A Reboot on Target: James Bond and Casino Royale
Have you seen the original 1967 film version of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel Casino Royale starring David Niven as 007? Recovered yet from the indulgent mess? Martin Campbell’s 2006 version of Casino Royale was an excellent reboot of the James Bond franchise, which had become extremely tired and whimsical, relying on outlandish gadgets and transport to barely keep it remotely entertaining.
Daniel Craig breathed new life into the famous British Secret Service agent and fans were given a back story revealing how the cold hearted womaniser was turned into a near alcoholic licensed killer by the death of his first true love Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). Grittier and more realistic than other instalments, Casino Royale was followed by a lacklustre sequel Quantum of Solace. Let’s hope Sam Mendes’ new Bond film Skyfall re-injects some life into the Bond franchise when Craig reprises his role this year.
How Not To Do It: The Pink Panther
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Oh dear, why? Firstly, funny as he was on Saturday Night Live and in 80s classics like Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), silver-haired Steve Martin was never a viable replacement for the comic genius of Peter Sellers. Secondly, the dodgy accent and comic mishaps of Inspector Clouseau were rather old hat when reimagined in the decidedly awful reboots The Pink Panther (2006) and The Pink Panther 2 (2009).
Critics and audiences made their dismay heard the moment the credits rolled and rightly so. The reboots were entirely lacking in style and unfortunately neglected to include any funny scenes. Cato should have delivered a well-timed karate chop to studio execs long before shooting began.
Utterly Pointless: The Day the Earth Stood Still
The 1951 original was a cult classic that tapped into the global terror concerning the newly developed destructive capabilities of the atom bomb, featuring a visiting alien named Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his all powerful robot Gort momentarily neutralising all electrical power on Earth as a warning to earthlings to stop their warlike ways or suffer the consequences.
However, the reboot was a shallow showcase for new special effects technology featuring the guy from Bill and Ted who can’t act. Maybe that’s a little unfair on Keanu Reeves, but either way the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still was soon languishing in bargain DVD bins clearly labelled ‘If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It’.
Gruesome For the Wrong Reasons: A Nightmare on Elm Street
When Wes Craven’s original horror masterpiece was released in 1984, the horrifically burned child-killer Freddy Krueger’s (Robert Englund) sinister past was largely kept in the shadows as he stalked teenagers in their sleep, targeting those who dared to dabble in sexual promiscuity. It was an overnight (a sleepless one) sensation, redefining the horror genre, which spawned many inferior sequels.
Samuel Bayer’s 2010 reboot recast the terrifying Freddy Krueger as a child molester, with many critics seeing the focus on paedophilia as being in rather poor taste. Was it a step too far? Despite doing quite well at the box office, the film’s critical reception was decidedly lukewarm, with many preferring Englund’s devilish demon to Jackie Earle Haley’s more vulnerable monster. Once again, the weaknesses of the reboot only served to highlight the superiority of the original.
Peaks and Troughs: The Batman Franchise
Batman has had a long and varied history on the big screen. First, there was the feature length version of the super camp 60s TV show starring Adam West as the Caped Crusader released in 1966. However, it was Tim Burton’s dark 1989 reboot starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as The Joker that gave fans the film version of Batman they deserved. Its 1992 sequel Batman Returns retained Burton’s gothic vision of Gotham, starring Danny DeVito as Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, but it was downhill from there.
For reasons known only to himself, Joel Schumacher took the reins for Batman Forever (1995) and Batman and Robin (1997) and made them even camper than the original 60s TV series, adding nipples to the suits of Batman (Val Kilmer/George Clooney) and the newly introduced Robin (Chris O’ Donnell), while making the sets almost entirely neon, making Gotham look like Mardi Gras. Fans were horrified and Clooney promised to personally reimburse the ticket price of anyone who watched Batman and Robin and approached him on the matter.
Finally, Warner Bros saw sense and let brilliant new director Christopher Nolan helm a dark, gritty and more realistic trilogy starting with Batman Begins in 2005 with Christian Bale donning the cowl. The sequel, The Dark Knight (2008), saw Heath Ledger posthumously awarded the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his reimagining of the iconic villain The Joker. The final instalment, The Dark Knight Rises, will be released this year. Thankfully, the Boy Wonder remains absent from Nolan’s trilogy.
It just goes to show that no matter how big the budget, if the fans aren’t given due consideration a careless reboot can sink a franchise faster than you can say “Holy latex nipples, Batman.” With hundreds of reboots on the horizon, including Total Recall, The Amazing Spiderman and Robocop, let’s hope studios don’t let us down.