Prey is a rare film that finds success following a failed reboot. We examine 7 other films which actually helped to successfully reboot a franchise after a bad reboot.
While Prey is being rightly celebrated for bringing the Predator franchise back to its roots, I feel like it has a bigger and more impressive accomplishment which not enough people are talking about. Not only does Prey restore what this storied franchise has lost, but it finds redemption within a franchise that had tried and failed several times prior. The Predator (2018), wasn’t just another ho-hum predator film, it should have killed off the franchise once and for all.
This makes Prey a phoenix of movies. It rises from the smoldering ashes of its predecessor, and not only brought some redemption to a franchise that badly needed it, but actually soared to heights we haven’t seen in the realm of Predator films since the original. To honor this incredible feat, I’ve put together a list of 8 of these type of accomplishments. These are well-received films which followed a particularly bad release which all-but killed off a storied franchise.
To qualify for this list, the film had to be part of a major film franchise with more than 2 films released before it came out. More importantly, the “phoenix” film had to come AFTER an attempted reboot. In other words, the franchise had already hit rock bottom or been left on the shelf too long before someone tried to restart it yet again.
Franchise = Predator
Failed Reboot = The Predator
Successful Second Attempt = Prey
If you squint hard enough, you could actually consider Prey to be the fourth attempt at rebooting the Predator franchise. Predator 2 was OK, but didn’t move the needle far enough for studios to want to make more Predator movies. When comic book-based films became the rage in the early 2000’s, Fox folded the Predator franchise into the Alien franchise to try and light a spark. When that didn’t work, they tried again with Predators, which worked well enough, but also kind of felt like a standalone adventure and didn’t achieve enough commercial success.
The Predator was an attempt to bring the franchise up to modern standards, but it ended up committing many mortal sins on the way. They even had a great cast and impressive creative minds behind the scenes. But it was clearly uninspired and reeked as an attempt to start a franchise simply to pump out money-making sequels. Above all it failed to grasp what made the original film so unique. Thankfully Prey has come and we can all forget that The Predator actually exists.
Franchise = Alien
Failed Reboot = Alien vs. Predator
Successful Second Attempt = Prometheus/Predators
Ok, so technically there is a movie between these two (AvP: Requiem), but I lump it into the same space as AVP because it represents the direction that 20th Century Fox thought the Alien franchise needed to go. In the late 90’s, both the Alien and Predator franchises were running out of steam, and the studio wanted to start fresh without having to trample on the hallowed ground of the original films. The proposed solution was to make the films more widely appealing (which is just studio speak for watering it down….).
When that didn’t work, they brought Ridley Scott back into the fold to get the franchise back where it was before it went off the rails. True, Prometheus wasn’t a run away success either, but it brought the Alien franchise back to its mysterious roots rather than making it try to compete with the latest comic-book based blockbusters.
Franchise = Planet of the Apes
Failed Reboot = Planet of the Apes (2001)
Successful Second Attempt = Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes is not just considered to be the worst film he has made so far, and the beginning of a difficult period for him as director, but one of the worst reboots ever made. The original Planet of the Apes was a hit film and one of the most iconic science fiction films ever made. The sequels were less impressive, but still carried forward the cautionary tale aspect of the original. Certainly the franchise was ready for a remake, but Tim Burton was a weird choice no matter how you look at it.
Thankfully that disaster of a film was not enough to put a nail in the franchises’ coffin once and for all. We got three more Planet of the Apes films to form a new trilogy and they serve as both an impressive new vision of the old story but also an homage to the original franchise without necessarily redoing it or retconning it.
Franchise = Godzilla
Failed Reboot = Godzilla (1998)
Successful Second Attempt = Godzilla (2014)
Godzilla is an icon in the film industry, and is very unique in the fact that despite being a Japanese creation is very much loved and revered around the world. For this reason it is no surprise that Hollywood had tried to cash in on the phenomenon. The first attempt was in 1998 with the help of disaster-movie specialist Roland Emmerich. But the problem with this attempt to Hollywood-ify Godzilla is that by doing so you loose what makes the original so great. What resulted was a nondescript action film which trampled on the legacy of the original films.
If you thought Hollywood would be done trying to mess with a potentially lucrative classic after just one try, you don’t know your history. This reboot brought the monster into the realm of the mega-movie franchise, this time with the intent of eventually having him cross paths with a new-age King Kong. Thankfully, Gareth Edward’s 2014 reboot wasn’t just another smash and grab. This one felt more akin to a modern big-budget version of the original films, keeping the silly destruction and questionable plot details but making them part of the fun. Two sequels followed, making this reboot a success.
Franchise = Superman
Failed Reboot = Superman Returns
Successful Second Attempt = Man of Steel
After the release of the first two films in the series, the original Superman franchise failed to find consistency amid the curse of diminishing returns on successive sequels. Tim Burton was working on a reboot in the 90’s, and a new Justice League film was supposed to start production soon after. None of those projects went anywhere, and it wasn’t until 2006 that the franchise got a chance to live again.
Superman Returns basically ignored the sequels after Superman II and tried to continue the franchise with new actors and modern special effects. While that film did turn out to be a success, it was not commercially successful enough to merit a sequel. Also, with the success of the MCU starting in 2008, it convinced the studio to start again. Man of Steel rebooted the franchise, this time with the goal of beginning a new DC-based superhero universe of films to compete with the MCU. Man of Steel was able to find the commercial success that evaded the 2006 film, and kick-started the new franchise.
Franchise = King Kong
Failed Reboot = King Kong (1976) / King Kong (2005)
Successful Second Attempt = Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Like Godzilla, King Kong has a storied tradition within the history of film. Unlike Godzilla, it was never really an ongoing franchise for most of its existence. There are a few sequels here and there, but they were mostly forgotten about after their release. The original film remains a breathtaking classic, and honestly anything that has come out since is just trying to take advantage of the impact that first film had.
This was the case of 1976’s big-budget reboot, and then the 2005 remake. Both brought the original film up to contemporary standards, and both were moderate successes. The 1976 version even resulted in a low-budget sequel 10 years later. However, neither really moved the needle much and have seemingly become footnotes to the legacy of the original. In 2017 we got another reboot, this time as part of Universe Studios Monsterverse franchise. That film was more of a hit than the reboots that came before it, and did work well as an addition to this growing franchise.
Franchise = Halloween
Failed Reboot = Halloween (2007)
Successful Second Attempt = Halloween (2018)
Slasher films have really been through the gauntlet as far as attempted reboots, remakes, and re-imaginings. The Halloween franchise has had its struggles, to say the least, but is one of the few that actually survived the curse of having too many sequels. The original Halloween franchise lasted 8 films before Halloween: Resurrection screwed it up so bad that there was no hope of recovery.
In walks Rob Zombie, whose 2007 remake found moderate success. However, that film didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and a very uninspired sequel meant this version of the franchise was dead before it even got a chance to find its legs. In 2018, Blumhouse gained the rights to the franchise and working with original director John Carpenter sought to create a film that would essentially redo all of the damage that had been done by the multitude of sequels. Their film, also called Halloween retconned the sequels as a pseudo reboot/sequel/remake. Regardless, it found success and became the first film of a new trilogy.
Franchise = The Terminator
Failed Reboot = Terminator Salvation (2009) / Terminator: Genisys (2015)
Successful Second Attempt = Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
Another franchise with a very convoluted history is the Terminator franchise. The first three films were commercially successful and the first two especially became fan favorites. To continue the series, the studio decided to take the fourth film in a new direction, setting it in the future rather than in contemporary times as the first three films had done. It was intended to start a new trilogy of Terminator films, but a troubled production, poor execution caused problems. The film found modest commercial success but since it lacked the ingenuity of the original films, fans weren’t that impressed.
The rights to the Terminator franchise were sold to another studio and of course that studio wanted to make their mark with a new film to start off another franchise. That film was Terminator: Genisys, which was meant to be a reboot/reimagining of the original film. While it found some commercial success, it was criticized more than Salvation for being too convoluted and treading on the original classic film. With the failure of that reboot trilogy, the studio began shopping around ideas for another. Ultimately they brought in James Cameron, the creator of the original films, to produce. Terminator: Dark Fate was released in 2019 and was meant as an alternate sequel to Terminator 2. This would set up a possibility for a new trilogy with new characters, ignoring the failed reboot attempts. Unfortunately, while Terminator: Dark Fate was appreciated by fans, it didn’t find much success at the box office and the future of the Terminator franchise remains as murky as ever.