Reboots, updates, re-imaginings, retcons and remakes. These are all pretty much just different ways of saying the same thing- we’re going to take this old thing and redo it so we can try to turn a fresh profit without doing something new. In many cases, it’s just lazy, revealing a lack of either talent or effort on the part of whoever is putting together the project. Nowadays, of course, there’s a third, equally likely culprit at play, the desire to shoehorn an agenda by way of a previously successful pop culture vehicle.
For an example of laziness and lack of talent, look no further than the live action/CGI Transformers films. The main narrative hook and key characters are chiefly unchanged from their 1980’s origin- two warring sentient machine factions crash on Earth, where they continue their ageless conflict. The Autobots seek to minimize damage to the locals, while the Decepticons give zero fucks. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee feature extensively for the Autobots, while Megatron leads the way for the Decepticons, with a few decent cameos from some few others (Soundwave and Scorpinok).
That these films generated good enough money to produce several sequels of questionable quality doesn’t make them any good; they survived largely, I suspect, on ‘Membaberries’.
As for a combination of lacking talent and laziness, I would aim you at every Fast and Furious film after the first one. These are popcorn films best enjoyed with a minimum of brain cell activity, yet they make tons of money and contribute almost nothing to thoughtful storytelling.
And then, of course, for laziness and absolutely shameless agenda-pushing, we have Ghostbusters 2016, the all-female revisioning of the ghoul-fighting quartet. Expectations were high, especially among long-time fans of the franchise, and when the film finally arrived, well, to say they were disappointed would be an understatement. More accurate would be that they were largely livid and insulted.
The risk-to-reward ration has flatlined or even cratered across many artistic outlets over the last two decades. In order for any publisher or studio to be willing to take a risk on a new intellectual property, they almost universally want a demonstrable customer base built in first. This begs the question, then, ‘how does anything new ever get produced?’
If you’re looking for legitimately solid new IPs, you can find most of them in an early form on sites like Wattpad, Zoetrope, or even, yes, YouTube. A couple of Wattpad stories have been adapted recently, the film ‘After’ (utter dreck), and ‘The Kissing Booth’ (meh) on Netflix. But in order for genre work to get a ‘pass’ onto larger platforms, studios want something it can be compared to. “Is it an easy draw for Star Wars fans?” “Can the Harry Potter crowed get their fix with this?” “Is the creator the next Stephen King?”
The cost of producing a film or television show can be astronomical, prohibiting most of the money folk from greenlighting anything shy of a guaranteed profit-maker. And let’s not forget, ‘guaranteed’ doesn’t even apply to fan favorites. Just look at ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, the first film in that storied franchise to LOSE MONEY for the studio. This begs the question, then, if the old stuff isn’t making guaranteed money anymore, shouldn’t we try something genuinely new?
Even ‘Stranger Things’, which should be considered new, isn’t entirely that. It lured audiences in with nostalgia, but from the use of its ‘setting’, rather than ‘source’. As an intellectual property, it is a standout, and spectacularly done. That is what’s missing from a lot of films and television, and even books these days; something new, or if not new, then at least executed superbly. There is no shortage of absolute piffle available in the market, but genuinely superior examples of artistry are few far between.
I, for one, don’t want old to be made new again; I want genuinely new, or if old, done in a uniquely quality manner. Don’t you?