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If you use the word “reboot” in conjunction with any entertainment property other than the ’90s CG cartoon of that name, you’re guaranteed to get some sour looks. We associate it today with Spider-Man getting a second origin story only four movies in or Joel Schumacher’s bat-nipples. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and if you think about it, there are probably more than a few reboots you’ve enjoyed. The Andy Serkis >Planet of the Apes movies, for example. >Spider-Man: Homecoming. Or, going back further, any James Bond movie subsequent to the tenure of Sean Connery.
Sure, if handled poorly, a narrative restart can be a problem. But it can also be Batman Begins. And in the long history of comic book movies, there are quite a few that could use a reboot in the modern age of both (a) special effects that can do pretty much anything and (b) studios noticing audiences actually care about fealty to source material now.
Here are a few that we definitely would like to see get a cinematic fresh start, mainly because the actual comics they’re based on deserve much better.
The two >Swamp Thing movies have their fans, with the first, Wes Craven-directed installment surviving as an unintentional camp cult classic, and the Jim Wynorski-helmed sequel as a deliberately comedic spoof. But when Alan Moore completely reinvented the character in the ’80s as an elemental being who merely had false memories of being human, rather than a human accidentally mutated, Hollywood didn’t know how to cash in. A toy line with tie-in cartoons replicated the new comic designs but not their darker, more serious tone, while a scarier live-action TV series was hamstrung by budgetary issues.
Nowadays, with motion-capture, Swamp Thing could finally be freed from man-in-suit constraints and deal with the body horror of realizing the humanity our hero wanted to reclaim never existed, and he must destroy what he thought he was in order to become much more. The role no longer requires a stuntman like the late Dick Durock, but an actor who can emote through animation–the obvious choice is Andy Serkis.
Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch initially looked like it could be a >Tank Girl for the new millennium, with punk-rock women warriors fighting mechs in surreal wastelands. But while it ultimately didn’t amount to that–all its scenes of heroic action were the delusions of trapped women–it did prove that the post-apocalyptic cult comic could be done right if someone were to try.
That’s not to discount Rachel Talalay’s version, since for its time, it was as good as could have been expected, and Lori Petty and then-newcomer Naomi Watts were perfectly cast. But the budget simply wasn’t there; relying on drawn comic-book transitions to accomplish effects the movie couldn’t otherwise afford, it also failed to make Ice-T look in any way convincing as a mutant kangaroo, and once he shows up, the film stops dead. In a post->Shape of Water world, their relationship can be portrayed a little better. Give >Deadpool‘s Brianna Hildebrand a shot at the lead role, and make it hard R-rated.
The Mask is arguably one of Jim Carrey’s best movies. Like Tex Avery, Beetlejuice and the Joker all thrown into a blender, the green guy with the pop-out eyes is a living cartoon, and a perfect avatar for the rubber-faced improv machine who was cast when he was just “The white dude from In Living Color.”
There’s just one little hitch: it’s not the comic.
On the page, the magic mask also gave its wearer cartoon powers, but augmented them with homicidal psychosis. This Mask didn’t just mess with people–he mutilated them. And apparent protagonist Stanley Ipkiss, played by Carrey in the movie, dies pretty early on when he fails to anticipate just how twisted his new bit of face-bling actually is. Like the One Ring, it’s also addictive, and a whole lot of people want it, including an inexplicably indestructible mobster named Walter.
To give the sense that anyone can be the Mask, you don’t want to go too star-driven for an adult-skewing remake, and besides, Ryan Reynolds has his hands full in that department already. Eamon Farren, recently seen as Evil Coop’s kid Richard Horne in >Twin Peaks, would be a good start.
Michelle Pfeiffer was so fierce as the anti-heroine of Batman Returns, offering a Selina Kyle who’d rather burn down the system that oppressed her than find a way to work within it beside Bruce Wayne, that it’s maybe (and sadly) not surprising that Warner Bros. never pulled the trigger on her spin-off movie…as such. Instead, we got a retcon that said there could be many cat-women with cat-powers, and the one who somehow deserved a movie was Patience Phillips (Halle Berry), uncoverer of a dastardly cosmetics conspiracy.
Anne Hathaway did a reasonable take on the character in The Dark Knight Rises, though she was never actually called Catwoman, and Christopher Nolan eschewed one of the coolest, most easily transalatable to reality costumes in favor of an awkward “realistic” one where a visor flipped to look like cat ears. A comics-accurate Selina is long overdue, and while we were supposedly getting one in Gotham City Sirens, there are at least three Harley Quinn movies now in development and nobody really knows if the catty one is going to be first priority any more.
Though she’s been Gwen Stacy and rumored for Batgirl, Emma Stone is a purr-fect fit. In Easy A she proved she could weaponize sex appeal when needed, and discard it the moment it got in the way. And after being defined as a victim in two Sony Spider-flicks, it’s time to prove she can dominate a traditionally male field–as she did in last year’s Battle of the Sexes.
If you read sites like this one, you know the drill. Every year, for the past decade, Todd McFarlane will come to a comic convention and announce he’s nearly done writing the new Spawn movie, which will be low-budget, R-rated, and depict Spawn as a supernatural urban legend rather than a super hero. Recently, Blumhouse signed on to this premise and it actually seems closer than ever to really happening.
Except that’s not what us old-school Spawn fans really want. Every other Blumhouse movie is about some scary, unseen urban legend, and detectives Sam and Twitch have never been as compelling as McFarlane thinks they are. Give us the Spawn of the early comics: a CIA killer betrayed, after his boss made a deal with the devil to get secrets from Hell in exchange for his soul. Give me an anatomically improbable Violator ripping out hearts. Give me a multi-tiered hell full of insane demons, and a battle between a God named Mary and a Satan named Malebolgia for warrior souls, regardless of morality.
Spawn’s very name reveals the actor who should play him. For Al Simmons, I suggest Henry Simmons, ass-kicker extraordinaire on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s huge, he can fight, and as the recent TV storylines proved, can believably make really dubious choices to protect his daughter.
I will admit that I’m a fan of every live-action >Ghost Rider so far, if not always an artistic defender. Nicolas Cage turning into a flaming demon is irresistible, and Robbie Reyes on Agents of SHIELD brought some L.A. flavor to a character who needed a twist. But none yet has really brought the comic vibe of a western with Faustian supernatural elements. Let us really see how a curse works in a wide open southwest where demons dwell, and let’s see some of the showdowns that would have once been between men on horseback get re-imagined by fiery demons on motorcycles.
John Boyega, so beloved as a reluctant stormtrooper (and the anti-hero of Attack the Block), could be Danny Ketch, inheritor of the spirit of vengeance. As original Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze, Michael Jai White could take the performance he brought to the previous Spawn movie and put it into a situation where it’s more deserving.
Images: New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., Dark Horse Comics, DC Comics, ABC TV, 20th Century Fox, Image Comics, Marvel Comics, Showtime, Lucasfilm, Titan Comics, Screen Gems
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