Reboots and remakes of massively popular franchises are impossible to avoid. Most of the massive theatrical hits of the last decade or so are mostly made up of them, so it’s easy to see why they are so omnipresent in the cultural zeitgeist. Nostalgia often plays a huge role in this phenomenon. The characters who many of us grew up adoring often inhabited films that were either ahead of their time or executed poorly, despite the filmmakers’ best intentions. It’s easy to write off many remakes and reboots as mindless cash grabs and rightfully so. The brand recognition of many of these franchises are almost as powerful as the characters within them.
But there are times that remakes actually go above and beyond the originals. They can breathe new life into a property with present day social commentary and current events. And the trend doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing. Every week, we are inundated with announcements of retellings of stories we’ve seen time and time again. While many of these announcement may induce chiding from fans and a sense of general dismissal, it’s safe to say at least a few might excel beyond the groundwork which came before.
15 BETTER: THE INCREDIBLE HULK
There is much that can be said about Ang Lee’s 2003 film Hulk, but most of it is not very nice. While we could see what Lee was going for with some of his stylistic choices, his adherence to convey the notion of “hey, this is a comic book movie” was hamfisted to the point of pandering. We don’t need literal comic panels on the screen to tell us we’re watching a comic book movie. We can infer that from…oh, let’s say, the giant green behemoth from comic books.
Luckily, Dr. Banner got a mulligan from the MCU in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk. And while this version did fall into the over-blown CGI trappings of the Hulk’s previous on screen adaptation, the film has a more coherent story and a way cooler villain. Also, no Hulk dogs…so that’s a plus.
14 WORSE: TERMINATOR GENISYS
When a film series that spans multiple decades is predicated upon the idea of time travel, things can get muddy. Actors age, times change, and sometimes it’s difficult to get things streamlined. The Terminator film franchise has tried its best to keep things vaguely cogent since the original 1984 film. But the series’ most recent release tried what is often done in comic book continuity, and give the whole thing a soft reboot, and things didn’t go great.
Terminator Genisys (yes, spellcheck, we wrote that correctly) is a complete and utter mess. The weird retread of seminal moments from the previous films did not jibe with the new ideas and the strange obsession these films have with keeping Arnold Schwarzenegger part of the cast. The new players aren’t much better, particularly Emilia Clarke who is about as tough as a puppy on Quaaludes as Sarah Conner.
13 BETTER: DREDD
It must be tough for some movie studios to let go of their reservations about what works and doesn’t work in films and allow a film to channel the heart of the source material from which it was adapted. Clearly, no one made that leap of faith with the 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd, which oddly enough is a looser adaptation of 2000 AD stories than the 1990 film Hardware, a film that the comic creators sued to get their names on.
Thankfully, Alex Garland atoned for the sins of Judge Dredd, and gave us a movie worthy of its moniker, the 2012 sci-fi shoot-em-up Dredd. Dredd happily embraced the lunacy of the source material and casted a never not scowling Karl Urban as the titular Judge. The result was a movie that could be appreciated by newcomers to the property and longtime fans alike.
12 WORSE: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
If you’ve ever seen the early production art for what would become the cinematic reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you’ll know things could have turned out much, much worse. We’re talking, alien turtle worse. Regardless, what we did get from the 2014 release, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was by no means great.
Part of what made the previous film franchise based on four heroes in a half shell so charming was the fact that they were tangible. It didn’t matter that their mouths didn’t always sync up with the words coming out of them and sometime the fight scenes were stiff due to the stunt actors being confined in several inches of rubber. The fact that they were practical made all the difference in the world. The new CGI turtles just don’t have the same impact.
11 BETTER: BATMAN BEGINS
Not everyone thinks of the dark, dower version of The Caped Crusader when they think of Batman. For some fans, the hokey ‘66 Adam West version is their batman. For others, it’s the neo-gothic dreamscape-dwelling portrayal from the Tim Burton films. But no one’s Batman is the Batman from those awful Joel Schumacher movies. Now, admittedly there are things to admire about Batman Forever. Val Kilmer was pretty cool as Bruce Wayne, the film had a great soundtrack, and the costume design had not yet gotten…anatomical.
But the follow up Batman & Robin is a film that takes the more questionable pieces of its predecessor and ramps them up to eleven. After the dust had settled after 1997, the Batman film franchise was in ruin. It’d be nearly a decade before Christopher Nolan picked up the pieces with Batman Begins, a film that redefined the character...for the better.
10 WORSE: GODZILLA (2014)
The best part of any Godzilla movie is when Godzilla fights whatever mutated giant monster has been set up as the de facto villain of the film. Watching a grown man in a rubber suit punch and pummel another grown man in a rubber suit is hypnotically silly and utterly engrossing. Now, to be fair, the Godzilla franchise wasn’t always about monster smack downs. The film that launched it, Gojira is a parable fir the horrors of war and the lasting cultural repercussions of nuclear strikes.
Sadly, the American reboot from English director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Rogue One) couldn’t find a way to translate either the terror or fun of what makes Godzilla a captivating on screen presence. Instead, what audiences were given was a sub-par disaster movie that drags on an hour too long with some cool Lovecraftian elements and an awesome (albeit brief) final battle.
9 BETTER: RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
While vastly different from the original novel by French author Pierre Boulle, the 1968 film, Planet of the Apes is nothing short of iconic. It told a fascinating story that was more than just the Twilight Zone-esque twist ending that so many people remember it by. The film was such a success, it would go on to spawn several sequel and a reboot by Tim Burton, all of which never quite reached the heights of the original film (especially that abysmal Tim Burton film. Yikes).
However, a decade after the last reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes began a new cycle of films. These films would portray the hero's journey of the lead ape, Caesar in a fascinating manner, showing the complexities of what it means to be a leader and a revolutionary. Very rarely do sequels get better and better. These films are the exception.
8 WORSE: THE MUMMY (2017)
There is a case to be made that a dusty corpse wraps in gauze is the least frightening creature in the Universal Monster roster. But despite this and the fact that it’s not exactly the most culturally accepting film ever made, the 1932 film The Mummy is something of a sacred cow in the realm of horror films. This didn’t stop Universal from turning the property into increasingly more bizarre (and fun) romps until it hit its crescendo with the loose remake starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in 1999.
But in 2017, Universal tried to get The Mummy back to its horror roots with the Tom Cruise-led CGI schlock fest also titled The Mummy. The film that we got did have a darker tone than most of its predecessors, but not even Tom Cruise running (something he is quite good at) could save a film that is aggressively “meh.”
7 BETTER: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
The Road Warrior (or Mad Max 2 as it’s known in some parts of the world) is one of the best action films ever made. Hands down. It’s fast, brutal, and has style to burn. The action sequences involving high speed chases and car combat are some of the best of their ilk to be committed to celluloid. And while the two films that bookend this one (Mad Max and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome) are great in their own ways, nothing can compare to the middle entry…that is until Mad Max: Fury Road was released in 2015.
Fury Road takes the conceit of the first three films, boils it down to its most raw and visceral form and throws 150 million dollar budget at it. The result is not only the best Mad Max film, but one of the most captivating and breathless action films in the last 50 years.
6 WORSE: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Despite starting out wonderfully, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy didn’t end exactly with a bang. It was more like with a bad dance number with too many villains. But ended it did, and for better or worse, Sony seized the chance to revitalize the property and give fans a new Spider-Man film, one that reflected the Brian Michael Bendis era of comic books fans had been reading for the last decade and boy did they whiff it.
The Amazing Spider-Man is by no means a roaring dumpster fire…it’s more like a smoldering dumpster smoke cloud with one of the cheapest CGI villains to be in a film with such a large budget. The Lizard was so awful looking, that we actually longed for the days of a rubbery Spider-Man engaging in web gymnastics with an even rubberier Venom whilst falling through the air.
5 BETTER: THE THING
The 1951 science fiction horror film The Thing from Another World was widely considered just another entry in the horror schlock catalogue. However, over time it has been remembered fondly despite the copious scenes of people opening and closing doors…no, seriously. But one could argue that a lot of this renewed good will probably has rubbed off from John Carpenter’s 1982 remake/retelling of the John W. Campbell story “Who Goes There?” The Thing.
The Thing is simply one of the best horror films of the '80s. Rob Bottin’s creature designs were unparalleled at the time and still hold up today. The film went on to spawn comics, video games, action figures, a board game, and even its own lame prequel (the hallmark of any great film). The movie also features a wonderful cast, a tight script, and a sense of dread so thick you could cut it with a knife.
4 WORSE: THE WOLFMAN
This one should have worked. There was no reason for this be as bad as it was. All the elements were there: a strong cast, Rick Baker doing makeup, a firm R rating. But somehow, someway, the 2010 remake of the classic Lon Chaney Jr. horror film The Wolfman was just awful. Boring and awful.
This was a chance for Universal to give us a new take on one their most beloved monsters without having to compromise on level of violence and terror. This could have been a true blue horror blockbuster. But the film that was released was a CGI mess of ugly transformation scenes and no true sense of dread. Werewolf stories should focus on the tragedy of lycanthropy and how the transformation from man to beast is one that represents the eternal raging conflict of morality of mankind, but no…instead we get a lifeless snoozefest.
3 BETTER: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
In 1990, The Cannon Group (a production company responsible for such amazing films as Masters of the Universe and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) released a live-action adaptation of Captain America. The film was made on a shoestring budget, which was a Cannon hallmark, and starred the son of reclusive writer J.D. Salinger, Matt Salinger (Revenge of the Nerds). If this sounds like a great idea to you, you’d be mistaken. The film was as awful as the production was reported to be, and it went direct to video in the United States.
It would be more than twenty years before the star spangled warrior donned his shield on the silver screen, but when he finally did in Captain America: The First Avenger, he was welcomed with open arms. Chris Evans’ take on the character was warn, naïve, and powerful, which was literally everything Matt Salinger’s version was not.
2 WORSE: ROBOCOP
The Paul Verhoeven 1987 film Robocop was a scathing satire of '80s excess and commercialism. It took the tropes of action films from the era and skewered them on a pike of cyberpunk existentialism with a heavy dose of over-the-top violence and gore. In short, the film is a masterpiece, a near perfect representation of a foregone era of filmmaking.
Sadly, the 2014 remake didn’t get the memo. Robocop (2014) is a hollow film tragically crafted by talented people behind and in front of the camera. All the biting gallows humor and satire was stripped away, and aside from a truly horrifying sequence in with Murphy demands to know “what’s left” (trust us, you don’t want to know) and a bonkers performance by the infallible Michael Keaton, there isn’t much to admire, which is a shame. Had the film had enough guts and moxy, it could have been amazing.
1 BETTER: SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING
Like a spool of synthetic webbing, the pendulum of a long-lasting franchise always swings toward the opposite direction. When a character’s representation is in the gutter, much like it was in The Amazing Spider-Man films, it’s not long before it teeters back into the realm of quality. And sometimes it comes back to that bright, shiny place rather quickly.
After he made an appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker reclaimed the hearts of fans around the globe, giving them a Spider-Man they could root for and the groundwork for a new film. Spider-Man: Homecoming was nothing short of a redemption for ol’ Web Head. It gave us a version of Spider-Man that felt more genuine than the character has ever been on the silver screen. And the past history of the character, Spider-Man 3 included, was forgiven.