What Makes A Reboot Worth It?

There are currently several reboots (slight continuations for some) of various properties on both the big and small screen. Not to mention the vast array of adaptations that are also out and in development. Yet, a few have already fallen by the wayside, some are merely puttering around, and seemingly only a select sample have risen like phoenixes from the ashes to new heights and audiences. So, what is the secret formula to a successful reboot/remake/adaptation? And why do so few seem to be able to really pull it off?

This question came to mind last week while watching a few reboots: Creepshow (TV series), I Know What You Did Last Summer (TV series), Chucky (TV series), Halloween Kills (the sequel to the 2018 reboot sequel to the original film), and I am sure there are probably some I am forgetting at the moment. For me, two of these worked very well, one is okay, and one is not really hitting for me at all. Though, to be fair, I’ll probably still watch most of these since the whole “love of media and story” thing and all. As well, looking at social media discussions, posts, engagements, my opinions of these reboots seem to be about on par with the intended audiences for them. Which, of course, begged the initial questions stated previously.

None of the previously mentioned properties are precious or nostalgic for me. I have seen the originals, but none were major development points or ones I grew up with, so it wasn’t holding on to some sort of childhood memory or anything. Frankly, I rather enjoy seeing how beloved characters and stories have to change and adapt to modern audiences and societal aspects, or if they are even able to regardless of the deftness of the hands managing them. Truth be told, many simply cannot and should not, but I have also been pleasantly surprised by what talented creators have done with reboots, remakes, and adaptations across mediums.

Obviously, there’s a certain amount of personal taste and bias involved, but recently news of the cancellation of Y: The Last Man was announced by FX on Hulu. If you have not read the graphic novel the series is based on, forget about this post and go read it. It is truly one of the best original stories the medium, really any medium, has produced in the last few decades. Accordingly, many were excited about the live action adaptation and Hulu had managed some good quality adaptations and series before, so there was some hope of a good series. It wasn’t bad, but it made the worst modern faux pas of media: it was simply boring. I do not know if it was a pacing or writing issue since the cast is spectacular and talented, or some other element that didn’t work, but there was just not much to draw one in, unlike the graphic novel. The live action series was never quite going to live up to the images and memories the graphic novels inspired, but other beloved comics have managed to enthrall with similar budgets and platforms (The Boys, Walking Dead, Invincible are just a few that come to mind). And there have been other slow build, character driven, dense, and heavily themed adaptations that have found tremendous success, so what was it about this one that just didn’t click with audiences?

For further example, I watched the Still Know What You Did Last Summer series that just premiered on Prime Video. Again, the original films were fine but nothing too spectacular. Kind of just part of the post Scream wave of horror from the 1990s. However, the first two films were still enjoyable slasher flicks for the most part with an entertaining and engaging cast. The reboot isn’t terrible, and the actors seem talented, but overall it just falls a bit flat for me, and seemingly for many considering the discussion, or lack thereof, around the property. I think this is due to two major shifts: not really having likeable or sympathetic leads and extending an hour and a half mystery to several hours across just as many episodes. Once more the shift to a different medium seems to be the major caveat for success. However, it is also a common aspect of modern horror: this belief that the protagonists should be douches or assholes to really enjoy their incoming deaths. In theory, that works, but, for the most part, horror protagonists were a little douche-y, a bit assholish, but never utterly obnoxious to the point of rooting for their demise, or at least not all of them. That was part of the whole “final girl” trope: the one character you could depend on to be likeable enough that the audience actually hoped for her survival and triumph. Yet, many horror films and series seem to lack even that classic element.

I know this whole post may look like the “man yelling at clouds outside” meme, but with Hollywood’s fear of original stories and love of printing money by recycling and adapting material, I am concerned and curious as to what will be made in the coming years and beyond. There are hundreds of adored stories and characters that will most likely be adapted or rebooted that will potentially be seen for the first time by entire generations of audiences. I would want for these properties to have the best opportunity to grow, expand, and succeed. But I am unsure what that means or looks like.

So, I suppose I’ll pose the question to you: what makes a reboot/remake/adaptation worth the watch?

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