What is a reboot? The confusion (and abuse) about this term
Recently on reddit I found myself discussing about reboots. Caused by my sharing of the article about what was suppose to be a Matrix reboot (then refuted by the screenwriter himself), me and a user started debating on which movies can be defined a reboot.
In particular, we focused on Jurassic World. To me, this film was never a reboot as the story literally continues what was started in 1993. They had a minor character showing back up (Dr. Wu), locations and cars from the original Jurassic Park, and Ian Malcom book appears with Jeff Goldblum’s face in the back cover, and a commemorative John Hammond statue made after the imagery of the late Sir Richard Attenborough. The characters also address the original park.
As you can see, story wise, we are not talking about a reboot, but a sequel. However, like that user pointed out to me, outlets like The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline define the Jurassic Park third sequel as a reboot.
At first, I refuted it. As a writer myself, defining that movie as a reboot is complete non-sense, because it would change my perception to the whole thing if I was given the assignment to pen the script. On a reboot, I have no reference but the original book, and I can set new rules and look on the world. While it’s what Jurassic World does in some sort, the movie still has to responds to the rules set by the previous movies. We feel it’s fresh, yet there’s an undeniable familiarity in there. In fact, the narration style is exactly the same.
To a comparison, between Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man, while basically telling the same origins, we have a new feeling and totally new approach to the character. We perceive they are totally different movies. Obviously the thing is more clear if we talk about Burton’s Batman and Nolan’s Batman Begins.
It goes without saying that the first thing I asked myself is why those outlets define Jurassic World as a reboot. It goes as far as Slashfilm calling the movie a reboot and Colin Trevorrow, the director, not correcting the reporter, although he doesn’t seem to address it in the answer because the question became more if the movie was a commentary of the sequel/reboot trend Hollywood is all about in the recent years.
Anyways, the first thing I told myself is: ok, while storyline-wise is a sequel, as a brand we actually might be able to call it a reboot. After all, in this economy when a brand changes logo and philosophy people talk about reboot. Look at Technicolor, Kodak or even Nokia. They all changed philosophy, for different reasons, and sometimes, like technicolor, they changed their logo.
To me defining Jurassic World as a reboot brand wise, might even fit. Different logo, different word in the title, even different, more modern Park concept. It actually would fit the profile I described previously.
To add to it, I looked up some reboot’s definitions.
Something, especially a series of films or television programmes, that has been restarted or revived.
If we stand by that, Jurassic World might be a reboot. But that means even Prometheus could be, while no one ever considered it this way. As well as Blade Runner 2049 (which is clearly a sequel).
Wikipedia, taking as example articles from pop culture websites defining themselves the concept of reboot while listing/commenting upcoming reboot projects, define the verb as such:
to reboot means to discard all continuity in an established series in order to recreate its characters, timeline and backstory from the beginning.
This is the most common definition used by fans everywhere in the world. If we stand by that, Jurassic World does not fit the description, as the previous continuity is everything but discarded by the movie.
So, what is it then?
To cut the chase, I decided to look up the movie’s electronic press kit (epk), so that way we could get what Universal wanted the press to promote Jurassic World as.
While I couldn’t find the original pdf file, here‘s a complete transcription of it (compare it with the official Pele: Birth of A Legend EPK if you don’t think the source is reliable). As you can see, Universal never calls the movie a reboot, yet they acknowledge what a reboot is when they talk about the accolades of the writers:
In 2011, the duo wrote and produced the Oscar®-nominated Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which rebooted the Planet of the Apes franchise.
It’s clear that the studio never saw the film as reboot, especially since they know what it means. Not only that, they literally define the movie a sequel.
So, the final question is, why do website such as Deadline, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, all considered industry standard, call Jurassic World a reboot?
It’s probably related to Search Engines Optimization (SEO) reasons, which allows pages to be better indexed by search engine, hence guaranteeing a higher number of visits. We at Virtual Screen take advantage of it as well.
In fact, while those website are industry standard, they don’t get as many visits as the pop-culture standard website: IGN.
We all know IGN was born for gaming, yet in the last 10 years it became an all around entertainment news website: gaming, anime, TV, movies, Pro-Wrestling, Tech.
As a comparison, Deadline in 2014 made 85.4 million unique users. IGN claims to make 68 Million users in a month. In terms of revenue, there’s a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge difference (probably more than the ‘u’s I used to spell huge).
It appears to me that the use ofthe word reboot might as well be inserted to steal traffic from IGN and alike websites. Especially considering how the word ‘reboot’ became so popular when talking about movies in recent years.
Despite that, calling Jurassic World a reboot might cause a bunch of useless confusion.