What’s a reboot, rebirth, remake, and sequel? Differences explained

The terms reboot, rebirth, remake, and sequel dominate the modern cinematic landscape, and it can be hard to know the differences. Here is a practical guide.

What are the differences between a reboot, revival, remake, and sequel? These four terms have come to dominate the modern cinematic landscape, with many recent films and even TV / streaming shows using at least one of them to describe their new take on an older story. However, deciphering exactly what each of these terms currently means can be a bit tricky, especially when their definitions are so similar and seemingly interchangeable.

Over the past few decades, the film industry (especially Hollywood) has begun to place more emphasis on the return of familiar intellectual properties rather than the creation of new ones. By reintroducing an already made movie or franchise to a new audience, movie studios can take advantage of the recognition these PIs have and increase their global box office success. This business model has proven to be incredibly lucrative, with notable examples being Disney Star wars live productions and remakes of their classic animated films.


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With so many new or continuing versions of old movies / shows in the making, using consistent terms to describe such projects has proven difficult. Each year brings a batch of movies that are described as reboots, covers, remakes, or sequels, and the constant use of these terms has made it difficult to determine the true meaning of each one. Here’s a how-to guide that helps define those terms, with examples of each.

What is a restart?

Andy Serkis as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Perhaps the most common term used to describe new releases of movies / shows produced over the past decade or so is perhaps ‘reboot,’ a word so frequently used that many audiences now use it as a synonym for remaking a movie. . However, those two words originally meant entirely different things, with “reboot” originally intended as a way to describe a complete reset to the continuity of an older film. A reboot typically refers to a franchise rather than a single movie and involves a story that completely ignores some or all of the series’ previous entries. While some elements such as plot points, characters, or locations may be similar to the older version of the story or series, a rebooted version is usually entirely new with little to no connection to it. who is before. Some notable examples of this approach in recent years are the latest Star trek movies, the Planet of the Apes films that started in 2011 with The rise of the planet of the apes, and Universal’s only installment in their old Dark Universe franchise, The Mummy (2017).

What is an alarm clock?

Fuller house full house

Although less commonly used for film, the term “revival” is often used when talking about television series or streaming. Unlike a reboot, which typically ignores the previous story in order to tell or reimagine it, a revival is the continuation of the same story (sometimes years) after the events in the story are known to audiences. In many cases, these projects are referred to as “covers” because there was either a concrete ending before or there was little to no expectation among audiences that the series would one day continue in the future. Recent examples of awakenings include the short-lived return of Roseanne (now published under the title the conners) and the hit Netflix series Fuller house, a cover of the beloved sitcom Full house which told a new story while acting as a sequel to the events of the first series.

What is a remake?

King Kong 2005 intro

Long before Hollywood started rebooting franchises and relaunching TV series, they were recreating classic movies. The tradition of remaking dates back to the earliest days of cinema, with examples dating as far back as the 1920s. A remake is more easily defined as a second passage to a previously told story, a new take on an older film that retains its basic plot. Remakes can make up entirely new things or stay close to the original work, it all depends on the studio and / or the creative team involved. One of the greatest examples of a movie remake is King Kong (1933), which has seen no less than two remakes since the 1970s. Each attempt to remake King Kong tried something different; the 1976 King Kong used the same basic plot of the original film but changed the names and character dynamics and changed the reasoning behind Kong’s discovery, while the epic Peter Jackson in 2005 King Kong stuck very close to the plot of the original. Today, the highest-grossing and best-known remakes in the industry are Disney’s hit reinterpretations of their animated films, including The beauty and the Beast (2017), The Lion King (2019), and many others.

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What is a sequel?

The easiest term to define when it comes to continuing pre-existing stories is the sequel, which is another cinematic concept that dates back to the early days of cinema. Simply put, a sequel is a movie that continues a story from a previous movie, set in the same continuity and acknowledging that the events of that previous movie happened. Movies as old as the original Frankenstein (1931) and as recent as Jungle cruise (2021) all got (or will have) sequelae, with these follow-up films each continuing the story and potentially leading to more sequelae. The best-known example is undoubtedly Star wars, which has seen no less than five direct episodic sequels (and three prequels) produced since 1980.

Why these conditions start to matter

Shape surveying for his next victim.

Despite having been established with clear definitions, words like reboot, rebirth, remake, and sequel are starting to get harder to use with precision, with new movies getting harder to define. Movies like Halloween (2018) blur the line between the continuation and the restart; since the film recognizes the events of the 1978 original Halloween but ignores every other movie in the series, it’s technically both a reboot and a sequel. Terms like “rebootquel” begin to appear to describe such films, and the word “preboot” gained traction in 2011 with the release of The rise of the planet of the apes.

Even more confusing in these categories is the idea of ​​the “legacy sequel,” also sometimes known as a “remakequel”. These films technically function as continuations of established franchises, but are essentially retelling of stories already told in those franchises. Examples include Star Wars: The Force Awakens (a sequel to Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, a renewal of the Star wars series, but also almost a remake of Star Wars: A New Hope) and Jurassic World (a sequel to Jurassic Park III, a revival / restart of the series, but borrowing heavily from the original jurassic park). In a time when Hollywood is desperate to dust off and continue or reinvent older stories to make money, finding meaning in those terms and defining what movies or TV shows have been rebooted, relaunched, remade or continued is quickly becomes an unsuccessful endeavor.

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