Hollywood and the film industry in general is not in a great state currently. In the 1970/80s the studios were churning out new blockbuster and soon to be classics regularly that still stand the test of time. These days they just feed us poor remakes and reboots.
Gone are the days of films being produced like the Godfather trilogy, Taxi Driver or the original Alien in the 1970s. Films such as these created fan cultures and launched the careers of acting geniuses like Robert De Niro and John Hurt; who can forget that iconic and nauseating death scene still considered one of cinema’s greatest shocks! Now these stars are reduced to being Zac Efron’s pervy grandpa.
Similar again, in the 1980s, Hollywood knew how best to utilise big names like Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzaneggar in roles that played to their personas in order to create successful blockbusters with taglines to last a lifeline.
And the 1990s, in my personal opinion was the decade which contains some of the best films of all time; Se7en, Saving Private Ryan, Shawshank Redemption and Good Will Hunting just to name a few of the all time great works of cinematography that graced the world during the decade. In fact, most of the biggest names in Hollywood still headlining films today probably owe their success to the creativity and ingenuity to the writers and producers during that era.
Even the early 2000s produced some high level, original movies that to this day find themselves ingrained in the memory and so if I were to put a cut off year as to when Hollywood ‘died’ for a better word it would probably be 2008; the year IronMan (the first on their quest for domination) was released and a year before Disney bought comic company and its film rights.
I have nothing personally against Superhero films; we all to an extent like to get lost in the fantasy of good vs evil, underdog stories and the idea of powers beyond the norm. But, it is in my opinion where risk and imagination were sacrificed for guaranteed bottom line. Marvel has gone on to release 14 films (including Edward Norton’s attempt at Hulk) with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spiderman: The Homecoming and Thor: Ragnorak all due out for release over the course of 2017. There also happens to be another 6 – that we know of – confirmed to be in the works between now and 2019. Of course this is excluding all of the films in the Marvel X-men universe  and DC films as they try to capitalize on the popularity of superheroes in this day and age albeit nowhere near the same success level with critics.
I can only assume it was this successful formula of churning out like-for-like films under a recognized franchise to guarantee targeted box office figures that led to the seemingly infinite reboots and remakes that Disney have lead the film industry in the direction of.
For example, I have done a bit of research to find which films – it differs a bit between sites so as a disclaimer I have used the order seemingly most consistent – that were the 10 biggest films of the past few years. I have highlighted anything that is a remake, reboot or aligned with a franchise; e.g. the Hobbit is part of the Lord of the Rings realm.
Lego is technically a brand and is very successful in video game remakes of live action films though I haven’t categorized it due to no previous successes of this kind in the major film industry but even including it as an ‘original stand alone’ there is only 7/30 films; about 23%. Even more worrying is that this is likely to get worse!
It has reached the stage where studios wont let good things rest because a cash cow is less risky to them then chancing large finance into another flop like John Carter. As a result we have Fast and Furious reaching its 8th installment – though at least they keep improving the cast and ridiculousness each time – whilst Mission Impossible 6 (guessing this mission isn’t impossible either?) is stated for a release next year.
More upsetting I think is that some of the best performances of the legendary Robin Williams’ career in Jumanji and Aladdin are being overwritten in yet more remakes. Such is this new age, remake Gold Rush that there is a release date for a second live action Jungle Book in two years with another well established British actor as the voice of Shere Khan.
Rather than investing in talented screenwriters and new directors to create new classics to redefine cinema, Hollywood is instead cheating us by effectively churning out the same product and just replacing the label. When Star Wars Force Awakens was announced, I was as excited as everyone else yet found myself bored a mere 20 minutes in. I realised I had seen this plot before; it was effectively A New Hope but with advanced CGI to boost the overall appearance of it and if you don’t believe me try this on for size [SPOILER ALERTS if you seriously haven’t seen it yet]:
- Force Awakens had all the same features as both Death Star’s with the Empire inexplicably still not removing its terminal flaw
- An old legend dies by Sith Lord; this time Harrison Ford instead of Alec Guinness
- A shrivelled Sith Emperor that we see little of who has a masked apprentice seemingly from good origins
- The rebellion reliant on plans installed in a small droid found by a poor, future Jedi on a sandy planet
Need I say more… It is almost insulting to myself as an audience. Hollywood continues to grope about the loss of revenue to piracy but for the amount charged for tickets/DVDs compared to the quality of the product on sale you find yourselves almost sympathizing with the outlaws; certainly they are being more creative in their field!
Certainly there is still every now and again the odd unique film from respected directors that catches the imagination; certainly Martin Scorsese for one continues to make spectacular films and whilst I am by no means a Tarantino fan (only really enjoyed Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds) he is nothing if not entirely unique. But these are few and far between.
For a while at least there was salvation in the resurgence of TV as the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones brought movie stars and investment alike to bring movie quality entertainment to the home screen on a weekly basis. This was only further enhanced by the entrance of streaming giants Netflix who ever quarter seem to have created new trends be it Stranger Things or 13 Reasons Why; heck, even their documentaries went viral.
Sadly, rather than continuing this challenge to Film Studios, television has chosen to go down the exact same path. We currently have 11 different comic book based TV shows spanning both Marvel and DC universes, they have released a Fear the Walking Dead (because the original hadn’t become tedious enough) and because there aren’t enough Cop-based dramas we now have a Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon, Training Day and Snatch TV show. From what I gather – similarly to the Shooter Netflix series – a fair few of these are based off the original film story lines and so I guess it is up to the audience to choose:
Would you prefer to spend 2 hours of cinematic masterclass produced by acclaimed directors containing Academy Winning Actors or spend the next ten weeks watching the knock off?
To an extent I am possibly being a bit hypocritical because even in the short term I fully intend to watch the new Fast and Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy, and I know I will almost certainly enjoy them. However, I can honestly say I am yet to watch Star Wars Rogue One and I have little intention of watching all the lined up Disney remakes.
Instead, I will probably continue to delve into my historic film vault collection of old DVDs when seeking entertainment and break away from the real world for a couple of hours because that was when film was truly magical. At least until DiCaprio/Scorsese purchase the film rights for a new project and so I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on the supposed ‘Devil in the White City’ plans.