They call it a reboot. It happens all the time in Hollywood when a movie franchise falls flat. After a blockbuster wears out its audience with a string of lesser sequels, the studio starts over, retelling the story from an entirely new angle.
The best example is Batman. The combination of Michael Keaton and director Tim Burton produced critical acclaim and big box office numbers for the first two Caped Crusader films in 1989 and 1992. Then came a new director, Joel Schumacher, who just about killed the franchise with Batman Forever in 1995 and Batman & Robin in 1997. Eight years passed before someone in Hollywood realized the Dark Knight’s name could still fill theater seats, and the franchise was rebooted in 2005 with the dark and gritty Batman Begins.
The totally redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer is the Blue Oval’s Batman Begins. Ford’s most famous sport utility vehicle has desperately needed a reboot ever since the Firestone tire recall in 2000 made it Rollover Enemy Number One. Rising gas prices haven’t helped either, but the tire debacle hurt the brand badly, with the Explorer going from this country’s third best-selling vehicle in 2000 with 445,157 sold to just over 60,000 bought in 2010. But just like Batman, the Explorer name had value that Ford couldn’t let go to waste. And so the 2011 Explorer is the sport utility story retold by Ford from an entirely new angle. The question is whether or not the Explorer’s name can still put butts in seats.
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