“The guys in charge of this stuff lack creativity, and are completely out of ideas, so all they do now is recycle sh*t from the past and expect us all not to notice”– Deputy Chief Hardy
Against my better judgement, I am going to begin and end this opinion piece on reboots and remasters with quotes from the 2012 buddy-cop movie 21 Jump Street. That’s right, and I’m not talking about the 1987 drama series that tackled underage substance abuse and starred a baby-faced Johnny Depp. Oh no. I’m talking about the Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum action-comedy that featured such memorable scenes as two grown men fingering each other’s mouths and Ice Cube talking to a Korean Jesus.
I don’t mean to discredit myself so early on, but it is a surprisingly applicable film when considering the current media trend to reboot or remaster previously published products.
In the film, Deputy Chief Hardy displays a meta-awareness about the fact that they are starring in a film that is rebooting a series from the 80’s, joking that it’s a product of a lack of creativity on behalf of the writers. Which is a meta joke in itself, considering the writers themselves wrote it. Try not to overthink that.
This brings an interesting question to the foreground; are reboots and remasters a result of a lack of innovation or a reintroduction of past masterpieces?
If you look towards Hollywood, reboots of established fictional universes are quite common. Just by looking at the current box-office, we can already find an example of a reboot that was not just rebooted once, but twice, and quickly becoming one of the highest grossing movies of all time.
I imagine that by now you’ve guessed that the movie in question is Spider-Man: No Way Home, whose titular protagonist has, since the beginning of this decade, gone through three iterations and 8 separate films. Although, considering the events of the film, it is now perhaps considered all one shared fictional universe instead of a reboot; but that’s a topic for another time.
So despite it being a recycling of a character and storylines (I think we’re all good and tired of hearing that old chestnut of “with great power comes great responsibility”), audiences are still flocking to the theaters, in the middle of a pandemic no less, to spend their hard earn cash to watch the same superhero climb the same walls and save the same damsel in distress.
So while creativity might be considered by some to be in short supply, willing audiences are not. The entertainment market has proved that consumers value familiarity over innovation. What sells tickets is knowing what will happen and how; audiences know that Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider, that he was raised by his aunt and uncle, and that he will eventually triumph over the villain. All before they even watch the film.
There is safety in that knowledge. Some might even argue that it opens the door to focus on other details apart from narrative.
Whatever the product turns out to be, modern audiences have proved that they will choose a familiar and comforting story over an unknown and potentially uncomfortable one. Not only that, but they’ll pay for it too.
This doesn’t apply to just film either, the video game sector is packed with remasters of old titles that have sold as good, if not better, than the original product. Series such as the famed Resident Evil and Spyro the Dragon, have both released a complete remaster, from the ground up, of video games more than twenty years old that follow the exact same narrative and have the same features as the originally published titles. Purely because it has already proven to sell and sell well.
Then again, who wouldn’t want their favorite film or video game narrative updated and revamped? Made popular and immortal once again?
So depending on your perspective, one might agree or disagree with (that’s right you guessed it) Deputy Chief Hardy’s comment that “it’s always worse the second time around”.