With the recent Mortal Kombat reboot (2021), Disney’s Cruella trailer (2021) and live-action Powerpuff Girls series announcement, some may feel excited about these new releases, but others may wonder whether we have run out of ideas and are simply rehashing old works to exploit people’s nostalgia.

Firstly though, to clear up the confusion, while you may think that reboots, remakes and re-imaginings all have the same meaning, there are actually subtle differences between them.

Differences between reboots, remakes and re-imaginings:

  1. A reboot is a film (or series of films) that resets a character’s story and does not have any connection or continuity to similar previous film properties. For example, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (2002-2007), Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man movies (2012-2014) and Jon Watts’s newest Disney Spider-Man films (2017-2021) all have Peter Parker, but have no connection to each other and tell different stories about him.
  2. A remake is a film that updates an older film but still has the same (if not very similar) plot, characters and events. Think of how Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 The Great Gatsby film is a remake of Jack Clayton’s 1974 The Great Gatsby as both have the same storylines.
  3. A re-imagining is a remake that has added a new aspect or removed a significant aspect from the original film. For instance, Disney’s live-action Cinderella (2015) does not have the 1950 animated film’s songs and its live-action Maleficent (2014) focuses on the antagonist Maleficent in contrast to the original Sleeping Beauty film (1959) that focused on Aurora and Prince Phillip.

However, one similarity between these three concepts is that people have conflicted feelings towards them.

In terms of reboots, some people may like the fact that a franchise is being redone since they might not have liked the franchise’s previous tone. One well-known example of this is how fans praised how Christopher Nolan’s gritty Dark Knight trilogy (2005-2012) replaced Joel Schumacher’s light-hearted Batman & Robin (1997). At the same time, one concern that fans may have about reboots is that we end up seeing the same events but just in a different style. For example-*spoiler alert*-how many times have we seen Peter Parker get bitten by a spider, modify his suit and experience a break-up?

As for remakes and re-imaginings, they have an even tougher crowd to please. While reboots have the advantage of establishing early on that they will be different from their predecessors, people may expect remakes and re-imaginings to appeal to a modern audience whilst still maintaining and respecting their predecessors’ storylines. This is a difficult balance to achieve. If a remake or re-imagining becomes too modern, then people might criticise it for abandoning and disrespecting its original source (e.g., Harald Zwart’s 2010 The Karate Kid and Kimberly Peirce’s 2013 Carrie); however, if a remake or re-imagining follows the original source word-for-word, then people might reproach it for copying and being unoriginal (e.g., Jon Favreau’s 2019 The Lion King and Gus Van Sant’s 1998 Psycho).

Ultimately, even though we may have run out of ideas with many of today’s reboots, remakes and re-imaginings, we should not immediately judge them as inferior to their predecessors. While some reboots, remakes and re-imaginings are guilty of reusing old ideas and exploiting our nostalgia, we should not dismiss the occasional successful ones that boldly apply their new and interesting ideas into their works.

Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash- https://unsplash.com/photos/23LET4Hxj_U

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