We’re suckers for nostalgia and the movie studios know it! That’s why film franchise reboots are a popular way to gain commercial advantage thanks to our knowledge of the characters, the stories and, crucially, the brand. Lyndon Wells takes a look at his favourite franchise reboots of recent years…
This top 10 list takes a look at the ever popular trend of rebooting a previously popular film franchise. These films often bet on the nostalgia of a recognised brand or name. I set the rules that there must have previously been more than one film in the series, at least 5-10 years must have passed since the last film and it can be a restart or a continuation of the previous series of films.
10. Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines (Mostow, 2003)
This is not a good film, but it is still better than Terminator Genisys. This was made 12 years after the magnificent Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a film that many list as one of the best action Sci-fi films ever. There is no question that this is a poor cousin of the superb originals with a lack-lustre antagonist. The only re-deeming feature was the bleak finale that suggested no matter what they did Judgement Day was coming. There have been two further attempts to re-ignite this franchise before the rights pass back to James Cameron, 2009’s Terminator Salvation and 2015’s Terminator Genisys. To see how to properly re-ignite a franchise by tinkering with timelines see Number 5.
9. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Lucas, 1999)
This might not be the only Star Wars film on this list, but it is definitely the lesser of the two. 16 years after the release of The Return of The Jedi another Star Wars film was coming. The franhcise means so much to so many people and spans generations. Everyone has a Star Wars story and a recognition of the brand even if they don’t like it. For a new generation Episode I would be the first time to see on of George Lucas’ epic space sagas in the cinema. The prospect of a new Star Wars film created an incredible level of excitement. And then came George Lucas’ visual effects wet dream, The Phantom Menace, complete with trade negotiations and the infamous Jar Jar Binks. To be fair at the time I was 12 and did it enjoy it but it fell flat on repeat viewing and I think the boring Attack of the Clones might be worse. It is not without merit as Darth Maul remains an iconic if underused character and the final three-strand battle sequence is impressive despite being a rip-off of the Return of the Jedi finale. So check further up the list to see how Star Wars should be done.
8. Superman Returns (Singer, 2006) / Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013)
Superman Returns is a Bryan Singer failure and also the reason X-Men 3 ended up in the hands of Brett Ratner, so this is a double failure. 19 years after the disappointing Superman 4, Singer made the decision to ignore the lesser sequels and follow on from the first two Superman films. A Superman film was on the cards for years and went through many different versions including a Tim Burton and Nicholas Cage project, but 2006’s boring Superman Returns is what we got. Superman II is one of the best superhero films ever made but it is also of its time, audience expectation and reactions have changed. More is expected of the action scenes, flying is not impressive as it once was and much more is expected of the actors. Casting a Christopher Reeve lookalike wasn’t a good move and Kate Bosworth?? Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor was the only good bit of casting.
Then 7 years later came the Nolanised Superman, Man of Steel. This was much more popular than Superman Returns but still received mixed reviews. Man of Steel is retrospectively seen as the initial launching pad for a DC extended universe leading into the Justice League films. Man of Steel was a restart rather than a continuation and gathered a stellar cast including Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon and Amy Adams. The misjudged Superman Returns failed to capture the fun tone of the original superman films, whilst in a post-Nolan’s Batman world Man of Steel looked at the hero as an alien and amped up the visual spectacle.
7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Wyatt, 2011)
Another very popular series that originated with the 1968 Charlton Heston epic. A failed Tim Burton re-boot was released in 2001. It was too reverential to the original film and shoe-horned in a lame nonsensical ending as some kind of nod to the famous Charlton Heston finale. Then 10 years later came the re-boot no-one really wanted but many enjoyed, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Using the improved technology of motion capture and casting the master of itd characterisation, Andy Serkis, led to a great interactive performance of the ape Caesar. The film decided to look at the origins of how the world came to be over-run by intelligent chimps, featuring some great character beats from James Franco and Tom Felton. In my opinion this is a superior film to the 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but the motion capture was once again superb.
6. Jurassic World (Trevorrow, 2015)
Or as I call it The Jurassic Avengers came 14 years after Jurassic Park III. The huge box office haul now surpassed by a certain Star Wars film guarantees further Jurassic Park entries. This latest effort was not as well received critically, but for my generation it hit the nostalgic button bang on the nose. Jurassic Park was one of the first films I ever saw at the cinema. It terrified and thrilled me in equal measure, so to see so many obvious nods to the original film was like reliving a childhood experience. Jurassic World is no-where near as scary and the characters are not as memorable, but it remains a great piece of entertainment. When the theme tune kicks in I fell into a childhood memory and the Chris Pratt popularity post Guardians of The Galaxy also helped this film. The film explores the idea that Dinosaurs are now old news and boundaries are pushed until they break in search of entertainment. There is a parallel with the movie industry, audiences have changed and expect more which led to the assembling of a Dinosaur avenger team to tackle the genetically designed outsider.
5. Star Trek (Abrams, 2009)
This is not the only J J Abrams film on the list, but there is a lot more lens flare in this one. Star Trek has a huge fan base but dare I say it not as widespread or movie-based as Star Wars. Being a Star Wars fan and not a Trekkie allowed Abrams to make a popular Star Trek film with mass appeal. This was made a mere seven years after the underwhelming 2002 Star Trek Nemesis however it is no Spiderman in its rate of re-boot. Where he got this right was the writing; identifying a clear cohesive and clever alternate universe solidified by Leonard Nimoy’s appearance for this new young, hip and cool Enterprise crew to flourish.
4. Creed (Coogler, 2015)
Creed was released in 2016 in the UK making it 10 years after Rocky Balboa. Creed is the Rocky film you didn’t know you wanted. Creed finds the tone of the original Rocky with a similar narrative structure, focusing on a man attempting to find his own path whilst living in the shadow of his father instead of an unknown given a miraculous shot at stardom. The film is somewhat predictable with a weak final opponent, but it takes nothing away from the enjoyment of the film’s primary relationship between Adonis Creed and Rocky Balboa. Throughout the film Sly Stallone’s body language and movement is impeccable as his stooped physicality reveals the character’s unseen turmoil. He might be the supporting actor but Stallone is still the heart of the film, Balboa remains an extraordinarily likeable character complete with his off-beat jokes and kindness and that is why Stallone was a contender for Best Actor at the Oscars.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015)
A visual spectacle directed by the 70-year-old director of Happy Feet 30 years after he directed the last Mad Max film Beyond Thunderdome. Nobody claims the original Mad Max films to be masterpieces, but Fury Road might just be. The originals were guilty action-adventure pleasures of the 80s, but now with the technology, organisation and practical abilities the Mad Max vistas stuck in George Miller’s head became a reality. This film is basically one long car chase and thrives on Charlize Theron’s Furiosa as the real main character. It was the film of the year for many critics. The brand recognition of Mad-Max may have lured people to see it but no-one expected the visual assault that followed.
Discover More: George Miller Triumphantly Returns To Mad Max With “Fury Road”
2. Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005)
Before the Marvel cinematic universe started and the superhero boom kicked off came the director of Memento and Insomnia with the keys to one of Warner Brothers’ biggest properties. Batman Begins was released in 2005, eight years after the monstrosity Batman and Robin, often listed as one of the worst films of all time and credited with almost destroying the superhero genre. But thanks to directors like Bryan Singer and his original two X-men movies and Nolan’s Batman an appetite for the superhero was re-born. Nolan is recognised for making intelligent blockbusters with an indie sensibility and this is what he did with Batman. The popular Burton films brought a gothic Batman that was then followed by 2 colourful shambles that put the character to bed for 8 years. Nolan found the way into Batman by exploring Bruce Wayne and cast a great actor, Christian Bale. He also avoided any popular or obvious villains that would overshadow the Bruce Wayne/Batman story. With Hollywood’s obsessions with origin stories it does occasionally get one spot on and Batman Begins is a rare example. Most importantly it set the foundation for probably the best superhero film ever made, The Dark Knight.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015)
This is how it is done. This is how to generate nostalgic goodwill to attract the audience. Basically remove George Lucas from the process and re-create the magic he was unable to capture in the prequels. We now all know what a financial and critical success The Force Awakens is. It expertly balances enough recognition of the original popular trilogy with new and exciting elements. Yes it is flawed with some underwritten villains (Captain Phasma and General Hux), but the other newcomers are complex and exciting characters. Kylo Ren is a layered often immature villain, whilst actors John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are a joy to watch. And yes it may follow the story arc of A New Hope too closely, but The Force Awakens does everything The Phantom Menace failed to do. The excitement generated with the release of the film was also filled with a concerned fear of repeating the prequels, but in the hands of J.J Abrams the Force well and truly awoke from its prequel slumber.
Discover More: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Is A Very Special Kind Of Entertainment
Written and Compiled by Lyndon Wells
What are your fave franchise reboots?