Two years ago, Lost in Translation looked at rebooting franchises with a two-part examination on restarting a franchise. Let’s take another look.

With the recent review at Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the distinction between remake and sequel got a little fuzzy. Strange New Worlds is essentially what would have followed if “The Cage” with Jeffrey Hunter had been picked up by NBC as-is. Could the original work of a franchise be remade?

For many studios, the franchise is the ultimate goal of a work. Guaranteed money as fans consume anything released. However, thanks to social media, fans now have a direct line to take complaints and can have their concerns, valid or not, amplified. Long-running franchises are moneymakers. Fans get invested in the works. How long, though, does a franchise have to run before the original gets remade?

Franchises the start in one medium and then expand into other media may be safe. No one is going to rewrite a novel, just create a new adaptation of it. Comics are an odd exception; Marvel and DC are known for going back to origin stories from time to time. DC also has its Crisis events that server to trim back the continuity snarl that inevitably happens when multiple creators work in a shared universe. Marvel tried doing similar with its Ultimate line.

Film and television are more intertwined, both being visual media often coming from he same studios. While there are studios that are strictly television or strictly film, there are still enough where the difference between the two is on paper, separating the income through corporate divisions and subsidiaries. Dig deep enough and several smaller studios will be found to be a boutique studio for a larger conglomerate. What is to stop a studio from remaking the originating work of a franchise?

Fan backlash is the main thing preventing such a remake. It’s not that the studios are listening to fans. Corporations, at their core, are there to make money. The risk of losing existing fans is too great to the bottom line. With long running franchises, though, sometimes the older work becomes less crucial to the franchise. Paramount tried to reboot Star Trek in film, though the 2009 film split into a timeline separate from the main continuity. Star Trek has also advanced its own timeline, with Star Trek: The Next Generation becoming the touchstone for fans instead of the original series.

Star Trek is one of several franchises that can expand thanks to the core of the series is exploring space and the human condition. Similar franchises include Star Wars, where there is a galaxy to be used and stories from before and after the Rebellion just waiting to be told. These franchises can build off the original work without having to deal with improvements in film technology and changes in society. With Trek, there is always a current issue that needs to be explored. Star Wars has tied in works directly to A New Hope, with Rogue One covering events leading directly to the beginning of the original film.

Franchises focused on a core set of characters may not have the ability to expand. These franchises tend to not be film and TV, mainly because actors will age and die over time. Animation and video games, however, have more leeway. The Super Mario franchise, the Looney Tunes franchise, the Tomb Raider franchise. even the Barbie franchise can all have voice actors come and go as long as they sound similar.

With video games, remaking a game means using improved technology. As long as the gameplay is similar, the outcry can be ignored. Each entry in the franchise can be evaluated on its own, since continuity isn’t as critical. Animation, however, has some extra care, especially with computer graphics and the ability to render characters in 3-D has become commonplace. Animated characters have appearances and characteristics that fans expect. Bugs Bunny is a tall grey rabbit who is a trickster archetype, fighting as the underdog. Wile E. Coyote is in the perpetual hunt, so focused on a goal that he goes overboard in trying to catch the Road Runner instead of spending the money used for traps on delivery. If the character is too far off the original design, fans will balk. Gradual changes aren’t as jarring unless seen side-by-side.

It is likely that an original work won’t be remade. The risk is too great compared to the reward. Expansion tends to work better, filling in gaps and advancing ideas. Original works of a franchise are less likely for a remake, even if it has been two generations since its creation.


This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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