When reading the IMDb’s, my eye was immediately drawn to this horribly disheartening headline: “Warners Rebooting Batman Again?” (The article in question, via Empire Online, can be read here). The basic gist of the article is that when Christopher Nolan is finished with The Dark Knight Rises, which is due for release in 2012, Warner Bros. plans to reboot the franchise for a possible relaunch in 2013. Upon reading this, I decided to slam my head repeatedly onto the desk until I swore I could hear colors. (In case you were wondering, turquoise is particularly melodic) Hopefully, most of you have the same reaction to this news, because this, my friends, is an outrage. Hollywood has gone reboot mad, and it needs to be stopped.
It has of late become the policy of the bigwigs in Hollywood to “reboot” anything that has ever made money. This effectively restarts the story of the franchise and they can build their own continuity and whatnot from there. Sometimes this can be a good thing. It worked well in 2006 with the release of Casino Royale, one of the best Bond movies, and a story that hadn’t been told within the “official” MGM releases. It reintroduced James Bond as he obtains his Double-O status and follows, quite closely, the plot of Ian Fleming’s first spy novel. CR works because the previous Bond movie, Die Another Day (2002), was so ridiculous and over-the-top and wrought with clichés that even the most fervent Bond fan (i.e., ME) had lost respect for it. Now, the Bond franchise has been dormant for a few years, due to the implosion of MGM, and if and when they decide to make a new one, even if Daniel Craig does not star, it should certainly not be a rehash of Casino Royale.
The only other time I can remember this working is when, after eight years, they rebooted the Batman franchise, going from the campy Joel Schumacher world to the realistic Christopher Nolan one. In both cases, time had passed and the public had grown tired of the stories that were being told. Also, in both cases, the “reboot” resulted in a movie that hadn’t been made yet. With the exception of the 1960s spoof, Casino Royale and James Bond’s first mission had not been made into a film, and we’d never seen what was essentially Batman: Year One on the big screen. This point, I think, is integral to the success of reboots, if they must be done at all. Now, three huge comic book commodities are being rebooted, all but remaking films that are less than ten years old.
Spider-Man 3 was shit, completely and utterly; Sony was content to make a fourth film, but couldn’t agree with writer-director Sam Raimi about anything. So, instead of just getting a new creative team to make another Spider-Man, they decided it was necessary to do the first film over again, retelling the origin but in a new “film continuity.” This phrase has become the bane of my existence. Nobody can just make a movie using popular characters; everything must have its own continuity, which is apparently particular to that director. The original string of James Bond films simply continued and changed organically over the years, despite changes in lead actor and director several times. People know who James Bond is; they don’t need to be continually reminded every time the face changes. As for Spider-Man, I don’t need to see him get bitten by the radioactive spider again, especially not when the Raimi/Maguire version is so fresh and so clean-clean in my mind.
It has also recently been announced that they’re rebooting the Superman series helmed by Zack “Slow-Motion-is-Why-I-Exist” Snyder. Superman is another character that everyone knows. You ask any kid who Superman is and you’ll get very near the complete history of the character from Krypton to Metropolis. Granted, Snyder will need to distance his film from Bryan Singer’s think-piece of a superhero movie, Superman Returns, but it’s an unnecessary redundancy to include the basics. There’s also been a goddamn TV show on the air for ten years talking all about the young alien’s formative years. The subject has really been done to death.
This brings me to the new, weep-inducing announcement involving my beloved Batman. It was announced back after 2008’s The Dark Knight was such a global phenomenon that Christopher Nolan only wanted to do one more film, rounding out his trilogy and putting his take on the iconic superhero to bed. Great, fine. The Dark Knight Rises hasn’t even finished being filmed and already Warner Brothers’ exec Jeff Robinov says, “We have the third film, but then we’ll have to reinvent Batman.” Why!?!?!?! The public knows who Batman is, they’ve just seen two (and will soon see a third) films about the character, and, while Nolan’s series takes place in a “realistic” world, we don’t need to see it all from the beginning again just to establish a new “film continuity.” Start in the middle somewhere. I know it’s difficult for studio executives to believe, but people are smart enough to figure out what’s going on without seeing the beginning every time it looks slightly different. These are indelible characters who at this point are part of the cultural lexicon; there doesn’t need to be another beginning.
One reason mentioned in Empire’s article is that WB wants to make a Justice League movie, and Bale’s Batman wouldn’t fit in that world. Okay, that’s a good point, he doesn’t, but that doesn’t necessarily precipitate a need for a refresher course on the character’s origins. I know Warner and DC are trying to capitalize on Marvel’s growing Avengers property, and the main heroes are getting their own origin movie before the team-up flick comes out, but no one knew any of those characters from films prior to the first Iron Man. There doesn’t need to be a young Batman and a young Superman just because all the other characters are young.
For anyone who cares, and I know no one does, here is how I would do Justice League: You have origin movies for Green Lantern (done, out this summer), The Flash, and Wonder Woman which would establish their ethos and backstory, then the actual Justice League film would include the three of them, introduce Martian Manhunter and Green Arrow (and possibly Aquaman… if you wanted), and have older Batman and Superman appear without much mention of their pasts, representing the elder heroes. Superman could try to recruit the other heroes and the last to join would be Batman because, well, he’s a standoffish dick a lot of the time. This way, you begin and end the “teaming up” portion with the most well-known of the bunch and leave the bulk of the action to the newbs. It doesn’t impugn the new characters, nor does it re-hash older characters, unnecessarily bogging down the film. There; If anybody at WB reads this and likes the idea, I can have a script written in a month.
For fuck’s sake, Hollywood, show some backbone and for once don’t simply rely on retelling already well-tread stories for the sake of the audience you apparently don’t know well at all. In this age of Netflix, Amazon, and, frankly, movie piracy, the target audience for superhero films is incredibly cine-aware, if not fully cine-literate. They’ve probably seen all the other films ever made featuring X character and could probably tell the studio more than they ever wanted to know about the history of the franchise. But, as always, the bottom line is the almighty dollar. I’m sure the studios would remake the same movie every year for ten years if they thought it’d make them some cash. This announcement means that The Dark Knight Rises will be coming out to DVD and Blu-Ray around the time the reboot will hit theaters. Hardly any time to let the thing sink in, is it? Superhero movies will make money, and retelling an origin is a quick and easy way to make a boatload of cash, even if it means shoveling dirt on something that hasn’t even gone ripe yet.