Look in the news in the entertainment section and you’ll see the word reboot tossed around quite a lot. A new movie that is in fact a follow-up to National Lampoon’s Vacation is being called a reboot. A new Shaft movie that is being considered for production is also being called a reboot. There are numerous articles about the forthcoming Spider-Man reboot. Further looking shows us news about a forthcoming Married with Children reboot, a RoboTech reboot, and even a Nosferatu reboot. Are all of these really reboots?
In fact they are not all reboots. A reboot is not the same as a sequel and it is certainly not the same as what I will call a return… and in most of the cases cited above, the films (or the television show) are returns and not reboots at all.
Let us think for a moment about the word itself. What happens when you reboot a computer? It starts up and everything you have programmed to load on launch is opened once again, but everything is fresh — new. It’s a blank slate.
When The Amazing Spider-Man came out in theaters, it was properly called a reboot — it was starting the story of Spider-Man over once again, and the previous Spider-Man movies were not part of the timeline. When the next Spider-Man film hits theaters it too will be a reboot because, well, it will be yet another timeline as it were. This is perfectly ordinary in the world of comics. The Spider-Man who was Peter Parker that said that he felt about as popular as Khrushchev is NOT the same one you read about in today’s Spider-Man comics, to give an example — that was fifty years ago that he made that joke! He couldn’t be the very same Peter!
The new Vacation movie, as a counter-example, is NOT a reboot. The adult Rusty that you see in the movie is the same Rusty that was in all of the other Vacation films, character wise, even though he was never played by the same actor.
A new Shaft movie would be a proper full reboot, because the character would be a far departure from the one originated by Richard Roundtree.
There is going to be a new Full House series called Fuller House, and it will be only on Netflix. There have been talks about a Married with Children spin-off. Neither of these are reboots as almost all of the characters are returning in the case of Fuller House and I imagine that in both cases the timelines will be direct continuations — we would have surely known otherwise.
Just to reiterate — if it’s a whole new timeline, it’s a reboot even if the characters are all seemingly the same. Imagine it as a parallel universe where people don’t know from the other one. If it is the same timeline (think of the Absolutely Fabulous film that is coming out, or the television show Girl Meets World, where not only is it the same timeline but nearly every episode features some kind of callback to the original Boy Meets World series) then it is NOT a reboot.