Superhero going stale? Reboot!

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th May 2011.

Next year will see the cinematic release of The Dark Knight Rises, the third film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. With stars Christian Bale and Gary Oldman returning, along with new cast members Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Tom Harding as Bane and Joseph Gordon-Levy as an unnamed character, the film is sure to be a major box office hit for Warner Bros and DC Entertainment. However, with Nolan and Bale confirming that they will not be back for a fourth film in the franchise, rumours are rife that Batman will be rebooted with a new director and star.

In cinema, a reboot is where all previous continuity in a series is discarded and begins anew. In the Caped Crusader’s case, Tim Burton’s original series, which began in 1989 with the box office smash starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, had petered out to a kiddie friendly mess by 1997 with Batman and Robin, directed by Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys), when the big red reboot button was thankfully pressed.

Batman isn’t the only comic superhero to undergo a reboot. The Man of Steel has been revised once, and is soon to be revamped again. Following four films starring Christopher Reeve, each one sillier than the next, reaching rock bottom with the anti-nuclear rubbish that was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, X-Men director Bryan Singer was given the reins to reboot the franchise. Starring Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey, Superman Returns essentially eliminates the original third and fourth films and picks up from where the second film ended.

Superman Returns, which was shot in Sydney, was not the mega success anticipated by Warner Bros, and now the rebooted Superman: The Man of Steel, which will premiere in 2012 and star Henry Cavill in the blue tights, will begin production soon.

Marvel comic characters are also not immune to a reboot or four. Mr Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch and The Thing make up the Fantastic Four, who were successfully translated into cinematic gold in two films produced between 2005 and 2007.  Starring Jessica Alba and Julian McMahon, both movies were profitable for Fox. A much more superficial take on the superhero genre compared to Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, the Fantastic Four are due to be rebooted soon.

Sam Raimi’s very successful Spiderman trilogy has made a fortune for Sony Pictures. Following the critically panned Spiderman 3, which starred Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, Sony has announced a reboot, The Amazing Spider-man, to be directed by Marc Webb (no pun intended) and starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy.

The dilemma with reboots is where to take a renewed franchise. After the serious Gothic style of Michael Keaton’s Batman to the silliness of Val Kilmer’s Caped Crusader to the craptacular Bat-nipples on George Clooney’s Bat-suit to the super dramatic gravelly tones of Christian Bale, where to next for the Dark Knight? You can’t really go any darker than Health Ledger as the Joker and you can’t get any campier than Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze (unless Adam West is looking for work). The choice in my opinion is simple, a musical spectacular on ice in 3D. Holy reboot Batman!

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