Can Hollywood recover from reboot monotony with the new Flatliners?
Last year, only two of the top ten highest grossing films in the world were original productions with no pre-existing source material. In 2015 there was just one.
Reboots and remakes have become the standard for big-budget Hollywood cinema, and a thorn in the side of film lovers for what seems like forever.
Earlier this year, Universal began its planned remakes of horror classics from the 30s and 40s, with the Tom Cruise-led remake of The Mummy (2017) – and it was terrible. With so many reboots of true classics in recent years, such as Godzilla (2014), The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and Ghostbusters (2016), failing to win over audiences or critics, as film fans, we have only one question: Why do these keep getting made?
The answer to this usually comes down to money. Hollywood execs in 2017 are too scared to try new ideas in case they don’t work, so they have to rely on familiar material and characters that will surely act as a box office draw. But even that doesn’t explain the next reboot to hit our screens: Flatliners.
The original 1990 film was fairly mediocre despite its A-list cast that included Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon and Julia Roberts; with middling reviews from both critics and viewers, it sits at 3.5 stars on IMDb. Helmed by Lost Boys (1987) and Falling Down (1993) director Joel Schumacher, Flatliners seemed to mark the beginning of a downward spiral in his career, a spiral that ultimately led to the badly written, badly acted schlock-fest that is Batman and Robin (1997) – the film that ended Schumacher’s directorial career, the one where Batman has a ‘bat credit card’.
There was nothing too awful about the original Flatliners, a sci-fi drama in which a group of medical students attempt to experience death by briefly stopping their hearts, only for horrific visions to follow. Many of the scenes, although cheesy, offer up genuine scares and thrills, but a reboot feels unnecessary on all fronts.
Unlike the Star Wars prequels, which tackled a franchise with swathes of dedicated fans across the world, Flatliners is a cult classic at best. These small fan bases usually have no interest at all in seeing their favourite films ground up by the big-budget Hollywood remake machine.
The reboot will follow the same basic plot as the original film. Horrific visions and other side effects of ‘flatlining’ will no doubt haunt the young team of medical students while they search for a way to reverse what’s happened to them.
Despite the negativity surrounding recent reboots, Flatliners could still pull through. With Niels Arden Oplev, the mind behind the fantastic original version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009), in the director’s chair, there’s real potential in the film.
What’s more, Kiefer Sutherland is also on board so there’s hope for original fans as well as new ones.
“I loved making the first film,” said Sutherland. “When I was asked if I would be interested in taking part in this, it didn’t take more than a minute
to say yes.”
Rather than worrying that the film will simply ride on the coattails of the original, composer for the film, Nathan Barr, has ensured fans that the 2017 drama will be more than just a rehash.
“I deliberately avoided watching [the original] or listening to that score because I knew they wanted to do something different,” Barr explained in a recent interview. “For this, we wanted to make our own thing.”
While doing its own thing, the new film has still kept its link with the original, to keep the world alive – Sutherland apparently plays the same character but with a different name. So does that make Flatliners a reboot? A sequel? Or something else entirely?
As it stands, the film is a cult classic with some enduring appeal for a small audience, so we can’t say that justifies a remake. However, in producing the half-remake, half-sequel that Sutherland implies it will be, perhaps we’ll see a new way for big Hollywood studios to start making decent ‘soft reboots’. With Flatliners, there’s every chance that Oplev could put a new spin on the film, pulling it out of the unoriginality trap that has caused so many reboots to fail.
Also starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev and James Norton
Running time: 108 minutes
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WORDS Sam Begley