“There are no original ideas anymore.”
“Ugh, they’re making a movie based on a toy? How stupid.”
“They’re rebooting that already? The last one just came out like, three years ago!”
All common refrains. All things that have been said by every generation since movies grew into their infancy. I’ve begun to realize recently, while reading William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade, that the film business has always been (and, most likely, always will be) driven by money. Filmdrunk did an article recently highlighting some of the more recent changes in the industry (and explains why budgets have ballooned as they have – something Mr. Goldman predicts in his book) that touches on one of the points – risk aversion and brand awareness. If movie studios can package a recognizable brand into their movies, not only does it increase the chance that the public will see it but it also means they’ll make more money off of ancillary money, or toys and the like. That, my friends, is business.
Regardless, there is a long history of Hollywood being unoriginal. I even wrote about it two years ago when I briefly wrote for the Ma’s Meatloaf blog. Some of that information may be a bit dated, but the point still stands. Hollywood has always been predictable.
For the link-impaired (or straight-up lazy) I outline in that article how Hollywood has always drawn from other sources for material. Wizard of Oz, as one example, was made and remade six times before the 1939 film became the standard. There have been remakes, prequels, and sequels after that as well, and I would bet there will continue to be for as long as movies are a thing. Some filmmakers have even been known to remake their own films, as Roland Emerich is in a position to do with Stargate. Both Alfred Hitchcock and Cecil B. DeMille remade films from earlier in their careers.
When people complain that Hollywood is out of original ideas, I have to wonder when there was a time that Hollywood ever relied on originality. The 1970s? The most popular films of that era, arguably, were either based on books (The Godfather 1 and 2; Apocalypse Now, Jaws) or a mish-mash of other ideas into something familiar but, technically, new (Star Wars). Tarantino, considered one of our more original filmmakers, is really an expert mash-up artist – George Lucas with an edge.
And the only way that will ever change is if people stop paying for them. That’s unlikely to happen. Hell, the last slew of movies I’ve seen in the theater (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Godzilla, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Raid 2, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) were all either reboots or sequels – or sequels to reboots. I’m as guilty as anyone. But that doesn’t mean there is no originality left. I read original scripts all the time. There are typically two main problems with them:
1.) They’re crappy scripts. Not all original ideas are good ones, and even if an idea is good that doesn’t mean the execution is (what many might say about The Inhabitors).
2.) They’re not marketable. Some things are just too out-there. Hollywood’s favorite types of movies, so far as I can tell (and I’m by no means an expert) is similar but different. A concept people can recognize and hold onto done in an original way.
There might come a time when there is a paradigm shift in popular movies. But it won’t be anytime soon if we use history as a judge. Hollywood is predictable, just like the complaints about their predictability.