Pop Culture

Not all reboots suck - just look at what Mad Max: Fury Road did right

Hollywood continues its fascination with reboots, but there is no point doing them if they have nothing new to say

American actor Lucas Till is either extremely brave or a little nuts to want to take on the iconic titular role of MacGyver in the recent TV reboot of the hit 1980s series of the same name.

No matter what he does, it will be hard for the rising star to shake off the close associations that his role will forever have with Richard Dean Anderson, the original actor who played the character.

It is akin to having a new starlet take on Audrey Hepburn's famous role of Holly Golightly in a Breakfast At Tiffany's movie reboot or anyone other than British comedian Rowan Atkinson play Mr Bean.

Indeed, even though the new MacGyver series has aired only two episodes so far, critics cannot stop making comparisons between the two actors - and they have not been too kind.

Why would actors agree to play iconic characters inextricably linked with the original stars? The assignment is a poisoned chalice.

Media outlets are lambasting Till for being wooden, forgettable and sorely lacking in the charm department required for the part. As American magazine The Atlantic puts it: "It would take the old MacGyver to save the new MacGyver."

Despite the inherent challenges the actors face, Hollywood cannot get enough of reboots featuring iconic characters.

In recent months, TV fans have also seen the debut of series such as Lethal Weapon, the small-screen adaptation of the popular 1990s buddy cop movies that had originally starred Mel Gibson and Danny Glover (surely, one of the most iconic silver-screen pairings from that era); and Rush Hour, which is based on the action-comedy trilogy (1998-2007) that starred Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker (not as iconic as Gibson and Glover, perhaps, but definitely memorable).

Early next year, viewers will also see a TV adaptation of Training Day (2001). Good luck to the actor who has to step into the shoes vacated by Denzel Washington, who won his second career Oscar, for Best Actor, for the role.

It makes sense that producers would be keen on commissioning reboots because reboots easily generate plenty of buzz among long-time fans of the originals. That, in turn, may also pique the curiosity of those new to the characters.

Such free publicity is a luxury that other new and original shows can only dream of achieving, especially in an age when film and TV audiences are inundated with entertainment options.

But why would actors agree to play iconic characters inextricably linked with the original stars? The assignment is a poisoned chalice.

Perhaps in accepting the role and challenge, the likes of Till hope that they could be like Tom Hardy.

Last year's Mad Max: Fury Road movie introduced the British actor in the titular role made famous by Mel Gibson in three older Mad Max films (1979-1985) and which also made Gibson famous in the United States.

The new Mad Max turned out to be hugely successful commercially and critically, and went on to snag numerous awards such as a Critics' Choice Award for Best Director (George Miller) and an Academy Award for Best Film Editing (Margaret Sixel).

Although Hardy's Max does not eclipse Gibson's, it did not pale in comparison, either - because Fury Road dared to take enough risks to be distinctly different from the originals.

Moreover, while Hardy was competent enough in the role, everyone knew that the new film actually belonged to Charlize Theron's uber-fierce Furiosa.

Even the supporting female characters of the villain's feisty wives, portrayed by stars such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Riley Keough, had completely overshadowed Max with their overall bad*** ways.

Hardy's Max acted as a link between the older films and the new one, whose pro-women slant updated the entire franchise for modern audiences.

Because what is the point of doing a reboot using famous characters if it has nothing new to say?

The lack of ingenuity in the new Rush Hour TV series is probably why it got cancelled within months of airing. Every time the young leads Jon Foo and Justin Hires came on the screen, it felt like they were trying too hard to imitate Chan and Tucker in both intonation and mannerisms.

One might as well rewatch the original movies.

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Yawn... not another reboot'. Print Edition | Subscribe