I wonder how long it'll be before Spiderman is "rebooted" again? I can't even think of how many different retellings of Spiderman, Batman, and Superman there have been in my lifetime, and I'm not even very old. Recently, the studio making the next Superman movie revealed that a new actor would be playing Batman in a classic (meaning it's been done in comic books, graphic novels, and cartoons multiple times already) Batman vs. Superman matchup, and the Internet threw a fit over the casting.
Who cares? I consider myself a Batman fan (or perhaps a retired Batman fan), and I could hardly name even most of the actors who have played Batman in movies, cartoons, and video games.
What bothers me about all of this is the fact that studios are still making movies about Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. These stories are played out. They've been retold and repackaged and "rebooted" more times than any given Shakespeare play. Why aren't there new stories about new characters? Where has the creativity gone? The risk-taking, the innovation, the originality?
This has been going on for a while. When movies went from silent to talking, a lot of films were remade just a few years after their debut. Then when color was introduced, it happened again. Some films are retold in different cultural settings, such as Yojimbo / Fistful of Dollars / Last Man Standing, and I think that can be entertaining sometimes if it's a really good story. The Getaway, for instance, has been retold in different ways more than just about any story in the history of cinema.
The earliest instance I can find of a story that couldn't stop being retold was La Boheme, which was a novel in the mid-1800s, then a play, then two different operas in the late 1800s, then a stage play (Rent) and a movie (Moulin Rouge). I'm sure there are other examples, but this is the first major one that I'm aware of.
People rewrote, retold, repackaged, and "rebooted" this story instead of something original. They wrote about things that they saw or wanted to see instead of things that they had experienced or imagined. To me, this is the cheapest and lowest form of art, and our modern culture is dominated by it. The fact that a movie, book, or TV show can be referred to as a "franchise" is pathetic.
If you want to produce a revolutionary new novel, movie, or television show, it's a hard sell to make to the companies that bankroll these things. There are still some risk-takers out there in television because there is less certainty about what will and won't be popular, but for major motion pictures and traditional book publishing, big businesses only go for the sure thing -- even if the sure thing fails the majority of the time.
It seems to me that all of the creativity and risk-taking that would, in a previous era, go into art of all kinds, is now going into business. It's like business and art switched roles. It used to be that you started a business when you had a lock on a sure thing because it was a huge risk to take. You were borrowing money in your own name, or using your own savings to invest in a storefront and then putting all of your time and energy into making it succeed. Today, though, you use other people's money to start a business that will be "disruptive" and then you work hard to do something unique that changes the industry (or the world). Artists (in the broad sense) used to do that as a rule; they used to ask, "What art can I make that is revolutionary?" Businesses that have a negative net income can be valued in the billions of dollars because of their importance or reach or level of user engagement. That blows my mind -- that a technology startup company with little or no income and an operating budget of millions of dollars can be valued in the billions of dollars. How can you be worth more than you can ever make? That's insane. If you owned a farm, you couldn't possibly stay in business if you bought a $1000 cow that could only ever produce $200 worth of milk.
Unlike the regurgitated superhero sequels, you don't see any startups trying to "reboot" Microsoft, IBM, or Apple. Everyone in the tech startup world who tries to emulate the big players gets crushed quickly -- or they never get off the ground because there isn't any room in the market. Business has a concept of a "long tail," where there is a big company at the head of the beast and a long tail of smaller businesses that collectively account for a tiny minority of total market value. A smartphone that is just like the iPhone but with one or two slight advantages is doomed to fail; an operating system that is just like Windows but is faster and more stable is not going to sell, either. There are countless examples of tech businesses that had superior products and still failed; likewise, the story of Microsoft is one of inferior products that continue to dominate the market in spite of an overwhelming amount of competition that offers superior technology at a lower price.
All of the risk-taking, the revolutionary thinking, and the high-end creativity has left the art world and taken up residence in the Silicon Valley. I can tell you for certain that the next Superman movie will have long martial arts and superpower fights where no one really gets hurt like they should, things will blow up, buildings will be destroyed, and some kind of unreasonable evil will be stopped at the last moment. I couldn't begin to guess what the next great tech company will produce, though.