The Best Reboots & Remakes
Updated: May 20, 2020
I know writers and artists are some of the first to gripe about the amount of sequels, remakes, and reboots coming out of Hollywood these days, however, from a studio's perspective, it makes perfect sense. Franchises make money. Plain and simple. And it's a lot easier to bet on a story that already has a built in fanbase and proven track record than take a gamble on an original idea they have to convince people to buy into.
As proof, of the top thirty box office earners of 2019, only 4-5 films were original IPs, meaning NOT sequels, prequels, remakes, or reboots.
Now I am not of the camp of people who believes that all sequels, reboots, and remakes are simple money grabs (though many are). I'm all for taking creative risks, and I believe in telling new stories. Trust me. We'd all benefit from a few more fresh stories from fresh voices in the world right now. However, sometimes a creative reboot or retelling of a known tale can breathe new life into a dormant story or stagnant franchise. And sometimes a retelling or revival of a good story will remind us why that story is still worth telling, even decades later.
Sometimes technology can serve a story in better ways than when it was first told. Sometimes narrative themes find fresh soil in new time periods. And sometimes a remake of a beloved classic can introduce younger audiences to a story and its characters for the first time.
When it comes to reboots and remakes, there have been some AMAZING "Take Two's" that open a door for future franchise. Some remakes are even better than the original while others put a fresh spin on a story we love.
Here are some of my favorites:
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
It's rare that a director gets the chance to remake his own film, but I guess that's the kind of thing you get to do when you're Alfred Hitchcock. As a remake of Hitchcock's own 1934 film, the 1956 family thriller starring everyman James Stewart and Doris Day showcased just how far Hitch had come as a director. His first go around with The Man Who Knew Too Much was the work of a promising filmmaker; his second, the masterpiece of an experienced auteur. How many of us would kill for a redo of some of our earliest, messiest work? I know I would.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Not technically a remake, but more of a cultural reinvention and genre shift, the original Magnificent Seven is a solid adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai (1954). I am a huge fan of both versions and highly encourage you to go watch Kurosawa's original. It's that good, maybe even better than its Western counterpart.
The Departed (2006)
One of the few Martin Scorsese films I actually enjoy watching. Gasp! Did I just write that? Yes I did. Hey, I'm Irish, and The Departed is one of my go-to St. Patrick's Day darlings. Scorsese, however, is a brilliant filmmaker whose films always leave a sick feeling in my stomach. At times, The Departed does too. Regardless, The Departed is a worthy remake of Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs (2002), and in my mind, one of Leonardo DiCaprio's best performances hands down.
X-Men: First Class (2001)
I still think First Class is one of the best in the X-Men franchise, and it did exactly what a reboot should do. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are perfectly cast as the young Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr, which was no small feat following in the footsteps of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen. The young versions of these characters struck such a perfect balance between rage and serenity that made us fall in love with these two best friends and philosophical rivals in new ways. The relationship between Professor X and Magneto anchored this franchise in ways we hadn't seen before, and we were begging to see these two in more scenes together as the rebooted series found new life.
Batman Begins (2005)
Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy proved from the beginning that it was taking Batman in a new direction from what we had seen before with the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher universe. From its cinematography, visual aesthetic, and even character origins, Nolan's Batman Begins proved to be a far more grounded story, giving us a Batman who we believe could exist in the real world. It honored its source material while raising the bar for all future superhero films, including, cough cough, an MCU still in development.
A Star is Born (2018)
Bradley Cooper. Lady Gaga. "Shallow". Need I say more? This is exactly what a remake is supposed to do. It refreshes a timeless story for a new generation, and I've already lost count of how many times A Star is Born has been remade. It's one of those few stories that seems to revive itself on a 20-30 year cycle.
Ocean's 11 (2001)
There will only ever be one Rat Pack, but when you have George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon leading an all-star lineup of well-dress and classy cons, crime, like Las Vegas, never looked so good.
A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)
Yes, Jim Carrey was always born to play the nefarious Count Olaf, but with Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Event, Neil Patrick Harris and company found the perfect format for Lemony Snicket's macabre middle grade fantasy. Adaptation is tricky, and sometimes the silver screen isn't always the best vehicle for a longer book or series of stories. Streaming media and narrative television, however, have opened up new frontier of narrative adaptations. We'll see what happens with Amazon's Lord of the Rings prequel and HBO's Watchmen. A Series of Unfortunate Events was able to take its time in its telling (sometimes to a fault), but its episodic structure ultimately provided a perfect vehicle for Lemony Snicket's dark and delightful tales.
King Kong (2006)
Fresh off of his work on The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson decided to take full advantage of new technology and talents of Andy Serkis by remaking one of his greatest childhood inspirations, King Kong. When you watch Peter Jackson's King Kong, that's exactly what it feels like, a kid playing with his toys. Thankfully, the toys and technology he had at his disposal had caught up to Skull Island and its host of monster, making King Kong look fantastic!
If Stranger Things and Stephen King's IT have taught us anything, it's that TV shows and movies with UNBELIEVABLY talented kid actors aren't always made for kids. In fact, sometimes it's better that the kids don't watch. IT is one of the best (and smartest) horror films in recent years, and it helps that it has the right source material in Stephen King's legendary novel. I will never say anything bad about Tim Curry's Pennywise, however, Bill Skarsgard's sadistic and creepy clown is a new Pennywise for a new generation, and boy is he captivating and terrifying to behold!
Star Trek (2009)
How do you reboot a science fiction classic with one of the most passionate and possessive fanbases? You don't try and emulate the past. You don't erase it or ignore it either. Instead you just tweak it with a little bit of narrative time travel. JJ Abrams split the Star Trek timeline with an alternate reality storyline that allows its new Enterprise crew to do its thing without having to imitate the William Shatner/Leonard Nimoy crew. Yes, that's going to piss off a few Trekkies, but Star Trek gave the rebooted franchise freedom to play while respecting what people cherished about the original Star Trek by leaving it in the past.
One of the few recent Disney live-action remakes that I've not just enjoyed but adored. Kenneth Branagh took a Disney classic and fleshed out some of the missing or incomplete story beats to bring us a delightful, human tale that feels complimentary and yet freshly original. Lily James is an absolute sweetheart who makes us love Cinderella's optimism and goodness even more. More importantly, for a film that attempts to remake a fairy tale and cartoon one at that, Branagh's Cinderella made us believe that someone like Cinderella could be that kind and good, and it works. It really works. The best of Disney bunch in my opinion, until I'm proven wrong. Disney will get many more chances soon enough.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Matt Reeve's prequel/reboot of the 1960s/1970s is proof positive that sometimes new developments in technology and special effects can open new doors for even better stories to be told. I am not a fan of those who say that CG and special effects are ruining our ability to tell good stories. That's nonsense. When technology serves story, and story drives technology, magic happens. With Rise, motion capture had evolved just enough to revitalize what was a campy sci-fi oddity into a modern speculative franchise and philosophical commentary on society, man's hubris, and the mechanics of communication. And if we weren't convinced before, we certainly were after this movie and its subsequent sequels were released: when it comes to motion capture as performance art, Andy Serkis is the undisputed king!
True Grit (2010)
One of the most faithful remakes in modern cinema, True Grit is a Coen Brothers masterpiece. It doesn't try and reinvent the wheel but also doesn't have to. It pays tribute to the original's iconic stars while letting new talent shine. Brilliant filmmakers with respect for a classic Western and new techniques at their disposal dusted off a great story and gifted it back to Hollywood audiences. Thank you, Coen Brothers. True Grit (and Hailee Steinfeld) are a treasure.
Casino Royale (2006)
Serving as both a remake and reboot of sorts, Casino Royale was exactly what the James Bond franchise needed to stay relevant in the 21st century. Not only did it give us a new Bond in Daniel Craig, Casino Royale decided to go back and show us Bond from the beginning, a newly appointed OO agent still trying to figure things out. No ridiculous gadgets, no invisible cars. Just Bond in his element, still smooth and sophisticated but equally as flawed and finally human! Craig's Bond was someone we actually cared about, and Casino Royale gave us one of the best stories in the entire franchise, setting the tone for future installments and the eventual cinematic masterpiece to come with Skyfall.
Anyway, I'm sure there are MANY more reboots and remakes out there that are deserving of attention and probably even more on the way (good and bad). These were just some of my favorites. If you have any of your own, or feel I missed one, let me. I'd love to hear about them.
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