Reboot, Reuse, Recycle
Hollywood’s fixation on remaking old favorites
It. Ocean’s Eleven. Dumbo. Mamma Mia. The Incredibles. Mary Poppins. Gilmore Girls. The Jungle Book. Jurassic Park. Beauty and the Beast. Ghostbusters. Harry Potter. Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Star Wars.
Do I need to keep going?
On screens big and small, it feels like every single movie has become a “revival”, “reboot”, “reimagining”, or sequel to a beloved (or not so beloved) predecessor.
Netflix is reviving cult classics left and right. Look at a new Sabrina The Teenage Witch, which did away with talking cats in favor of chillingly authentic witchcraft, or at the renewed One Day at a Time, a revival of the 1970s sitcom. Even the streaming service’s venerable Black Mirror, for all its technological innovation and alarm, isn’t much more than a recycling of The Twilight Zone.
Walt Disney’s Studio is taking advantage of the trend as well, producing as many live-action adaptations of animated classics as it can. In the last eight years we’ve seen as many reproductions, including two Alice in Wonderland movies, a Cinderella, Maleficent, the Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Christopher Robin, and more. In 2019 alone there are four live-action films scheduled for release.
Marvel has the same tendency as other entertainment giants, though it has chosen more sequels than revivals as it finds ways to ensure there will be a fourth, fifth, and, let’s be honest, sixth Avengers movie. Superhero competitors lag behind, but Sony, Fox, and Warner Brothers are also fighting for cinematic glory with re-casted Spider-men, revived Wonder Women, and stand-alone X-Men movie after X-Men movie.
So, dear reader, why are we still buying our ticket and filling the seats at our local theater, if it’s all stuff we’ve seen before? Why do we find ourselves tearing up when we find ourselves back in the world of The Lion King? How do we still find ourselves crying at the end of Toy Story Three? Why do we leap to arms at the very thought of the new Aladdin movie not making our beloved Genie blue? What makes Mamma Mia 2 such a joy of a movie?
Nostalgia is nothing new. While original content can be captivating, the familiar feels, in many ways, like coming home. In the best of the reboots, revivals, renewals, re-whatevers that movies and television have to offer, that is what we are looking for: we want to come home.
Maybe Mary Poppins Returns reminded us just what it meant to be a child, completely enthralled in a world of our own imagination. Perhaps a new Mulan will reawaken that part of us that felt that we too, could be warriors. It’s possible that the Gilmore Girls revival reintroduced us to the community that had welcomed us before and was welcoming us again.
I am far from, reader, advocating for a complete abandonment of the revival/reboot/sequel phenomenon. You can look to my previous articles and see that I am a loyal and committed franchise fan. I did see the new Grinch, and I absolutely loved Mamma Mia 2. I will be buying tickets to Avengers: Endgame, and I’m not ashamed to say I cried when I heard James Earl Jones’ voice in the Lion King trailer. The movies and shows of my childhood are being brought to life again, for good and for ill. For all my love of Spider-Man: Homecoming and my excitement for a new Dumbo, I’ve refused to watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and I would be happy to rant about how miserable The Crimes of Grindelwald was anytime.
We fight for what we know, and we watch it time and time again. We want to see it done right, but when it is, it brings us home. Maybe that home is a simpler time, maybe that home captures our imagination in a way our classes just don’t, or maybe that home revives a childlike joy we are hard-pressed to find and eager to capture.
When I watch these revivals, I am sometimes irritated, or nitpicky. But if I watch them next to my youngest brother, watching him see the worlds of my childhood come alive for the first time, the plot-holes and details can fall away as I am welcomed home as he discovers it.
And that, dear reader, makes all the reboots worth the wait.
Maggie Garnett is a first year student studying Theology and Constitutional Studies. You can find her struggling to complete even the easiest of crossword puzzles, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.