because Hollywood is — truly and at last — creatively bankrupt

It seems like everywhere I turned this week for movie news, it was all the same: So-and-so has signed on for a remake, a sequel, a prequel, a reboot, or a reimagining:

Christopher Nolan is reinventing Superman

Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro are remaking Taxi Driver with Lars Von Trier

Wuthering Heights is getting the Twilight treatment

No, wait, Little Red Riding Hood is getting the Twilight treatment

James Cameron is rebooting Spider-Man

…and so on.
The Von Trier rumor was later squashed, but the fact remains that the Net was abuzz, if only for a few moments, with excitement over the notion of one filmmaker taking another’s film and putting his own spin on it. Why? Why aren’t we more excited by the prospect of a filmmaker whose unique visions we’ve embraced in the past offering us another new vision, not merely yet another take on someone else’s old vision? Where are the posts, anyway, gushing over something entirely new from a filmmaker we love?

I worry that this is the ultimate end result of geek culture. I’ve applauded in the past how geeks are not passive consumers of pop culture but active participants in it, whether that means writing fan fiction or starting fan sites or even — ahem — setting themselves up as film critics online. But now it seems that Hollywood is inextricably and entirely indulging in the same fanac itself.

I’m not railing against franchises per se, just the constant recycling of old ideas instead of the exploration of new ones. Where are the creators creating the new franchises of the future? Where are the new alien worlds, the new superheroes, the new exotic adventurers? We did get Avatar, which isn’t based on any other material, but there was some handwringing over the film’s prospects precisely because it wasn’t based on a known property. Would fans bother with a film they weren’t already familiar with? was the worry. Maybe the fact that fans did bother means that we’re more likely to see original visions now than we were before Avatar was released. Then again, there was this story on New York’s Vulture yesterday: “Disney to Hollywood: If It Can’t Sell Toys, It Had Better Be Cheap.”

It’s all very, very depressing for anyone who craves originality and ingenuity and imagination.

This has been your WTF Thought for the Day.

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Thu, Feb 18, 2010 7:54pm

There’s a solution to all this:

Get the viewers to stop going to remakes, rehashes, revisions, etc.

Sequels are okay. Series are okay. James Bond, for example. But no more Psycho remakes. Or Warriors remakes. Or horror movie remakes (did we need a remake of The Crazies this week?). Or Spider-Man reboots (we just finished a trilogy! Can’t you idiots wait for 20 years?). Or even a Superman start-over, not so soon off the Superman Returns misfire. Do you think they’ll start re-filming Harry Potter once Deathly Hallows comes out? And by the by, just how many Hamlets do we really need? Is there yet another interpretation of a moody Danish prince with parental issues we haven’t covered yet?

In the matter of the Batman series, having it crash and burn sort of justifies rebooting the series. But not EVERYTHING deserves a reboot (well, maybe Transformers, but only if Bigelow directs).

So to all the viewers out there: Stop it. Stop going to remakes. If the movies fail at the box office, then the film studios will stop their bad behavior. Please, people. It’s all up to you.

(20 million go see The Crazies anyway) What did I just say?! (facepalm)

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 10:44pm

Undeniably one of the worst trends in the movie business. Soon that’s ALL that’ll be released in the run of a year, frickin’ remakes, “re-imaginings”, or whatever other ridiculous spin doctor label they want to give it in an attempt to disguise the fact that they are treading old ground.

I’m hoping that the rumored remake of John Carpenter’s The Thing is just that: A rumor (and yes, I realize that Carpenter’s movie was based on the same source material as Howard Hawks’ 1951 flick The Thing From Another World, but my understanding is that the movies are significantly different enough that you’d be hard pressed to call Carpenter’s a remake.)

Seriously, I’d rather see, like, only ten movies released in the run of a year that were all originals, than a hundred movies, ninety-five of which were remakes. It’s getting stupid. And movies based on board games?!!? Don’t even get me started… -_-

Thu, Feb 18, 2010 10:48pm

Where are the creators creating the new franchises of the future? Where are the new alien worlds, the new superheroes, the new exotic adventurers?

The real creatives are doing something other than beating their heads against the Hollywood wall.

I think they are making video games. New franchises, new alien worlds, new superhero’s, exotic adventures, and best of all you can participate activily with thousands of you closest friends.

Hollywood is old and tired, mostly filled with souless, gutless, money grubbing fools who wouldn’t know real creativity if it bit them on the ass.

Still…occasionally something good still comes along if you are willing to wait for it. So until something good does come along save your money and:

1. Take a nice walk.
2. Explore a online MMO game.
3. Write something fun, even if you are the only one to ever read it.

Be creative, because Hollywood isn’t always going to do it for you.

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Fri, Feb 19, 2010 12:45am

Well, I just saw the original Crazies last weekend and somehow the premise doesn’t seem like it would be the stuff of mega-million box office ticket sales. Then again a lot of people saw the new Halloween a few years back and that was so godawful I never bothered to finish watching it.

Besides, when even the best and brightest film buffs rally behind something as unoriginal as the recent Star Trek movie, we’re not exactly in the best of positions to complain about all those unoriginal people in Hollywood.

Then again, there was this story on New York’s Vulture yesterday: “Disney to Hollywood: If It Can’t Sell Toys, It Had Better Be Cheap.”

And yet so many of the most popular movies of the 1980s were low-budget flicks. So what’s the problem?

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 1:32am

The argument is specious.

Just like every generation figures its kids are more rebellious, that the new media is destroying morals, etc. “Every geek generation” figures that the end of creativity has come and there is only a future of eternal remakes to come.

Just looking down the list of MaryAnn’s 2009 green-light list, I see at least 13 choice cuts:
District 9
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Monsters vs. Aliens

Yes, some (9?) are based on previous works (District 9 & “9” the only video-works, the others are translations of textual works, I think), and a number of the remainder are children-targeted (not necessarially a bad thing, but…).

That still clearly leaves:

And those are just the “good” movies that MaryAnn has seen/reviewed (and I recognized from glancing down the list), never mind attempts at originality that failed for whatever reason.

What I’d like to see as evidence is a listing of how many high-quality, original, non-derivative, geeky movies were put out in previous years, and a clear decline over the years.

Personally, I don’t remember more than 3 such films coming out in any given year.

Anyone have that data?

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 3:49am

It’s very simple because the mass mainstream market couldn’t give two hoots about originality, they know what the like and they like what they know. So Hollywood keeps on pushing out all these remakes, sequels, reboots because it’s sadly what the majority appear to want and because it will continue to make money Hollywood will keep on doing it. Times have changes since the integrity of a movie was considered and now it is purely a business.

Not until a studio is brave enough to stop doing this and take a risk by producing and promoting in a serious manner a series of original movies will there ever be a chance that this constant recycling of old ideas will stop.

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 8:44am

It’s perhaps fitting, now that comic books have become the prime source of inspiration for blockbuster movies, that the creative cycle of movies is now becoming more like that of the comics industry.

For decades, the biggest comic characters (and even a lot of not-so-big names) have been subject to endless re-interpretations, costume changes, multiple deaths and rebirths, revised origin stories, alternate universe copies, clones, and all manner of still more befuddling ways to freshen up a franchise without giving up a cash cow of a character.

I think the movie business in some ways is where the comics were twenty years ago, when people like Frank Miller and Todd McFarlane were running around making a bunch of DC and Marvel’s old warhorses “dark” and “gritty.” Then everybody else tried to catch up and make their properties “darker,” and the ’90s ended up a big, gloomy mess, populated with homicidal and/or emo superheroes.

So here we are on the big screen in 2010, when a “gritty” Batman and an emo vampire are the hottest things on screens, and they look like dollar signs to producers — who are, by and large, chasing the adolescent market, just like the comics used to. But they don’t want to have to blow their budgets on untested stories, so they find a tried-and-true moneymaking property and say, “let’s make Rainbow Brite ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’!” . . . or, “let’s make an Archie and Jughead movie, but make it like Twilight!” And if that doesn’t work, try it again with the same property until you’ve got something with franchise potential. You’ve already paid for the rights, dammit!

*sigh* Ah, well. At least Wuthering Twilight may get some kids to read Bronte.

(Post-Script: Meanwhile, what is Bryan Singer up to, the guy whose X-Men got Hollywood into the comic book movie business for a decade? He’s rumored to be working on a remake of Excalibur. Not a new film about King Arthur, about whom there is plenty of other material to mine – specifically a remake of Excalibur. *headdesk* I’d bet you lot of money that some producer has already suggested that he “do it like 300.”)

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 9:02am

Not a new film about King Arthur, about whom there is plenty of other material to mine – specifically a remake of Excalibur. *headdesk* I’d bet you lot of money that some producer has already suggested that he “do it like 300.”

As I recall, in many ways that movie was already a little bit of a proto-300…except the camera lingered longer on the shots. (Oh for the days when cameras lingered!)

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 9:36am

. . . Hmm, you’ve got a point there: The combination of ultra-violence and soft porn, mostly shouted dialogue, constant straddling of the line of self-parody. It may be mere nostalgia that makes me enjoy Excalibur more.

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 11:34am

And to top that off, I read something on Ain’t it Cool yesterday about American Pie being rebooted.


Fri, Feb 19, 2010 2:08pm

“Where are the posts, anyway, gushing over something entirely new from a filmmaker we love?”

Well, for starters, there’s Nolan’s new film Inception. There are many sites / blogs eagerly awaiting that film. That, to me, seems like “something entirely new from a filmmaker we love”.

What bugs me is that classic films, that stand the test of time, are remade or “re-imagined” just for money and have nothing new to say. When I first read that “The Day The Earth Stood Still” was being remade I was sad. When I read the Coen Brothers were remaking “True Grit” I was angry.

Fri, Feb 19, 2010 3:10pm

James Cameron is rebooting Spider-Man

No, no, NO! I’ve read some of Cameron’s Spidey script and- yech! Spider-Man blindfolding Betty with webbing to have sex with her on top of a bridge? *vomit* And they’re doing it in 3-D… great…

Wed, May 27, 2015 10:33pm

*BUMP* So, reviving this thread as Excalibur was mentioned in the comments as possibly going to be remade and I wanted to let everyone who is in NYC know that Boorman’s Excalibur is playing at Anthology Film Archives on Sun, Jun 14, 2015 at 6:00 PM and Sat, Jun 20, 2015 at 3:30 PM.

So there. On a big screen. It is all part of the This Is Celluloid series.

reply to  LaSargenta
Thu, May 28, 2015 12:20am

It’s interesting to note that the Christopher Nolan-produced Superman reboot that MaryAnn was so worried about turned out to be Man of Steel — which she gave a rapturous review. Sometimes, something that looks like bad news on the horizon turns out not to be such bad news when it arrives.

And as far as I know, that’s the only one of the mentioned reboots that has actually become reality over the last five years. Meanwhile, Tomorrowland is out in theaters, an original story which the geekosphere had been avidly anticipating before its release. And Mad Max: Fury Road, far from being a tired recycling of an old franchise, turns out to have been injected with a fresh jolt of feminism and visual bravura. So maybe not all hope is lost.

reply to  Bluejay
Thu, May 28, 2015 1:19am

Yeah, but we still have to be afraid: Rocky Horror Picture Show is really getting remade.