5 Beloved Icons That Need a Gritty Reboot
Today's audiences want movies that show us the grim reality of modern life. Hollywood has moved away from yesterday's naive, unrealistic feel-good crap and toward movies that more accurately reflect our bleak, post-9/11 world. A quick review of these accurate reflections indicates that most of our families are constantly being murdered, our past is full of unspeakable sins we constantly brood over, and we sell our bodies on the street at the drop of a hat. Clearly, according to gritty movies, these are the everyday realities of the average American. After all, who among us hasn't been murdered? Who hasn't had our families killed in front of our eyes at least once? How many of you can honestly say you haven't dabbled in drug-addicted prostitution?
We're talking to you, Chad.
But despite the obvious superiority of gritty reboots, many old shows and movies are still lying around uselessly in stupid non-darkness, waiting for Hollywood to sprinkle them with some harsh, family-killing reality. So we've created some guidelines for any Hollywood producers reading Cracked about how to reboot these classics at their most grittiest.
Make Sure You Use A Washed-Out Palette
Not only the plot, but also the visuals need to get the point across that this is a bleak, joyless world with no easy answers and no happy endings, which is equivalent to no distinguishable colors. In a world where you can't tell an enemy from a friend, it just seems logical you wouldn't be able to tell green from red.
For example, Man of Steel showcased a Superman so conflicted he couldn't even remember what colors Superman wears.
Reboot Suggestion: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
"I know one of them is red. The other one is ... grey?"
We're assuming the upcoming Power Rangers reboot has a new, gritty plot well in hand, and so all we're going to suggest is that they make the palette as bleak and hopeless as the new world the Rangers will face. If you're unfamiliar with the Power Rangers story, it involves 6 high-school-age teenagers who are called upon to fight evil as the Red, Blue, Pink, Yellow, Green, and Black Rangers (shown in order below):
The Black Ranger is black and the Yellow Ranger is Asian. I'm not making this part up.
Now that I'm looking at it, I can see how this might present a problem for keeping track of dialogue, but that just plays into the realism of the confused and conflicted world we live in. Who is wrong? Who is right? Which Ranger is talking right now? Didn't that guy get captured earlier? It's full of questions we can't answer, just like your NSAs and your Fergusons.
Other than the palette, the only other change to the story we would suggest is that they are now the Mighty Morphine Power Rangers, because these high school students now all have crippling opiate addictions. Also, the Pink Ranger is a sexy, empowered stripper (it is a very open high school).
Add Gratuitous Moral Ambiguity and Inexplicable Angst
Yesterday's heroes and protagonists were morally upright. Even if they started out with some problems or weaknesses (Han Solo was a charming but irresponsible rogue), by the end of the movie they'd learned to be a better, braver person (Han Solo chooses the path of selflessness when he returns to save Luke). This inspired viewers to think that if we ever faced similar adversity, we'd always try our best to do the noble thing as well.
But who wants to watch that crap? Today's audiences are tired of the upright heroes of the past. Instead, we want our protagonists to have moral ambiguity, again and again and again, in exactly the same way.Reboot Suggestion: Captain Planet
If you grew up in or around the '90s, you'll remember that Captain Planet was a superhero who fought pollution with the help of a gang of perky, multiracial Planeteers.
I don't remember that much about the show, but I guess there was an episode where the Planeteers used the Earth as a treadmill.
Guys, come on, that is hella boring. The reboot should make the female Russian Planeteer a stripper who murders oil barons who come to her strip clubs. The African Planeteer should now use his power of Earth to bury people alive when they're unethically mining coltan or conflict diamonds. That kind of thing.
And our green-mulleted leader? Make Captain Planet into an internally-tortured badass who lost the love of his life, Gaia, in a deforestation accident. Once the Planeteers summon him, he is so internally tortured that he contemplates destroying all human life on the planet. It's up to the emotionally tortured Planeteers to restrain the force they created.
Deal With Today's Issues, But Not Too Much
If you're really getting serious, the first thirty minutes or so of a gritty reboot's plot should involve something that looks intriguing and that will really get the audience thinking about the world they live in. Maybe the movie hints at issues like drone warfare or socialism or preemptive war or PTSD. This shows that your movie is serious, something that goes beyond shots of good-looking people punching each other and jumping out of buildings into helicopters. After all, Hollywood is the way America speaks to the world, and maybe this time America has something to say.
Then the gritty reboot should always take this early promise and throw it away in favor of good-looking people punching each other and jumping out of buildings into helicopters, because as movies like Captain America: Winter Soldier showed us, that's what audiences really want to see.
And a little bit of the old "confronting nemeses on catwalks," why not.
Popeye the Sailor Man is a lovable cartoon sailor who has amused audiences since 1929, but today's cynical, war-weary audiences want something more complex than that. Fortunately a new CG Popeye cartoon is in the works for 2015 or 2016, depending on who you ask, and its producer promises it will "focus on human strengths and human frailties." Sounds like an excellent start! The filmmakers probably still have some time to take suggestions, though, so here's ours:
Our modern, grittified Popeye should be a hardened Navy SEAL who kills a colleague, Bluto, after he mistakes Bluto's bearded face for that of a terrorist. Crushed, SO1 Popeye quits the military in despair. He attempts to heal his wounds and start a new life with his girlfriend Olive Oyl, an enlightened, sexually-liberated stripper. His superiors thank him for his service and wish him good luck in his new life. Or do they?
People from Popeye's military past start showing up and making threats, or leaving weird clues before being killed. Is the movie going to use its gritty realism for good, maybe as a commentary on how the government treats its veterans as disposable? Or about US government complicity in war crimes and torture? Will Popeye be forced to confront the moral ambiguities inherent in things like extrajudicial assassination and waterboarding? Nope! Turns out all the bad stuff is being caused by a fictional evil organization that no one can possibly get mad at in real life, because they're not real! Phew.
Also it should be run by a Nazi computer ghost.
In our reboot, this organization, code-named SEA HAG, has infiltrated the Navy SEAL training program and has been feeding Popeye spinach that is actually green ketamine, which has been causing his super-strength and also his mental issues (it is important that the movie explain this, because there is no other reason that someone who killed his friend would have mental issues). The audience is riveted as they watch a hero forced to examine his prior commitment to a fictional organization none of them had ever heard of before entering the cinema.
"This movie really changed the way I think about Nazi computer ghosts."
Finally, Popeye decides that he is not having it anymore and simply punches the top brass of SEA HAG to death. The climax is a knife fight on a burning aircraft carrier with a resurrected Bluto, because nothing keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, and makes them feel like the characters they love are really in danger, like constantly resurrecting every single dead person that's important to the plot. The film ends with the day dawning over the ocean as Popeye stands on the shore, and we see that the knife fight has left a scar in the shape of an anchor on his arm (he is fine otherwise, because as gritty as this reboot is, we can't have a hero with any gross injuries, come on).
Explain Everyone's Motivation For Everything With a Dark and Painful Backstory
One of the most accurate things about gritty movies is that they show how every decision you make in life is explained by an event that happened to you 10 years ago. In screenwriting parlance, this event is called a character's "backstory wound." In non-gritty movies, backstory wounds can be things like an unhappy childhood that makes a character constantly doubt herself, or a history of romantic failure that makes him uncomfortable around the opposite sex. But gritty reboots are much more realistic and show us wounds we're all more familiar with, like having your best friend die in front of you, and then being forced to eat his corpse because you're both trapped in an elevator. So the gritty protagonist hunts serial killers because their family was killed by a serial killer. The gritty hero is afraid of spiders because his abusive father was a spider. And so on and so forth.
Strangely, he would be scared of his dad even when he wasn't angry.
Fitting backstory wounds into your gritty reboot is simple. If the main character is about to make a decision, like which cereal to eat for breakfast, they need to first have a flashback to explain why they are choosing the cereal they are choosing. Or they can just carry out the act while another character (his best friend, perhaps) explains to the audience surrogate (the new transfer student) the story. "He didn't always pick Cocoa Puffs," he might begin, and then spin a sad story about murder and betrayal.Reboot Suggestion: Garfield
Not sure what happened here. The picture above is clearly President James Garfield, and not Garfield the cat, which is the subject matter being discussed in this entry. I promise I'll take care of this before the next picture.
Garfield, the humorous cat-themed comic strip that has run since 1978, is ripe for this kind of reboot, because there's a lot unexplained in that universe. Why does Garfield hate Mondays? He doesn't have a job. Or at least, he doesn't NOW. Where did he work in the murky past, which he refuses to talk about? Why does a cat like lasagna? Does he really hate Odie out of simple dog/cat enmity, or is there something more behind it?
This can all be explained the gritty way. We can open on Garfield, now 900 pounds, his matted fur covered with poop, being forklifted out of his house to be taken to the shelter now that Jon has died.
All right, I think we're getting colder, as this is now President Taft, photoshopped to look much fatter than he actually was.
Garfield asks the forklift operator what day it is and is told it is a Monday. After telling the camera he hates Mondays, so that the audience can cheer, proud of themselves that they recognize a reference to the source material, he launches into the story of his life.
Raised an orphan, Garfield pushed himself hard to succeed, building a fortune in a shady, high-stress business where he supplied the government with ketamine-laced spinach. One unfortunate Monday, hopped up on his own product, he backed over his entire family with his car. They were just inexplicably standing in a line down the driveway, so it was really easy. In his grief, he stumbled into a shady part of town where a friendly dog offered him lasagna, promising it would make the pain go away.
Okay, I think I'm just going to have to reboot the image search system. Fingers crossed.
So began his lifelong tie to Odie, his lasagna supplier. Mindful of losing his best customer to heart disease, Odie doled out the lasagna in measured doses, no matter how violent Garfield got, keeping him addicted but alive. Finally, Garfield killed Odie in a fit of rage and found his frozen lasagna supply, completely losing control and ballooning to his present day weight. It turns out he also accidentally killed Jon by falling over onto him. Unbeknownst to the animal control officers, he has one last dish of lasagna tucked away in one of his folds, and as they try to roll him into the van, he eats it, ending his 36 year existence.
Put Prostitutes Everywhere
Everybody in a gritty universe is messed up, both the men and the women -- it's an equal opportunity world. Except the men are messed up in a lot of different ways, like one might be a hitman and one might be a rapist and one might be an evil corporate mogul and one might be a werewolf, while the women are generally messed up in sex ways, like they are a prostitute or a stripper. Which makes sense -- the main defining characteristic of women is that they are for sex, so all women can be categorized as either doing sex right or doing sex wrong.Reboot Suggestion: Frank Miller's Cathy
If you're not familiar with Cathy, it is about a self-centered woman named Cathy who worries about woman things, like shopping, being fat, and men, and won't shut up complaining about them. Haha, that sure is women, am I right?
In the words of the abusive parents we will be giving Cathy in this new take, we'll give her something to cry about. No more "first world problems" like worrying about whether to eat two or three scoops of ice cream or whether she will fit in that swimsuit. In this version, which we'll make with Frank Miller if he ever returns our calls (the offer's out there, Frank), we dare to blow apart the sunny, Pollyanna-ish view of the world that most gutless Hollywood movies subscribe to. Instead, we will show you the gritty realism of life with all its hard edges, a life where women don't walk around glowing with perfect families and perfect hair, but instead are all prostitutes and strippers and victims of horrible violence. All of them. Just like real life.
Ever since Cathy ran away from her parents at age 13, she wanted to be a prostitute. She got accepted into a prestigious prostitute prep school and got a scholarship to the Harvard School of Prostitution, but after being unfairly framed for cheating on the prostitute entrance exam by the popular prostitutes, she was forced to go to a local stripper community college.
Their traditions are surprisingly similar to regular colleges, except when they graduate, they throw EVERYTHING in the air.
There she meets Andrea, a bisexual stripper who has feminist quotes tattooed above her crotch, and Charlene, who is just stripping to pay for her kids' prostitute school tuition. Together they form a startup with a radical new paradigm: that strippers can also be prostitutes. Despite facing opposition from the stodgy prostitute establishment, Cathy's stripper-prostitute startup finally takes over the prostitution industry, culminating in a violent prostitute-on-prostitute shootout that makes use of the guns they all have creatively mounted in or on various body parts (Half of the economy is prostitution and the other half is biomechanical engineers who install weapons as replacement body parts).
Sex worker gun legs: a vital staple of films from Planet Terror to The Lone Ranger.
This sends an empowering message to girls everywhere that no matter where you came from, the only limit to where you can go is how much sex you are willing to have. If you work hard and never give up, you can one day service Fortune 500 CEOs, or even blow the President of the United States.
Should there be female characters in the story who aren't prostitutes or strippers? Sure, we could do that, but that would be a cowardly cop-out to the "family values" crowd that always wants harsh reality papered over and grim truths of life swept under the rug. If we made a non-sex-worker female character, we might as well have people who make decisions without consulting flashbacks, a hero who enjoys his work, or a plot that doesn't revolve around last year's headlines. Forget that. We're committed to realness here.
Thanks for reading. Prostitute and good night.
C. Coville has a dark, gritty Twitter here.
For more from these two, check out 5 Terrible Scenes That Almost Ruin Awesome Movies and 8 Children's Movies Studios Don't Have the Balls to Make.