Lettidor: The Age of Unoriginality in Cinema

“What year is it!?”

This famous line was screamed by Robin Williams’ iconic character in the 1995 classic family adventure film Jumanji. Having been trapped in a board game for nearly thirty years, his question and hysteria are quite understandable. However, I can’t help but ask that same question today when looking at the present-day film industry and their unoriginal productions as of late.

This year we have seen a plethora of familiar faces and similar stories hit the theaters with shining success. Cinderella was reimagined into a magical live action retelling. Mad Max roared back into town, this time without Mel Gibson, in Mad Max: Fury Road. Dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes came back to life thanks too Jurassic World.

However, not all remakes were successful. True to his word, the Terminator came back to us in the form of Terminator Genisys. What he failed to mention was that his sequel would suck. Peter Pan got an unnecessary and forgettable prequel in Pan while Poltergeist failed to be as thrilling as the original. The Fantastic Four and The Transporter Refueled not only managed to be awful, they also managed to somehow be even worse than the originals. Agent 47 was yet another failed attempted to bring the beloved Hitman video game series to cinema while Vacation was an underwhelming attempt to bring back the Griswolds, to say the least.

Not only is Hollywood pumping out remakes, but they’re also producing a ton a sequels too. If a movie is even a minor success commercially, then it is very likely that there will be a sequel made. Colin Trevorrow, who directed Jurassic World, even stated recently that his film was written with at least two sequels in mind. And, of course, every Marvel movie is intended to launch a series of new films. Marvel has at two or three releases lined up for every year through 2020. Successful series such as the Fast and Furious and Mission Impossible franchises are expected to continue for years to come.

All these remakes and sequels might be squeezing out films with original content. Because remakes draw in both first-time viewers and nostalgic old-timers while sequels bring in loyal fans and blockbuster-lovers, movie studios are less likely to make money on a gamble with something new. Instead, they churn out films they are sure the public will enjoy because they have already seen it.

Studios are even turning to television to find stories that they know the people will pay to see. Several recent tv-to-film movies include Entourage, Sex and the City, and even Smurfs. Some tv shows were rebooted for theaters, bringing in a new cast and bigger budget. Several huge film franchises were launched in this manner, including Transformers, 21 Jump Street, and Star Trek. Meanwhile on the silver screen, television has witnessed the return of shows with cult followings such as Arrested Development, Heroes, and X Files. Older shows such as Boy Meets World and Full House have spawned spin offs decades later that feature the same, albeit much older cast. TV is also borrowing from Hollywood, taking fan-favorites like Minority Report, Limitless, and From Dusk Till Dawn and giving them the television series treatment.

While I love a lot of shows and movies that I have seen over the years, I lament the fact that we cannot seem to get over them. Some films just make sense: it was inevitable for us to get another Star Wars film and a Harry Potter spin off. However, I believe that it’s time to put some stories to bed for good. It seems like every year now that we see a sequel to or remake of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film from the 1980s. Let’s declutter the movie industry in order to make way for more interesting and novel films. Movies such as recent successes The Martian, Inside Out, The Theory of Everything, Birdman, and The Lego Movie show that original stories can be successful commercially and critically despite not being a familiar tale.

We are living in the age of remakes, reboots, and sequels, but that doesn’t mean we have to forsake original thought in the pursuit of big box office hauls. I sincerely hope that Hollywood learns from the studios that introduced us to the stories they are now rushing to recreate and choose to take a chance on some original content for once.

Cheers,

Dan Lewis

Editor in Chief

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