“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
The line from 2008’s The Dark Knight made Harvey Dent part of meme canon, but at the same time, it may have accidentally predicted the future of Hollywood reboots. Like Creed or Netflix’s Cobra Kai, more and more reboot/sequel stories are turning heroes into villains and villains into heroes.
Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, the Disney Plus series that brings Emilio Estevez’s Gordon Bombay back to the ice to mentor a new group of ragtag hockey players, might be the epitome of the trope. Heck, it might even be sly satire of a traditional Disney reboots.
On a new episode of Polygon’s Galaxy Brains, hosts Dave Schilling and Jonah Ray dig into the latest chapter of the Mighty Ducks franchise to discover that (1) it’s actually pretty fun and (2) it’s totally upending expectations for what a rebooted Disney show would look like. In the episode, Dave and Jonah also imagine the scenario in which the premise of a role-reversed Ducks would be an obvious candidate for the greenlight:
Dave: It seems to me that there is some ambivalence about the original Mighty Ducks, that there’s some kind of like, “Eh, that was a long time ago and now it’s too corporate” because the Mighty Ducks are the bad guys! But why?
Jonah To subvert expectations! That’s the elevator pitch. “It’s a reboot of The Mighty Ducks...” “Eh I’ve heard that before.” “...but they’re the bad guys!” “What did you say? What the fuck did you just say? The Mighty Ducks, our special little guys, are the bad guys? Fuck you ... I’m in.”
To explore the recent trend in reboots, and the intimidating task of rebooting a property in the first place, Dave and Jonah turned to screenwriter John August, who previously wrote reincarnations of Charlie’s Angels, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Disney’s recent live-action take on Aladdin. Here’s a taste of how August encountered his own postmodernist questions during the development of a reboot:
We faced a similar thing with Charlie’s Angels. And so that was a reboot where we had this iconic ’70s TV show, which was wonderful, but also problematic in a lot of ways. These three beautiful women who are working for this mysterious boss, and the sexuality of it didn’t feel quite appropriate for a movie. And so in those initial conversations, Drew Barrymore brought me in for a meeting and we were sitting on a couch and just really talking about what it felt like, and coming up with a tone where the Angels were sort of like “your dorky kid sister who somehow wins the Olympics,” who’s really annoying, but is also great. These women could be incredibly effective when they’re on the job, but just giant dorks when they’re off the job. That was crucial and nailing that tone. Then we thought about: What is the actual plot, the story, that could get us to that point?
For a bigger deep dive into Mighty Ducks: Game Changers and the tricky practice of rebooting major franchises, check out the new episode of Galaxy Brains, out now wherever you get your podcasts.