Nostalgia vs. NostalgUgh

The Positives and Negatives of Film and Television Remakes, Reboots, and Revivals

Photo by fergregory/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by fergregory/iStock / Getty Images

The website Rotten Tomatoes, probably the most consulted and popular source for film and television reviews on the internet, runs a weekly article called the Weekly Ketchup -- cringe-worthy pun, right? In this stunningly named series of articles, which we at Trove follow religiously, the site posts “the best and worst of film headlines,” to use their own words.

Now if you were to go on and sift through a few Weekly Ketchups, which you can do right here you would find a fairly obvious trend: remakes seem to be on the rise. If it’s not a remake, it’s a reboot. And if we’re talking TV, you’ve got yourself a revival. If you conduct a simple Google search, you’ll find an overwhelming amount of examples from this year alone. On the big screen, to name a few, we’ve got “Baywatch,” “Jumanji,” “War for the Planet of the Apes” (the third of a trilogy of reboots), “The Mummy,” “Chips,” “Power Rangers,” “Flatliners,” “It,” “Death Wish,” and the second reboot of Spider-Man with “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

TV is running up their revival tab this year too with shows like “24,” “Twin Peaks,” “S.W.A.T.,” “Will and Grace,” “Dynasty,” and even “Star Trek,” which already got the film reboot treatment. Trust me, it’s just as exhausting listing all of them as it is reading all of them. And that’s just this year. According to Den of Geek, there’s at least 120 more remakes or reboots in production to be heading to a theater near you . And on the television front, roughly 40 shows are being made reviving or rebooting classic television or film.



Is it a Reboot, Remake, or Revival? Here's How You Know

To clarify, there actually are legitimate differences between remakes, reboots, and revivals. A remake is pretty straightforward, you’re … remaking something. For example, pretty much any of the plethora of upcoming live-action Disney adaptations can fall under the remake category, such as “The Jungle Book” or “Beauty and the Beast.”

A reboot is a remake with a twist, as it will feature an old concept and characters but throw them in a new plot, like the aforementioned “Baywatch” or new “Star Trek” film trilogy.

A revival is more associated with television, as it will take old characters and continue their stories years after the fact, like the latest season of “Gilmore Girls” that appeared on Netflix a few months ago, or Showtime’s “Twin Peaks: The Return,” currently airing.

Like it or not, these three concepts are becoming a pivotal part of modern pop culture. There’s no ignoring them. How do you cope? Well, the three Rs -- as I’ll be referring to them from here on out -- certainly aren’t the best thing for the film and television industries, but they may not be the worst. All three have both positive and negative aspects worth exploring.


Follow the Money


On one hand, and a more obvious note, the three Rs are a financial slam dunk. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What, “Star Wars” is one of the highest grossing franchises of all time? Let’s make three more with some of the old guys but a bunch of new guys! The Andrew Garfield “Spider-Man” movies were a bust? Let’s give it another whirl a few years later with a new kid! “24” was a ratings monolith? Let’s see if it can be again! You get the idea.

Money is obviously at the forefront of the decision making process when it comes to greenlighting any of the three Rs. Let history repeat itself, and everybody gets their wallets a little more padded. Financially, it’s not the worst thing for the entertainment industry, as money, to quote “Cabaret,” makes the world go around.

But then we encounter that term “selling out.” While the three Rs are banking on a previously tested successful entertainment formula, they lack one attribute that is valued by all viewers. Whether it’s the binge-watching sloth/man hybrid who’s become one with his couch, or the posh film critic whose nose is permanently pointing upward, their looking for originality. Watching something that’s bursting with original, unique ideas is one of the most refreshing and rewarding experiences someone can have when dealing with entertainment.

While the three Rs are mostly reliable for financial success, there is the law of diminishing returns to consider. At some point, people just want something different. And the three Rs don’t contribute to that, mostly out of sheer laziness. Sometimes film-makers and television show runners can lapse into a numbing sense of reliability on that formula, like “24: Legacy,” where a rogue embattled hero endlessly kills massive amounts of terrorists while breaking all the rules. Maybe the studio execs would rather go with the “let’s just slap a familiar name on something that’s not going to be very good” plan, like “Baywatch” and “Chips,” profane and asinine R-rated comedies just taking the concepts of the originals. We’d like to offer the point of view that taking a chance and trying something new a good way to go.


Saving Graces

On the other hand, there is the rare circumstance where the three Rs inject originality into the story they’re reiterating or continuing, and those are the real winners that almost make the three Rs worth it.

*Some spoilers follow

Take, once again, Spider-Man -- who doesn’t like talking about Spider-Man? You had the super successful Tobey Maguire original trilogy, which ended with the epic crash and burn that was “Spider-Man 3.” A few years later, Sony tried again, producing a reboot starring Andrew Garfield in the title role of “The Amazing Spider-Man.” The first one received solid reviews, but was essentially the same film as the original Tobey with a different villain. Garfield saw his stint end in tragedy as the sequel proved to be another misfire for the franchise.

Enter Tom Holland, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” That’s how you reboot a franchise right there. Sony decided to hop on the Marvel bandwagon with Holland’s incarnation, which means “Homecoming” had the bonus of being included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On top of that, “Homecoming” was a true reboot, keeping Peter Parker in high school the entirety of the film, giving him a love interest previously unseen in the films, and a paternal figure in none other than Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man. None of this had been seen in the franchise before, and critics and fans alike ate it up.



The new “Star Trek” trilogy is another example. It had the same cast of beloved characters, but threw them into a fresh timeline where the famous Captain Kirk lost his title of captain, Uhura had a romance with Spock instead of Kirk, and Spock saw his entire home world destroyed. Again, nothing we’d seen in the franchise yet, and it worked swimmingly.

And on the television front, let’s talk about “Twin Peaks: The Return.” While it isn’t a ratings giant like “Game of Thrones,” it’s had a solid amount of viewers at roughly a little over a million, and the critical reviews have ranged from positive to feverish and laudatory praise. Some people are calling it the best thing currently on television -- and for good reason. The show, continuing the original story set in motion by its predecessor made nearly twenty-five years ago, has taken advantage of its continued run to expand on the show’s legendary and dense mythology, which was a huge part of what made the original run of episodes such historically successful and groundbreaking television.

It’s these kinds of projects that give the three Rs a real sense of meaning in pop culture. They’re few and far between, unfortunately, as most of the time you get lackluster results. If you were to add the Rotten Tomatoes scores for “The Mummy,” “Chips,” and “Baywatch,” you’re barely breaking fifty percent.


Keep Your Chin Up

So while creativity and originality do occasionally fall by the wayside, certain reboots, revivals, and remakes can be very rewarding experiences, like “Twin Peaks: The Return,” “Star Trek,” the new “Planet of the Apes” trilogy and, of course, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” So next time you hear about a new addition to the three Rs catalog being made, wait before you roll your eyes and cry to the gods for mercy from such un-originality. Every once in awhile, one will come along and surprise you.  

What are your thoughts on the three Rs? Are you game to see the old become new, or are you just ready to move along? Sound off below in our comment section! And be sure to check out our other blogs on our website, !