So, I saw Star Trek over the weekend. Good movie, didn’t taste much like Star Trek – even Nimoy’s reading of classic Spock phrases sounded like they were from a different universe – but fun nonetheless and I have little doubt it will spawn several sequels, until, inevitably, this series gets bogged down in bad writing, new directors, bloated actors, and doomed attempts to have the greatest special effects evah. I’m not exactly a rabid Trek fan, though; casual would be the right word for me. I’ve seen an awful lot of Trek material in my day, but I don’t exactly keep track of it all. So the only real question for me was whether it was a fun movie, and it was.
I mean: Damn, that was one shiny movie. You could run it with the sound off and it would still be kinda entertaining.
It did make me think about other things: JJ Abrams thinks Slusho is a lot more interesting than it actually is; he’s one of the few filmmakers out there who seems to have had a drink in an actual bar at some point in his life; a girl in green skin makeup will never look like she’s an actual alien; and something else: This awesome/horrible new trend of rebooting old series.
Just in the past few years we’ve seen Batman, Superman, Star Trek, and James Bond reboots – defined as a new movie that dispenses with established canon and timeline and just, well, starts over. From a practical point of view, this is a great and necessary strategy, as it allows for the clearing away of deadwood actors, cumbersomely intricate backstories, and outdated design and special effects. Especially when your series has been losing ticket sales and popularity of late, it’s an obviously good decision, even when the resulting movie doesn’t turn out too well (Superman Returns, we’re looking at you).
The real question is: Are Reboots good for us, the consumer? Are they merely cynical ways to get kids into the seats, ignoring older fans and trashing decades of established storylines and mythology, or are they ways to wring a new freshness from an old story? Wouldn’t it be better if Hollywood actually created new stories instead of dusting off old ones – I mean, wasn’t there something startling and original they could have spent money on instead of Star Trek? We’ve all seen Star Trek, in one form or another, haven’t we? On the other hand, when Hollywood does trot out a new story, it usually sucks, so maybe rebooting a series that at least has the dessicated glory of its past clinging, barnacle-like, to its belly is better.
After a lot of thought over beers, soul-searching, and absolutely no research or determined discussion with people holding differing opinions from my own, I’ve decided that reboots are, in fact, mostly harmless.
As a writer, I struggle occasionally with the fact that once I release a work into the wild, so to speak, I cease to own it. It becomes collective property. Oh, I own the copyright, of course, and have some control over what happens with it, but people can decide whatever they want about it. They can interpret as they see fit, and they can critique, discuss, and reach whatever conclusions they want to, as well. Nothing I can do about it, and that’s fine – that is, in fact, as it should be. A franchise reboot is, essentially, the same thing, really. You release movies into the wild, and they get reinvented after a while, even after everyone who worked on the originals has died and thus cannot provide any more creative ideas.
In short, I can dislike a particular reboot, but I can’t dislike the concept of reboots as a whole. Or, better said, I can dislike the idea, but I can’t think of a real argument against them. Which is the slogan of the lazy mind, and thus: My slogan.
Of course, would I have the same opinion if someone were to reboot my books in book form? That is to say, what happens if, 30 years from now, Avery Cates seems like a stuffy old-timey kind of character, the kind of story that makes people say Well, that’s how things were back then. Sort of the way we look at spy movies from the 1960s – in other words, aching for a reboot. And they hire some dashing young author to whip up a fresh, hip new version of the character and the universe. How would I feel about that? Aside from the obvious answer, which is: Nothing, as I’ll likely be dead from liver disease. If I was still alive I doubt I’d be interested, unless I had some serious balloon mortgage payment to make, or some serious health insurance premiums. In which case: Sign me up, I’ll write fucking Avery Cates children’s books if I have to. Barring that, I’d obviously rather write new stories than reboot old ones.
If I’m dead, go with Gary, what do I care? I don’t know if the reboot idea will ever invade the literary world – movies, requiring so many fingers in the pot, are much more apt to be groupthink projects that view idiosyncracies as problems for marketing. If it does, I wonder if they’ll make Avery Cates a teenager or something.