Untitled Batman Reboot: A Reimagining Too Far?

Back in 2008, one of cinema’s most celebrated directors returned to a superhero franchise that he had ushered to the screen only a few years before. Well received by critics, this sophomore effort built upon the first instalment’s success to rapturous effect. The result was arguably one of the greatest comic-book movies ever made, an intelligent and action packed masterclass in superheroics that has yet to be bettered. The film: none other than Guillermo del Toro’s outstanding Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

But the Hellboy franchise is relatively unique in the world of comic-book adaptations. First published in 1994, the character has never enjoyed the popularity of Marvel or DC’s various super-men. With a third instalment far off enough already, and the reboot no doubt lost at the bottom of Hollywood’s to-do list, we unlikely have much to worry about in this instance. Alas, as you have probably surmised this is not a discussion of Hellboy’s genius.

With recent reports indicating that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight might not be so lucky, the internet has predictably exploded in indignation over the alleged plans to re-re-re-re-imagine Batman once Nolan has rounded off his trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises. Unable to face the prospect of dedicating yet another discussion to the caped crusader – that base has been more than covered by every other website on the internet (I am fully convinced that when the new director is inevitably announced the internet itself will crash in protest) – I have decided to list the current crop of reboots in an attempt to determine whether square one is being abused. I am here to argue that The Dark Knight is not the victim of this retcon culture, but the culprit responsible.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Despite initially greeting this news with resistance, I have come to warm to the prospect of a Spider-Man reboot – even in light of the unusually brief hiatus between imaginings. Although acclaimed at the time, and not without their outstanding moments, Sam Raimi’s approach to the character was patchy at best. While the failings of the villain-heavy third instalment have been well documented, the crippling earnestness of Tobey Maguire’s hero, the tedium of Kirsten Dunst’s damp Mary Jane Watson, and the nauseating patriotism that haunts Raimi’s Manhattan never fail to undermine his franchise’s greatness. With the reboot promising a grittier, more contemporary take on the character, this may be the best thing to happen to Peter Parker since the spider-bite that started it all – providing Andrew Garfield can deliver a cuttingly witty retort, that is.

Superman: Man of Steel

Portrayed on the big screen by Christopher Reeve between 1978 and 1987, the character was later resurrected in Bryan Singer’s acclaimed Superman Returns. Failing to make an impression at the box office, however, Superman’s supposed return was cut short, and Brandon Routh sent packing, in favour of a new and – you guessed it – darker direction. With none other than Darth Nolan drafted in to oversee the new incarnation, Zack Snyder was handed the reigns and Henry Cavill scheduled to star, the new film reportedly boasting a modern context courtesy of David S. Goyer.

Untitled Daredevil Reboot

Mark Steven Johnson’s adaptation of the Daredevil comic may not have been perfect, it helped earn Ben Affleck a Razzie and floundered at the box-office after all, but it did tread the line between grit and flamboyance with accomplished grace, especially in comparison to its exponentially less well-received Elektra spin-off. While every other character on this list has had a two film or more run at the box-office, Affleck’s Daredevil was never given the chance to prove himself or develop over multiple movies. With David Slade attached as director, repetition will be particularly difficult to avoid with a new origin story, particularly following Johnson’s relatively terse and well-structured approach to it in the original.

Fantastic Four Reborn

This is where it all gets a little silly. While Daredevil, Spider-Man and Superman have always contained darker elements that might benefit from a grittier reimagining, the original two Fantastic Four movies made it quite clear that the lights were on and the glass relentlessly half-full. Although they may not have gelled with Nolan’s vogue realism, Tim Story’s films complemented the source material beautifully. At times fresh, funny and charming, the decision to replace the characters and digitise The Thing hint at an “and the kitchen sink” desperation to make as much money as possible from this growing zeitgeist. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the bubble bursts?

Untitled Batman Reboot.

With every film mentioned so far rebooted so as to emulate the success of Nolan’s Bat-franchise, it seems only fitting that the moviegoer’s idol suffers a taste of his own fear toxin. I don’t think I could suffer the public outcry that would ultimately follow a fourth instalment upon its release, its standing mocked solely due to Nolan’s absence as it inevitably fails to meet expectations. Where could they even go with a fourth instalment anyway? In Nolan’s blind pursuit of realism, he has alienated half of the title’s back-catalogue of villainy and story arcs, a man who can communicate with penguins promising to look even more out of place in Nolan’s Gotham than a vigilante dressed as a bat. With DC no doubt paying close attention to the future success of Marvel’s The Avengers, their hurry to shoehorn Batman into their own Justice League will likely prove a nice inversion of Nolan’s attempts to shoehorn the character into a serious crime drama.

Let’s not forget that Batman Begins was itself a reboot, and yet it has gone on to become one of the most celebrated superhero movies of recent years. There is a chance, however hard some might find it to imagine, that the future of the Bat-franchise might find itself in equally – or better – equipped hands, with the film’s prospective director working to create an even better vehicle for the character. As long as each version is suitably different from the last – read: no growly Bat-voice next time, please – there is no reason for such reboots to feel repetitive or entirely arbitrary – unless, of course, they all proceed to start from the beginning with a monotonous origin story. I’m looking at you, The Amazing Spider-Man!

Reboots, then, are neither good or bad, but an inevitability – what with the escalating costs of growing casts, the dispersion of properties across multiple studios and the fickle nature of the box office – and will continue for as long as there is an audience willing to pay for them. With Bond and Doctor Who well into their umpteenth incarnation, however, there is hope that the practice will settle and that the studios and directors responsible will find a way to tell the stories that they want and assimilate the current filmic trends with enough finesse to dissuade blogs such as this, and make the transitions between takes so very less jarring.

Now, will someone PLEASE reboot Elektra while Jennifer Garner’s busy butchering Miss Marple?

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