Are writers running out of ideas?

Take a look at a list of all the films that are playing in the theatres today.  Look at them in the past 2 to 4 years.  A good majority of them are based on one of these categories:

  • A sequel
  • A sequel to a sequel (and beyond)
  • A prequel
  • A remake (of the original version of that movie)
  • An adaptation (from a TV show, novel or other medium)
  • An original screenplay

Only one of these categories took some imagination.  Ouch!  Don’t yell at me yet.  I’m not saying it doesn’t take skill, creativity or raw talent to create from the other categories, but a lot of the work has been done for you.  I’m definitely not saying there isn’t a place for these types of films, I’m just saying that most of the time they are unnecessary.  I’m the biggest fan of sequels, adaptations and even serials, when warranted.

The Remake

As for remakes, if a film has done well in the past, especially if it has become a classic, it doesn’t need our help to try and make it better and as filmmakers, you will not make it any better.  That is why it’s called a “classic”.  (Side Note:  How about filmmakers try and remake movies that didn’t do well.  They already know what mistakes were made and can improve upon them.)

Remake Examples:

Great The Italian Job Original Remake

I haven’t seen the original yet, but from what I’ve heard, this was a good example of taking a relatively unknown film (to today’s audience) and remaking it into a fun film.

Unnecessary 12 Angry Men Original Remake

I haven’t seen the remake of this film, but I do know that after watching the original, it quickly became one of my favorite films.  I was almost upset when I even found out there was a more modern version.  It’s a near perfect film and doesn’t need to be remade.

It seems like film companies are going down the list of films that they have made over the past few decades and are signing up all the same films to be remade.  Their past films are becoming a checklist of films to be made.  It’s really sad.  Now, how about making a re-release?  I think it would be great for the film industry and for fans to re release old prints of films from yesteryear.  Wouldn’t it be great to see the classics from decades ago on the big screen?  Sigh…

The Sequel

If a movie made a certain amount of money, then a sequel is a sure thing.  It doesn’t matter how bad it is, because the same audience who saw the first one, is sure to see it again…right?

Sequel Examples:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:  The first film wasn’t great, but they did an okay job at adapting from the original.  Was a sequel warranted?  I think so.  It had so much potential, but followed the same poor formula, relying on special effects to cover up a lackluster story and as a result, didn’t get great reviews.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides:  This is one of the most unnecessary remake/prequel/adaptations around.  The first Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a great film.  It was adapted well from the Disney ride, it was funny, it had a great cast and was just a really good movie.  The second two had a lot of potential and although were not necessary, they were something to look forward to.  They turned out to be less than good because of the horrible story towards the end of the third film.  It actually felt like the writers needed an ending so badly that they rushed it out with whatever first came to mind.

Spider-Man 4:  I’m torn on this one.  As long as filmmakers follow the direction I left in my Superhero Movie post, I think everything would be okay.  The Spider-Man franchise has many years of good stories to adapt, they don’t need us messing them up.  As long as the filmmakers crank out good films, they should continue to make them (like James Bond?).  This was going well for the first two films, then the writers wavered too far from the original content and threw in their own ideas.  Big mistake.  Redeem yourselves with another well written sequel.  No, wait!  Let’s reboot the series!  What?  It’s way too soon for a reboot.  Okay fine, reboot it, but do it well.  The Spider-Man franchise deserves it.

Tron Legacy:  This film has the potential to be the greats sequel ever!  It also could be a horrible flop.  I’m definitely looking forward to this sequel and from hearing what the director, Joseph Kosinski had to say (Interview), I think it will be in good hands.  The movie was largely based on technology at the time.  Technology has progressed so much (in film and in the story) that this film almost had to be made.  We’ll see how they do.

The Adaptation

Adaptations are great and necessary.  Few people knew that Jaws, was a book before it became Stephen Spielberg‘s hit film.  Today though, adaptations seem more and more like an excuse to not think of anything original.

Adaptation Examples:

Starsky & Hutch, The Dukes of Hazzard, Sherlock Holmes, Jaws

I can just imagine what a conversation might be like in one of the big studios.

One executive says to another, “Okay, get two comedians that work well together and put them in another film.  It’s a winning combination and we need another film!”

“But we don’t have any ideas.”, said the other executive.

The first executive suggests, “Just use <insert popular 70s/80s TV show here> as the basis for your story.”

“Ha, perfect!”, he shouted.

Alright, I’m not too sure where I was going with that one, but it sounded funny at the time. 

Good Writing Is Necessary

Everything is a formula these days, and I hope we as an audience and filmmakers wise up and get creative again.  Not all these movies are bad, but for the most part, they are mostly unnecessary.  It’s been a while since I have actually been excited to go see a film, and this year finally some movies are coming out that I really can’t wait to see (sequels, remakes and all).  The majority of the movies out today fit into one of the first five categories and people are hard pressed to find an original screenplay that has made it to the big screen.  When there is one that does make it, about half the time you find one that is any good.  Is that because there are no original screenplays out there, or is it because the large companies refuse to take a risk on them?  I think it’s both.  First, I think that writers today are getting lazy.  I know it’s a tough business, but people are taking the easy way out and it’s losing it’s place as an art form and becoming something entirely different.  Secondly, the production companies are scared.  They think they have found a formula that works and as a business, it’s a smart move.  The problem is that the scales are tipping too far in one direction between the film industry being an art form and it being a business.  As always, balance is essential.  We need writers to write good, well thought out stories, executives to take a chance on them and an audience who cares enough to be entertained.


~ by FireStorm Studios on January 27, 2010.

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