Reboots:  reasons they don’t always work

Reboots are the rage these days.  Whether it is movies, such as Ghostbusters or Star Trek, or fashion, like acid wash jeans, recycling pop culture has become part of everyday life.  Yet there is something which seems to be missing from the reboot equation.

Success.

Just like the 1950s music craze of the 80s, the latter is seeing a renaissance of popularity today.  Of course, this being merely a trend, it is highly unlikely to continue.  There are, of course, other reasons entertainment reboots don’t last or work:

Great idea, but some TEENSY problems with this reboot concept.

  • Poor planning.  This is the most fundamental reason many reboots don’t work.  A badly planned repackaging or reimagining of something can backfire badly.  In the case of The A-Team, marketing was abysmal, despite a star-studded cast.  Movie goers simply found other options and the overall premise, despite some great jokes, didn’t resonate with millenials.  The box office money just wasn’t there.
  • Betraying the original premise.  In the case of 21 Jump Street which actually managed a sequel, the movie was a comedy but didn’t betray the original premise – it was gritty in some ways but funny in others.  On the flip side, Taxi never truly came close to the original premise, being a hybrid action-comedy.  Though it was high quality, it suffered the mistake of betraying the premise.
  • Political correctness.  One of the huge gripes about the Ghostbusters reboot was it being a near all-female core cast.  The screams of PC saturation from mostly 1980s males, in a hyperpartisan election season, doomed what was actually a rather entertaining movie.  
  • Not acknowledging the original.  This is where many reboots in recent years failed in huge fashion.  The universal barometer is one you wouldn’t expect:  Transformers.  When Michael Bay was approached about the live action reimagining of the series, he had one major condition – Peter Cullen was Optimus Prime, period.  Bay understood that a reboot required an icon to live legitimacy.  J.J. Abrams did the same with the “classic Spock” cameo in Star Trek.
  • Dumb gimmicks.  One of the biggest bombs in reboot history was Inspector Gadget.  The reason was simple; one bad gimmick atop another.  Reboots succeed when the original premise is honored but modernized and gimmicks are minimized and advance the story.  In Gadget, the Gadgetmobile was a gimmick-laden annoying scene stealer.
  • Dumb reboot ideas.  It’s one thing to reboot a movie or TV show and take a risk, but rebooting toys and appliances are high risk.  Most classic toys are classic for a reason – they are modernized but stay true to their core idea, such as the Easybake Over or Transformers.  Other ideas, such as the Ford Bronco, need some fine tuning but can work.  Still some ideas, such as punk rock ripped jeans and snakeskin mini skirts, are best left to the midlife crisis spitpile.
  • Great franchise, wrong source.  This one is a bit nitpicking but the it revolves around the human need for habits.  Star Wars  by Disney is an example; despite a great job, the franchise was kept under the Lucasfilm label.  A recent concept of “Pixar” style animated classic Star Trek, despite incredible character modeling, wouldn’t work because, for one, Paramount wouldn’t back and likely sue for copyright infringement (see also Axanar), also most of the voices are now deceased.  Zack Quinto’s Spock deserves Chris Pine’s Kirk.  It’s just that simple.
  • They just suck.  Music tends to fall into this category.  When Sixpence rebooted Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over, that was rough. A few more bad reboots like that will make 80s kids revolt.  However once a great while a good cover of an 80s song will take place, like the country version of Huey Lewis’ Workin for a Livin, but those are rare.

Can you think of a “crash and burn reboot?”  I’m curious to see what my readers come up with. 

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