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Discuss: Remake Vs. Reboot Vs. Reimagining

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jj-abrams-star-trekfdt13casino-royale-poster

From Wikipedia, a most reliable source:

Reboot -  a discarding of much or even all previous continuity  in the series, to start anew. Effectively, all previously known fictive history is declared by the writer(s) to be null and void, or at least irrelevant to the current storyline, and the series starts over.

Remake -Â  generally used in reference to a movie which uses an earlier movie as the main source material, rather than in reference to a second, later movie based on the same source.

Reimagining -Â  remakes that do not closely follow the original. The term is used by creators in the marketing of films and television shows to inform audiences that the new product is not the same as the old. Reimaginings often contain tongue in cheek references to the original with characters and concepts of the same name, but significantly changed.

Nothing like standing out in the rain talking with a fellow Movie Geek to get your geek-filled blood boiling. Â  So it goes with yesterday evening. Â  The conversation deviated towards film studios and how ridiculous they have gotten in recent memory. Â  One of the major bones of contention the two of us had with the studios, of which there were many, was this idea of studios saying they are “rebooting” a film instead of “remaking” it.

I’ll be honest with you. Â  Even after reading the “definitions” of the terms from Wikipedia, I’m still more confused than I was at the end of ‘Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut’. Â  I can’t find any differentiations when it comes to reboots vs. remakes. Â  Not even getting into reimaginings, yet. Â  Those will come later. Â  You have to figure out the difference between A and B before you can move on to C.

As far as I can tell, “reboot” is a term used whenever the studio or the filmmakers behind a project have every intention of “restarting” a franchise. Â  That’s all well and good, but isn’t it the intention of every studio to turn their film into a franchise? Â  Therefore, aren’t “remakes” just as liable to turn themselves into a franchise than “reboots”? Â  Same thing, right?

Apparently not.

Check out this other, little excerpt from Wikipedia:

A reboot differs from a remake or a prequel,  in that the latter two are generally consistent with the canon  (previously-established continuity) of the series; with a reboot, the older continuity is largely discarded and replaced with a new canon.

So franchises are like a big Etch A Sketch that you shake up whenever things get too convoluted? Â  Well, yeah, I can easily see the difference between a reboot and a prequel. Â  I totally concur that a reboot sets itself away from the previously established canon. Â  But, you know what? Â  So does a remake. Â  Therefore, the above excerpt is true when it applies to prequels, but it totally has its head stuck up somewhere when it is referring to remakes.

That same entry in Wikipedia goes on to list a few “reboots”. Â  Among them are ‘Psycho (1998)’, ‘The Sum of All Fears’, ‘Batman Begins’, ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Halloween H20′, ‘Halloween (2007)’, ‘The Incredible Hulk’, and ‘Friday the 13th’.

psycho

Looking at this list, I can begin to see where the term “reboot” stems from. Â  First off, take ‘Psycho’, ‘Halloween’, and ‘Friday the 13th’ off that list. Â  They are remakes through and through. Â  ‘Casino Royale’ is a remake. Â  Even though the previous ‘Casino Royale’ was a comedy, that story has already been told. Â  They just used that same story in a serious manner to restart the series. Â  ‘Halloween H20′ I’m not sure how you would categorize, since it serves as a deviation from the already established franchise. Â  ‘The Incredible Hulk’ could be viewed as a reboot, I guess, but, depending how you look at it, it could serve as a sequel to Ang Lee’s 2003 film.

hulk3

That leaves ‘The Sum of All Fears’ and ‘Batman Begins’, and thinking about these films, yes, they could probably be classified as reboots.   Why?   Taking these films as examples of reboots, we can kind of see one, single rule emerging.   The film has to tell a story we have not heard or seen before.

‘The Sum of All Fears’ could be a prequel, but the timeline, seeing as how it takes place in modern times clearly after the Cold War-era events of ‘Hunt for Red October’, is all messed up.

sum-of-all-fears

‘Batman Begins’ is neither a prequel nor a remake of ‘Batman’, because it changes everything about Batman’s origin, so that film, too, is a reboot.   The fact that they introduced the Joke in the second film serves as more evidence that it was a complete relaunch of that film’s franchise.

The upcoming ‘Star Trek’, too, could be considered a reboot, because it tells an original story that we haven’t seen before.   However, the film could end up being a prequel, seeing as how the events in it seem to lead into the canon-establishing series we already have.   If Abrams wanted to completely set his franchise apart from the original series, he should have something drastic happen to the characters, something that clearly did not happen to them in the original series.   Kill Chekov or something, but something to set yourself apart from the original.

chekov-freakout

So, I guess, the biggest issue we have with studios using the term “reboot” is just how frequently and freely they seem to want to throw the word around.   Some films are remakes and should be called remakes.   And don’t even get me started on periodicals and news sites making announcements that someone is calling their film a reboot.   I about put my foot through my computer monitor last week when I read movie news sites making articles out of the fact that Pascal Laugier is calling his ‘Hellraiser’ film a “reboot” and not a “remake”.

“Reimagining” is another term that I could spend hours ranting about.   I guess I don’t have as much of a problem with people using “reimagining” as I do them using “reboot”, because, for the most part, that term has been used as it should be.   A film is “reimagined” if the director or screenwriter on a film goes back to the source material and makes their film based off that work and not the previous film.   The Sci-Fi channel’s ‘Dune’ is a good example of this.   That film was more a “reimagining” of the Frank Herbert novel than it was a “remake” of Lynch’s original film.   It could still be called a “remake”, but it was also a “reimagining”.

dune1

So, that’s about all the rant I have in me for today.   Throw us some comments below about what you think on the whole “remake vs. reboot vs. reimagining” issue.   Discuss what makes a particular film fall under one category and not another.   Let us know what you think about the idea of films adapted from other films in general.

In the meantime, live long and carry a big Wookiee!

Kirk out!

7 Comments

  1. Jenny

    March 10, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Doesn’t matter what you call it, reboot, remake or reimaging. It all just means that nobody in Hollywood has an original idea any more.

  2. Stephen

    March 12, 2009 at 6:50 am

    I love this article. Kudos Jeremy! This had to be written.

  3. Stephen

    March 12, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Going back to what you said though, re-imagining and re-boot are pretty much one in the same. You pretty much demystified the cryptic gap between the two.

    A re-boot is when a director implements their vision onto a previous canon, and get this, they “re-imagine” the concept by converging the preexisting back-story with their own visual and literary interpretations.

    My thoughts on the term re-boot and why it has been thrown around a lot as of late, it sounds much hipper and it deviates from being a conventional re-make, which many people frown upon.

    The studios will use whatever terms necessary to prevent the fans of a previous franchise from getting upset. People are not susceptible to change and studios are well aware of this, “re-booting” the Star Trek franchise decreases the risk of rebel rousing efforts on the parts of the hardcore Trekkies.

    Granted, I’ve never been a fan of Star Trek in particular, but the JJ Abrams vision that is being released in a few weeks looks better than anything I’ve seen before.

    Thank you for the article.

  4. Rambling Johnny

    May 26, 2009 at 11:50 am

    By the way a reboot is also something you do after windows crap out on you that says a lot about the Hollywood exec mindset!

  5. Ben Simpson

    August 14, 2009 at 4:20 am

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  6. michael

    November 7, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    I believe as you said a reboot tells a new never seen before story, while a reimagining is a remake done with a different approach, Friday the 13th is a reimagining because it reimagines part 1, 2, 3 and makes references to part 4,5 and Jason X, and if it’s so obvious it’s a remake, then of which one is it, it can’t be part 1 cos Jason’s the killer, can’t be part 2 cos he has the hockey mask, can’t be part 3 cos he has the burlap sack, the characters aren’t the same,so it’s not a remake through and through, it’s a reboot and reimagining.

  7. Pingback: Mini-Rant: “Reboot” is a disingenuous misnomer. « film bouillabaisse

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