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Reboots I Didn’t Like

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCU chapter.

Full disclosure, media can be interpreted in any way by viewers. That said, each person can form their own impression of any piece and that is their impression alone. However, the reboots I’ll be discussing today do not have the best reputations for good reasons. 

It is one thing for remakes or reboots to come about if the original piece of media has become harder to distribute or interact with, or simply needed some culturally appropriate upgrading. Then there is whatever the heck these reboots were trying to accomplish. The theme is Japan to America adaptation. As evidenced here, sometimes it is best to just dub an original rather than trying to remake it into something that is just plain insulting.

Godzilla (1998)

If there ever was a franchise that united people across generations and continents by its mere existence, it would be Godzilla. Sitting at a whopping 38 films as of now (soon to be 40), the monster-verse as fans have dubbed the current iteration produced by Legendary Pictures and Toho is thriving. The monster-verse films are an American adaption and cross-over with four films in total (for now) that are exciting modern spins on the classic Kiju genre. Legendary acquired the rights from Toho, the original studio, and worked very closely together to bring the King of Monsters to the mainstream American audience. But they were not the first to attempt this.

Back in ye olden times (I mean 1998,) an American studio had the bright idea to attempt, in the loosest sense, to produce its own version of a Godzilla film. At this time in Japan, the Godzilla franchise was a sprawling, massive cultural phenomenon that had seen multiple movie series within that year (22 total). A couple of television spinoffs, toys, and even children’s cartoons that promoted safety during disasters were also rolling around. By all means a healthy and thriving franchise that didn’t really need to change its formula since it had practically been perfected back in the 80s. So, when a bunch of execs from Fried Films, Independent Pictures, TriStar Pictures, and Centropolis Film Productions went to Toho company with their bright idea for an all-American reboot, Toho said yes. 

Keep in mind that Toho had owned and made the Godzilla films since the first one back in 1954 and had never before let any other studios outside of Columbia Pictures- who were responsible for the English and Spanish dubs of the film- in on the series. At that same time, no other studio had ever worked on a Godzilla cinematic picture completely independently before. But the Hollywood studios heralding the project were riding off the high of the current sci-fi craze that was sweeping the nation after successful films like Independence Day made bank at the box office. So when Roland Emmerich, who also happened to direct Independence Day, came forward with wanting to direct another natural disaster film about asteroids, the studios told him “No, go work on this Godzilla movie instead because Jan de Bont doesn’t want to.”

As you can expect, the film basically flopped thanks to its developmental hell. While it did make over its budget back at the box office, it ended up costing multiple studios massively in the long run as the planned trilogy never occurred afterward. The dated CGI, strange redesign of the title character, and frankly terrible acting of its lackluster human cast were major and earned criticisms of this film that didn’t really need to exist in the first place. To add salt to this wound, Toho pulled the plug mercifully by shutting the project down and pulling out the Godzilla rights from these studios. 

The final slap in the face was Toho rebranding this film’s version of Godzilla for the franchise’s lore as “Zilla” to keep it distinct and far away from the franchise’s original namesake. In 2004, Zilla would make a minor cameo in the 50th-anniversary film Final Wars, where the flabby super-sized iguana would be blasted into the Sydney opera house by the King of Monsters to the first American rock theme for the franchise. 

Death Note (2017)

The sheer audacity of this film’s existence will always be a point of considerable pain for the fans of this thriller series. 

Originally a manga released in “Shonen Jump” magazine in Japan, written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, Death Note was a certified industry shaker. Despite being Ohba’s first work, Death Note is an incredibly well-crafted noir-esque thriller about a magic notebook that kills whoever’s name is written in it. This series with a fantastical concept keeps itself grounded in deductive logic amidst a perpetual plot that ramps up the stakes with every mental clash of the core characters. 

An unusual addition to the magazine that had exclusively produced action-style manga for years, Death Note, like many successful manga series, soon received an anime adaption that was then dubbed and released internationally. Boosting the series’ attention became a point of great debate, with some countries arguing that its content was not appropriate for the public. 

For starters, the Netflix adaption barely counts as a retelling since it copies so much from its predecessors in a spiteful way. The casting really shows how little care was actually put into this film besides the terrible set choice, script, and score. The only decent actors in this entire film are Willem Defoe (as Ryuk) who delivers a delightfully killer take on the character and Marget Quallery (as Misa) who instead of an airhead is an intelligent murderous girlfriend. Frankly refreshing new spins on the original characters that are still under-utilized in this iteration since it focuses on a half-baked version of Light Yagami/Turner. LaKeith Stanfield would have been fun to watch as he nails the unique L mannerism, especially if the multiple L’s were in play and if the film had utilized this aspect of the character just as the previous live actions had done. But his acting can’t save the horrible lines he had to read or the fact that he’s playing off a completely bamboozled Nat Wolff. At least they both went on to have better careers after this cinematic disaster. The lack of chemistry between the cast is obvious and really drags the story down since the original’s strength was that it was a character-driven narrative. 

The main problem with Netflix’s adaptation of Death Note is the film’s writing. Yes, casting was rough, but this is not actors in roles they couldn’t handle; it is actors in roles that were not finished being developed. The plot then takes off with an ambiguity that feels like the editors and writers mixed up their papers and files with the Stranger Things team. The 80s music doesn’t really fit even with the new focus on action that the film tries to implement. The story fails to capture the long, slow-burn magic of the original, simple as that. 

Honorable Mention: Cowboy Bebop (2021)

Not bad enough to be completely disregarded but disappointing enough to fit this theme, I find the Cowboy Bebop live-action to have been, while mixed, a step in the right direction for adapting foreign media on Netflix. But I also understand why Shinichiro Watanabe, the original Cowboy Bebop anime director, refuses to watch the series after only the first opening scene. Cowboy Bebop was a lot of Americans’ first anime and the live-action is a tribute to that.

That said, this is still a lackluster series compared to the absolute masterpiece that is the original. For starters, actual fans worked on the series and it shows. The main cast actually looks like they’re having fun and the show has the unique visuals and flare that Christopher Yost as the showrunner brought with him. At least John Cho and Mustafa Shakir are having fun since they absolutely bring the performance home with their own takes on Spike and Jet. 

However, the tones between the shows are completely different and the overarching narrative is butchered completely. The thing about Cowboy Bebop is that you have to carry that weight; the story ends with nothing resolved, yet their world moves on with or without them. The original has no resolution outside of a major character death and this reboot allows fans to return to a time when you could immerse yourself into the story and stay with the crew of Cowboy Bebop a little bit longer. The crew is here even if they look and act a bit different.

The live-action may not be great, nor is it a complete editorial mess or written like a 2009 fanfic retelling, but it exists. It exists and it was made with love, and that is what matters the most for reboots.

I like writing stories and reading books. My favorite classical writer is Mary Shelly, and my favorite current writer is Wiley E. Young. I like light rainy weather and chia tea. I also play video games and watch a lot of old movies.