As another year unfolds, we’re often struck by the urge to look back. Or in the case of cinema, to look back back. 2011 is notable for the release of the most film sequels in a single year, at 28. The film franchise is nothing new. And indeed, in several notable cases (think Star Wars and Rocky) the franchise creates a universe more complex and tangible than any single film might have done. That’s all well and good. What we can’t abide as we look forward to the year to come (possibly our last, if the Mayans are to be believed) is the endless feedback loop that is the film reboot.
The reboot is often the life belt for a sinking film or series. But the trend in remaking some of the most classic pieces of cinema goes well against this. The autumn of 2011 saw the release of The Thing, the reboot of John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror of the same title. The original was a seminal bit of special effects wizardry, as stunning then as it is now. The reboot here is a lead belt rather than a life belt. It sinks it, dilutes it. Given the means it takes to get a major film made today, let alone seen, a free market of cinema is a tad idealistic. The reboot is a safe bet for production companies as they have a built-in fan base. But where is the reverence for cinema? Why is cinema assumed to be de facto malleable? Even those residents of the filmic pantheon aren’t immune. Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind have both received their ‘touch ups’. And don’t even get us started on George Lucas.
Can you imagine the same crimes being perpetrated on classic literature? The Scarlet Letter in which Hester Prynne’s shame is a permanently affixed profile pic? It’d get laughed off the shelves. Let’s leave classic cinema alone. Let it shine on its own without the saccharine sheen of a CGI rouge. If this is to be our last year, let’s fill it with as many new ideas, new stars, and new stories as we possibly can.