Over the last few years Hollywood has had an abundance of remakes and reboots. We’ve seen it all, most recently with rumors pointing to the development of a Matrix reboot. All this talk brings up a very big question.
The question being, is Hollywood running out of ideas ? This trend has started to expand since the start of the millennium. Urban dictionary for ‘remake’ states that it is what the American film industry excels at, and rightly so.
These remakes have become so commonplace that studios start planning for them even when the original films are predominant in the pop culture discussion. Gone are the days when our favorite movies would be remade for a more modern audience only when the first one’s prevalence had died down.
To cite some examples, take the TRON series for example. The original film came out in 1982 and was a moderate success. The superhero boom in the industry in the early 2000’s gave Disney the idea to reinvent TRON for the modern era, more so helped by the fact that special effects had advanced to the point where it’s world could be easily visualized. TRON: Legacy, a distant sequel (released in 2010) was made, and made with such intention that a new audience could connect to it without the need of watching the original one. This led to a rushed production, and with a grainy script, the film failed to ignite the same sense of adventure that the original had done. And now, we hear that Disney has scrapped it’s plans to end the planned trilogy and is instead moving forward with a reboot.
Perhaps the most famous example helping this case would be that of superheroes. We all know and love them. For many of us they were the idols we grew up believing in, even though we knew they weren’t real. So it’s not unrealistic for us to think that Hollywood would constantly try to keep their images etched in our minds for so long. For so long we have seen various versions of the countless adventures of iconic figures such as Batman and Superman in TV and in film. So much so that by now practically every one knows about Batman’s origin story, and will cringe at the thought of seeing it being portrayed again.
Let us take another example, one which has and is being met with a much more mixed reception. Disney for the last few years, has been planning to remake their most classic movies in live action. While they have found moderate success (The Jungle Book), their decision to reintroduce these characters an stories that we all know and love is a bit flawed. Since the day they announced their decision to turnThe Lion King in to live action, it was met with furious uproar from it’s most dedicated fan base. Some things should be left untouched, and Disney classics are one of them.
This is not to say that remakes aren’t successful, they are. Taking the Disney example again, in the last few years they have tasted success with Alice In Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Maleficent, Cinderella, Beauty And The Beast andeven some movies based on Peter Pan. People have responded positively to these re-imaginings, and are expected to do so for the upcoming movies on Disney’s slate.
Coming back to the superhero genre, huge as it is, we’ve had three incarnations of Spider-Man in the last decade itself ! The first reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, received a lot criticism for it’s lack of originality, as it used many of the same plot beats as the original one. This is not completely Sony’s fault though. How can you tell a story whose basics have already been laid out, in this case being the comics ? For one, you could completely skip the part the audience is already familiar with, and this is what Marvel intended to do when it first acquired the deal that would help in launching the character in a new light. People responded very positively to the new version, even though it had the same basic back story as the ones before it.
This has made the studios realize that perhaps the easiest way to make money while using less creative ideas is brand recognition. Once a movie is moderately successful, it turns into a brand. A property which can be milked to death by the studio if they wanted to and people would still turn up to watch their favorite characters back on screen again. This strategy has led to multiple studios planning movies years in advance, even keeping actors under contract to make obligatory appearances even if they don’t want to. We can see this in the increasing number of ‘shared universe models’ that movie making businesses are planning to adapt.
These decisions have been universally derided, especially when it comes to properties which have left a lasting impression. Movies such as The Matrix or Memento which have inspired many visionaries to rethink and expand the scope of film have been critically venerated, having no chance of winning the argument of whether they should be remade for modern times. As such, they were ahead of their times always, which is what made them gain traction in the first place (among many other factors).
In conclusion, it can be said that the audience is instead looking for originality even if the scope for such is a bare minimum. We have come to love the worlds created by this giant industry, and wouldn’t fret at the idea of visiting them once again, if only through a different door.