Whether it’s a sequel, a prequel or a squeak-quel, there’s an ongoing and annoying trend in Hollywood. Sadly, that trend is a lack of originality. It seems that every year we see the same movie, only this time around it has an updated title. What it comes down to is us, the audience, giving Hollywood our money for them to regurgitate the same story. Only this time with new, cool special effects that make us say “wow.” But they do this while adding nothing to our intellect or our personal growth.
I know what you’re thinking. Who am I to tell you that you should gain some type of personal edification every time you watch a movie? I know. I agree with you. Sometimes, all you want to do is sit back, kick your feet up, and slip into an entertainment coma that will take you away from the long, strenuous day you’ve just had and into a wonderful world of movie magic. There’s nothing wrong with that. The debate of art over entertainment, and vice versa, is one that has stumped the greatest minds since the ancient Greeks. I’m not trying to start that up here. All I’m asking for is a little balance in the offerings at the multiplex.
As Mark Harris of GQ puts it, this is what we have to look for this year in movies: “Four adaptations of comic books. One prequel to an adaptation of a comic book. One sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a toy. One sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on an amusement-park ride. One prequel to a remake. Two sequels to cartoons. One sequel to a comedy. An adaptation of a children’s book. An adaptation of a Saturday-morning cartoon. One sequel with a 4 in the title. Two sequels with a 5 in the title. One sequel that, if it were inclined to use numbers, would have to have a 7 1/2 in the title.” And so on and so on.
What we need to realize is that we are caught in a vicious cycle. We are the ones who are shooting ourselves in our art/entertainment foot when we continue to gladly hand over our hard-earned cash without demanding titillating, mind-tingling originality in our films. It’s simply supply and demand. If something is selling, the industry will keep providing it. So they do. And while they do, original stories, innovative ideas, and avant-garde thinkers get pushed to the wayside for the safe-bet that is a marketable product which guarantees a profit of gargantuan proportions.
In reality, the problem is not a lack of originality. Originality will be there as long as there’re still humans living their complicated lives and experiencing our species’ complex emotions. The problem is that these films are risky. Again, we, the American audience, aren’t sure if we want to spend our money on something that might be more art than entertainment. Such is the case with the amount of money made by the sports industry as opposed to the theater, ballet or opera industry. It’s why we would rather watch “Jersey Shore” than read Jonathan Franzen’s novel “Freedom.” Gradually, in the last 30 years, our tolerance for shoddy films has increased, while our demand for mind-boggling-quality masterpieces has decreased.
Take “Inception.” An original screenplay by an award-winning, celebrated director who just came off filming the third highest-grossing movie in U.S. history and original idea is practically a shoe-in for summer blockbuster success. The movie almost didn’t happen. The studio is thankful it did get made because it has grossed three-quarters of a billion dollars. However, it wasn’t a sequel, a prequel or an adaptation. It was 100 percent original, and, therefore, it was a gamble.
Yet, it was us, the audience, who made that gamble pay off for the people who dared to produce “Inception.” We have the power. If we want ground-breaking, electrifying, jump-out-of-your-seat-in-excitement, face-melting, brain-wave-shocking originality in our films, then let’s dig into our pocket and get it. And since we’re still going to want to watch “Spider-Man 7” and “Lord of the Rings 10: Not enough fingers on these hands,” let’s just download those at home for half the price and 1/4 the studio attention.