Reboot, Remake or Sequel – What’s the Difference?
Last week saw the brilliant Blade Runner 2049 hit the big screen. As we usually do here at Average Joes – because we’re slightly obsessive compulsive and have to list everything – yours truly put together a list of the ‘Top 5 Best Ever Film Reboots’. The list was outstanding, catering for all tastes and genres, while somehow managing to pack wit, insight and bucketsful of nuance.
Having submitted said masterpiece to the Editor at AJ HQ, a problem arose. “Blade Runner isn’t a ‘reboot’!” exclaimed the head honcho from across the room. Queue a debate for the ages: What exactly is a ‘reboot’? What makes it different to a ‘remake’? And where do ‘sequels’ fit into this? ‘Prequels’? Can a film be all four!?
*Note: obviously a film cannot be a ‘sequel’ and ‘prequel’ at the same time. Or at least that debate is far too existential for an online men’s lifestyle magazine.*
What Is a Film ‘Remake’?
While we can all define a ‘sequel’ with some certainty (a film that continues the story or develops the theme of an earlier film), ‘remakes’ and ‘reboots’ are a little more problematic to unpack. So let’s start with the official definition of a ‘remake’ from the Collins English Dictionary;
‘A remake is a film that has the same story, and often the same title, as a film that was made earlier.’
‘Remakes’ are everywhere these days, whether it’s old classics getting the 21st century treatment such as the live action Beauty and the Beast, the latest Carrie film or that bang average Total Recall film with Colin Farrell.
Stop Calling It a Remake, You Knob!
Now, let’s take Blade Runner 2049 as an example. You may have heard some of the more savage film goers referring to the film as a ‘remake’. By the Collins definition, that simply isn’t the case. The film does share a title, yes, but crucially it doesn’t have the same story and the plot has progressed from the original while still staying in the same universe.
“You’ve just described a ‘sequel’ haven’t you, Dave! I hear you crow. Why, yes I have. Blade Runner 2049 is indeed a ‘sequel’ by any definition you wish to use. More than that, a ‘remake’ cannot ever be a ‘sequel’. Now we’re getting somewhere…
Can a ‘Sequel’ Be a ‘Reboot’?
But this is where our wheels fall off and, most importantly, where tensions rise and blood is drawn. ‘Remakes’ can’t be ‘sequels’, but can ‘reboots’?
Blade Runner 2049 is where all this started so let’s carry on down the rabbit hole… Having not thought about the consequences of my actions, I proclaimed the film as both a ‘sequel’ and a ‘reboot’… Whaaaat??
Stop shouting. Hear me out. My contention was that such an amount of time had passed that the studios were ‘rebooting’ a classic… Only, I was wrong. And here’s why.
When a ‘Reboot’ Isn’t a ‘Reboot’
Language can be a fickle mistress and while rebooting something in everyday life means giving it the new lease of life it craves, banding the word ‘reboot’ around in Cinemaland needs to be treated with care.
Let’s take the brilliant Dark Knight Trilogy as an example here. As there had been Caped Crusader films before, you may have been tempted to call Batman Begins a ‘remake.’ But as we’ve already established, don’t do that. These masterpieces are without doubt ‘reboots’. They’re part of an ongoing series with established characters that doesn’t acknowledge any of its previous incarnations. And in the case of Batman Begins, for good reason… screw you, Tim Burton.
But Blade Runner 2049 does acknowledge previous incarnations. Goddamit, they’re essential to the plot! So, yeah. I was crucially mistaken. Blade Runner 2049 is a ‘sequel’ and nothing more.
Reboots, Remakes and Sequels
And there we have it. You can’t have a film that’s ‘sequel’ and a ‘reboot’. They, along with ‘remakes’, are separate entities wading their way through the murky pond of entertainment we call ‘cinema’. Each film in my list, for the record, did actually fit the definition we’ve arrived at – even though Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale does still divide our office crowd… think about it!
Shit. What’s a ‘reimagining’!?