With “The Bourne Legacy” arriving this weekend — and with Jeremy Renner taking over the franchise from Matt Damon for the fourth entry — the Big Question once again arises:
Can you really recreate a big success — especially when you’re replacing the actor closely identified with the lead role?
Here are the most notable instances of remakes and reboots that switched stars and what the consequences were both critically and at the box office.
Sean Connery vs. Roger Moore
Connery kicked off the James Bond legacy with Terence Young’s 1962 hit “Dr. No.”The first of Connery’s seven successful Bond films brought in $16.1 million at the box office, but more important, Connery helped define the ultimate ladies' man superspy as one of cinema’s most exciting heroes.
From martinis (“shaken not stirred”) to luxury cars (that Aston Martin), he introduced most of the quirks that audiences now associate with Bond. For three decades, he remained a major draw, with his last go-round as 007, 1983’s “Never Say Never Again,” racking up $55.4 million at the box office.
When he finally hung up the tux and the gadgetry, first George Lazenby and then Moore were left with the unenviable task of putting their own spin on the iconic character. Lazenby left the franchise after one film. Moore took his first turn as Bond in 1973 with Guy Hamilton’s “Live and Let Die.” That film brought in $35.4 million but left critics wondering if he really could take over the reins.
“Moore has the superficial attributes for the job: The urbanity, the quizzically raised eyebrow, the calm under fire and in bed,” Roger Ebert argued in his review of “Live and Let Die.” “But Connery was always able to invest the role with a certain humor, a sense of its ridiculousness. Moore has been supplied with a lot of double entendres and double takes, but he doesn’t seem to get the joke.”
The Verdict: While “Dr. No” itself was not the most lucrative Bond adventure (adjusted for inflation the box office take would be about $122 million), Connery’s films continue to grow in popularity. And as successful as Moore was, repeating the role seven times, it’s the sly, sophisticated Connery who will always be associated with the definitive 007. That leaves all those other Bonds — and there would be five other actors who tried their hand at the part — in the also-ran category. (Sorry, Daniel Craig.)
John Wayne vs. Jeff Bridges
1969’s Wayne-starring “True Grit,” directed by Henry Hathaway, grossed $14.3 million, according to IMDB. Wayne’s perpetually soused Rooster Cogburn was lauded by critics. The grizzled Wayne sent up his squeaky-clean heroic image to comic effect, winning his first and only Oscar for his troubles.
In contrast, Bridges played up Rooster’s eccentricity with his Oscar-nominated role in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2010 remake, which wowed critics and received an impressive 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was no slouch at the box office, either, raking in an impressive $171.2 million.
The Verdict: 2010’s “True Grit” triumphed with its astonishing critical and box-office success, but it’s not likely to overshadow Wayne’s legendary performance in the long run.
Christopher Reeve vs. Brandon Routh
Reeve kick started the superhero phenomenon with 1978’s “Superman,” directed by Richard Donner. The film grossed an impressive $134.2 million and was beloved by critics and fans alike for its tongue-in-cheek — but never campy — attitude.
The next three Superman films led by Reeve, however, didn’t measure up. Over time, the box office plummeted and critical response grew more hostile. By the time the fourth film, “The Quest for Peace,” rolled into theaters, audiences were practically begging Reeve to take off the cape.
The 2006 reboot “Superman Returns,” directed by Bryan Singer and starring Routh, accumulated a little over $200 million. But it — and especially Routh — was savaged by the critics, and the film itself was so expensive that it barely broke even. Plans for a sequel with Routh and Singer were scrapped, and instead the series will get yet another reboot next summer with Henry Cavill in the lead role.
The Verdict: Despite the less-than-impressive sequels, Reeve is the superhero who remains beloved and respected by all.
Tobey Maguire vs. Andrew Garfield
Sam Raimi’s 2002 hit “Spider-Man” starring Maguire was a huge box-office and critical smash. The film raked in an astonishing $403.7 million — and the following two films grossed north of $300 million domestically.
Still in theaters, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” directed by Marc Webb and starring Garfield, put up a strong showing, bringing in $251.4 million domestically. Released just five years after the third film, the grittier reboot was positively received but still criticized for feeling too familiar.
The Verdict: Maguire’s “Spider-Man” has the box office and originality to put it at the front of the pack, though the reboot isn’t far behind — and a sequel, while not yet greenlit, will almost certainly happen, with the well-liked Garfield remaining in the red-and-blue spandex.
Alec Baldwin vs. Harrison Ford vs. Ben Affleck
Baldwin became the first actor to put his stamp on CIA analyst Jack Ryan in John McTiernan’s 1990 action-adventure “The Hunt for Red October.” The adaptation of Tom Clancy’s novel grossed $122 million and was positively reviewed, with critics praising both Baldwin and Sean Connery for their part in the submarine-thriller.
But when the time came to film a sequel, Baldwin decided he wanted to appear in a Broadway revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire” instead. Enter Ford, who played Ryan in 1992’s “Patriot Games” and 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger.” The former brought in $83.4 million and received mediocre reviews, while the latter upped its game with $122.2 million in box office and proved more favorable to critics.
Of course, that didn’t end the franchise. Affleck took his turn in 2002 with the Phil Alden Robinson directed “The Sum of All Fears.” This time, Jack Ryan and company claimed $118.9 million at the box office, but the critics were left cold, arguing that Affleck didn’t have the goods to fill the role.
And stay tuned: The series is getting yet another reboot, with Chris Pine in the Ryan role.
The Verdict: Affleck just doesn’t make the cut, and though Ford performed admirably as Ryan, Baldwin’s performance and the financial and critical success of “The Hunt for Red October” makes him the leader of the pack.
Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. Jason Momoa
Schwarzenegger first played the title role of Conan in “Conan the Barbarian.” The 1982 revenge tale directed by John Milius grossed $39.6 million, and critics generally found it to be an enjoyable diversion. It also transformed then-bodybuilder Schwarzenegger into a major action-figure star.
The same can’t be said for the dismal 2011 remake. Directed by Marcus Nispel and starring "Game of Thrones" actor Momoa, the remake brought in an anemic $21.3 million and earned a woeful 23 percent critical average on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Verdict: Arnold went on to become governor of California. Need we say more?
Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. Adrien Brody
The original 1987 “Predator,” directed by John McTiernan and starring Schwarzenegger — yet again — set the bar high. The sci-fi thriller grossed $59.7 million, the highest of the five “Predator” films and was well-received by critics who deemed it a fun, testosterone-filled adventure.
Nimród Antal’s forgettable 2010 “Predators,” starring Brody, grossed $52 million and got passable reviews, but two years later it’s largely forgotten.
The Verdict: Schwarzenegger by a length.
Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. Colin Farrell
Schwarzenegger proved his action-star prowess once more with Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 original “Total Recall.” The dystopian thriller brought in $119.4 at the box office and is still considered a classic of the genre.
And then there’s Len Wiseman’s remake, starring Farrell. The film was released just last Friday, but thus far it has only grossed an underwhelming $28.6 million. Critics weren’t so hot for the remake either, arguing that it was an over-hyper, impossible-to-follow muddle.
The Verdict: Do we really have to spell this one out?
Michael Keaton vs. Val Kilmer
Comic book fans nearly rioted when Michael Keaton, then best known for comedies like “Mr. Mom,” was cast as the crime fighting vigilante, fearing he’d turn the film into a farce. Audiences didn’t seem to mind, however. Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman,” starring the quirky Keaton, brought home a whopping $251.2 million. The character’s popularity dipped with the 1992 follow-up, “Batman Returns,” which grossed $162.8 million, but critics still praised it — and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman.
Keaton opted out of the third film in the series after Burton left Gotham City behind and Joel Schumacher took over directing chores. Enter Val Kilmer, who had the hair and cheekbones of a leading man but none of Keaton’s spark. Kilmer’s first and only stint as the caped crusader, 1995’s “Batman Forever,” did well at the box office, earning $184 million. But it was a critical flop that was chastised for having too many villains (including an over-the-top Jim Carrey as the Riddler).
But Kilmer clashed with Schumacher and found himself out of a job. That set the stage for George Clooney and the pun-filled, codpiece-heavy, big budget disaster that was “Batman & Robin,” nearly wrecking the franchise in the process.
The Verdict: Ditching the second sequel didn’t do much for Keaton’s career — and once Christian Bale donned the batsuit, with Christopher Nolan at the helm, all the other caped crusaders faded into the background.