Has Movie Industry Lost Originality?
Franchises are the norm. These past few years the vast majority of movies have been reboots, remakes, spin-offs, or crossovers. Because of this, we keep asking ourselves if it’s true that cinema is running out of ideas when it comes to producing new projects.
That’s a viewpoint will be discussing some time later. There are uncountable opinions regarding this question, and what I aim to do with this article is gather and present information to try and come to terms with the titled inquire.
How Stories Actually Work
When we watch a movie and think about it as a “new story”, if we give it some thought, we will realize we’re just perpetuating over the narrative arcs that have been repeating themselves throughout history.
What we receive is small or large variations about different topics that already exist (of each genre) and, repeat and play with them.
“B-b-but, does that mean there’s no hope for new stories?” Absolutely not. There are new stories.
Even great stories we remember are based on other stories we’ve seen before. One example is the mythical and emblematic Harry Potter saga with which many of us — for example, my generation — grew up, both in literature and in film, and even in video games.
This saga is based on tales of Merlin The Magician, along with Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings: Harry Potter, orphan boys who lives in a boring environment where he cannot take adventures. It’s Luke Skywalker. Dumbledore and Gandalf or Nazgûls and Dementors can serve as samples of what I’m trying to expose.
The Franchise Phenomenon
The problem is: today movies aren’t fresh movies. Or is it? Lets’ see.
We have plenty of impressive franchises like the mentioned Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter. But also The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect, or Marvel.
Marvel created a formula that was born in 2008 with Iron Man. In that moment, it was new, it was fresh.
What happens now? This is a norm. Why? After seeing Marvel Cinematic Universe success, DC wants to do the same. And Sony. And Universal. Apparently, every company wants to create their own Avengers. Is this bad? No, but it’s tiring.
Careful. With all this I’m not saying I disrespect productions such as Marvel, Disney or Harry Potter. I’m not Scorsese here. In fact, the formula Marvel’s been employing over the years is admirable. Not only it created an interconnected universe with great expertise, but took a set of stories and characters and organized them in the best possible way.
Point taken. Franchises aren’t bad. Franchises can be great. See The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and such.
What’s the problem?
All Franchises Want to Become a Wide Universe
Universal Pictures is developing a series of movies to bring together The Mommy, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Invisible Man. I guess their idea is to bring back The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
This was a 2003 movie based on the comic with the same name, created by Alan Moore and published in 1999. The Avengers of the era, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Rodney Skinner, Mina Harker, Dorian Gray, Tom Sawyer, and Henry Jekyll, are recruited by the British Empire for their League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in order to find the evil Fantom before he starts a world war.
Moore and his fellow artist, Kevin O’Neill, weave a series of crazy stories where mystery and adventure are the main engines of the story.
Disney and Lucasfilm want something similar since Star Wars also wants to become a great universe. A Han Solo movie? How many more prequels or sequels are they planning?
Lionsgate loves the idea of expanding The Hunger Games with, for now, a prequel to the original trilogy, I suppose, based on the new book by Suzanne Collins, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. It will serve as a precursor to the dystopian world of Panem as to show the origin of the The Hunger Games. The rebellion against the Capitol, the formation of the Districts, and such.
Warner Brothers has plans to make a sequel to new Harry Potter movies. Apart from the already announced Fantastic Beasts universe? I really don’t know.
Disney is adapting the timeless classics we grew up with, to flesh and blood films. The Jungle Book was great. Beauty and the Beast was okay. Aladdin… was strange, but well-adapted in my opinion.
Is clear all these studios aren’t running out of ideas. They keep creating new stories with new characters and worlds.
We have projects that have not yet been specified but may eventually materialize, such as a possible spin-off of Obi Wan. But why do all films have to lead to something bigger? It’s as if after the Harry Potter saga, they start making a spin-off for Voldemort, another for Dumbledore, another for Snape…
Ultimately a contained story (that carries weight on its own) has to lead to many, many stories connected by a large universe. Movies are not series, but it is also not necessary that each movie is contained in a great universe.
Many of the best sagas, precisely, work because of that.
The economic crisis also has a lot to do with it, leading big producers to take fewer risks with their stories. It is true that there are large production companies and large studios that are trying to bet on new directors and new approaches when it comes to sharing the same stories.
On the other hand, there are other studios that do not want not to lose millions at the box office.
This brings us to the next point.
The Over-saturation of Content
A while ago I interviewed a filmmaker who works in Hollywood and so has passed through many different projects, collecting tons of information and experiences. We discussed the matter of this article, analyzing today’s cinema and finding answers to various questions:
Is today’s cinema rejecting original stories? Is originality dead and no new stories are told?
And we concluded something. There’s an over-saturation of content, talking movies and shows.
This isn’t essentially bad. Nor can we say it’s good. But here comes the truth. As an audience, we must find dissonance about what we want to watch at any given moment.
Sometimes we just want to watch a movie to laugh a bit and others where we’re looking for an experience. There’s a separation and we can’t put everything in the same bag.
It’s about knowing what to see at every moment.
I hear this a lot: “Real cinema is dead. No good movies are made anymore!” Reboots, remakes, spin-offs, and crossovers are trending. That may be true from a fair point of view. Therefore, to say original movies are dead or that these franchises aren’t cinema is somehow wrong.
Now, with so much content out there, cinema should be more about entertaining or making people think and connect emotionally?
The interview continued.
“Commercial cinema is becoming more and more expensive and standard because they have to create a formula that sells and makes money, especially now with the platforms. That’s why it’s harder to take risks in film these days and easier for platforms.”
We both agreed on something. It takes everything.
Is About Balance
The types of movies that are made don’t fail. What fails is the audience audiovisual education. What’s the problem? People differ from “commercial movies” and “strange movies”.
I love Marvel. I love Harry Potter. But I too love a David Lynch or Céline Sciamma movie.
Are we doomed to have fewer fresh stories and that this will only get worse?
I don’t think so. Is about finding that balance and being selective on the many content we have. Same way we receive countless of remakes, reboots and spin-offs, we get new, modern, and deep stories every year.
Take a look, for example, at last year’s 2019. Take a look at Parasite.
TV Shows are, too, a new form of great storytelling. Of all types of stories. A friend of mine believes all this “franchise phenomenon” of movies is passing its baton to the TV Industry.
But I believe we should apply the same system of content that we just talked about. We’ve got to know what to watch. There are great shows and there are standard shows. There are funnier shows and less funny shows. There are exciting shows and less exciting shows. Just as what happens with films.
Anyway, if you’re fed up with sequels, remakes, reboots and spin-offs, there are some series (not only talking audiovisual) with fabulous narrative.
And they only but keep getting better. You just have to dig a little bit.
I believe there will always be stories for us to enjoy. Movies and shows. Some we’ll just need to forget, to laugh, to smile, and some that will continue to change our lives.
This, of course, the forever magic and power of Cinema.