|During my years at Rhodes College, I read a great deal of film theory and was intrigued when I came upon a research thesis informing me that remakes and reboots had been given the negative connotation as being the worst form of filmmaking.
I have to say that I agree on a few levels, but at the time, my opinion on the matter was based upon criteria that have since been disproved.
Firstly, the difference between the remake and a reboot can be confusing.
Remakes are made when a past movie is reworked and updated but with the original story.
A reboot differs in that most of the story is scrapped and the writers stick to the main characters but revisit the plot lines, generally in favor of finding a new way to view the material.
The best remakes and reboots push the boundaries of the characters while adding elements to the story. It reminds me of deconstruction, which is an analytical process used to think about how words and thoughts (and in this case movies) interact.
Conceived by a French philosopher named Jacques Derrida in the 1960s, simply put, it involves breaking down pieces of the subject matter you want to analyze in an effort to open up new ways to think about said subject.
The main point of the theory is that opposition exists in all forms of thought, so to truly understand a subject you have to overturn the oppositions.
The 2005 film “King Kong” is a standard remake. “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson took the 1933 classic and updated the film, sticking to the original story lines and referencing the original throughout.
The film series considered to be the most quintessential of reboots is Christopher Nolan’s new Batman trilogy. It is also the catalyst that changed my opinion on the subject.
The history of Caped Crusader goes back to DC Comics Inc. from 1939, and since then, it has been through countless award-winning forms of reincarnation in both film and cartoon versions.
Nolan, however, didn’t master the genre without help.
If you think back to the campy TV series starring Adam West, you’ll see more of a straight-laced detective than superhero, while the villains are simply petty tricksters who occasionally disrupt things.
Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” laid the groundwork for both how we understand the character today as well as putting a defining touch on the future of superhero films.
It’s obvious from the subject matter of his films that Burton focuses on the dark side of stories. The fact that Wayne’s parents were murdered in front of him fits the director like a glove.
What hadn’t been focused on in any other film adaptations of comic books before was that even though the superhero might possess ultimate power, the solitary nature of their existence coupled with the longing of the past manifests itself negatively in their minds and emotion plays as much into their actions as criminals do.
The film’s production design reinforces this notion. Burton’s Gotham City is a city built on epic proportions of Art Deco grime and is dark, depraved, and devoid of hope. There are both literal and figurative connotations to Batman cleaning up the city.
The subsequent sequels that followed were successful at the box office, but the changes in directors, cast, and screenwriters relegated the latter films to critical failure.
In 2005, Nolan released “Batman Begins,” which outlined the origin story of how Wayne became Batman, why he chooses to protect Gotham, and explains why he chooses the bat as his symbol of deception.
Burton made a conscious choice to skip this information in his film, so in effect, Nolan deconstructed Burton’s film in an effort to make his own mark on the story.
In addition, the source material for the more recent films comes from graphic novels sanctioned by DC but whose narrative threads push the psyches of the characters to psychotic levels.
The movie was a critical and commercial success, leading to Nolan’s ability to focus on envisioning the last two films in the trilogy. Following up with “The Dark Knight” in 2008, he pulled off the impossible, making a reboot with a successful sequel that satisfied die-hard fans and critics alike.
“The Dark Night Rises,” the last film in the series, takes place 14 years after “Dark Knight” and is easily the most anticipated film of the past few years. Upon its release next month, it will shatter box office records and cement Nolan as the champion of the entire Batman canon as well as that of the reboot.
The downside of a director gaining so much attention for this ability is that there will always be copycats. Mark my words, in 15 years or so Warner Brothers Pictures will reboot the Harry Potter series, and we’ll have a whole new series to deconstruct.