Seven years after Deadpool was introduced to audiences in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the anti-hero has entered the history books as one of the most successful superhero solo adventures of all time. In addition to Ryan Reynolds’s reinvention of the Merc with the Mouth, this year brought fresh takes on tried-and-true heroes like Batman (Ben Affleck) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War, respectively. Not all superhero reboots manage to refresh their characters, but here are five examples from film and television that worked wonders on a character’s reputation.
1. Batman Begins (2005)
Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin marked the end of Warner Bros.’ initial Batman film franchise, ultimately becoming infamous as one of the worst big-budget films ever made. Less than a decade later, Christopher Nolan managed to strip the character of all the bright colors and superfluous flash with this more grounded approach to Gotham City. With an Oscar-caliber cast and a thematically rich script, Batman Begins reminded audiences why this character is so compelling in the first place, setting the stage for cinematic milestone The Dark Knight.
2. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Ask most X-Men movie fans which films are the weakest thus far, and you’re near-guaranteed to hear consistent mention of both X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Following those two misfires, Fox needed a win to keep their Marvel mutants thriving and wisely brought director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) onboard for this 1960s-set period piece. Serving as a pseudo-prequel, First Class chronicles the initial meeting of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as well as the formation of the first X-Men team. Critics and audiences applauded the film, and the franchise has been on an upswing ever since.
3. Man of Steel (2013)
Bryan Singer aimed to return the DC hero to his Christopher Reeve heyday with the 2006 release Superman Returns, but the nostalgia trip failed to resurrect the last son of Krypton’s film career. Instead, Zack Snyder tweaked the character’s mythology for a more modern take on his origin story, and while some fans derided Snyder’s changes, Man of Steel made significantly more at the box office and serves as the springboard for the burgeoning DC shared universe, with star Henry Cavill reprising the role in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
4. The Flash (2014)
Prior to The CW’s version of Barry Allen, the DC character was probably best known for his portrayal in animated projects such as the 2000s Justice League television series and the short-lived live-action series from the early 1990s. However, thanks to star Grant Gustin, the Flash has a new face that keeps fans coming back week after week. Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) may be set to play the character on the big screen, but his television incarnation has already helped restore his reputation for future DC projects, at least among casual fans of his comic book exploits.
5. Daredevil (2015)
When Ben Affleck was announced as the new Batman, many cited his role in the tepidly received 2003 Daredevil film as proof that he wasn’t worthy of the cape and cowl. However, this Marvel Studios-produced Netflix series has already wiped away all memory of The Man Without Fear’s previous live-action portrayal. Dark, violent and true to the spirit of the source material, the show brings such pathos to both Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin that season 2 was among the most highly anticipated Marvel projects coming this year.
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