There’s no such thing as originality in Hollywood, right? Film buffs will be quick to point out stories they feel stand out from the crowd but the reality is most movies coming out today are rehashes of stories already told. Decades, or even just years ago films that reused an idea tried their best to put their own slant on a familiar story. A classic example would be something like Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, which takes Shakespeare’s Macbeth but sets it in feudal Japan. Recently, however, it seems just about every movie hitting the box office is not just an adaptation on a book, comic, or television show but rather a recreation of a movie that already came out. Sometimes we see such a “reboot” happen before dust has had time to settle on the film being duplicated, such as the just released The Amazing Spider-Man which reboots the relatively fresh Spider-Man series featuring sequels going all the way until 2007. This doesn’t even touch the two Hulk movies in which Hollywood basically asked the audience for a mulligan.
When I saw the recent viral video for the upcoming reboot of Robocop I had the typical knee-jerk reactions: “It’s ruining my childhood”, “Why don’t they come up with something new”, “The original was fine as it was”. After about a day I finally settled down. I still have no hopes for the upcoming remake, mind you, nor am I holding my breath but I began to look at the problem with a different set of tinted glasses. I tried to think about why filmmakers would be interested in making films like Dredd or Total Recall, reasons beyond the Biz’ side of things such as “established audience” or “nostalgia value”. While pondering this I was overhearing two girls talk about some stage show. I didn’t pick up the name of the show, but the two seemed very adamant in comparing two different productions of the same show. In the world of stage, not only are stories reused, but the same exact copy of Hamlet or Death of a Salesman or even bloody Seussical have been recreated in entirely different ways by entirely different production groups.
Could the same thing be happening in Hollywood?
Is it possible that we’re moving into a strange new era where teams will take the same exact idea and make their own version of the story, just for the sake of making it their own? Not like it’s a new concept, I mean how many theatrical version of the same Shakespeare plays have been made over the century of film history? But the idea of examining a film such as Thelma & Louise and then going “I really like this story, here’s how I would do it” seems oddly foreign in a land where calls of plagiarism are slung almost daily. While I prefer when a film tries to distance itself from the source material more than just doing the CGI effects differently or having a hotter actor or even just a different set of corporate ad placement, there is a shred of potential lying within this idea.
Film has grown a lot. In just the past five years we’ve seen a complete paradigm shift in how this medium is consumed by the masses. With so many movies coming out these days it seems almost to be natural evolution that we’ll be seeing more and more reboots of films of the past, as the library of films grow it becomes a much more desirable well to sample from. Sadly, most of these reboots, if history shows any precedence, will be met with at best a general sense of apathy from the general audience and at worst total resentment from the source material’s fanbase. The number of reboots that have exceeded the charm and praise of the original sources could likely be counted on one’s hands. The same thing has often been said, however, about films that are adaptations from books and yet it seems to be getting better; adaptations are really starting to stand on their own two legs and step out from the shadow of the book they’re based on. Some fans even demand Hollywood to make film adaptations of their favorite book or play! So maybe it’s just a matter of time until this industry starts to create films with the same level of discussion and comparison as stories told on stage.
Still not excited about Robocop.