How Soon Is Too Soon to Reboot a Movie Franchise? An Investigation

The new 'Grudge' movie inspired us to do some very complicated math.

by River Donaghey
Oct 28 2019, 6:04pm

MIB image via Sony Pictures. Terminator photo courtesy of Skydance/Paramount.

We live in a world of endless reboots and sequels, a closed loop system of repackaged ideas constantly breathing new life into forgettable relics and Macaulay Culkin franchises and Face/Off remakes starring Timothée Chalamet and Lucas Hedges or whatever. And, like all feedback loops, the whole process from original idea to reboot seems to be happening faster and faster, building towards some kind of shrill and constant whine. A new Batman? More dumb Ninja Turtles reboots? Another stab at rebooting the Terminator franchise four years after the failed attempt that was Terminator: Genynynynysys? On Monday, the Great Cultural Necromancer cursed us with the trailer for one more—Sam Raimi's brand-new take on The Grudge. Sure, the movie is not a proper reboot, since it reportedly takes place in the same universe as the older films, but it's still an attempt at reigniting a film franchise nine years later, so call it whatever you like.

Most importantly, the whole thing begs one important question: Namely, how soon is too soon to reboot a film franchise? Is there a definitive line we could draw to separate too-soon reboots—like the painfully short gap between Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man 3 and Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man—from the comparatively reasonable wait between Star Is Born remakes? Let's find out!

The first reboot, if the stacks of data from our legions of VICE researchers can be trusted, was all the way back in the early 1900s. In 1903, Edwin S. Porter shot the landmark silent Western, The Great Train Robbery, followed less than a year later by director Siegmund Lubin's blatant knock-off called, unsurprisingly, The Great Train Robbery. That's, uh, not enough time. But the 11-year wait between The Grudge 3 and this new Grudge movie feels like enough of a wait, right? So the optimal gap between movies (x) is something like: 11>x>1. So we could say, like, give or take a decade?

That doesn't quite work, though. The Star Trek reboot came only seven years after Star Trek: Nemesis, and that seemed fine. But there was a seven-year gap between the decent Men in Black 3 and the terrible Men in Black: International, and that felt too soon. The same goes for the horrendous Tom Cruise Mummy reboot which came out a whole nine years after the third and final Brendan Frasier one. Maybe the quality of the movies should play a factor here, too?

Like, uh, maybe we take the accumulated Rotten Tomatoes score for the reboot and subtract it from the score for the original, divided by the amount of years between releases... And, wait—should we try to factor in changes in medium, like a live-action remake of a cartoon, or US remakes of foreign films, because those feel like they can withstand quicker turnarounds and, hang on, HBO's Watchmen sequel series just premiered and the Watchmen sequel comic is still running, so is that wait, like, a negative number or something, or...? OK, stop. Hang on. Here's the definitive answer: Who cares!

How long do you have to wait to reboot a franchise? It doesn't matter. Just don't make the movie suck when you do it. People don't hate the endless scourge of reboots and sequels and requels and seboots because they happen too fast; they hate them because they are uncreative and trite and lame. There is no predetermined period of time that an audience have to wait for us to get comfortable throwing gobs of money at the same movie again. Audiences will go see Pattinson's The Batman even though Justice League was a few short years ago just because we'll go see all Batman movies forever. We are simple. We are easy. We like things we know. We just don't like bad things, so at least make it a good Batman movie, OK? It may be a blatant and soulless cash-grab, but no one will care if it's at least a passably entertaining cash-grab.

Give us a Grudge prequel period piece next year or Grudge in Space the year after or a post-apocalyptic Grudge about how the last few Grudge survivors have to be really, really, nice to each other to avoid someone dying while sad or mad and igniting the curse again, like some kind of extremely courteous version of A Quiet Place! There are no rules here. Just do it well. Or don't, and people will probably just go see it anyway, and the terrible reboot cycle will continue. That is the real Grudge curse. Sorry, everybody.

men in black
The Grudge