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.
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.
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.
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.
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.