Revamp Problemes 7: The Phantom of Cinema pt. 2–The Prequel

Samuel Jacobsen, Junior Editor

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Recently, the movie industry’s been given a lot of crap.  People are saying things like “Movies have no beauty in them anymore,” or  “Movies are too violent,” and most prevalently “They’re running out of original ideas.”  These criticisms are, sadly, all true.  In response to the first two at least I can say this:  beauty is in the mind of the beholder, and some of the best movies are violent.  With the third statement however, I have no defense.  

The truth is that many of the movies coming out these days are just remakes, redoes, sequels, prequels, and the like.  In the past summer alone there were sixteen sequels, prequels, or remakes released.  Now, sixteen may not seem like much when considering how many total movies  came out, but what is impressive is that these movies are all “mainstream” movies.  Mainstream here means that they had a certain amount of hype leading up to their release.  Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Minions, these were all big release movies, and they are all a revamp of some sort.  And though there were multiple non-mainstream movies that did quite well (i.e. Trainwreck, Inside Out), there is an undeniable trend that movies that are part of a series receive more notice.  Now, most of these revamps won’t be the Oscar winners later this year, but in actual terms of money and popularity an Oscar doesn’t mean much.  This trend isn’t too odd when you think about it.  People naturally gravitate towards things they are used to, so people are more likely to go see a new Mission Impossible movie instead of a non-series title.

And as to why these revamps are being made one after another, it’s quite simple: movie producers want to make the greatest amount of money.  So, if they make a movie that does really well they’ll try to “milk” it for all that it’s worth.  For example, there wouldn’t be any Minions movie if it had not been for the resounding success of Despicable Me.

But what about the un-original mainstream non-revamps?  What about all those countless action movies that follow the same formula?  What about all those countless San Andreas like movies?  Has humanity really sunk so low from its days of glory that it can’t come up with new materials?  And the answer is that as far as cinema goes there has never been any supposed “glory days.”  The truth is movie formulas have been reused un-originally for a very long time.  This is an aspect I think is sadly overlooked when considering the originality of cinema.  Yes, it is too bad that we get too few original movies in the theater, but it isn’t like it’s a problem with this generation.  If anything, this generation’s done pretty  darn well as far as originality goes.  Sure, there might be quite a lot of crappy CGI action flicks out there these days.  But, there aren’t nearly as many of those as there were crappy Star Wars rip offs in the 70s.  And this pattern of movie formulas being reused dates back to such movies as Hitchcock’s legendary Psycho, and Aldrich’s oddly similar Hush…Hush Sweet Charlotte.  

As long as there have been movies to rip off, there have been movie rip offs.  Perhaps the reason we’re noticing this so much now is because we are no longer in the “golden age” of cinema.  What I mean by this is simple: in terms of cinema these last couple of years have been lacking in the way of revolutionary films.  In the 70s there were too many movies trying to ride the wave of the success of the revolutionary Star Wars to give two hoots about all those rip offs.  In fact, the entirety of the late 1900s was a huge time of revolutionary movies.  Alien, Titanic, 2001 a Space Odyssey, The Godfather to name a few.  But around the time the 2000s kicked off revolutionary films stopped coming out.

Production companies always face the risk that their film may be a flop.  And in the world of film just one flop can ruin someone.  It a cruel world; that’s a fact mac.  So when a production company invests time in a new movie formula instead of a more generic one that they know people like, they’re taking a HUGE risk.  Take for example Sam Raimi’s (Spider-man, Darkman) 1981 cult horror classic The Evil Dead.  The Evil Dead was a movie generally put below the radar (given a budget of only $350,000) by the producing company due to their doubt that it would be a big flick.  Of course, The Evil Dead went on to become a sleeper hit (a movie that runs to decent acclaim for an extended period of time), which surprised many people.  And, had N.L.C. taken more of a risk with Raimi’s splatter film and funneled more money into it  they may have made more money from it.  Likewise, some companies pump too much money into certain movies they assume will go well only to receive bad profit.  Take for example Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner.  Though it has since become a huge success (and has been reevaluated as one of the best sci-fi films of all time), when it first came out Scott’s cyberpunk masterpiece was overall a box office flop, and probably not worth the $28,000,000 the company funneled into it.  When push comes to shove, the reason Blade Runner didn’t do as well as The Evil Dead is probably due to the themes and styles present in Blade Runner.  Blade Runner was a film unlike anything audiences had ever seen–it wasn’t a formula audiences were comfortable with.  The risk of producing a poor-performing movie is huge in the movie-making industry, so many companies choose to pursue movies that have formulas that they know audiences love, instead of taking a leap of faith and ending up with a Blade Runner at the box office.

Yes, there are a lot of revamps coming out (perhaps even too many), but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Many people would rather see a movie from a series they love than a movie that doesn’t belong to one.  And, just because many films are just cookie-cutter cut outs of others, doesn’t mean they’re bad.  Toy Story 2 was arguably better than the first, and the fourth Mad Max movie has swiftly become one of the best action movies of recent times.  All these revamps aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but if people want them to stop coming out at such a fantastic rate they need to stop paying to see them.  There wouldn’t be seven Fast and Furious movies if people stopped paying so much to see them and instead went to go see a more original movie.  Perhaps instead of being angry that Hollywood’s just pumping out the same stuff over, and over, and over, people should stop eating all these revamps up.                

 

    

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