Hollywood Films – The Land Of Remakes, Book Adaptations, And Sequels/Prequels

Today’s films hardly feel new and original. Every year it seems like we have remakes of old films, films based on books, or sequels/prequels of Hollywood blockbusters that studios want to squeeze every last cent out of if they can. I don’t care for remakes of older films, especially if those oldies are perfectly fine on their own or not even that old to begin with. Good examples are Footloose and Total Recall.

The Breakfast Club is perfect as it is and a Hollywood remake of it would be unthinkable
The Breakfast Club is perfect as it is and a Hollywood remake of it would be unthinkable

What’s so hard about renting an original film in the age of Netflix and digital movie streams? Some of these films will feel dated, but at least you can appreciate the decade they were made in or see how far we have come with computer graphics and effects from the time the original film was made. I dread the day when they decide to remake any of my favorite John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Those can’t be good when that day arrives.

Films based on books I have no problems with if studios do a decent job of adapting them to screen. These type of films may be the closest to original films we’ll get these days. The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings are prime examples of successful book to movie adaptations that have turned into huge blockbusters and franchise mega-giants.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

Despite the great casting, directing, and execution of these movies, the glut of book to movie adaptations seems like Hollywood’s answer to the creative rut they have found themselves in. As much as I want to see a favorite book turned into a film, it’s just a lazy way of using source material already available to you without doing any work to create something entirely out of scratch. There’s also the fear of a movie studio doing a crappy job of adapting the book into a good film. No reader wants their favorite book ruined by a terrible film adaptation, especially if their favorite characters don’t look and act like how they envisioned them in their minds.

Then you have the ever prevalent sequels/prequels. These tend to happen mostly with comic book, animated, or action films. Iron Man, X-Men, Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc are just some examples of a long list of films out there that may have had the intention of just being a standalone film, only for studios to wait with bated breath for their weekend movie numbers to decide if they want to sign on for future installments. A lot rides on the amount of millions an opening weekend makes and it determines the future of these potential franchises. Obviously, these films have gone on to become huge summer blockbusters, cementing their place as lucrative franchises in Hollywood. Sequels that come after the original film can turn out to be just as good as the first or the sequels fall flat on their faces.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

A rule of thumb with most sequels is the first film will always be the one most people will remember and hold in higher regard than all the movies to come after it. With comic book and animated films, we keep coming back for more because we want to watch the saga of our favorite superhero continue or you want to know what your favorite characters have been up to since the last time you saw them. It’s also just a good popcorn movie to watch during those hot summer days when you just want to cool off and enjoy the ride a movie can take you on.

There are problems presented with doing a sequel or prequel. Studios want to replicate the success the first film has brought them, but the writers need to come up with a good story that’s worth telling. What else can we explore with Tony Stark’s character? What new evil will Batman have to fight against? What sort of adventures can Woody and Buzz go on next? A new movie of an already established film is only worth releasing if they can bring something new to the table with characters we already know and love. Some new installments have succeeded in doing this and others aren’t particularly great.

X-Men and X-Men 2 are films I really enjoyed, but when X-Men 3 came out it left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe it’s the problem of X-Men 3 lacking director Bryan Singer’s touch, but it has been collectively seen as the bad apple of the bunch. It was a movie many would like to forget about. Then you have Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman films where it has been the same director (Sam Raimi) helming all three films, but the final film in the trilogy left with a whimper than a bang. The final film wasn’t particularly good and I easily forgot its existence soon after I left the theater.

When it was decided that Pixar was going to do a prequel to Monsters Inc I was sort of intrigued by the idea, but I thought it was a good standalone movie. It didn’t seem like they needed another movie, and I couldn’t see what else they could really do with the story. Then the main angle for Monsters University was to to have a story about how Mike and Sully met. What better way to set that up than by having them go to college and meeting that way? Add into the mix that they weren’t even best buddies in the beginning and you have your story.

Mike and Sully are back but in college in Monsters University
Mike and Sully are back but in college in Monsters University

I did enjoy Monsters University, but I didn’t like it half as much as Monsters Inc. Maybe it was because there was no Boo or maybe it was because seeing monsters going to college wasn’t as interesting as I thought it was. Whatever it was, Pixar should have left well enough alone. I was content with where Mike and Sully were by the end of Monsters Inc. I knew they were doing just fine and I knew Mike and Sully had a friendship that would last a lifetime. Having a setup where Mike and Sully went to college and weren’t even friends in the beginning isn’t a story I wanted to consider as canon. Now that it’s out there, it’s part of the characters’ story history for better or for worse.

With our theaters being overly saturated with sequels and prequels and Hollywood unwilling to make new content by playing it safe with what they know will make money, it makes me long for the days when Hollywood backed truly original and exciting films to watch. The only truly original film I can think of to date is Inception. Can you believe that’s the only original and smart film I have seen come out of Hollywood in recent memory? Does this mean I’ll stop going to the movies? No, but it just makes me exceedingly picky about the movies I watch. If a film manages to blow me away, then the studio and its director must have done something right.

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18 thoughts on “Hollywood Films – The Land Of Remakes, Book Adaptations, And Sequels/Prequels”

  1. I completely agree. Hollywood really isn’t making any original content. While I always enjoy seeing comic books and such come to life on the big screen, film and books are separate universes and should be able to exist independent of each other. They have before.

    1. I look back on older films like Star Wars, Back to the Future, etc. and all those films were new and different for their time. When you compare them with the films we have now, I don’t really see anything that’s completely new that isn’t being recycled or borrowed from something that already exists or has been made before.

  2. Reblogged this on Dog-Ears & Bookmarks and commented:
    I completely agree with what this article says. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Are film writers are lacking the creativity to produce original work that other writers seem to have an abundance of? Or is this just the easy-way-out solution…

    1. When it comes to Hollywood, it always comes down to money. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have books made into films, but it’d be nice if not all movies that are “new and original” came from a book or even a foreign film that the studios decide to Americanize for a larger audience.

      1. It’s funny you mention that – the studio is saying that World War Z is considered really successful, considering it was a brand new ip…even though it was based on a book. It’s like the void of originality is so bad that even making movies based on books is considered “new” now.

      2. I think I heard the studio is considering doing a World War Z sequel, which is ridiculous because it’s based on a BOOK and it’s a STAND ALONE book. It’s disappointing what Hollywood has come to and I refuse to believe that there are no writers out there with nothing new and original to present to the studios. And if writers are trying to pitch new ideas to be made into films, then it’s just studios being too afraid to take a chance on something potentially risky but has the potential to be groundbreaking for film.

  3. Fun question. Is Hollywood getting lazy or are we as a society getting lazy? I know many people who religiously watch Game of Thrones and worship Lord of the Rings but have never bothered to touch the books for either. I feel like people love these epics but can’t or won’t devote the time to read them. To be fair, Hollywood makes it easy for these people by supplying them with pretty on-screen versions to watch (in some cases with enough sex appeal to attract even those who would never watch fantasy otherwise), but I highly doubt Hollywood would do this as frequently if there wasn’t a steady demand for the “television abridged” versions of popular literature.

    I know there are also people who prefer watching something over reading it because they find it easier to enjoy and can’t quite paint mental pictures that would be up to snuff. There are all kinds of reasons to pick TV over reading. In the end, I’m not entirely convinced it is all Hollywood’s fault. In some ways I think they are just satisfying an ever-growing demand to use technology to present written text in all kinds of different ways.

    1. You make some good points and I think you’re right. It sometimes comes down to supply and demand. However, because Hollywood is fulfilling a demand, they seem less likely to take as much risks as they used to. They’re going with what makes money based on the responses from their audience, thinking that’s all we want to see–more sequels, more book adaptations, or more remakes.

      I do feel that for the rest of us, there’s some fatigue over not seeing much innovation in Hollywood. Most of the innovation and risk taking seems to come from indie/foreign films where they don’t have as much to lose as a big budget film backed by a fancy studio and big wig executive. It’s a shame really.

  4. One reason there are so many book and comic book adaptations is that the audience is built in, the story pre-tested, and the marketing already set up. Considering the ginormous budgets, I can see why Hollywood would pick a book over a completely original script. However, Inception was refreshing.

    1. I have to admit, book to movie adaptations usually encourages me to read the book if I enjoyed the movie a lot. Most of the time I find out about the books through the films, so it’s good for at least gaining new fans for them. It would be nice to mix in all the book adaptations with some original content as well.

      1. I’m like that too. There are times when I just haven’t heard of something until the movie comes out, but if I like it, I’ll go back and read the book.

        But yeah, I don’t mind adaptations of books or comic books, especially if I already love them. However, they need to do something with the film medium and not just copy and paste the story. I also really get sick of all the sequels and remakes of classic movies, etc. I feel like video games have been doing that more and more lately too, which is why Dishonored was so nice — a new world!

        It does seem to come down to what’s easiest and what will make the most money. Although I can think of ONE remake that was great and inspired, and that is Battlestar Galactica!

      2. I never realized that about video games, but it does feel like they are catching the Hollywood movie syndrome of more sequels or prequels. It’s fine too, especially if more can be expanded with a universe or character, but there should be a balance between having these “copy and paste” stories as you have said with completely brand new content. We really don’t have enough fresh ideas. I hate the assumption from Hollywood that all we want are these films and nothing new.

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