new incarnation of Star Trek as a prequel–because it certainly shows us stuff that took place long before the Trek that we all know and love. But not everyone was in complete agreement with that classification, and now, having seen the film, I’m not entirely sure that I am either. But I can discuss all that later.
The reboot has been a fun little cinematic experiment of late (and one that Star Trek undoubtedly fits into at least a little bit). It’s brought us new and intelligent takes on many a popular cinematic franchise and in several cases has given us a better set of films than the ones that preceeded it. Let’s take a look at five great examples, shall we?
5. Halloween (2007, dir: Rob Zombie)
Okay, not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination. Rob Zombie let his oddball redneck sensibilities get way out of hand with this one. And yet, while I know I’m sending dear old Quaid into a fit of babysitter-stabbing fury by including it on this list, the fact of the matter is that I kinda like this movie, and I really do believe that it manages to stay true to the creepy and inexplicable killing machine that is Michael Myers while going about it in a whole new way. Many people complain that this movie makes Michael less scary by explaining his mind and motives and why he is the way he is. But, friends, I ask you this: what the hell did we really learn about any of that from this movie? The answer is absolutely nothing. The whole point of this movie is that they try and explain it all away and realize that they can’t. The dude’s just totally fucking evil. End of story. And I understand that what many people dislike is that about an hour into this movie it turns into a sped-up remake of the original film, but is that really such a bad thing? Do we really lose that much of the subtles nuances and character development of John Carpenter’s movie by just getting the Cliffs Notes version of people being stabbed? Get over yourself, snobby horror fans of America. It ain’t too shabby.
Their’s something totally charming about how this film came about. This second take on Marvel Comics’s classic angry green big guy was really a pretty fun and respectable summer action movie. It hit us in the summer that also gave us Iron Man and The Dark Knight, so it understandably got a little bit overlooked, but it’s nevertheless a whole lot of fun on its own merits. But what’s so terrific about the idea of it all and the real reason that I simply could not pass up the opportunity to put it on this list is the fact that it’s a reboot of a film that was made a mere five years earlier. Ang Lee’s 2003 film Hulk was so universally disliked and was such an inexplicable bomb (for a movie that should’ve been a huge hit) that Universal thought to themselves “Surely, the stars just weren’t aligned in our favor the first time around” and made no hesitation to try the whole damn thing again, with an entirely new set of people. And you know what? It worked! The movie, while not one of the more impressive or weighty movies to come out of the recent resurgance of the superhero genre, is a cool and terrifically entertaining good time at the movies. You could do far worse, folks.
3. Casino Royale (2006, dir: Martin Campbell)
I’m not really that well-schooled on the James Bond franchise and watching Casino Royale doesn’t really make me wish I was, either. But I assure you that I mean that as a good thing. What few Bond movies that I have seen, I can attest, are not very good movies at all. They’re cheesy, dopey, one-note, and often times a little bit on the boring side. Bond isn’t a character so much as an idea. An idea that was never fully realized…until Martin Campbell’s 2006 reboot of the franchise. Casino Royale starts out at the very beginning–Ian Fleming’s very first James Bond story–and uses that to establish a whole new tone, feel, and idea to the character and the franchise. Daniel Craig seems to have been made to play the role–especially in the way that this new version of the franchise is depicting him. He’s the dashing, charming, indestructable, and violent son of a bitch that he’s always been, but this film is all about taking that once-cliched character and giving him reason, motivation, history, and meaning. Maybe it’s unfair of me to say, since I have only seen a small handful of 007 pictures, but Casino Royale is hands down the absolute best film that the long-running franchise has to offer.
2. Star Trek (2009, dir: J.J. Abrams)
Well, now they’ve really done it. Hollywood went and made Star Trek sexy. It all makes me kinda feel bad for the hard-core Trekkies. This movie is big and flashy and fun and totally accessible for anyone and everyone. But I guess that’s the point of a reboot, isn’t it? And it certainly is a reboot, at least partially. What it is, really, is a reboot by means of a prequel. I suppose I’ll spare the world my full-on review of the film (there are already two others–here and here–on the site) and just leave what I have to say for this harmless little blurb right here. I think it’s already clear that I very much dug the hell out of the movie. It wasn’t perfect. It had a couple of issues, but that’s to be expected on some level, isn’t it? It really is a genuinely awesome movie and it’s rather brilliantly constructed, to boot. What I’m about to say probably won’t make a whole lot of sense if you haven’t seen the movie yet, but nevertheless could be viewed as a little bit “spoilery,” so you’ve been warned.
Star Trek is a fascinating entry in the ever-expanding parade of reboots because it manages to acknowledge and pay its respects to any and all previously-established Trek canon, while completely subverting and reestablishing it. As such, it’s really a very cleverly crafted movie (not to mention a shit-ton of fun!). At the end of the day, the wink-wink complexity of its plot, the ingenuity of its casting, and the enthusiastically fast-paced direction make this whole movie kind of a brilliant metaphor for all cinematic reboots. I feel like anyone looking to make a franchise reboot in the future needs to watch this film and take notes. J.J. Abrams will show you how the hell it’s done.
1. Batman Begins (2005, dir: Christopher Nolan)
Besides the lame title (which I know I’ve complained about before) Batman Begins is a damn-near perfect movie, and the painful obviousness of its title is no indication of anything that the film itself has to offer. What a way to wipe clean what had become a pretty grimy and terrifying slate. Tim Burton’s Batman pictures were quite good, but they did lack a little something. And it’s with the utmost guilt that I’ll own up to enjoying Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever a little bit. But anyone who tells you that they liked his next entry, 1997′s Batman & Robin needs to find a better use for their sense of sarcasm. But what none of those movies could ever capture (or even really tried to), Christopher Nolan gets outstandingly right with this 2005 serious-faced revamping of the franchise. Batman is the best superhero that there is. That is a fact that you will find in any reference book. But more than that, he’s simply the most interesting and complex superhero character out there. As a character whose only superpower is the rabid determination to enact justice on the criminal underworld of society, the mythology leaves open many doors for the thoughtful exploration of good and evil, right and wrong, heroes and villains. Begins, and its mind-meltingly amazing sequel The Dark Knight, are two of the very best films of any genre ever to explore such ideas. And as they exist inside the superhero genre, perhaps they are the most evocative and important films of that ilk; there are fewer images derived from the classic idea of heroism that are as iconic as the masked avenger standing on a rooftop, keeping a watchful eye on the city below. Batman Begins stands above all “reboots” because it is bold, artistic, and powerful–a profound criticism of the entries that came before it.