It’s high time the media learns the difference between remake and reboot because it’s really fucking up the conversation.
I get it. Every time a new buzzword comes up people have to use it as much as possible to hide their ignorance. A fun drinking game to play is to take a shot every time some asshole marketing executive uses the term “millennials”. People yammer on and on about terms and concepts they don’t really understand. I’ve heard people talk about how they wish millennials could be less self-centered and more like Gen Y. Explaining that the words mean the same thing just treats the symptom, the root cause is people’s innate desire to seem smarter than everyone else. So if the average person’s need to seem well read and informed is through the roof, imagine the media’s since it’s their job to BE well read and informed.
If I were a literal man I’d be so confused by the reporting that goes on in the film industry. My mind would be going “Look, there’s a Vacation reboot but they’ve cast the same actors as Clark and Ellen Griswold and are following the backstory from four discarded films.” I’d think “Entertainment Weekly says there’s an X-Files reboot coming soon! I’m so excited, I’m just unsure of what to think since they’re bringing back the cast from the previous canon, interesting choice!”
Somewhere along the line everyone in the film business decided that instead of saying sequel, remake, revival or just fucking movie, they would say reboot. Let’s be clear, a reboot is when, generally in a franchise, a new film comes out which starts a new mythology, erasing all previous canon. The first time that I can remember the term being used on a mainstream level was with Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Nolan was careful to point out that he would be disconnecting the franchise from the previous works by Burton and Schumacher (especially Schumacher) to create a whole new story from the ground up. Batman Begins was a huge success and Hollywood took notice. But instead of emulating Nolan’s respect for the source material, inspired casting choices and inventive themes they took away two ideas; make everything dark and reboots can fix everything.
Suddenly everything was being rebooted. Spider-Man, Hulk, Punisher, James Fucking Bond and every horror franchise you can imagine were given reboots. Eventually filmmakers and executives discovered the truth, reboots don’t fix anything, good films do. And while the reboot tide has been stemmed marginally, everyone is still incorrectly identifying movies. The new Vacation movie is a sequel not a reboot. The X-Files miniseries is being marketed on being able to answer questions that the original series raised so if that’s a reboot they’re certainly doing a nice bait and switch. X-Men: First Class wasn’t a reboot, it was a prequel and Jurassic World is about as obvious as a sequel can get.
I think part of it has to do with Hollywood’s obsession with not numbering sequels. You see, they love making sequels but are terrified with telling you that they’re making sequels. Remember in the late 80s how every comedy had a joke about the amount of sequels film franchises had? Spaceballs has a Rocky joke and in Back to the Future Part 2 there’s a joke about Jaws 25. In fucking Back to the Future 2. What kind of pot/kettle bullshit is that? That’s sequel-on-sequel crime, at least Jaws 2 didn’t have to recast 2 out of 5 leads. Anyway, so these jokes and a ton of focus groups made Hollywood feel self-conscious about itself. They were in a pickle, they loved the brand recognition but hated that people associated numerical sequels with poor quality. Unfortunately there was never any point where they stopped and realized that consumers didn’t just hate sequels because there was a number attached, rather they hated them because they were generally of poor quality. So rather than make a concerted effort to, let’s say, make better movies they just started adding words instead of numbers. It was the movie equivalent of sweeping it under the rug. Slowly but surely numbered sequels, the standard for years, started to make way for subtitled and weirdly retitled films. The first Nightmare on Elm Street of the 90s became Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. The Mission Impossible movies started being about nations going rogue and the protocols for fighting ghosts (I’m assuming). This methodology is why the fourth Final Destination and Fast and Furious movies had the exact same name as the first movie in their series, give or take a “the”.
This all hearkens back to the initial reason movie trades use the word reboot and corporate executives talk about synergy and vertical integration, the need to show that time hasn’t passed you by. If you see that The Fast and the Furious Part 7 has been released you might laugh at the idea that six fucking sequels have been spawned from a 2001 movie about car racing electronics smugglers. If someone were to tell you that they’ve “rebooted” the Vacation series, you might be intrigued of what new ideas the next generation of comedians can infuse into this classic series. If someone says that they’re making a sequel to Vacation 18 years after the last theatrically released installment you’d scratch your head and try to think what came after Christmas Vacation.
It’s dumb, it’s simplified and it fucks up our lexicon. Eventually reboot WILL mean sequel, remake or prequel. It’ll be like when all your friends collectively woke up one morning and decided to remove all meaning from the word “literally”. This has become our reality, where words mean fucking anything and headlines posted on Facebook are how the masses are educated and informed. The revolution will not be televised, it will be rebooted and everyone will be confused.