If at first your film succeeds try, try again. Audiences now live in an era in which classic movie series are all fodder or “reboots,” which ignore or rewrite every other film in the series (which were, by definition, already good enough on their own to actually warrant a reboot). Sometimes the filmmakers go right back to the well, other times they use a bunch of time travel hooey to undo the earlier movies whilst still technically leaving them as part of the established canon, like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and this weekend’s big summer release, Terminator Genisys.
But what movie qualifies as The Best Reboot Ever? That’s what Crave’s Best Movie Ever is here to find out this week, in which we ask film critics William Bibbiani, Witney Seibold and Brian Formo to each decide on just one film that they think deserves the title. The criteria for what makes a great reboot is up to them, and as usual they have all come up with very, very different movies.
So take a look at their arguments and let us know what you think is the best reboot ever? (And no, it’s not Terminator Genisys.)
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Witney Seibold’s Pick: Batman Begins (2005)
Reboots are not, strictly speaking, always a horrible thing. From time to time, you will find a new interpretation of established pop culture material that can add texture and depth to something previously left uncertain or unexplored. But they are tiresome to those of us who value canon and consistency. Reboots have, I’m sure you’ve noticed dear reader, exploded in ubiquity in recent years. Be sure not to invest in any series or character, kids, because Hollywood is going to erase that continuity for a brand new one in 18 months. Remember this: We live in a world where we’ll have three separate Spider-Men in 6 movies over the course of a mere 16 years.
The best reboot of all time is Christopher Nolan’s 2005 blockbuster Batman Begins. Nolan, a filmmaker more interested in pure cinema and genre conventions than he is in superheroes specifically, was tapped to restart the Batman film series as something more realistic than we had previously seen. Tim Burton’s previous approach to Batman in 1989 had been to create an entire expressionistic world into which Batman could fit. Burton started on the outside and worked his way in. Nolan took the opposite tack, asking earnest questions as to what circumstances could actually create a Batman in a more recognizable world. He started within, and worked his way out. The result was a much more intimate blockbuster than we were used to. It was the first time we were invited to examine Batman on such a personal level. Plus, it was just an awesome action flick, complete with all the fights and schemes we require from the genre.
But aside from its quality, Batman Begins totally reshaped the movie marketplace. The “intimate portrait” and “grim and more realistic” origin story became the de facto approach for all proceeding reboots, including James Bond, Michael Myers, and others. Batman Begins has essentially ushered in the modern version of fantasy storytelling.
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William Bibbiani’s Pick: Casino Royale (2006)
In 1962, Dr. No introduced audiences all over the world to James Bond, Ian Fleming’s debonair super spy, and the best movie series ever was born. Sequels followed that catered to the demands of audiences at the time, who clearly wanted over the top entertainment instead of realistic portrayals of a British spy, a topic with which Fleming – as a former employee of Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division – was intimately familiar.
Nearly 50 years later, Bond was flailing at the box office, relatively redundant in the latest, more serious Hollywood paradigm. A reboot was inevitable, and unlike many reboots – which typically reinvigorate old stories in a modern milieu – all Bond had to do was go back to the beginning. Casino Royale, Fleming’s first novel, had never been adapted seriously (although the farcical 1967 version has its fans) and served as an impressive origin story for James Bond, on one of his earliest missions and developing a relationship with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who would go on to shape all of his well publicized and ugly relationships with women in the future. Daniel Craig (Layer Cake) took over with a thuggish sensibility that ran contrary to every other Bond to date, and the slick and somewhat plausible storytelling by Martin Campbell (GoldenEye) proved that Bond could be taken seriously.
An even bigger surprise for audiences was that he always could. Casino Royale is impressively faithful to the book, ramping up the action without shoehorning in any zaniness, and Bond has been benefiting from the serious treatment ever since. Casino Royale is the best reboot ever, partly because it’s not even a reboot. It was the first time the Bond in the movies felt entirely like the Bond in the books, and we are still all thankful for what that page one rewrite has done to the franchise.
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Brian Formo’s Pick: Piranha 3D (2010)
Jaws was the first summer blockbuster, and as such, it begat a ton of quick knock-offs. But the most famous was 1978’s Piranha. Commissioned by the godfather of grindhouse cinema, Roger Corman, to release packs of Amazonian fish with gnashing teeth upon a children’s summer camp, director Joe Dante and screenwriter John Sayles delivered the campy kills—but also injected some 1970s fear of the American military into Piranha (the piranhas are weapons developed by the U.S.) set against the idyllic summer. Both Dante and Sayles would graduate to better red-white-and-blue-run-amok narratives (Dante with the Gremlins series; Sayles with Matewan)—and by the 80s, Piranha was mostly an odd footnote in their filmographies (same for the sequel, which was James Cameron’s first film).
For the reboot, Piranha 3D, New French Extremity filmmaker Alexandre Aja (High Tension) takes the rules outlined in slasher films—fornicators are punished with grisly deaths—and ramps it up to 10 by releasing the piranhas on a Girls Gone Wild-esque spring break shoot. The fish are less the villains than Derrick (Jerry O’Connell), who is the purveyor of all the nudity on screen, and whom you can’t wait to see suffer the longest and grisliest death for his misogynistic ways. By using porn stars (Riley Steele, Ashlynn Brooke, Gianna Michaels) as some of the women who are gobbled up, Aja in a way also punishes porn viewers by inserting slaughtering images into their brains.
No one was clamoring for a Piranha revival when 3D was made—but in a super bizarre twist, studios were green-lighting self-aware exploitation throwbacks after the success of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Edgar Wright, and Rob Zombie’s Grindhouse (and subsequent grindhouse-related movies). Piranha 3D is the best film that came from the exploitation cinema cash-in: because it’s the most gleefully exploitative. Now that’s red-white-and-blue run amok.