If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Future film and sociocultural historians will look back at a period in history that started sometime around the turn of the new millennium and would likely end in a few years. I'm not sure what they will call it, but it certainly will not be flattering. Because in the past few years, Hollywood has been on an almost hellbent warpath to remake every single film with the slightest bit of recognition. So what the hell happened? Why all the remakes? These are the questions film buffs and lovers have been asking for years now.
I'm not a sociocultural or film expert, actually I'm not an expert on anything except saying nasty stuff about your mom, but there may be a couple of general common sense reasons to explain this phenomena. In the past two decades, the world (or at least the Western world) has been given the keys to a trove of information. A trove that cyberpunk and science fiction writers only dreamed of in their stories. It has come to us in the form of the Internet. But the World Wide Web did not only open the floodgates of information, but it has unleashed a tsunami of entertainment to go along with it. Everything from movies to television shows to video games to literature are now a mouse click away for any of us. But such access to information has created a problem.
Some call it sensory overload. Daily, we are being told of the latest trends, the newest movies, the shiniest video games, and the most provoking literature through a variety of web sites, television shows, and even our own friends. Tell me, how many times have you been asked by a friend: "Have you seen (or read or played) this (insert movie, show, video game, or book here)?" and have to politely say "no, but I'm trying to get around to it". Happens almost every damn day doesn't it? Even for movie lovers like ourselves we have jobs, friends, other obligations to fulfill before we get around to seeing a highly recommended movie. But it's not just us who have this feeling, millions of people experience it as well.
So with so many films to see, but so little time; what are people to do? They need to prioritize. They order their internal film queues based on recommendation from friends or favorite critics. They do so because most people don't really want to "enjoy" a bad movie, or sit through a "boring" movie; they want to see a "great" movie. In other words, people will be more likely to see a movie they have heard of than one they have not heard of. And this principle has been the worry of Hollywood executives for the past few years.
Movie sales have (reportedly) been decreasing for many years now. Conversely, movie budgets have been rising for the past few years as well. For many producers, it has become harder and harder to make a profit on a single movie. This problem combined with the recent sensory overload the world has been facing has made the entertainment industry increasingly riskier to finance larger budgets. So film producers and studios have searched for a way to put down $50 million on a project that is almost guaranteed to sell and make back a sizable profit. Thus the only reasonable solution they came up with was to make adaptations of popular properties. Enter the world of comics and children's fantasy.
It started slow at first with only Superman and Batman films made throughout the 80s and 90s, but things really picked up when X-Men and Spider-man burst onto the scene. Then a massively popular children's book at a boy who goes to a wizarding school was set for an adaptation resulting in the hugely successful Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This adaptation was followed by a franchise that sent shock waves through pop culture, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. After these movies, a myriad of comic book and children's book properties were being tapped for film. But while some were successful film properties; Ghost Rider, Hulk, Punisher, and Eragon were not at all. Then in 2005, two brilliant films came onto the scene that gave film producers a terrible idea.
Casino Royale and Batman Begins drew an enormous number to the box office and both coined the phrase "reboot" as both films disregarded the continuity of their predecessors and started over from scratch. While both beloved by many, Hollywood saw these movies as a great opportunity to reboot any property to see if lightning will strike twice with just any property. This provided producers with a means of bypassing the sensory overload people go through by advertising something that is ingrained into the psyches of many people. Even though some have never seen the original films before, they were at least familiar with how popular the characters and stories were. Thus came the reboots of Halloween, the Pink Panther, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street causing untold anguish in the hearts of movie goers.
With this rise of the reboot came an influx of just-plain remakes of films who never spawned a franchise: and all completely inferior to their originals and even hated by some members of society. Now while it was common for Hollywood to remake a film that was a few decades old for several years, the concept of reboots has created a new trend to remake a film from the past 20 years. With today's news that Lethal Weapon is set to be rebooted, and the knowledge that Conan, Akira, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and countless other properties are set to be remade or rebooted, it has forced my hands to writing this post.
So simply on the success of a few great films, we are now staring down a long pipeline of remakes and reboots. Will it end? Actually, I'm hopeful that it will. Audiences will most likely wise up to the concept of reboots and refuse to see them unless highly recommend by others like they would with any other film. Even now, we see movies not based on any existing property to extraordinarily well, just look at Inception, Avatar, District 9, Black Swan, and hopefully many more to come. The next few years will be rough people, but rest assured there will ALWAYS be original films that will capture the hearts and minds of audiences and make them turn their backs on reboots or remakes. These films will go down in history as truly amazing and these will be the films we will show to our children. And that thought will comfort you even when they inevitably decide to reboot or remake The Godfather