7 Radical Reboots That Divided Audiences
Remakes and reboots are a tricky thing, especially when it comes to their reception. All too often, studios commission these works to capitalize on the name without having a creative reason to resurrect it. This is why the resulting product typically feels shallow and unfulfilling. The best-case scenario is that a bold artist has an innovative vision to put forth, possibly expanding or updating an established franchise in meaningful ways. Doing that, though, requires adding stuff or adjusting what was already there. This can potentially attract even more fan consternation.
The upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake is just one example of this. On top of being released in episodic chunks instead of one complete package, this Japanese role-playing game takes the stylized sprites and turn-based battles of the 1997 original and replaces them with sprawling photorealistic detail and real-time combat. Players who fell in love with the classic title have looked at the remake with both excitement and trepidation. For all they know, modifying the existing property, especially to such a high degree, could compromise the experience and ruin what made the work great in the first place. People tend to get annoyed when you change what they love.
It’s why many creators are cautious with what they adjust. They generally try to balance the additions with enough of the old work to still be recognizable. After all, they’re merely caretakers of a story, and they’re expected to respect it. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and risk angering the audience you depend on for revenue. Less careful souls, on the other hand, throw caution to the wind and fully commit to their version of the product.
This leads to those special endeavors that pull a complete 180. I’m not talking about remakes that simply update the effects. I also don’t mean the ones that shift a few story beats and characters around to modernize the property. In spite of such differences, those products still try to maintain the essence of their predecessors. No, I’m referring to the type of ground-up reimagining that keeps the bones and little else. These are the works that preserve the characters and/or general premise but change literally everything else. Whether it’s the aesthetic, tone, direction, or even the message, nothing seems sacred in these reboots. It should come as no surprise that such radical departures spark division among the fan base.
Now, I’m not saying that all of these titles are necessarily bad. In my opinion, most of them are pretty accomplished in their own right. Unfortunately, the fact that they drifted so far from their roots led many loyalists to write them off as unfaithful perversions. So, in honor of Final Fantasy VII Remake, let’s look back at seven of those radical reboots and determine why they were met with such division.
7. Strike Back
This show started as a straight spy drama starring Richard Armitage. The protagonist was a tortured former soldier; the pace was slow; the mood was somber; what little action we got was very contained. When Armitage left to film The Hobbit and Cinemax stepped in, the series was completely reinvented. Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton were the new spec ops field agents, and the episodes were stuffed with guns, quips, stunts, swearing, and sex. The creators apparently liked this tongue-in-cheek tone since they kept it when the show was brought back again with Daniel MacPherson, Warren Brown, Alin Sumarwata, and Roxanne McKee.
Needless to say, this was a big leap that caught a few people off guard. Taking a serious international spy show and turning it into pure escapist entertainment was bound to ruffle a few feathers. As impressive as the set pieces were, certain audiences asserted that the authenticity of the first season had been lost. To them, the whole series had been dumbed down. This wasn’t really helped by the fact that Armitage’s hero was killed off, and with him died the heavy pathos that the show had subsisted on.
That’s not to say that the new series had no drama, but it definitely wasn’t as pronounced as it once was. The creators rather spent much of the time reveling in shootouts and one-liners, intent on making the missions as fun as possible while still maintaining enough grit and danger to make the adventure exciting. While this strategy won over legions of new fans, it wasn’t exactly what hardcore loyalists were looking for.
6. God of War (2018 Game)
To say that the God of War games are violent would be an understatement. They revolve around Spartan warrior Kratos as he wreaks vengeance on the Greek gods and leaves a path of utter destruction and chaos in his wake. A big part of the entertainment value comes from watching that disaster unfold. On top of making you feel like a living buzz saw through fast-paced gameplay, Kratos continually finds new ways to dismember the creatures of Greek myth. You can’t help but have your sadistic curiosity piqued as you marvel at the developers’ twisted creativity. It goes back to the Mortal Kombat mentality of wanting to see the various methods of finishing your opponent.
So, imagine the surprise of gamers when a franchise that seemed to glorify gore and violence later appeared to condemn such concepts. Though technically a sequel, 2018’s God of War has an entirely different approach than its predecessors. Shifting to the realm of Norse mythology, the game picks up with an older Kratos, who has settled down in a humble cabin and formed a family. Unexpectedly, he’s disgusted by his prior actions and struggles to raise his young son to be better.
The gameplay seems to reflect this new perspective, as Kratos feels significantly heavier and less powerful. You can no longer plow through hordes of enemies with ease. Each fight is an exercise in precision, especially with the closer camera angle limiting your field of view. You won’t even encounter as many foes because the story unfolds at a much slower pace and mostly emphasizes intimacy over spectacle. In hindsight, it’s highly reminiscent of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, with a few light RPG elements thrown in for good measure.
Many fans appreciated this new direction and the attempt to inject more humanity into Kratos, praising the game for reinvigorating the series. Others, however, lambasted the combat as “clunky” due in large part to the tight camera angles and slow movement. On top of that, some felt that the game was just plain boring and misguided. According to detractors, the script is not nearly as deep as it thinks it is and would have been better off embracing the power fantasy of old.
5. Star Trek (2009 Film)
Back in 1966, Gene Roddenberry created a utopian vision of the future in which mankind had overcome many of its problems and formed a peaceful bond with numerous other species across the galaxy. Cooperation, diplomacy, and the spirit of exploration ultimately won out over greed, prejudice, and war. Now, other entries in the franchise have sometimes challenged that idealistic vision, such as in Deep Space Nine. At its core, however, Star Trek was always about finding a peaceful solution to its problems, examining the human condition, and maintaining its futuristic paradise. The approach was very methodical in pace and analytical in execution as the characters weighed the social and political ramifications of every act. What’s more, is that the action sequences that you’d expect from a space show were few and far between.
That all changed when J.J. Abrams brought the franchise back from dormancy in this 2009 revamp. Using time travel, the film retells the tale of Captain Kirk and his crew, detailing how they met and what they had to overcome during their early days at Starfleet. This time, however, it’s a high-octane action flick. The scenes move at a mile a minute; lens flares fill the screen; ships and planets are routinely blown up; scientific reasoning is an afterthought; and the characters shoot first and ask questions later more often than not. Simply put, it’s a popcorn movie.
Such a product was not what longtime Trekkies were expecting. In their eyes, the franchise once touted as the thinking man’s sci-fi had devolved into something much dumber to please a wider audience. Gone were the hard-hitting questions about humanity, ideals, or the finer points of morality. In their place was a barrage of pretty lights and noise.
Another bone of contention came with the narrative decisions, namely the establishment of an alternate continuity. The series would now be moving forward from the events in this film; all previous films and shows were effectively rendered null and void due to being part of a previous timeline. Suffice it to say, this didn’t make the fallout any better. Loyalist viewers felt that the filmmakers had spit on everything that had come before in their quest for a new direction. Worse, said new direction did not look to be nearly as thoughtful or encouraging as the old one. Even later shows that returned to the previous continuity were done in the slick-and-shiny style of this reboot. As a result, Trek fans have been divided ever since.
4. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Known primarily as a side-scrolling platformer franchise with light combat elements, Castlevania revolves around various members of the Belmont clan, a line of vampire hunters who vanquish mummies, werewolves, and other creatures of the night in their never-ending quest to destroy Count Dracula. The Lords of Shadow trilogy, on the other hand, rewrites the entire mythology. Unraveling the mystery of his wife’s death, Gabriel Belmont is consumed with rage and eventually becomes Dracula himself. This brings him into conflict with his fellow monster hunters and even his own son. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, Gabriel must also deal with the impending return of Lucifer, who was secretly pulling the strings during the vampire slayer’s downfall.
The story as a whole is treated as a Shakespearean tragedy, with the melodrama and operatic atmosphere being downright overpowering at times. Likewise, the upbeat tunes of the Nintendo titles, soundtracks that had become iconic to fans, were abandoned entirely. Instead, we got for a sorrowful choir which would be right at home in The Lord of the Rings. This all struck some players as a little pretentious and convoluted.
The simplicity of going through a castle and killing monsters seemed like a distant memory, and that feeling was further accentuated by the changes to the gameplay. Platforming took a backseat to combat, a hack-and-slash affair akin to God of War or Devil May Cry. You have different weapons and attacks for different creatures, and you unlock more combos as you rack up experience points. It’s a formula that’s been proven time and time again, but does it really belong in a Castlevania game? That’s the question that people asked at the time, and it’s one that they continue asking to this day.
3. The Legend of Spyro
When you look at Spyro the Dragon, one word that probably doesn’t come to mind is epic. Developers Krome Studios and Étranges Libellules sought to change that with this trilogy. The original games were not exactly big on story or tension, relying instead on cartoonish personality and slapstick humor. The cocky little dragon plowed his way through a plethora of silly enemies, used his gliding and platforming to collect items or unlock more areas, and saved the realms from a few egomaniacal villains.
The Legend of Spyro trilogy fashions a narrative about a purple (and less confident) dragon being prophesied to save the world from the mysterious Dark Master, Malefor, who has captured the other dragon guardians and spread his hordes of monsters across the land. Rather than being free-roaming collect-a-thons, these games adopt a linear approach to their levels. In addition, they place a much greater emphasis on combat, with your elemental breath attacks being used to dispatch waves of enemies. Again, like with Castlevania, the quirky music of yesteryear is replaced with hopeful choral and orchestral pieces to suit the more serious atmosphere.
While you can definitely admire the ambition behind this reinvention, is it any wonder why some fans were disillusioned? They felt that these games had taken the fun out of the franchise, wrapped up in self-seriousness and drawing from other fantasy works to turn Spyro into Frodo Baggins or Luke Skywalker. To put the icing on the cake, he was even voiced by Elijah Wood, with Mark Hamill also stepping in as Malefor. If that’s not deliberate, I don’t know what is. The only move that seemed comparable to this series in terms of backlash was the subsequent Skylanders game, where Spyro was redesigned to look like roadkill.
2. Teen Titans Go!
The 2003 Teen Titans was a very lighthearted show for much of its run, placing its super-powered misfits in a slew of wacky scenarios and using its anime influence to enhance the physical comedy. That being said, it also developed its characters and fashioned interesting storylines to engage us with those characters. Moreover, it was not afraid to get serious in order to raise the stakes, crafting an appropriate tone for its occasionally mature subject matter.
On the other hand, Teen Titans Go! simplifies its characters down to one or two traits and uses them purely for punchlines. These guys may fight crime, but they are deliberately played up to be as shallow and obnoxious as possible. They don’t even seem to particularly like each other, existing in their own little world and focusing primarily on self-gratification. What little plot there is usually revolves around some petty gripe that these supposed “heroes” have, an issue which is quickly resolved through some slapstick, visual gag, or cutaway segment. The humor here never goes beyond the surface level, and the jokes themselves have absolutely no rhyme or reason in how they’re delivered. Flash animation? Puppets? Rapid randomness is the name of the game here.
Naturally, fans of the old show were disgusted at this new take. Not only were they insulted by the creators’ reliance on juvenile comedy, but the heroes that they grew up with were warped into caricatures of their past selves. The show seemed to have abandoned any attempts to reach older audiences or give viewers anything substantive to think about. Instead, it was content just to keep kids happy for eleven minutes and revel in its insipidity. This was seen as a slap in the face, and the initial shock quickly turned to anger, a determined animosity that continues to this day.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the writers throw in several digs at detractors, painting disgruntled fans as immature, hysterical man-children. The most recent of these came during the crossover with ThunderCats Roar, another comedic remake of a beloved property, with anyone who doesn’t accept it apparently having “a poop mouth with poop opinions.” Here’s a tip: you don’t win audiences over by insulting them.
1. Man of Steel
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It… just destroyed the city. This is what happens when someone tries to copy Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman and apply it to Superman. Moreover, it’s brought to us by director Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) and writer David S. Goyer (Blade, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). With those factors in mind, it should come as no surprise that the finished product is so grim and bombastic.
Man of Steel presents a version of Superman who is unsure of why he is here or what he should do. Rather than disguising himself as a quirky reporter, he spends years wandering the world as a rugged nomad, going from job to job without much forward drive or identity. He refrains from using his powers because of the advice given to him by Jonathan Kent, his adoptive Earth dad who stressed discretion until the world was ready. When his son asks if this meant letting innocent people die, the humble farmer replies, “Maybe.” In fact, he believes so hard in this idea that he lets himself be enveloped by a twister instead of letting his son save him. Superman’s alien father seems to share this sentiment, prophesizing that his baby boy would eventually lead the people of Earth into a brighter future. Together with the direction, this is blatantly meant to frame Superman as a Christ-like figure.
Despite that, the film pays special attention to hard-hitting action, showcasing the untold amounts of damage that these super-powered aliens can inflict during combat. This notoriously comes into play during the climax, in which the battle between Kryptonians severely damages the town of Smallville and utterly destroys the city of Metropolis. The camera lingers on this damage, letting viewers soak in every explosion, every toppling structure. When everything is said and done, Superman stands amidst a pile of rubble before snapping the neck of the villain.
It should come as no surprise that this film proved so divisive among both general audiences and comic fans. Right away, it was a radical departure from previous tales of the righteous superhero. The desaturated colors, underacting from the cast, and pretentious dialogue was off-putting to viewers, coming off as needlessly depressing and cynical in their attempts to sell the product as high art. In addition, many felt the script overcomplicated an otherwise simple origin story. Superman apparently has the entire registry of Kryptonian citizens encoded into his DNA, and antagonist General Zod wants to harvest that DNA in order to terraform Earth into a new version of Krypton. For perspective, the Zod in the original films simply wanted to impose his rule on the planet and exact revenge on Superman for his father’s actions.
Mixing in of these extra elements made it seem like the filmmakers were ashamed to be making a Superman movie, as if they wanted the titular Man of Steel to be something that he’s not. This was evident in his frequent angst and emotional disconnect from those around him. He doesn’t even seem particularly interested in saving people, innocent or otherwise, which is the crux of his character. All of this concern came to a head when he killed the villain. Although he did this to save a family, this still struck a chord with legions of devotees. They condemned this decision as being grossly out of character and the final nail in the coffin for a misguided venture.
Granted, there have been darker Superman stories, but none that came across as this nihilistic. The script preached about him serving as a beacon of hope, but every aspect of the flick indicated otherwise. When the dust settled, fans determined that the movie had sacrificed the hero’s moral integrity and optimism for the sake of making things more intense and “realistic.” Admittedly, some viewers commended the creators for trying to place Superman in the real world, ditching the old-school cheesiness and going all-in on contemporary maturity. At the same time, others praised the action sequences and how they showed this superhero’s weight and power on a level never seen before. However, countless others have rejected the film, denouncing it as a failed experiment that fundamentally misunderstands its source material, as well as the hero at the center of it. That is why Man of Steel has since gone down as one of the most debated genre products in recent memory.
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