Christian Bale stars as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures action-drama "The Dark Knight," starring Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Morgan Freeman. "The Dark Knight Rises," the highly anticipated conclusion to director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, hits theaters today.Stephen Vaughan
From "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and "The Mummy Returns" to Robert Downey Jr.'s career, Hollywood has a habit of bringing things back from the dead.
This summer, film fans are in a fervor about a slew of recent and upcoming reboots of dormant movie franchises.
The July 3 release of "The Amazing Spider-Man" rebooted the web slinger on the big screen with a new story, new director and new lead actor. Today, Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated "The Dark Knight Rises" will close the book on the dark, mature Batman he introduced in 2005's "Batman Begins." Later this year, films also will be released that revisit 1995's "Judge Dredd" and 1990's "Total Recall."
Hit or miss
REBOOT OR REMAKE?
Unsure whether a film with the same name as a previous release is a reboot or a remake? Here are some characteristics of each to determine in which category it fits.
• Reboots reinvent a franchise. They often will feature the same core characters as the original but have no storyline connections to previous entries. As a result, the tone of the film may be starkly different from other entries in the franchise, as with Christopher Nolan's darker, less cartoonish depiction of Batman in "Batman Begins."
• Remakes are closer to note-for-note translations of their predecessors. The setting may have been updated to modern times, but the storyline and characters remain fundamentally unchanged, such as the 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic "Psycho."
Local film fans said that taking a franchise in a new direction can be a good way to reignite interest in a flagging series but, if poorly executed, may come across as a lazy cash-in that can damage a franchise.
"It's mainly just name recognition. [Movie producers] are not taking any chances these days," said Zachary Helton, a 29-year-old local video producer. "If you have a built-in audience, then let it roll."
Helton cited recent films such as last year's "The Smurfs" or 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" as examples of films that took advantage of fans' fond memories of a franchise without delivering a quality product. The films received 23 percent and 34 percent respectively on review site Rotten Tomatoes.com but made $564 million and $302 million at the box office.
"Do you think anyone who saw [those films] was seeing those characters for the first time?" he asked. "If they weren't known properties, they wouldn't exist, because they weren't strong stories. They didn't have to try too hard to get people in the theater to see them."
Some fans said they appreciated how a well-made reboot, such as "The Amazing Spider-Man" could freshen up a series that had grown stale over the course of too many entries.
"The first 'Spider-Man' was OK and the sequels were horrible, so 'The Amazing Spider-man' had plenty of room to improve upon its predecessor," said Sarah Martin, 27. "I was very skeptical of 'The Amazing Spider-Man.' I waited until there were reviews ... before I went and saw it."
Web slinging 2.0
When they were released in 2002 and 2004, the first two "Spider-Man" films directed by Sam Raimi were well-received critically, with 89 and 93 percent favorable ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, a film-review aggregator. The series' third entry in 2007, however, averages scores 30 percent below its predecessor.
Fans have responded well to "The Amazing Spider-Man" reboot. The film was the No. 1 release its opening weekend and, as of Monday, had grossed more than $500 million worldwide, according to movie statistics database BoxOfficeMojo.com.
By starting over fresh with a new director, Marc Webb, and a new web slinger, Andrew Garfield, "The Amazing Spider-Man" took advantage of an opportunity to recapture the audience soured by "Spider-Man 3." So far, the film has recieved averaged review scores of 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Story, actors and continuity to the comics all were a ton better in 'The Amazing Spider-Man,' " Martin said. "I don't know whether or not 'Amazing Spider-Man' qualifies as perfect because I'm not a comic-book buff, [but] as a fan, I enjoyed it immensely."
Despite its positive reception at the box office, some reviewers and fans questioned whether "Spider-Man" was ready for a reboot considering the new film came just a decade after Tobey Maguire first donned the blue-and-red suit in 2002's "Spider-Man."
Slate reviewer Dana Stevens said of the film: "This might be a fun summer blockbuster, if only it even remotely needed to exist." Even as he referred to it as "touching," The Atlantic's Christopher Orr suggested the film was "more fun ... than so premature a reboot had any right to be."
Dark Knight's bright prospects
Today marks the release of the summer's second and arguably most-anticipated reboot, "The Dark Knight Rises." The conclusion to Nolan's film trilogy comes four years after the second entry, "The Dark Knight." That film set the bar high, with eight Academy Awards nominations and more than $1 billion dollars in worldwide sales, a figure unmatched by any comic-book movie except "The Avengers," which was released May 25.
Helton said he has refused to see "The Amazing Spider-Man" on the grounds that it was released too soon after the original, but he has been anticipating the release of "The Dark Knight Rises" for more than year.
When Nolan's first film, "Batman Begins," was released in 2005, Helton said, the director's darker, grittier take on the character was a welcome departure from 1997's "Batman & Robin." That film, featuring George Clooney as the Caped Crusader, was the series' low point, with an average rating of 13 percent on RottenTomatoes.com.
"['Batman Begins'] was the first time we got a realistic, down-to-earth, believable version of Batman," Helton said. "Just seeing Batman as a real person for the first time was great."
As of Thursday, "The Dark Knight Rises" had scored an average of 87 percent in prerelease reviews. Critics were full of praise for the film, referring to it as "the King Daddy of summer movie epics" (Rolling Stone), "a film of grandiose ambitions and epic achievement" (Time) and "the biggest, best, most exciting Batman of them all" (Access Hollywood).
Advance tickets for the film have been on sale for weeks at local theaters, and local fans have come out in droves to purchase them. News reports last week said three Chattanooga theaters had sold in excess of 500 tickets for this morning's midnight premiere.
Fervor for "The Dark Knight Rises" was at a boiling point earlier this week. The few negative reviews of the film posted on Rotten Tomatoes so upset fans that a deluge of incendiary, and occasionally threatening, reader feedback forced the site to temporarily disable comments.
The "Dark Knight Rises" marks the last time Nolan will direct a Batman film, but his next project also will revisit another comic-book hero. Nolan penned the story to "Man of Steel," a film rebooting the Superman franchise that is being directed by Zack Snyder ("The Watchmen," "300") and is set for release next year.
Although he said he likely will wait for the excitement to die down before he sees "The Dark Knight Rises," Helton is excited to see how Nolan's vision for Batman concludes before the character's next inevitable reboot.
"The 'Batman' trilogy has been amazing," he said. "I can't imagine the fan who would not want that to exist because they're against reboots."
REBOOTS UP TO NOW
• "Batman" (1989) and "Batman Begins" (2005)
• "Conan the Barbarian" (1982) and "Conan the Barbarian" (2011)
• "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) and "Dawn of the Dead" (2004)
• "Friday the 13th" (1980) and "Friday the 13th" (2009)
• "Footloose" (1984) and "Footloose" (2011)
• "Hulk" (2003) and "The Incredible Hulk" (2008)
• "The Karate Kid" (1984) and "The Karate Kid" (2010)
• "King Kong" (1933) and "King Kong" (2005)
• "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984) and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (2010)
• "The Pink Panther" (1963) and "The Pink Panther" (2006)
• "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972) and "Poseidon" (2005)
• "The Punisher" (1989) and "The Punisher" (2004)
• "Spider-Man" (2002) and "The Amazing Spider-Man" (2012)
• "Star Trek" (1966-1969 TV series) and "Star Trek" (2009)
• "Total Recall," Aug. 3
• "Dredd" ("Judge Dredd" reboot), Sept. 21
• "Escape from New York"
• "Man of Steel" ("Superman" reboot)
• "Tomb Raider"
• "Mortal Kombat"
• "Ninja Turtles" ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" reboot)
• "Daredevil" (working title)
RELEASE DATE UNKNOWN
• "Blade Runner"
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...