Friday, March 29, 2013

The Death of Originality

It's official. There are no more original ideas. This means there will never again be original stories, movie plots or thought, for that matter.

You may already have noticed this yourself.

I recently read that Brad Pitt is working on a new film about -- what a surprise -- zombies. The article indicated that this film (currently titled World War Z) will deal with the zombie world in an entirely new way. Really? And what would that be? Zombies have been around for decades with varying degrees of popularity. Hasn't this all been done before?

Meanwhile, movies are rehashed and redone ad nauseam. Movies -- even those with logical plots and well developed characters -- can become so worn and threadbare that the mere mention of their title can make us cringe.

Even one of my favorite movies -- The Godfather (1972) -- has somewhat lost its luster. In an interview director Francis Ford Coppola admitted his hesitancy to make a sequel of the first film. But he went ahead and co-wrote and produced The Godfather Part II (1974) and he was overwhelmed by the result. The fact that the result was a masterpiece brought us good news and bad news. The Godfather Part II joined the ranks of great films, surpassing even the original movie, a reward for Corleone fans everywhere.

On the downside, the success of the Godfather films fanned the fervor of filmmakers to wade into the sequel pool. The water in the pool seemed familiar, unthreatening and easily navigated. While sequels (also known as franchises) may have existed before The Godfather, they appear to have taken on their own life after that time. Why risk financial backing and even failure when the tried and true is so safe?

We were then offered Rocky I, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV and Rocky V. After Rocky V, the franchise opted to change the name of the next film to Rocky Balboa, as if to appear different and new. But little was fresh about another chapter of the same story. Other movies have tried adding a word or two after the original title in an effort to appear creative. One such franchise included Resident Evil: Afterlife; Resident Evil: Apocalypse; Resident Evil: Extinction. Most folks didn't fall for it.

Then there are flat-out remakes where someone at the film studio gets the silly idea of remaking a great, classic film, usually with appallingly poor results. Some films have been remade more than once. Others have been "revised," which can include updating a classic from a different past. Why these decisions were made is hard to imagine. Did the studios think they could improve great films by casting new faces? Some of these remade movies include:

Twelve Angry Men (1957) (1997)
3:10 to Yuma (1957) (2007)
Love Affair (1939); Affair to Remember (1957)
Annie (1982) (1999)
Arthur (1981) (2011)
Bedazzled (1967) (2000)
Brian's Song (1971) (2001)
Cape Fear (1962) (1991)
D.O.A. (1950) (1988)
Dawn of the Dead (1978) (2004)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) (2008)
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1951); Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Father of the Bride (1950) (1991)
Flight of the Phoenix (1965) (2004)
The Fly (1958) (1986)
The Getaway (1972) (1994)
The Hills Have Eyes (1977) (2006)

The list is incredibly long, but this provides a sampling of how many films have been redone. What was the motive for remaking such a huge number of movies? Was it to win a new audience and sell some tickets? Was it an attempt to "improve" on the prior production? We might question what was going on with the studio heads who were so short sighted. What about coming up with a NEW idea once in a while?

Meanwhile, undiscovered writers and creators have some interesting ideas for which they can't find a publisher or distributor. 

While reviewing the very l-o-n-g list of remade films, I noticed a number of entries in which I have seen both versions. Rarely is the newer version any better than the original, despite certain casting improvements.

Do yourself a favor. Next time you are interested in watching a movie, check to see whether there was a previous version. If so, try renting that earlier one or wait until it comes around on TV. Why waste time seeing a renovation if the original production is still available?

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