Seeing how I am going on a solid week of being unemployed I feel I should get some writing done. Today, I want to talk about something that has bothered me for a while now. The entertainment industry has started to take a disturbing and lazy turn. Instead of original content, you see remakes or adaptations.
Adaptations are by far the most prevalent of the lazy entertainment avenues. Look around at the movies that are hitting the theaters this summer: Marvel’s The Avengers, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Battleship. Adaptations of comics, books, and games respectively. It seems that if you want to make money hand over fist just take work that someone else did and put it on the screen. The reason for this is because it is a mostly safe bet. You take characters and a world that is already established in the consciousness of the public and you have a pre-made fan base. You do not have to spend a lot of time to establish a depth of back story because people will most likely go in with previous knowledge. This is a boon for film executives. Less work and the pay off is more money! A winning strategy. That is not to say that all film adaptations are bad. Some are genuinely good movies. Dark Knight was a dark and visceral piece of film that, if you could get past the blender that was Christian Bale’s Batman voice, was sublime.
However, more recent examples have fared far worse. John Carter springs to mind. A major flop, though the movie was not entirely bad. It is an adaptation of an amazing sci-fi series that inspired elements of many more contemporary sci-fi stories and films. What hurt is was that the source material was so far removed from mainstream public knowledge that the fan base was mostly dried up and did not have the numbers to help the film break even. One of the more curious adaptations in recent memory came out this year; Battleship is based of the children’s board game of the same name. Let that sink in a second. A board game got a feature film made out of it. Not even a game with some semblance of story, like Candyland. There was no story in Battleship, the game or the movie. ZING!
Along with adaptations come reboots or remakes. These are mostly done when the adaptation of source material has grown old or just bad. These are generally well-received, especially for comic book movies. Comics are always changing the universe that they are in so old stories seem stale or trite. A good solid reboot, especially if it is grossly different from the previous incarnations, can be a success. A prime example of this is the newest X-Men movie. X-Men: First Class was a breath of fresh air after the failfests that Last Stand and Origins were. It focused on the dynamic between Xavier and Eric Lensherr, something that had previously only been danced around. By promoting them to the main characters it made the movie feel entirely new compared to the earlier ones. The new Batman movies were similarly successful. Director Christopher Nolan decided to go dark, much darker than the campy colorful films that had come before. It harkened to the Michael Keaton films instead of the Adam West show. People mostly agreed that this was a good choice. A recent choice that was much less successful was the new Dark Shadows movie. I have long said that when Tim Burton does original work it is superb! However when he tried to remake something it ends up bad and he should feel bad.
I am not sure who the movie was for. Burton changed so many elements of the classic show that it bore little resemblance to the gothic drama the fans loved. The movie itself was mostly unfunny and weird so that new fans would not really get into it. Basically the only good thing about it was Johnny Depp, which is true of most of Burton’s remakes. Dark Shadows does bring up another interesting trend: the idea of remaking classic TV shows into movies. Who is asking for these? Seriously, I do not understand the logic behind it. 21 Jump Street was a good enough movie, but no one really asked for it to be made. Strangely enough, the best part of 21 Jump Street was also Johnny Depp so maybe it is him. He is the cause of these movies and reboots getting made.
One place where adaptations and reboots have found solid footing, support, and quality is in TV. Classic books and tales getting a modern shine really makes for some wonderful programming. The one I completely gush over is “Sherlock.” It is one of the best made shows on TV right now. If you have not seen it, get Netflix right now and watch it. No joke, it is superb. The writing and casting make this modern take on a quintessential Victorian hero compelling viewing. And again with such success comes imitators. CBS is in the works to bring “Sherlock” to American screens via a show called “Elementary”. The setting for one of Britain’s most beloved literary characters is now New York. This would be fine if it was handled more as “House” was. “House” was an American Sherlock who was a doctor instead of a detective. The new show “Elementary” seems to have lifted everything that Steven Moffet so lovingly crafted and shoehorned it into a new setting. This displeases me.
Shows such as “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” take this formula and make it work as well. Take classic tales of magic, and place them in a modern setting. While the stories are old and we all know them, seeing them in a new and fresh setting makes it feel like a new experience. I am glad to know that both of these shows have been picked up for a new season!
While it may seem that your box offices are filled with the lazy types of films you have come to expect, fear not, for there are some lovely original films coming as well. The big one is Disney/Pixar’s “Brave.” A story of female empowerment, archery, magic, and bears? What is not to like. seriously this movie looks exciting, fresh, and fun. Something that the cinema desperately needs. Pixar has been a master at original films. In their time making films only a few have spawned sequels and none of them have been adaptations. I cannot say enough good things about Pixar. They make wonderful films that people of all ages can enjoy, so good on you Pixar.
Another genre that is loaded with originality is action movies. Which is odd because they follow a set framework however the stories that they tell in that framework is almost always an original tale that more often than not stars Segal, The Rock, or Bruce Willis. It is a genre that sees the same players play the same types of roles but always in a new story and setting. Basically, the most unoriginal types of movies are indeed the most original. Weird how that works.
Now I would be utterly remiss if I did not make a metion to the Horror genre. It falls very much into the same mold as action. You have simmilar themes but different and distinct plots and characters. It is a trope heavy genre but the way those tropes are arranged is something truly orinignal. One smaller movie I want to make special mention of is Chastity Bites! Seriously this flick looks incredible and I am not just saying that because I have a mad crush on its star, Allison Scagliotti, though it does not hurt. Check it out and give it your support! https://www.facebook.com/ChastityBites
In closing, the film and TV industry has grown lazy. Either by making films based on another piece of culture or remaking old or failed adaptations, the amount of original works that reaches the box office is pathetic. The movie industry is a numbers game and as long as the Harry Potters and Avengers of the world keep making massive amounts of money, the Wes Andersons of the world with struggle to get seen. So I propose this, film industry: before you remake or adapt something think of the advice RD gave to Rarity.