Hollywood loves its trends. From 3D circa 1955 (or 1983 or 2009) to westerns, slasher flicks to torture porn, gritty urban thrillers to disposable-tissue romcoms, moviemakers love molds into which they can pour resources for guaranteed returns. The latest trend is the so-called “reboot” which likens the creative endeavor to pushing the power button on an iMac.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before; remakes have been a part of cinema for decades (lest we forget, The Maltese Falcon was the second adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel). It’s entirely possible for a remake to equal or eclipse the original (as with Infernal Affairs and The Departed). It’s also possible, as during the remake glut of the early 1990s, that the result will be as creatively bankrupt as any other formula.

So why single out reboots? And what, if anything, separates them from a simple remake? First and foremost is the matter of time. The Maltese Falcon (1941) was made a decade after The Maltese Falcon (1931) (I’m ignoring Satan Met a Lady [1936] here, largely because it was such a loose adaptation). Ocean’s 11 (2001) followed Ocean’s 11 (1968) by 41 years. Of course anyone who looks can find plenty of exceptions like the aforementioned Infernal Affairs (2002) and The Departed (2006) with only a 4-year gap.

The second crucial element is that the reboot should be part of a franchise or intended franchise. Batman (1989) had 3 sequels over 8 years when it was rebooted; there were 20 official James Bond films over 40 years (1962-2002) before Casino Royale (2006). The Incredible Hulk (2006) reboots Hulk (2003) since the latter was intended to start a series; Eric Bana signed on for three films at the outset.

With that out of the way, what’s to hate about reboots? Plenty.

The most disappointing thing about reboots, in my opinion, is that they seem to have inspired people to really, meanspiritedly bash the originals. It’s as if the only way many people can enjoy the reboot is to convince themselves that the original was a piece of crap, which is sad if you happen to like any part of that original. Look at how the (for the time) highly original elements of Burton’s Batman were denigrated: Jack Nicholson’s gleefully over-the-top Joker was slammed as a “creepy old uncle,” Danny Elfman’s dark, iconic score was suddenly too “jolly,” and the entire production too “lighthearted” or “unrealistic.” The fact that both the original and the reboot might have their own merits proves to be too much doublethink for most people to handle. What you said is all too true. Listen to people’s comments about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series versus the 2012 reboot: it’s as if the 2002, 2004, and 2007 films and their stars were universally panned at the time when at least the first two were stunning critical and commercial successes. That’s what reboots do: they create dark alternate realities a la Back to the Future II where the previous movies were all terrible despite Tomatometer scores north of 80%. It’s hard to embrace even the best of reboots, like the Nolan Batman movies, when they subtly insist that the old movies were terrible and should be forgotten.

There’s also the formula aspect: reboots must be “darker, grittier, angstier” than the original. The model for this is the admittedly excellent Batman Begins, which managed to do this despite the original Batman being pretty damn dark, gritty, and angsty to begin with. You can see the formula at work in The Amazing Spider-Man, which gives its hero a tragic past with parental issues (like Batman Begins), regurgitates an origin story that was covered previously (like Batman Begins), and includes a villain that was never utilized in the original films (like Batman Begins). Throw in some Twilight-inspired casting choices and a bunch of big names in supporting roles (like Batman Begins) and the formula is complete.

The gap between remake and reboot is shrinking as well. It took 33 years to reboot Planet of the Apes the first time but only 10 to reboot it the second. Batman Begins was made 8 years after Batman & Robin and 16 years after Batman, but The Incredible Hulk followed Hulk by 5 years, the same as Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man. James Bond got only 4 years between Die Another Day (admittedly not the finest hour for the franchise) and Casino Royale. It’s getting to the point where a reboot of any franchise, with both the promise of new box office dollars and those of potential sequels, is on the table no matter how recently or how well the last movies were made. How long before Warner Brothers reboots Batman now that Nolan is done with him? The Amazing Batman starring Robert Pattinson as Batman and Kristen Stewart as Catwoman could be hitting screens as soon as 2016!

Finally, in most cases, rebooting is excessive. Why not just recast? Casino Royale is an excellent film, but did it really need to take 40 years of franchise history to the curb just to make Bond darker, grittier, and angstier? Brosnan and Dalton were both praised for bringing those same attributes to the series in 1987 and 1995 but neither necessitated a reboot; the producers just ignored or minimized aspects of the series they didn’t like. In fact, editing a few minutes out of Casino Royale would leave it pretty firmly in continuity with the earlier film (the same can be said about The Incredible Hulk).

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High Road from Khartoum was a classic larger-than-life adventure tale, one of the great Paramount Technicolor epics from the 50’s. Richard Burton and Rock Hudson had headlined a star-studded cast as British refugees fleeing the Seige of Khartoum during the Mahdist Uprising. It was really nothing more than an elaborate adaptation of Mason’s The Four Feathers with modifications to keep from paying royalties and rewritten to appeal to a postwar audience, but the film had influenced countless others with aspects of the final charge scene in particular appropriated by everything from Zulu to Star Wars.

And Collstein wanted a new adaptation on his desk by Monday. In the old days they might have called it a “remake” or a “re-imagining,” but he called it a “reboot,” that detestable buzzword that implied sweeping away decades of cinematic history was as easy as turning over an old Presario.

I glanced wearily over the producers’ notes. They insisted that the time frame be updated to the present day, that the suicidal charge be modified into a triumphant victory, that the two-dozen pursuers be upgraded to a massive (CGI) army. The Richard Burton character, a retired Army captain, was to be rewritten as a wisecracking photojournalist so the role could be played by a popular rapper who’d lobbied for the part. I was required to work at least of his songs into the film in a diagetic manner. The Rock Hudson part, perhaps appropriately, was to be female and written for the latest pretty young thing to come out of Australia (covering her native accent, of course). There was also a detailed combat requirement: three major firefights, two airstrikes, and a body count of at least 100. I was given leave to use the “f-word” exactly once to guarantee a PG-13.

“There isn’t enough coffee in the world,” I sighed.