Sequels, Remakes, and The Death of Cinema

Paramount Studios recently revealed their movies slated for 2016 and it’s no surprise that only one of them is an original concept: Project Almanac. But, it’s a Michael Bay flick about time-traveling teenagers and explosions. I wish I was joking.

The rest of the list is comprised of remakes and sequels without any improvements aside from a little polishing and waxing:

Transformers 5
G.I. Joe 3
Star Trek 3
Beverly Hills Cop 4
Mission Impossible 5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The stars of these movies are entirely interchangeable, too:

Dwayne Johnson
Mark Wahlberg
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Tom Cruise

It’s not necessarily the actors’ fault. The story, the writing, the character development, the acting–everything is designed to be formulaic. It almost seems like Hollywood intentionally gathered a group of statisticians together to develop bland, generic, white-bread-and-mashed-potato movie concepts in order to guarantee some level of box office sales at the expense of originality and innovation.

Wait a minute… That’s exactly what’s happening.

Paramount isn’t the only guilty party. Every studio is busy firing up another reboot or sequel with a famous name stapled to the poster.

It’s all about the easy sell. A shiny product with a famous face and a simple, translatable story can be marketed and sold to a much larger audience. Hollywood studios rely on international box office sales to supplement a stagnant domestic market. The results are movies with lots of punch, minimal dialogue, and easy-to-follow stories. They translate better and they’re cheaper to make.

And they do fairly well here, too. While bloggers, film critics, and talk show hosts complain endlessly about the lack of variety or originality in movies (I’m no exception), the general public still ends up in the seats. Americans still spend hundreds of millions every year at the movies even if what’s on the screen is the equivalent of diarrhea.

That’s what you call a “Hollywood” move.

Hollywood blames the easiest of targets–pirates. The kind that be stealin’ me movies and downloadin’ me music, yarr!

Studios often like to remind us that making movies is incredibly expensive. And it is. They say illegal downloading hurts their bottom line and, as a result, they’re less able or willing to take chances on edgier films with smaller niche audiences that might not generate enough money to break even. That’s what they like to say, anyway.

It’s hard to sympathize. Instead of rolling with the punches and adapting their business model, Hollywood decided to go after their own customers in court. They fought kicking and screaming against the internet and copyright infringement as if bootlegging is a modern enterprise unique to Hollywood.

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