There are 95 movie sequels currently in production in Hollywood. Despite this, sequels aren’t where the industry sees itself going. It is now into what they like to describe as a “reboot”.
If a studio recasts James Bond or Batman, gives it a new look and ignores what happened in previous films, that’s a reboot.
The purpose is to make money off something that has a ready-made audience. It is what lies behind the constant foraging of comic book characters in the hope that a new hit franchise can be found.
The current crop include Superman, Zorro, X-Men First Class, Conan and The Three Musketeers. But the list goes on.
At one level Hollywood has been remaking previous successes for years. But now the idea is for the remake to be hip and up to date.
When the sequels of a franchise run out of steam—as Star Trek’s did many years ago—start from scratch, add some new special effects and hope for the best.
In a funny way Wes Craven has a lot to answer for. The veteran horror director’s self conscious Scream (1996) reignited interest in a genre which had exhausted its audience through the endless Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises—and their lesser imitators.
Having mocked others, Scream spawned its own sequels, and can even be blamed for the appalling Scary Movie parody franchise.
The latest outing, Scream 4, merges a sequel and a reboot. And it tells you it is doing it.
By playing with its own conventions it actually works both as a series of movie geek in-jokes and a thriller. So it isn’t impossible to make a reboot that is any good—it’s just rare.
But then again the methods Craven uses to make his sequel/reboot more than the sum of its parts are nothing new.
In the 1938 comedy Boy Meets Girl, with James Cagney, two screen writers who are stuck for an idea go through a hackneyed plot that also turns out to be the basic plot of the movie they are in. Perhaps someone will reboot it.