Are Reboots Always Doomed?
Robert Pattinson’s The Batman is the latest in a line of controversial, yet inevitably successful, reboots
When the Sex & the City reboot was announced, fans clamored at the chance to see their favorite gal pals back at it again in the big city. But not all of them. The long-promised reunion series, And Just Like That, lacked all the original series’ core cast members.
It wasn’t long before the news broke that Kim Cattrall would not be returning to the screen as Samantha. For many fans, this was devastating. What would the friend group even look like without Samantha, who for many was the cornerstone of the entire show?
Well, despite many fans expressing their disappointment over the loss of their beloved Samantha, they still watched it. And Just Like That went on to amass a wide audience, with an equally massive cult following as the original series. While any reboot is bound to have its skeptics, the show flourished and did any of that cultural dissent matter ultimately?
Thus is the cycle with any rerun, reboot, or remake. Fans express their outrage at any deviation from the original, but inevitably tune in to watch. That’s what makes them so profitable. All the old fans will return — even if only to complain about what they miss from the original — while fresh fans get drawn in by the hype.
And so here we are: locked in a seemingly endless stream of new versions of old things. Isn’t anyone making anything original? We lament. Can’t we just leave a good story alone? Well, we can’t. And honestly, some of those reboots are good. Plus, after the tumultuous few years we’ve had, who can blame anyone for seeking out nostalgia and its comforts?
Each day brings an announcement of the latest remake. And with it, the new cast is subject to the expectations of the original. Or, the same cast — with a few inevitable adjustments — are held to the standards of their former, younger selves. Needless to say, this is a recipe for disappointment. But what about pleasant surprises? Or are those who sign up to fill the originating actor’s shoes destined to be bombarded by the original show’s fans’ dissatisfaction?
The new Batman film is no stranger to these questions.
The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as the title character and Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, is the latest take on the famous hero. The most recent iteration of the hero was played by Ben Affleck … cue the inevitable cringe. His run at the role was thankfully short, amounting to just two films: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016) and Justice League (2017). The films were not well-received critically, but predictably made a lot of money.
You may wonder why the Ben Affleck forays aren’t as well established in the canon of Batman films. It’s due to Affleck’s character interpretation. According to the Guardian, “Affleck’s Batman was hard to like from the beginning: a knuckle-headed bruiser who tried to kill Superman – basically the Jesus of the DC universe.”
This version might have been doomed from the start, says the article, continuing: “Warner Brothers needed this setup, because it allowed them to title the next episode Batman vs Superman, and Affleck ended up being the patsy … the whole thing smacked of a film-making machine where the marketing men held sway over everything.”
In this case, Affleck truly was the worst choice for the role. The whole run of films felt like a cash grab, trying to capitalize on the success of the wildly popular Marvel Avengers series.
Especially following the success of Christian Bale’s time as Batman in the famed Dark Knight trilogy with Heath Ledger’s Joker — which is one of the most critically and canonically enjoyed superhero movies of all time — Affleck’s films are largely forgotten flops.
The Batman (2022) was determined not to make the same mistakes. Rather than trying to fit a high-budget actor into a formulaic movie sequence, the film reinvented the character and cast quite an unexpected choice. Known as the vampire teen heartthrob in Twilight, Robert Pattinson has mostly starred in indie films since then. He returns to the mainstream as a surprising choice for The Batman — and that’s just the point.
Taking such a risk seems to be the most successful way for reboots to signal to fans that they’re taking a startling, fresh approach to the story and refuse to be beholden to a film or a series’ past expectations.
The Batman’s critical and commercial success seems to confirm this. Although some will inevitably question how well this Batman’s edgier take integrates with a fundamentally flawed character. After all, in 2022, it’s easier to question why a rich and resourceful character like Bruce Wayne doesn’t spend his money investing in social programs and addressing the social inequality that he profits from, which is the root cause of crime.
The New Yorker recently compared the premise of Pattinson’s character to Taxi Driver and also questioned just how effective this use of Pattinson actually was. Though fans have enjoyed his performance, is it the best Batman? Or was it another cheap effort to capitalize on Pattinson's Twilight fame to repackage the same mannerisms and allure in a high-budget action film?
The New Yorker muses: “Pattinson’s allure, before which I am as helpless as anyone else, springs from the fact that, in keeping with his godlike exterior, he is a light knight as well as a dark one; what he brought to Nolan’s “Tenet,” in 2020, was not just fine tailoring but a casual comic élan. (“Don’t be so dramatic,” he said, when planning a plane crash.) “The Batman,” to its shame, and to the deep detriment of its leading man, turns out the light. It demands that the hero be nothing but dramatic, all the time.”
So what does it take for an actor to drive a successful reboot? For both Affleck and Pattinson, their achievement — or lack thereof — was more or less determined during the casting process. Where Affleck starred in a less captivating era for Batman, Pattinson was set up for success.
But only time will tell what the true legacy will be. Nostalgia can make anything seem good. For example, fans have recently rediscovered their love for Spiderman movies after seeing Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield return to their roles alongside Tom Holland.
In that case, Marvel blends a reinvented version of Tom Holland’s Spiderman with the nostalgia factor by reprising the other two roles. Maguire and Garfield’s surprise appearances offer fans a greater appreciation for the older versions of the character, which have been criticized in the past. Now, Maguire’s Spiderman 3 feels camp rather than ridiculous, and Garfield's hipster skateboarder feels less earnest in hindsight.
When it comes to reboots, time really does heal all wounds. And if you feel betrayed or let down by one version of your favorite film or television show, you can rest easy knowing there’s sure to be a reboot in about ten years. All you have to do is wait.