In serial fiction, the term "reboot" signifies a new start to an established fictional universe, work, or series. A reboot discards continuity to re-create its characters, plotlines and backstory from the beginning. It has been described as a way to "rebrand" or "restart an entertainment universe that has already been established".
Another definition of a reboot is a remake which is part of an established film series or other media franchise. The term has been criticized for being a vague and "confusing" "buzzword", and a neologism for remake, a concept which has been losing popularity since the 2010s. William Proctor proposes that there is a distinction between reboots, remakes and retcons.
The term is thought to originate from the computing term reboot, meaning to restart a computer system. There is a change in meaning: the computing term refers to restarting the same program unaltered, while the term discussed here refers to revising a narrative from the beginning. The first known use of reboot applied to an entertainment franchise was in a 1994 Usenet posting.
Say you've had 187 issues of 'The Incredible Hulk' and you decide you're going to introduce a new Issue 1. You pretend like those first 187 issues never happened, and you start the story from the beginning and the slate is wiped clean, and no one blinks. One of the reasons they do that is after 10 years of telling the same story, it gets stale and times change. So we did the cinematic equivalent of a reboot, and by doing that, setting it at the beginning, you're instantly distancing yourself from anything that's come before.
Reboots cut out non-essential elements associated with a pre-established franchise and start it anew, distilling it down to the core elements that made the source material popular. For audiences, reboots allow easier entry for newcomers unfamiliar with earlier titles in a series.
In comic books, a long-running title may have its continuity erased to start over from the beginning, enabling writers to redefine characters and open up new story opportunities, allowing the title to bring in new readers. Comic books sometimes use an in-universe explanation for a reboot, such as merging parallel worlds and timelines together, or destroying a fictional universe and recreating it from the beginning.
With reboots, filmmakers revamp and reinvigorate a film series to attract new fans and stimulate revenue. A reboot can renew interest in a series that has grown stale. Reboots act as a safe project for a studio, since a reboot with an established fanbase is less risky (in terms of expected profit) than an entirely original work, while at the same time allowing the studio to explore new demographics.
A television series can return to production after cancellation or a long hiatus. Whereas a reboot disregards the previous continuity of a work, the term has also been used as a "catch all" phrase to categorize sequel series or general remakes due to the rise of such productions in the late 2010s.
A related concept is retooling, which is used to substantially change the premise of a series while keeping some of the core characters. Retools are usually part of an effort to forestall cancellation of a still running production.
Reboots and remakes are common in the video game industry. Remakes in video games are used to refresh the storyline and elements of the game and to take advantage of technology and features not available at the time of earlier entries.
A soft reboot is a reboot that shares some continuity with the original series, but that changes the style, tone, or intent.
- Willits, Thomas R. (13 July 2009). "To Reboot Or Not To Reboot: What is the Solution?". Bewildering Stories. Archived from the original on 6 December 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Parfitt, Orlando (25 August 2009). "Top 12 Forthcoming Franchise Reboots". IGN. Archived from the original on 20 May 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Alexander, Julia (15 March 2017). "The Matrix reboot isn't a remake: Here's the difference between the two". Polygon. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- McKittrick, Christopher (6 March 2018). "Film Franchises: The Differences Between Sequels, Reboots and Spinoffs". ThoughtCo. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
In a lot of ways, a remake and a reboot are similar concepts. They are both brand-new versions of previous movies. However, "reboot" is more commonly used for film franchises, while "remake" is more often used for stand-alone movies.
- "Hollywood's 10 Best Reboots". IGN. 21 September 2012. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Peters, Ian; et al. (6 August 2012). "Reboots, Remakes, and Adaptations". In media res. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Child, Ben (24 August 2016). "Don't call it a reboot: how 'remake' became a dirty word in Hollywood". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Patches, Matt (9 August 2012). "The Reboot Glossary: Which Hollywood Buzzword Fits the Bill?". Hollywood.com. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Faughnder, Ryan (24 August 2016). "Hollywood's summer problem? Reboots people don't want". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Desta, Yohana (9 October 2014). "Why Hollywood Is Producing So Many Damn Remakes". Mashable. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Proctor, William (7 April 2017). "Reboots and Retroactive continuity". The Routledge Companion to Imaginary Worlds: 230–231. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
- "Does This Common Computer Term Actually Reference Shoes?". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
- "MISC: The origin of "reboot" found!". Google Groups. 1 April 1996. Retrieved 20 January 2023.(registration required)
- Greenberg, James (8 May 2005). "Rescuing Batman". Los Angeles Times. p. E-10. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
- Norris, Erik (7 March 2013). "Why Franchise Reboots Can Be A Good Thing". Mandatory. CraveOnline. Archived from the original on 8 June 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
- Lorendiac (16 March 2009). "Lorendiac's Lists: The DC Reboots Since Crisis on Infinite Earths". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Crisis on Infinite Earths #1-12 (April 1985 – March 1986)
- Flashpoint #1-5 (May – September 2011)
- Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4-0 (Sept. 1994)
- Vasquez, Zach (23 October 2018). "Beyond the grave: what's next for the horror reboot?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
- Billington, Alex (6 October 2008). "Sunday Discussion: The Mighty Hollywood Reboot Trend". FirstShowing.net. Archived from the original on 6 July 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
- Francis, James Jr. (11 June 2018). "Why did the television reboot become all the rage?". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Husser, Amy (27 February 2016). "Reboot overload? Fuller House only latest in line of nostalgia-inspired TV revivals". CBC News. Archived from the original on 11 August 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Swarts, Jessica (12 April 2016). "'The Twilight Zone' Remake Episodes That Are Actually Pretty Good". Inverse. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- Otterson, Joe (6 December 2017). "'Twilight Zone' Reboot From Jordan Peele, Simon Kinberg, Marco Ramirez Greenlit at CBS All Access". Variety. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
- VanDerWerff, Emily Todd (12 February 2014). "How the second season of Newhart proves sitcoms need time to learn". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on 23 November 2019. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
Newhart is that rare beast in the TV world: a show where all of the retooling paid off because the producers were keenly attuned to what was and wasn't working on their show.
- Keatis, D L (9 April 2019). "The 5 Best Soft Reboots in Cinematic History". Superman on Film.