So this week was an unusually big week for entertainment news. We had trailers for several new big releases like “Barbie,” “Blue Beetle” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse.” On the flip side of things we also got news that we would be getting remakes of all seven “Harry Potter” books as an HBO Max series and a live-action remake of “Moana” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson reprising the role of Maui.
Unoriginality. That’s the word that many love to throw out when describing the state of Hollywood, and entertainment in general nowadays. Every big financial success in Hollywood has to be based on some pre-existing IP. Comic books, old TV shows, movies less than a decade old (“Moana” came out in 2016), nothing is original anymore.
Just take a look at the highest grossing films of all-time (not adjusted for inflation). Eight out of the 10 top films are sequels or entries in pre-existing franchises. Even if you look past the Top 10, the majority of films that have grossed more than $1 billion are not original properties.
Now, I am not here to deny that there is not a problem in Hollywood when it comes to original ideas. I get just as sick as everyone else when I see new remakes, reboots, sequels, sequels and even squeakquels. However, I am also not one to completely write off a piece of art just because it is not an entirely original piece.
Adapting existing properties is nothing new. Hollywood has been doing it since the very beginning. In 1910, Thomas Edison’s company made a 16-minute silent film version of Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein.” Come 1931, “Frankenstein” by Universal Studios would be released, so technically, it is a remake. The 1931 version of the story is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, and it is the version that many subsequent retellings would use as the template.
Not a horror fan? Then why not look at the film that currently sits as the number one movie on the IMDB Top 250 list. “The Shawshank Redemption” directed by Frank Darabont has been praised by critics and audiences since its release in 1994. Guess what, “The Shawshank Redemption” is not an original property, it is based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King.
Just because a story has been done before does not mean you cannot do anything new with it. If we were to cut off stories at one and done, then we would not have greats like “The Empire Strikes Back,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Godfather” or the entirety of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It undermines all the hard work that goes into filmmaking just because it is based on something else.
Sometimes, remakes or sequels can be better than the original films entirely. To look at a recent example, think about “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” Not only is it better than the original in every way, but it also stands as one of the best films in recent years. I’ll admit that I was skeptical about going in, mainly because it was a sequel to “Puss in Boots.”
The responsibility for a film to be good does not fall on whether it is an original story or not. The responsibility falls on the filmmakers to bring their own unique visions and tell these stories in interesting and entertaining ways.
Even if you are worried about no new ideas in Hollywood, this year’s Oscars showed that original ideas can still make a splash in this industry. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” showed that films can easily succeed without having to be part of recognizable IP. I feel completely confident that this film has opened the door for filmmakers to make genre films like this, and be given the critical praise they deserve.
Yes, I will continue to groan when something like the “Harry Potter” series gets announced, but I don’t worry about Hollywood as a whole because there always will be those who can break the mold and make the next “Star Wars” or “Ghostbusters.”
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