Well here we are, a whole year has gone by and a brand new one has just begun. The coming of the New Year is seen as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf for those looking for a fresh start. What better way to celebrate the new dawn than by talking about superhero reboots! We love big budget superhero entertainment, but not all franchises based on comicbooks are lucky enough to constantly maintain critical and financial success. To put it bluntly, sometimes you just need a do-over! In celebration of the New Year we’ve decided to take a look at some of the more memorable superhero reboots in television and film.
When talking about reboots we might as well start with the biggest of them all: Batman. After a 1940s serial and a 1960s television series, DC Comics’ Batman hit the big screen with 1989’s dark gothic Batman directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton. This iteration of the character lasted for four movies until 1997’s neon-drenched Batman & Robin introduced us to bat skates, the bat credit card, and (cringe) bat nipples. The flick was a flop and the Batman character lay dormant for years with many thinking that the franchise had been irreparably damaged.
Enter director Christopher Nolan, whose dark, gritty, and hyper realistic reboot of the Caped Crusader brought Bats out of the belfry with Batman Begins (2005) starring Christian Bale in the title role.
The film took Bruce Wayne back to basics, retelling his origin story in a very grounded but thrilling manner. Two acclaimed movies followed, The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), each building off the success of the last and creating a monumental motion picture trilogy that will be tough to surpass (but it won’t stop Hollywood from trying). Although there have been two reboots for Batman since Nolan’s trilogy, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), and the upcoming The Batman in 2021, we think Nolan’s reboot will stand the test of time.
If there’s one character whose reboots have rivaled Batman, it’s your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Beginning with director Sam Raimi’s original holy trilogy of Spider-Man movies, this first web spin is still (for the most part) the gold standard of superhero movie making. Raimi’s half-camp half-serious direction and Tobey Maguire’s earnest performance as Peter Parker perfectly captured the 1960s era Stan Lee and Steve Ditko comicbooks.
A mere five years after the final flick, Sony Pictures chose to reboot the franchise with an all-new cast in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). The series, starring Andrew Garfield and helmed by director Marc Webb, failed to captivate audiences in quite the same way the previous set of movies did. With an overconfident Peter Parker and convoluted story, this iteration was abandoned after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) sputtered at the box office.
Following The Amazing Spider-Man incident, all seemed lost for the poor little web head until Marvel Studios swooped down from on high to forge a deal with Sony and rescue Spidey from his silver screen purgatory. Marvel and Sony rebooted the webslinger for the 3rd time with actor Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017).
This new series brings Peter back to high school as well as introduced the newbie hero to some superhero pals in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This reboot and its follow-up, Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), have been some of the most beloved versions of the iconic character since the original, with the sequel becoming the highest grossing Spider-Man movie of all time. Marvel and Sony have a good thing going, so let’s hope they don’t mess it up.
Way back in 2008 moviegoers were hit with a series of trailers for a superhero movie unlike anything they had seen before. It was a cape and cowl comicbook movie for sure, but it looked and felt like a hard-boiled murder mystery… with a glowing blue naked guy, alternate versions of history, and geopolitical parleys. Honestly, the average movie-goer had no idea what to make of the original Watchmen film in 2009. It was a painstakingly accurate recreation of an incredibly dense (and genius!) graphic novel very much of the 1980s.
When the film came out, hardcore comicbook fans flocked to the R-rated movie, but general audiences stayed home. Today, it is known more as a fascinating experiment than a box office blockbuster.
Flash forward a decade and HBO has launched a reboot of the celebrated graphic novel with Watchmen (2019). This time, the 9-episode series was created by Damon Lindelof of Lost and The Leftovers fame. Instead of trying to recreate the graphic novel, the television show is a sequel to it, taking place roughly 30 years after the giant squid attack on New York (trust us it’s good, go read the comic).
The series uses real world history, current events, and of course the source material to craft a mind-bending mystery and incredibly human story about people who wear masks… and yes, a glowing blue naked guy. The series was only supposed to be one season long, but now that it’s become the most watched cable show of last year, rumors have it that this reboot is going to keep the doomsday clock ticking closer to midnight.
Poor Daredevil, for a character with such unique powers and a strong supporting cast, he just can’t catch a break in Hollywood. His 2003 film starring Ben Affleck, while a moderate financial success, failed to meet fan expectations, cramming three major storylines from the comics into one movie. After the box office disappointment, the character’s rights remained in limbo at 20th Century Fox for a decade as they tried to get a sequel or reboot off the ground.
Finally, around 2013 the screen rights to the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen reverted back to Marvel Studios. Instead of introducing ol’ hornhead to his big screen brothers and sisters, the House of Ideas decided to reboot the street-level superhero as a Netflix television series. The show debuted in 2015 (as the first of four new Marvel series) to critical acclaim. The reboot was everything the previous movie was not. It was gritty, it was mature, and it adhered closely to its comicbook source material. Charlie Cox played the quiet but brooding Matt Murdock and Vincent D’Onofrio brought sophistication and savagery to the Kingpin of Crime. Unfortunately, with the advent of the Disney+ streaming service, all Marvel series on Netflix were canceled. So, once more Daredevil is banished to limbo, awaiting a worthy reboot into the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper.
X-Men (2000) was arguably the film that kicked off the superhero movie craze of the 2000s and 2010s. The franchise had two wildly successful movies but stumbled badly with fan reaction in its third outing with X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). The film series lay dormant for 5 years before deciding it was time to bounce back with a new concept in X-Men: First Class (2011). But instead of a full-on reboot of Marvel’s merry mutants, Fox decided to do a “prequel reboot.”
The story would be taken back to the 1960s and explore the friendship between Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto that would later turn them into bitter enemies. The film was recast with up and coming stars like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. The soft reboot barely needed to acknowledge the same continuity as the original films and was able to start the story over with fresh young faces and new settings.
The prequel reboot reset didn’t last long though, as its sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), brought back the original trilogy cast for some successful time traveling antics. The third and fourth films in the X-Men reboot series unfortunately proved to be fatal, as both X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) experienced diminishing returns. Now that Disney has purchased Fox, we can expect that the mutants are raring to go for another reboot under the House of Mouse.
It’s strange to think that reboots have become so commonplace in pop culture nowadays that it’s a house-hold term. Everything from James Bond to Ghostbusters have been remixed for a new generation. And the idea of reboots doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon! With upcoming high-profile reboots in the Marvel Cinematic Universe pipeline like Blade, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four on the way, it’s never too late for a new beginning. So, in honor of starting over we say to thee Happy New Year and Excelsior!