by Peter Bradshaw
This article was originally published in the UK, but the situation is dire here in the good ole USA as well. Pity the poor TV executives who are running “dangerously low” on beloved old media content to re-imagine, re-do, and de-fang. What will they do when they – shudder – run out?
An awful crisis is unfolding in the world of film and TV writing, a crisis that I learned about when I had coffee recently with a top British producer. We are reaching peak reboot. The number of out-of-copyright pop culture figures or mythic icons who can be reinvented and reimagined for a modern age, or sexed up in their original setting, is running dangerously low.
Sherlock has obviously been done. So has Merlin. King Arthur is being done again on the big screen. Dracula and Frankenstein are always being summoned from the grave, the cultural undead; and The Mummy’s being remade – again.
My producer demanded I come up with some names. “Jekyll and Hyde?” I mumbled. “No, no, no!” she snapped. “Charlie Higson’s doing it.” “How about Boudicca?” I asked, “… revamped as a badass ninja heroine?” She shook her head: “No. Too Game of Thrones-y.”
We sat in silence, before I said: “What about Dick Turpin? He starts out as Sir Richard Turpin, the caring aristocrat played by Ben Whishaw. Maddened by injustice, he turns into a righteous avenger, robbing rich folks in their carriages?” This was greeted with an indifferent shrug. We sipped lattes in uneasy silence. If peak reboot escalates into a full-blown reboot collapse, the unthinkable will happen and we will have to invent completely new characters and new situations.
This time of year, film journalists are sent DVDs of the latest releases in an attempt to persuade us to vote for them in various award ceremonies – a reminder of movies that might have slipped our minds.
One such is the excellent documentary We Are Many, all about the agony and the ecstasy of the 2003 Stop the War movement, which failed to stop the war in Iraq. When I saw this film in May, it had a happy ending. The movement turned out to be influential, helping to defeat David Cameron’s plan for military action in Syria in August 2013, with MPs telling him the public didn’t want another confrontation.
After this week’s House of Commons vote we are against Islamic State, but not for President Assad, and have no clear idea of how and where an alternative, stable Syrian government is to be found. Perhaps We Are Many will need to be re-edited to include this new, sombre ending….