Men In Black: International is in cinemas today, revamping the franchise that initially starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones with the new pairing of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth. Reviews for the reboot are mostly negative; the Guardian slammed it as a "galactically gormless fall to earth", while the Atlantic called it a "lifeless piece of content".
It's not the only reboot that has fallen flat in 2019. It's only June, and we've already seen remakes Hellboy, What Men Want, The Hustle, Pet Sematary, Aladdin, Dumbo and Tales of the City fail to fire. Looking at that slate, it seems like Hollywood's frenzy to rehash old ideas is a trend with diminishing returns.
But not all remakes are doomed. We've rounded up a list (by no means definitive) of remakes and reboots that managed to improve on the originals.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Batman had a strange, campy run in the late 20th century, ending with the bizarre, cringe-inducing Batman and Robin in 1997. But in 2005, Christopher Nolan overhauled our idea of Bruce Wayne when he launched his own trilogy with Batman Begins. Each instalment in this trilogy was a film of epic, sweeping proportions, but Nolan didn't need to lean on CGI messiness to provide his thrills; instead, he drew extraordinary performances from a formidable cast - Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine, to name a few - to lead transfixing, character-driven action films that hold up as some of the best superhero movies we've ever seen.
The Planet of the Apes prequels
From Rise to Dawn to War, the Planet of the Apes trilogy told the story of how our world became the titular planet introduced on screen in 1968. Each flick was an example of blockbuster filmmaking done right, with the relentless action and gripping environmental and political themes telling a story of human hubris like no other. It also did the unheard of in Hollywood by getting better each time; director Rupert Wyatt passed the baton to Cloverfield director Matt Reeves for the last two, with his conclusion, War, landing as one of the best films of 2017.
The 1979 Australian soap opera Prisoner was reimagined as Wentworth in 2013, and has since become one of Australia's most successful and critically acclaimed TV shows. The dark and compelling series continues to surprise and shock its viewers with expert plotting, and features a bounty of incredible performances - including from Kiwi greats Danielle Cormack, Robbie Magasiva and Kate Elliot. Morgana O'Reilly and David De Lautour have joined the show for its seventh season, airing this month on TVNZ.
The Star Trek trilogy
JJ Abrams' 2009 reboot of Star Trek hit at warp speed, supercharging the franchise and setting it on a course that resonated with modern audiences. By nudging the series closer to sci-fi rival Star Wars, Trek lost a little of what made it special – the focus on science, resolution and discovery – in favour of big screen thrills and huge action set-pieces. Still, it was galactically entertaining and definitely reinvigorated the Trek franchise. There's no doubt that without it we wouldn't have Netflix's very good Star Trek: Discovery series or the upcoming Picard spin-off series to look forward.
Netflix's Queer Eye nailed the idea of a "contemporary" retelling, pulling a rather dusty format into the future. Where Queer Eye for the Straight Guy leaned heavily on stereotypes, Queer Eye instead used its new "Fab Five" to break those prejudices apart. Often intensely emotional, Queer Eye shared its ideas of self-love and acceptance with nuance and heart, making it the perfect antidote to politically divided times.
The Mission Impossible franchise
Based on the TV show that began in 1966, the Mission Impossible franchise has gone from strength to strength since its beginning in 1996. There have been a few duds along the way - the second is worth skipping - but by and large, these indulgent spy thrillers have been an insane amount of fun. Tom Cruise's commitment to his role as Ethan Hunt has propelled the series forward, and it shows no signs of running out of steam; the most recent instalment, Fallout, is easily the best in the franchise (followed closely by 2011's incredible Ghost Protocol). Paramount clearly loves it too: two more films are in development, dated for 2021 and 2022.
HBO's mind-bending AI thriller was originally conceived as a film in 1973 by Michael Crichton, the novelist behind Jurassic Park. Where Westworld (the film) was an often hammy, straight-forward dystopian flick, HBO's Westworld is a much more cerebral rumination on consciousness, free will and capitalism. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but there's no denying that the show, created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, is a beautifully rendered, powerfully ambitious feat of storytelling.
Mad Max: Fury Road
After years in development hell - pre-production began as far back as 1997 - Fury Road surprised the world by becoming what's now considered as one of the greatest action films of all time. The dystopian thriller relaunched the Mad Max franchise with feminist themes, powerful performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, and a terrifying, relentless score; essentially a two-hour chase scene, Fury Road grabs its viewers by the throat and doesn't let go. It was nominated for 10 Oscars, taking home six in 2016.
The original Battlestar Galactica was a cheap and cheerful, made-for-TV, Star Wars knock off in the late 70s. It wasn't without its charm but really was the ultimate example of 70s cheese. The 2004 remake however… Oh boy.
Coming a few short years after 9/11 the show carries all the weight and paranoia of the era. The tone is dark and miserable as a relentless army of AI robots chase down and kill the few remaining survivors of the human race. Every character is deeply flawed, suspicion and distrust is everywhere and each episode the tally of survivors drops closer and closer to zero... BSG was the epitome of stress filled viewing and is still one of the greatest sci-fi shows of all time.
Clint Eastwood starred in Don Siegel's adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan's novel in 1971, which imagined it as a macho, erotic story about a group of girls fighting over Eastwood's wounded soldier. In 2017, Sofia Coppola simmered the drama down in a more subtle, finely detailed film, in which the drama lies more often in what's left unsaid. While Coppola short-sightedly removed Hattie, the only character of colour, The Beguiled in her hands became a hypnotic, strangely comedic story of awoken desire and isolated desperation in the American Civil War. Plus, she assembled an incredible cast to tell her tale: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning all deliver intricate performances.