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J.J. Abrams is Done with Reboots Except He Totally Isn’t

To boldly go where other men have gone before.
By  · Published on January 12th, 2017

To boldly go where other men have gone before.

Hey, listen, we all like making New Years’ resolutions we don’t intend to keep. J.J. Abrams, for instance, has sworn off reboots but like, definitely hasn’t. Let me explain.

In a recent interview with People Magazine, the writer-director-producer-nerd king said that moving forward he wants to focus on creating original content, declaring:

You know, I feel incredibly lucky to have gotten involved in things that I loved when I was a kid. In fact, even Westworld, which we’re [here at the Golden Globes] for tonight, is one of them. But I don’t feel any desire to do that again. I feel like I’ve done enough of that, that I’m more excited about working on things that are original ideas that perhaps one day someone else will have to reboot.

Producing fresh, new intellectual property is an honorable enough goal. And we could certainly use more original titles and less flagrantly corporate appeals to nostalgia. Last year saw the reanimation of Ghostbusters, The Magnificent Seven, Ben-Hur, and Gilmore Girls, among others. And, shocking no one, 2017 heralds much of the same, with films like Jumanji, The Mummy, Beauty and the Beast, Baywatch, Ghost in the Shell, Power Rangers, The Beguiled, It, (*INHALE*), Murder on the Orient Express, Rings, CHiPs, Kong: Skull Island, Blade Runner 2049, and fucking Suspiria.

And while original content is doing just fine, aggressive, pandering campaigns can really make it feel like the market is saturated. Reboots are a bit like that asshole in your philosophy class; he hasn’t done the reading, and his thoughts aren’t his own, but he’s the loudest, so he takes up a lot of undeserved space.

Abrams on the set of Star Trek: Into Darkness
Consequently, Abrams’ readiness to work on original ideas is great news. Sure, he has contributed his fair share to Hollywood’s infinitely regressive reboot problem with Star Trek, The Force Awakens and Westworld ‐ but he’s moving on.

Kind of.

For much like me on December 31st when I swore off cheese and immediately ate a wheel of brie, Abrams has already betrayed himself.

Abrams was probably referring specifically to wanting to write and direct original projects. I know that this is different from producing. But surely, at the very least, a producing credit equates to some level of belief in what’s being produced. Hell, the Coen Brothers are listed as executive producers on FX’s Fargo and are the equivalent of absentee dads, but they still endorse the product.

I’m bringing up Abrams’ producing because for someone so stoked about original content, his future projects are pretty much exclusively reboots, sequels of reboots, video game adaptations (the evil cousin of a reboot), or straight sequels:

Just to walk through it real fast: we got Westworld, a reboot of Yul Brynner’s 1973 picture; a sequel in the Star Trek franchise Abrams already rebooted; a sequel in the Star Wars franchise Abrams already rebooted; big-screen adaptations of Portal and Half-Life, two video game classics by the gilded developer Valve; an anthology follow-up to Cloverfield; and a Mission Impossible sequel. As for Kolma and Glare, the former is a fantasy-romance based on Keren Margalit’s 2003 film All I’ve Got and the latter is an HBO space drama.

It’s one thing for Abrams to say “I’m THROUGH with reboots.” It’s another thing entirely for him to continue to help populate Hollywood with the eternal return of the same. If we return to Abrams’ People interview, we get the sense that his motivations for writing/directing original content are warped on some level:

I’m more excited about working on things that are original ideas that perhaps one day someone else will have to reboot.

The Hollywood ouroboros is alive and well, and any posturing Abrams made in opposition to the reboot problem should be considered compromised. While part of me wants to think Abrams was making a joke, the rest of the People interview suggests otherwise. We get the impression that Abrams simply takes issue with “remaking something just for the sake of remaking it.” And while that’s all well and good to say, it’s not quite the same thing as delivering a larger criticism of reboots themselves.

Which is a shame.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).