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Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: When reboots get it right

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With Dredd getting rave reviews, movie blogger Dominic Corry looks at other reboots that got it right - and some that didn't.

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd: A reboot that works. Photo / Supplied
Karl Urban as Judge Dredd: A reboot that works. Photo / Supplied

In a cinematic era where terms like 'reboot', 're-imagining' and 'side-quel' are commonplace, it can be difficult to get beyond a film's commercial reasoning and discover the magic within.

I detailed my frustration with reboots that come too soon in an earlier blog, but with the release this week of Dredd, a reboot that most assuredly gets it right, I thought I'd cite some of the more successful examples.

A reboot as I see it is a film that starts again, following an earlier attempt at an ongoing movie series. The earlier series might've petered out, lain dormant, or in the case of Dredd, simply been a giant flop. A reboot tends to ignore the continuity of the earlier film(s) and attempts to herald the beginning of a new series with some kind of new approach.

In the case of Dredd, this new approach entails a razorsharp focus and an admirable commitment to hardcore action.

While the 1995 film (which was clearly designed to start a franchise, but failed miserably) had Rob Schneider, a clone storyline and an ennui-plagued main character who blasphemously removed his helmet, the new film gets down to business with a straight-forward action plot and a more faithfully austere rendering of Judge Joe Dredd.

Last year's Rise of the Planet of the Apes successfully rebooted Fox's lucrative Planet of the Apes property by telling a completely new story set in a contemporary environment. It stood in marked contrast to Tim Burton's 2001 attempted reboot, which merely sought to exploit the memorable moments and images from the classic original without bothering to incorporate a cohesive story.

Rise was a fantastic film, and ended on a delectable cliff-hanger that reeked of franchise potential. The commerical success of the film ensured a follow-up, but, but I panicked when it was revealed that director Rupert Wyatt was exiting the production apparently due to the accelerated schedule Fox demanded.

That panic was slightly abated this week when news emerged that Cloverfield and Let Me In director Matt Reeves was taking on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Both Reeves' movies are awesome, and his association with the upcoming Twilight Zone movie makes for nice kismet considering Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling wrote the screenplay for the original Planet of the Apes. Reeves definitely has the right sensibility, and I hope he is able to overcome the timing issues that forced Wyatt out.

JJ Abrams, Reeves' collaborator on Cloverfield (not to mention the timeless soft-focus TV drama Felicity, which they co-created together), demonstrated a particular knack for reboots with his 2009 Star Trek movie.

By weaving in a time travel plot involving multiple timelines, it has to be the only instance of a reboot managing to incorporate the previous entries while legitimately carving out its own storyline. Fans old fans and new were serviced in equal measure.

With 1997's notoriously awful Batman & Robin as his antecedent, Christopher Nolan didn't need to do much to make his mark with 2005's Batman Begins, but he nevertheless surpassed expectations to create a defintive modern interpretation of the character. And it only got better with The Dark Knight. Whoever ends up making the next Batman reboot has their work cut out for them, even if a Justice League movie comes first.

As with many of the traditions in modern genre filmmaking, some of the earliest instances of rebooting came in the long-running Bond series. The first time was with 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which while highly regarded by fans these days, was deemed enough of failure upon its release for the producers to lure Sean Connery back with a truckload of cash.

Roger Moore famously took over when Connery retired from the character a second time (which again, didn't take) and Timothy Dalton rebooted the Bond series with 1987's underrated The Living Daylights. The Pierce Brosnan films are all highly forgettable, but they restored Bond's box office reputation so I guess they deserve credit from some angle.

The final word on the Daniel Craig era is yet to emerge, but in my mind, everything he gets right about the character was ably achieved by Dalton in the '80s.

Bryan Singer's Superman Returns (2006) demonstrated the perils of rebooting a franchise while remaining aesthetically and emotionally devoted to the series that is being rebooted. The film remains an interesting failure, but Singer's reverence for Richard Donner's 1978 original prevented Superman Returns from establishing its own identity.

Everything about Zack Snyder's upcoming The Man of Steel points to a more ground-up reinvention of the character, and all involved are citing Nolan's Batman as inspiration. I cannot wait.

Rob Zombie's 2007 Halloween reboot and it's 2009 follow-up aren't particularly beloved films, but I appreciated Zombie's attempt to infuse the character with a more tangible backstory and motivation.

Numerous other modern horror reboots (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St to name but a few) failed creatively.

Characters like Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and even Sherlock Holmes have undergone so many re-inventions and franchise re-starts it feels improper to regard them as reboots. But the recent Sherlock Holmes films did a reasonable job of bringing the character to a wide audience once more. The recent Conan reboot, not so much.

Does Prometheus count as a reboot? As much as the film represents at attempt to shake-up an existing franchise, it's set in the same universe as the other Alien films so it doesn't really qualify. The same goes for X-Men: First Class, especially considering the rumours the Patrick Stewart might be showing up in that film's follow-up.

* Agree? Disagree? Which reboots do you think got it right? Is it time to reboot Remo? Comment below!

Follow Dominic Corry on Twitter.

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