Aladdin, Charlie’s Angels, West Side Story, The Twilight Zone, Queer Eye, Gossip Girl. All pop-culture altering movies and television shows. All reboots.
It’s hard to dismiss the stream of reboots being cranked out by Hollywood within the last couple of years or the lineup of what’s to come. But what is the fascination with these modern replicas? Are we out of ideas for new narratives? Do we crave cinematic nostalgia?
The National Association of Theatre Owners shared data for the first quarter of North American and United States statistics in April, 2019. In this report, box office grosses, movie admissions, and ticket prices all decreased from their standings in 2018.
Streaming services allow consumers to be entertained from the comfort of their beds with the entry fee of, well, nothing. This pressure sits heavily on the shoulders of directors and producers within the traditional media landscape. So, how are they combatting the competition?
Perhaps they innately know that recreating classics will bring in a profit and appeal to a loyal fan base. A safe bet, for sure. But while these films may be what audiences want, are they what we need? Do we instead need movies and tv shows that break the mold and document current pop-culture phenomenons and social issues?
Analyzing a few upcoming reboots can help explain whether these narratives still apply to our lives as media consumers today.
From a 1970s television trio to a year-2000 crime movie to its third modern-day execution, Charlie’s Angels constantly propels feminist themes. Set to release on Nov. 15, the diverse cast is comprised of an openly gay actress, two actresses with mixed ethnicities, and a female version of the character, John Bosley. When director and cast member, Elizabeth Banks, was asked by The Hollywood Reporter if movie reboots are overdone, she answered, “No, not if you make it fresh, fun and interesting.”
West Side Story
Coming to theaters on Dec. 18, 2020, acclaimed director Steven Spielberg is bringing yet another version of West Side Story to you. The franchise’s storyline is still set in 1950s New York City and still revolves around a rivalry between the Puerto Rican American “Sharks” and the White American “Jets.”
The Little Mermaid
Hysteria spread when long-time fans of The Little Mermaid found out that actress and singer Halle Bailey would be playing Princess Ariel in the 2021 live-action remake. Since Princess Tiana is the only black Disney princess to date, this inclusive casting choice of Bailey will create a new role model for a new generation.
Prior to Bailey’s casting, the original voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson, acknowledged her excitement for the new interpretation. That being said, she also showed concern, saying, “In some ways, when you attach a celebrity to an iconic role like that, sometimes you get a little caught up with who the person is and a little less focus on the story.” We’ll see, Princess.
Since rumors started swirling from screenwriters, original cast members, and fans of a Gossip Girl reboot, it has been recently verified that the series will eventually stream on HBO Max. However, gossip (no pun intended) includes talk of steering clear from using actresses Blake Lively and Leighton Meester, and instead revamping the yuppie character lineup in the original setting of the Upper East Side.
While the focus of this article is not on spin-offs, sequels, or Broadway renditions, there is no doubt that these phenomenons drive consumers to the theaters. The top five highest-grossing movies of 2019, up to date, are Spider-Man: Far From Home, Captain Marvel, Toy Story 4, and The Lion King, with Avengers: Endgame coming out on top. An honorable mention goes to Aladdin, which stands in sixth place, having brought in an impressive $1.05 billion.
Did you notice what all of these films have in common?
One can go as far as saying that Disney has a monopoly over the world, but perhaps that’s an exaggeration… Nope, definitely not an exaggeration. These top five-highest grossing movies are all brought to us by the powerful Disney empire. The Walt Disney Company took ownership of Pixar Animation Studios in 2006 and of Marvel Studios in 2009.
Disney’s strategy of remaking classic animated films often involves live-action cinematography. Aladdin and The Lion King are the most recent of Disney’s live-action ventures and clearly pleased audiences worldwide, according to profit and press.
So, do we want it? Do we need it? Do we care?
I don’t know. Maybe. I guess so.
All I do know is that I wasn’t complaining when I sat giddy in my red leather seat singing along to “A Whole New World” as I escaped from reality and immersed into a high-definition fantasy.