Hollywood has run out of ideas, it’s no big secret. Gone are the days of inventive new passion projects and now we are in the age of blockbusters. Whether it’s giant robots, epic space operas or one of a dozen superhero films to come out in a year, they are all massive blockbuster events. To compliment this massive blockbuster trend, studios are now doing something even worse, the diverse reboot of a beloved movie/the sequel to an 80’s film that’s 20-30 years too late. The worst thing is that these reboots rarely work, The Mummy, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Terminator Salvation, Superman Returns, Ocean’s 8, What Men Want and now Hellboy (2019); these are all attempted reboots and/diversification recasts of classic films that flopped. There are plenty more examples but these one are the most prominent in my mind, well those and Josh Trank’s Fant4stic… ugh. This week I’m going to look at some failed reboots and Hollywood’s incessant need to try and re-animate dead franchises.
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
Oh boy, I had such fond memories of the classic Indiana Jones trilogy, and this one just ruined it… I remember being 7 years old and my buddy Malcolm and I watching The Last Crusade while eating chips and drinking pop out of shot glasses because we thought it made us look cool, I stand by our decision! I digress… The Last Crusade which was the final film in the original trilogy was released on May 24, 1989 and ended the original arc perfectly. Flash forward to 2008, when this trash heap of a film was released. It, like the previous trilogy were directed by Spielberg, but I feel like this one screamed of the studio wanting another film and Spielberg finally caving and giving them what they wanted so they would leave him alone. I’m not sure on this but that’s what I hope is true, otherwise I have no way to justify the film… It follows Jones and a young man named “Mutt” as they journey to Peru and the Amazon in search of the lost City of Akator and the fabled Crystal Skulls. Instead of the Nazis challenging Jones and his compatriots, as in the original films, this one takes place in the 80’s and thus the Soviets are the villains to constantly vex the heroes. It ends with them finding the city and placing the skull on one of 13 giant crystallized bodies. These bodies reanimate and then reveal themselves to be aliens, the aliens pull some fancy light show magic and disappear in their flying saucer, no joke. That’s how it ends.
Normally you can justify a film being bad because the script writing was terrible, or the CGI was overused and bad, the acting was terrible or even the final plot twist made no sense. Most movies have one to three of these issues, but this one… it hit all four right on their heads. Harrison Ford delivered a phoned in performance of Indiana Jones that showed he was just there for the pay cheque, much like his appearance in The Force Awakens. The rest of the cast was okay, Shia LeBeouf was over the top as always and Cate Blanchett just looked wierd as fuck as a Soviet with terrible bangs.. The dialogue was terrible and stilted, the CGI monkeys and scenery looks like they were ripped from a straight to video B-list action film, and aliens? really? Fantasy has a large place in the Indiana Jones films, I admit that, but aliens? In a world with the Ark of the Covenant as an example of divine power, and the Holy Grail being able to cure any wounds, why did you feel the need to include aliens? It just felt very out of place and once again screamed of Spielberg caving to studio pressure and pumping out a terrible film.
No, I’m not talking about the classic 1999 Mummy movie starring the vastly underrated Brendan Fraser; I am referring to the shit show that was supposed to start the whole “Dark Universe” for Universal Studios. The Dark Universe was Universal Studios’ idea to try and compete with the gargantuan MCU and the floundering DCEU. Universal owns the rights to all the classic movie monsters and resolved to bring them all into a singular shared universe and then have some sort of a team up film? however that would work. Originally it was supposed to start off with 2014’s Dracula Untold which starred Luke Evans in the title role. Due to Dracula’s lackluster performance at the box office and it’s impression on the critics and fans they decided to start again fresh with The Mummy. Prior to the release of the movie Universal went ahead and cast every member of their Dark Universe to help strengthen their position as “having it all figured out”. Russel Crowe was cast as Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde, Javier bardem was cast as Frankenstein’s Monster, Johnny Depp was cast as the Invisible Man, and these characters would join Sofia Boutella who was cast as the Mummy. The glue to hold this universe together was going to be Tom Cruise who was cast as a man named Nick Morton, he first appeared in The Mummy film as the main protagonist but would act as the common thread that would tie the whole thing together.
The movie itself wasn’t as terrible as it was made out to be. The cast did well with what they were given, but the story just didn’t work. Not to mention the weird inclusion of Dr. Jekyll who has been hunting monsters and cataloging them throughout history? It did exactly the same thing as Batman V Superman and Justice League did, it tried to hard to build an entire connected universe right off the bat instead of letting it happen organically as they did with the MCU. Sofia Boutella delivered a good performance with the tools she was given but she acted far more like a demonic creature than a reanimated princess. Tom Cruise gave a varied performance where some it was authentic and real and other parts were corny and hamish. There were some nice Easter eggs to the 1999 film including the Book of the Dead in Jekyll’s library and the mummy making her face appear at the forefront of the sandstorm. The finale of the film provided Tom Cruise with the Godly powers of the Egyptian God Set and set him loose on the world. He resurrects his dead friend that he started the whole ordeal with and they start off on a new adventure in the deserts of the Middle East. Ultimately the film failed to deliver on its core premise of being an action thriller film and became more of a 2 hour long power point presentation to set up the universe as a whole.
11%. The new Hellboy film by Lionsgate starring David Harbour in the title role has a whopping 11% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 different reviews. I am not one to put faith in Rotten Tomatoes as a whole, just because of how biased it can be, but this does not bode well for the reboot of Guillermo Del Toro’s great duology starring Ron Perlman. The film hasn’t released to the public yet so details on the plot are sparse, we do know that it centers on a Celtic witch played by Mila Jovovich and her attempts to gain power. Hellboy and the BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) are tasked with stopping her. Many of the critics have sighted the incomprehensible story and the shoddy pacing as core reasons of the film’s lackluster performance. The studio went for an R rating and ramped up the gore, probably in an attempt to cash in on the success of Deadpool and Logan. Harbour’s performance has been praised by many but even his take on the character isn’t enough to save the film. This film was marred in controversy back in the casting stage when they cast Ed Skrein as Ben Daimio a rugged military member of the BPRD. When the character’s ethnicity was brought to light, the character being a Japanese-American, the film and casting team were slapped with a whitewashing tag. Within two days of the character’s ethnhicity coming to public knowledge, Skrein withdrew from the role and posted this statement on his Instagram and Twitter accounts:
Last week it was announced that I would be playing Major Ben Daimio in the upcoming HELLBOY reboot. I accepted the role unaware that the character in the original comics was of mixed Asian heritage. There has been intense conversation and understandable upset since that announcement and I must do what I feel is right.
It is clear that representing this character in a culturally accurate way holds significance for people, and that to neglect this responsibility would continue a worrying tendency to obscure ethnic minority stories and voices in the Arts. I feel it is important to honour and respect that. Therefore I have decided to step down so the role can be cast appropriately.
Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality.
I am sad to leave HELLBOY but if this decision brings us closer to that day, it is worth it. I hope it makes a difference.
With love and hope,
This move was praised by many for allowing someone of Asian heritage to portray the character in the film, a role that eventually went to Daniel Dae Kim (of Lost and Hawaii Five-O). Will this controversy contribute to it’s lackluster performance? Potentially. But more than likely, the reason behind it’s potential performance is that the target audience still feels robbed of the third film in De Toro’s trilogy that was scrapped in favour of the reboot. I know that I did really enjoy Del Toro’s films, even if the first time I saw the Golden Army in theatres I fell asleep… I had just got off a double shift at the base and was in a cold dark theatre in a comfy chair, sue me!
When I did see the whole thing through, it was very apparent that a third movie would be needed to round out the story and finish it on a great note. I, like many others, were super excited when a third Hellboy film was announced thinking it to be the great end to Perlman and Del Toro’s run, only to have our hopes dashed with the giant “Reboot” stamp slapped over it.
Like I said at the beginning, Hollywood has run out of ideas, like really run out. To the point that they’re going as far as to release the exact same movies as before just with the gender roles reversed. There’s so many things wrong with this approach that I can’t even begin to identify them all, but the main one is that they aren’t even giving women their own original stories. They’re just slapping a gender reverse on a movie they know did well in the past with a male lead just so they can say “we released a female led movie!” It’s insulting and shallow for studios to shove that crap down our throats rather than giving us meaningful new creative stories. Stop trying to cash in on popular 80’s film and TV shows and come up with some new ideas! Reboots and re-hashes are the bane of any movie goer’s existence. We’ve had 3 Hulks, 3 Spider-Men, 6 Batmen and 2 Supermen all in various reboots and re hashes of the same character. Honestly, how hard is it to come up with an original story? Not very. Hollywood needs to wake up and stop peddling the same shit over and over again. End of rant.
See you next week!