Today, we live in a world where there are constant sequels, prequels, spinoffs, reboots, and remakes. In all of these cases, companies aim to take a property we liked when we were younger and bring it back in a new light-or, in some cases, continue where the original story left off. The purpose of this is not only to appeal to older fans of the franchise, but also to draw in new fans.
Sadly, many reboots are subjected to criticism. People often say that these reboots do certain things worse than the original, or that they only make sense if you’ve seen the original, or they simply don’t need to exist because the original was so perfect. Disney’s live-action remakes are prime examples of this.
But a very widespread source of backlash is that a reboot is “different” from the original. This criticism can come in many forms, but the most common seems to be in the form of character designs. This happened with the live-action Transformers movies, and TMNT, and even some superhero movies where a character’s design doesn’t match the one from the comics. People will get really mad when, say, a character’s face isn’t shaped like it was in the original comic/TV show/book/whatever.
Is this really so bad? The whole point of a reboot is to present a classic story and setting in a different light, so of course some things are gonna be different!
Well, part of the issue is that many people grew up with these things as part of their childhoods. Their original look is ingrained into their mind as the definitive version. Seeing them look drastically different can be jarring. So in that respect, nostalgia is a big factor in the “it’s different, therefore it’s bad” argument.
Of course, there are cases where a reboot/remake is too similar to the original, and the sameness ends up being bad. The 2019 Lion King leaps readily to mind at this. This movie had undeniably impressive CGI in it, and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments where I was entertained. But the movie was a beat-by-beat retread of the original’s plot. Not all of the dialogue was the same, but the way the scenes were structured just made them feel like carbon copies of the sequences from the original. On the whole, I’m not against a live-action Lion King. But if it’s gonna be such an exact copy of the original, then it feels rather pointless.
I think that’s why so many studios try to make their adaptations different from the original-to try and keep things fresh. But there are some cases where adaptations being different can be inherently bad. There have been a lot of movies based off of popular books that were met with backlash from fans of the book. Using Percy Jackson as an example, the movies were drastically different from the books. They didn’t follow very closely to the books’ plots, but that wasn’t why people trashed them. One of the things that made the Percy Jackson books such a success was the vast array of unique characters with interesting backstories and admirable development. That provided a goldmine of potential, but the movies didn’t tap into it. They ultimately ended up exemplifying the parallels the Percy Jackson characters had with those of Harry Potter…which probably stoked the fires of the “OMG PERCY JACKSON IS A HARRY POTTER RIPOFF” movement.
In short, a reboot making changes from the original can be bad if they end up removing what made the original so good in the first place. That is an argument I’ve seen many people make against the live-action Transformers movies: the G1 cartoons had a wide array of characters with varied, colorful personalities, and in comparison, the live-action movies did not. Of course, I’m only familiar with the six movies in the live-action series, so I can’t comment on that.
But, even with that said, it’s possible to make things really different while still being good. The Tom Holland Spider-Man movies are a good example of this. They were drastically different from the previous cinematic versions of Spider-Man, and yet they still had the spirit of the OG Spider-Man character. Stan Lee even said that Tom Holland’s portrayal was what he envisioned when he created the character (I’m serious: look it up).
Or, and this is gonna get me some hate mail, but I also see the Star Wars sequel trilogy as this. They did reuse plot elements from previous movies, but they also added new things to it. There were new takes on familiar archetypes from Star Wars, and there were entirely new archetypes. Admittedly, some of the characters and plotlines could’ve been explored more, but my point still stands. That’s what I feel any filmmaker should do when they revisit a franchise. They should have some familiar elements, but also some new elements. It’s not just the Star Wars sequel trilogy that did this-the Dark Knight trilogy did it, the Tim Burton Charlie And The Chocolate Factory did it, the Peter Jackson King Kong did it, the 2006 Charlotte’s Web did it, and I’m sure other examples could be cited.
I guess, in the end, a sequel or reboot should still try to be good on its own merits. But if it’s trying to capitalize on our childhood nostalgia, then it can’t hurt to have at least some of what made the originals so good in the first place.