7 iconic characters ripe for a reboot

Mad Max: Fury Road proved a reboot can be awesome, just like Batman Begins and Casino Royale before it. What’s the secret? Fuck the original story and embrace the original character.

A good reboot doesn’t remix all the same old ingredients like a brand new item on the Taco Bell menu. No winks at the audience. No pandering to nostalgia. Otherwise all you’ll end up with is high-budget fan fiction (Terminator: Genisys, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) or a sad attempt by middle-aged producers to shove their favorite movies from high school down the throats of today’s teenagers (Red DawnPoint BreakTotal Recall).

You’ll never recapture the magic of an old movie by imitating it. The story and style were products of their time. Let them go. Only characters are timeless. That’s why we’ll still be lining up to watch Bruce Wayne battle the Joker on the big screen 20 years from now, but any attempt to recreate The Dark Knight is destined to suck.

With that in mind, here are seven iconic characters who have spawned sequels in the past and are just begging for a full reboot.

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1. Connor MacLeod (Highlander)highlander

Broody immortals may be a dime a dozen these days, but this one doesn’t have to avoid sunlight or date high schoolers, so that’s refreshing. However, his immortality does come with a catch: whenever he comes across another immortal, he’s compelled to fight them to the death. After five centuries, he’s got PTSD like you wouldn’t believe, but he’s determined to keep fighting or else one of his evil brethren will be the last immortal standing and dominate all of humanity.

What to throw away:

Everything else.

Who to cast:

Hugh Jackman

Who not to cast:

Ryan Reynolds

2. The Man with No Name (Fistful of Dollars)45843_the_good_the_bad_and_the_ugly_the_man_with_no_name

Yeah, yeah, Clint Eastwood may well be irreplaceable in this signature role. But whatever, the character is already a rip-off of the wandering samurai from Yojimbo anyway. It’s time to roll the dice on someone new to viciously glare at ruffians until they whimper while making the ladies swoon through the power of pure, unadulterated gruffness. Also, I’d really like to see ponchos come back in fashion.

What to throw away:

Everything else.

Who to cast:

Tom Hardy

Who not to cast:

Jai Courtney

3. Neo (The Matrix)matrix

Thomas Anderson is an office drone sleepwalking through a conventional life, just like you! Only he discovers a battle between good and evil going on just outside everyone else’s realm of perception. Now that he knows his everyday “reality” isn’t real, he can defy physics and challenge the godlike being who keeps humanity in ignorance. It’s a superhero wish fulfillment sundae with a metaphysics cherry on top.

What to throw away:

Everything else. Especially all that Zion crap.

Who to cast:

Liam Hemsworth

Who not to cast:

Josh Hutcherson

4. Nick & Nora (The Thin Man)the thin man

Two fast-talking private eyes who are perpetually drunk, acerbic, bickering, and married to one another. Seriously, how has nobody resurrected this couple for modern audiences yet?!

What to throw away:

Everything else. Except the dog. He’s pretty awesome.

Who to cast:

Robert Downey, Jr. and Amy Poehler (or Jason Sudakis and Jennifer Aniston)

Who not to cast:

Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz

5. The Terminator (The Terminator)terminator-008

That’s right, the Terminator. Not Sarah Connor. And absolutely not John Fucking Connor. Who cares who’s being chased down by the unstoppable, indestructible, remorseless killing machine? The more the movies got into the Connor family drama and the overlapping time travel shenanigans, the further the audience got away from giving a shit. Like all great horror movies, the heroes are irrelevant; it’s the Terminator that’s compelling and timeless here.

What to throw away:

Everything else.

Who to cast:

Jason Mamoa

Who not to cast:

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

6. Fletch (Fletch)fletch

Somewhere between an investigative reporter and a con man is Fletch, who bamboozles the targets of his newspaper journalism with a relentless cascade of bullshit until he’s right in the middle of their inner circle with no way out. Chevy Chase portrayed him brilliantly as the closest thing to an American Dirk Gently.

What to throw away:

Everything else.

Who to cast:

Kevin Hart

Who not to cast:

Adam Sandler (but that should go without saying, right?)

7. Wolverine (X-Men)thewolverine2013.0101

Who in the hell thought, “You know what’ll simplify and straighten out our messy, convoluted, too-many-wrong-turns universe? Time travel!” Amazingly, it almost worked. But one film later, the one-dimensional characters and extremely repetitive “friend turned evil turned partner-of-necessity” relationship between Professor X and Magneto resurfaced again and reminded audiences why they’d lost patience with this cinematic superhero universe to begin with. Fortunately, after 50-something years of X-Men comics, there’s plenty of depth to Logan and pals to explore if we could just wipe the slate clean with a genuine reboot. With real costumes this time, dammit!

Who to cast:

Richard Armitage

Who not to cast:

Mark Wahlberg


Who else deserves another spin on the big screen? And who should play them? The only rules are they must have appeared in multiple movies in the past and it must be a full reboot!

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  • Mike Yamiolkoski

    I’d cross Wolverine off this list. The X-Men franchise which Hugh Jackman was a part of is still a going concern; to reboot the series right now is more than a little premature. The “instant reboot” is a problem with comic-book movies these days. Let’s at least allow the current franchise to conclude before we restart it from scratch!

    Also, let’s not pretend that The Matrix was fascinating because of Neo. It was fascinating because of the concept of the virtual world, and the bullet-time special effects. Neo was a character deliberately portrayed with little (if any) personality because his purpose was largely to be the eyes through which the audience saw that world, not to be a deep character in his own right.

    Insofar as characters to bring back, I’d like to see them take another stab at Green Lantern (who only had one movie, but they were going to make more of them). He’s a good, solid superhero character who deserves better than the movie he got. The John Stewart GL would be the right way to go; not only would this be a way to distinguish this movie from its predecessor, but Stewart’s serious, military demeanor actually sets him apart from most comic-book superheroes (with the exception of Captain America). One really gets the idea that he is a superhero because of his sense of duty; he doesn’t have a tragic backstory or past misdeeds to make up for. And, while great power was thrust upon him, it’s almost incidental; the ring just allows him to do more of the good that he would have done anyway. And, of course, he’s also black, and we need more non-white movie superheroes out there!

    Who to cast: David Oyelowo

    Who NOT to cast: Will Smith

    What else to do differently: Make Sinestro the bad guy from the get-go; don’t make GL fight against a space cloud and save the interesting villain for the sequel!

  • Moppet

    Not really much for more reboots of any kind, really. So I disagree with rebooting everything on this list on principal.

    The X-men stuff I’d rather go back to Disney than see it rebooted by Fox at any point. Even then, I don’t see how Disney could put them in the cinematic universe, so maybe this is just something they should let lie entirely.

    The Terminator doesn’t need rebooted at all. It needs put down, and never touched again so people can enjoy the stuff that was already good, and that they will not do just as good or better than.

    Nick and Nora don’t need a reboot. At all. Enjoy them as is. They’re perfect.

    Fletch can be thrown in the trash, and Kevin Hart can be thrown in the trash along with it. Toss out Sandler while you’re at it.

    The Matrix doesn’t need rebooted. Much like Terminator people need to just let it go, push aside what they didn’t like, and enjoy the parts that were always good.

    Highlander absolutely does not need a reboot. Especially not with Jackman in it. I like him as an actor, but no, just no.

    The Man With No Name doesn’t need rebooted now, or ever, by anyone, starring anyone, for any reason – period.

    I don’t know if reboot is the right word, but DC need to make Green Lantern work. I’m hoping they’ll use the John Stewart Vietnam vet (maybe update to a more recent war? Or keep it that way and go for a grizzled older lantern, either works for me really) version, and make mention of Hal being the first green lantern in the past, silver age style Hal too. Idris as John Stewart would make my day.

    Still, I’m not convinced they can do these DC movies right, so I’m not really going to push for it, though the Wonder Woman movie trailer looked surprisingly decent so maybe they’re finding their footing.

    • Contemporary audiences won’t watch the Thin Man movies because they are in black and white and from before they were born…….

      • Moppet

        They can miss out then.

        • Greenhornet

          They (Kind of) re-did The Thin Man for TV as “Hart To Hart”. It was OK, but not memorable.

  • Murry Chang

    Well that was a whole list of ‘nope’ for me. Kevin Hart as Fletch, whaa? The only reason those movies were good was because of Chevy Chases timing and delivery.

    • Joel Schlosberg

      Also, Chevy Chase would either have to come back in a passing-the-torch way like the Vacation rebootquel, or be conspicuously absent. It’d be sad either way.

  • Thomas Stockel

    My only issue regarding a Thin Man reboot is the studio would probably make it an origin story. Every first movie seems to be an origin story these days. :/

    • Joel Schlosberg

      Actually, Nick and Nora meeting in their youth and solving crimes together as sweethearts, like Young Sherlock Holmes meets A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, would be cute!

      Alternately, I’d like to see a Thin Man movie closer to the somewhat grittier, noirish tone of the book! It was by the same Dashiell Hammett who wrote The Maltese Falcon, and whose Red Harvest was a precursor of Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars.

  • Pooh Stick

    I don’t think you can make the Man With No Name concept work in a modern sense. If you did it would be all post-modern, ironic and Tarantino-esque. He’s done it already anyway. The rest are almost all series that had one, maybe two good entries and then continued to flog the horse to death while no one cared. Let them die. Fletch might be an exception, but if there were any compelling desire to continue that character, it would have happened.

    You know what *I* would reboot? Freaking Kolchak, the Night Stalker. That’s what. Do that today with a good f/x budget and the right actor (Richard Dean Anderson, maybe?) and you’d have gold.

    • Greenhornet

      The Night Stalker was a product of the “conspiracy and cover-up” era. They DID make a movie out of it a few years back; it came and went without anyone noticing.

      • Pooh Stick

        Wow, it sure must have. I think it could be updated though. Now he would be a crazy blogger.

        • K

          It wasn’t a movie; it was a short-lived ABC series with Stuart Townsend as Kolchak. The big change was changing him from a wisecracking, sometimes cowardly, always on-the-outs muckraker in a cheap suit to an obsessed Mulder-wannabe with a tragic past and others helping him. It ran six weeks and is now largely, and rightly, forgotten.

          • KHarn

            Thanks. I used to love the show and thought I should give the new one a try, but missed it every time.
            Guess I really didn’t care.

        • KHarn

          Good character idea.

          • Greenhornet

            Used my other screen name again.

  • Jonathan Campbell

    Scarface is not on that list.

    I only point this out because that one actually IS getting a reboot.

    • danbreunig

      It already IS a remake / reboot (1983 version) and a rare case where it actually trumps the original. I guess you knew that already but it’s already been done and successfully enough, so next time wouldn’t necessarily be the charm.

      As for a character deserving of a reboot to adjust to the times and stay in the public consciousness…no one on this list needs it. I’m hard pressed to think of others in need, except maybe some comic book characters mentioned in this forum–but we’re already drowning in those movies today.

  • Fu Manchu…..

    Give it a slight “steampunk” aesthetic for the supervillain (it fits his milieu), and make his motivations clear: he’s adopting the “Fu Manchu” persona – the embodiment of the “Yellow Peril” – as a way to get revenge for how Britain and the West have treated China over the decades.

    Who to cast: Any male Asian actor capable of physically dominating a scene

    Who NOT to cast: Any Caucasian actor in “yellowface” makeup. (Faux-Asian)

    • Greenhornet

      For ANY “steampunk” movie, they should go easy on the SPness. The Wild, Wild, West TV show is a good example of how to handle it; the Will Smith movie is an example of how NOT to do it.

  • Jeremy Pinkham

    The only things that made The Man With No Name movies worth watching were the direction, the music, and the lead actors. A reboot would have none of those things and be completely pointless.

    • Pooh Stick

      Yeah, I hear you… a lot of times if you divorce subject matter from an auteur director you end up with crap like 2010. It’s style over substance to a large degree.

  • Greenhornet

    I mentioned this before, but here I go again because I am a man who likes a good adventuring female character:
    Nancy Drew.
    Avoid making it a “kids’ movie”. Adapt one of the books from the 1930’s. Make Nancy in her early 20’s. Let her carry a gun as she sometimes did in the old days, even if she doesn’t use it.
    Peril Of Pauline.
    In 1933, Universal Studios made a chapter-play of that name so they wouldn’t lose the rights to the name. IT WAS A GOOD MOVIE! They could adapt the original Pearl White series, or make a sequel to the ’33 Evelyn Knapp version. At the end of the ’33 serial, Pauline says to the male hero who is going back to finish a job in China “When do WE leave?”; so what happens then?

  • Jonathan Campbell

    Highlander is a film I’ve long thought could use a reboot.

    I’d do it as a trilogy, the first largely being an origin story mostly set in Scotland, the second more about Connor MacCleod through the ages, and the third mostly set in the present day, which we’ve had snippets of throughout the three films, as the final battle comes to a head. Something along those lines.

    And if possible, I’d get Keanu Reeves and others celebrities who have a reputation for “not aging” or who have historical lookalikes to play themselves as “immortals” in cameo roles.

  • K

    Nick & Nora & Asta were fine as they were; trying to remake them today would lose their essential period charm. If people don’t want to watch the original B&W movies, too bad.
    The Man with No Name, as noted, was a combination of Eastwood, Leone and Morricone. You’d never equal that combination, and the only way to truly reboot it would be to go back to the real source material (“Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett).
    As for Fletch, they’ve been trying to get a remake/reboot off the ground for years. You might pull that off, if you went back to the less comedic original books by Gregory McDonald.
    In the end, though, not everything needs a reboot. If it was done right the first time, why waste effort on trying to “improve” it?

  • Odd Jørgensen

    Would love a Wolverine flick based on the Old man Logan graphic novel, that would kick some serious ass with the right director and cast, and an R rating.

  • Florin

    One problem is that the law of averages demands that most rebooted characters will fall flat.I can see rebooting some characters working like Fletch but others will probably fail.Rebooting Wolverine will be especially hard since Jackman has played him for a generation.Everyone aged 12 and up only knows Wolverine as played by Hugh Jackman.Its a lot harder than rebooting say Superman.Reeve played him in 4 movies for 10 years and that was followed by a 19 year pause.Including the upcoming and last Wolverine with Jackman he will have at least had a cameo in 9 movies over a 17 year period.Even Arnold only portrayed the Terminator in 4 movies although they used a double for him in Salvation.So some reboots might work of a lesser known iconic character but others could very well end up falling flat.The best thing would be to keep the character in storage for say a decade or so and then bringing him back.We’ve already had 3 Spidermen in less than 14 years.So someone aged 16 today would have seen a very early Tobey Maguire as an infant for example.Too many reboots eventually tire people but the money factor is too important for struggling studios.

  • Ringo!

    Don’t reboot anything. Half the movies that come out nowadays are remakes of older and better movies. I’m sick of being force-fed tepid “reboots” of movies that should have been left alone. Hollywood needs to come up with new ideas.