Reboots: getting the boot by audiences

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“The 2016 remake of the 1959 classic uses a great deal of special effects and CGI in its action scenes”

Evan Rocha, Staff Writer

The recent nosedive the Ben-Hur remake has taken since its release on August 19 has shined some light on the favorability of reboots and remakes in the film industry. Grossing only $11.4 million throughout the opening weekend, Ben-Hur is going to have a hard time making even a portion of its $100 million budget back. The reviews of the movie offer reasoning into why the movie bombed so hard. On Rotten Tomatoes the movie holds a critical score of 28%, citing the regular critics’ dislikes of over-the-top action and CGI. But the user reviews were also somewhat critical. While 67% liked the film, which is no small amount, most of those who said they liked it noted that the movie was unnecessary, and that they didn’t understand why a remake was even made to one of the greatest movies in history.

But even remakes of lesser films garner wariness and dislike from general audience, oftentimes before even the release date. The recent Ghostbusters reboot faced a rough launch, average reviews, and minimal box office earnings. It was supposed to be Sony’s big summer blockbuster, and it seemed as though a large percentage of the potential audience didn’t care for it. Now, Ghostbusters had a more controversial theme as it starred an all-female cast, but even simple remakes are often panned before release. The Karate Kid, Clash of the Titans, Red Dawn, Annie; all of these movies were received either poorly or simply forgotten. As remakes, they brought very little that was fresh or new to the concept of the original. They aren’t destined to become classics because they didn’t create anything.

This is, at its core, the problem with remakes and reboots. They have an inherent problem where they stay in the shadow of their predecessors.  Often they are straight retellings of the original story with only one or two things changed (think Red Dawn which changed Russians to the Koreans), or lazy cash cows full of ridiculous CGI (Clash of the Titans, Robocop). Even if these movies are at the least enjoyable, nothing about them stands out. Film is an art form, and most of these movies are the visual equivalent of using stencils to copy a masterpiece.

This isn’t to say all remakes are bad. Occasionally a remake will become so great as to overcome the original. The Fly, Ocean’s Eleven, and even Scarface are all remakes of relatively unknown or forgotten movies from the past, and they usually make general audiences forget that they even are a remake or reboot. They contain substance: a compelling story or characters, and distinct direction and producing. Most new reboots don’t have that. Hollywood is motivated by profit, and understandably so, but lately they’ve been putting what will try to rake in dough ahead of what will be considered artistically or enjoyably good. While critical distaste is usually countered by profit margins, cuts to profit margins by disillusioned audiences will surely make film studios reconsider their current tactics. The astronomical failure of Ben-Hur is just a sign of how audiences in the future will continue this trend to stay away cheap cash-ins.