January 06, 2006

Are film–makers running out of ideas?

It occurrs to me that the numbers of really original films being released at the moment seems to be at a very low ebb. A vast majority of new releases are:

  • Remakes of old films:
    The Thomas Crown Affair, The Italian Job, King Kong, The Producers, Assault on Precinct 13, Amityville Horror, Dawn of the Dead, The Manchurian Candidate, War of the Worlds, Stepford Wives, Taxi
  • Sequels:
    Shrek, Legally Blonde, Spiderman, X-men, Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie's Angels, Miss Congeniality, Oceans 12
  • Extensions of TV series or comic books:
    Charlie's Angels, Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, The Avengers, Daredevil, X-men, Thunderbirds, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Electra, The Punisher, Hellboy, Batman, Superman
  • Book adaptations:
    Bridget Jones, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Memoirs of a Geisha, Brokeback Mountain, The Jungle Book, Lemony Snicket, Paycheck
  • Adaptations from computer games:
    Resident Evil, Doom, Tomb Raider

And many of these fall into more than one category! Further than this, many others (particularly RomComs) seem to be just a rehashing of the same basic story with slighty different particulars.

I'm not saying that these films are of no merit; far from it. It's just that film-based creativity seems to be decreasing, which is a shame.

Or do we have to look elsewhere? My labmate Vib says that the best film she's seen for a long time was Indian.

- 5 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Pi – see Pi.
    Also Lost in Translation doesn't fit into any of those really.

    Those are my only two offerings though.


    06 Jan 2006, 10:40

  2. Well the question is, what more can be done with films? Bond films as a prime example seem to be running out of ideas; I believe because there's only so many different ways an evil mastermind can be evil. Similarly, how many different ways can you write a romantic comedy? Adaptations from other forms of media don't necessarily represent a lack of ideas in my opinion and nor do they make worse films – look at the LOTR trilogy. Whilst some true fans were disappointed with the loss of material from page to screen (although to avoid this would have made the films unbearably long), the fact remains that the result was three spectacular looking films that hadn't been brought to the screen before. Remakes often only loosely follow the plot of the original (King Kong for example); the films have their own twists, different interpretations of characters, completely new script etc.

    Perhaps the fundamental point though is that audiences aren't bored with the film industry because they still go to the cinema. Check out this site and you'll see a number of the films on the list are either remakes or sequels. At the end of the day, audiences are still happy with what's in cinemas because the film industry continue to turn good profits. As a regular cinema-goer myself, I would say that whilst some films can be formulaic and there remains a big variation in quality of the script etc, there are still some fantastic films being made out there. The formulaic approach only comes because a lot of people buy into it; we see something similar with the pop music industry. If people will buy something and let a company make a profit from a product, then of course the company will try and replicate the formula for success! It's merely business sense if you think about it, so we have no one but ourselves to blame!

    06 Jan 2006, 10:52

  3. You want to find the directors and writers who are doing things differently and search them out. The likes of Charlie, Kaufman Spike Jonze or Pedro Amoldovar (although he's Spanish and generally the foreign films that get released here are the more highly praised, less formulaic ones as they're the only ones to get sufficient press to get people to see them). I find at the moment that many of the best ideas are being put into animated films. How much more inventive is Shrek or Toy Story than the majority of 'live' comedies that are made today?

    06 Jan 2006, 11:07

  4. I never said that non-original films weren't fantastic entertainment. I can see the merit of good but formulaic films: I have, myself, enjoyed several recently. If people still want to watch baddies trying to blow up James Bond over and over again, which clearly they still do, then that's fine, and indeed these films contribute hugely to the success of the industry. However, in the past, many completely original films have done very well at the box office. Granted, the attendance at these films may not be so predictable, but they are popular too. What I think Iím trying to say is that I donít disagree with the presence of formulaic films, I just regret that there arenít more original ones. Also, audiences may well in the end get bored. But maybe Iím being unrealistic: Iím amazed that there still such a market for dull pop musicÖ

    Adaptations do indeed involve imagination, but it is if a different kind. Rather than developing their own ideas, film-makers are adapting and enhancing those of others. Film as a genre enables the exploration of ideas in a different way than, for example, in literature, and I think itís a shame that this is not being exploited as much now as it has been in the past. Adaptations often bring stories to people who would not otherwise have been aware of them, but they are not creating any new ideas.

    The LOTR trilogy has been adapted for the screen before: I've seen at least one version.

    16 Jan 2006, 11:42

  5. James


    I know this is an old post, but I've just finished some freelance work and have decided to take a break from posting rabid political tracts as comments, and write about films instead. I have put a few shots here and there on the review pages, but this is the first blog I've found saying something wider on the subject.

    In my view cinema's golden decade was the 1970s, and we've been going downhill ever since, never mind recently. It was the decade where directors were truly auteurs: think of Coppola and The Godfather I & II and Apocalypse Now; Malick and Days of Heaven and Badlands; Cimino and The Deerhunter. Or Kramer v Kramer. Or Altman with Nashville and MASH.

    Of course, most famously of all, the 70s gave us Star Wars. Ironically the greatest blockbuster of all (not the first – I'd say that was Jaws, also of the 70s as it happens) was the template for every overcommercialised, effects-driven multiplex big studio productions that have followed. Ironically Star Wars was never meant as such, but that was the effect it had through the 80s 90s and naughties.

    The decade was the start of Scorcese, Malick, Spielberg (and in his case, it was his peak – Duel and Jaws are, imo, way above what he's acheived since), just to mention a few.

    More generally, the 70s was when films began to look as they do now. The 'wooden and shouting' stagey style of acting, which had survived Brando and Montgommery Clift et al in the 50s, fell away completely, giving way to the naturalism and realism with which modern audiences are familiar. War films had started getting gritty in the 1960s but were still largely celebratory of allied heroes, even if they weren't out and out propaganda (Great Escape, Too Late the Hero are good exampes). It took The Deerhunter and Apocalypse Now to send a message as strong (and, as it happens, action scenes as compelling) as All Quiet on the Western Front.

    To be sure, there have been many great films, and original ones at that, ever since, but I can't think of a decade that has been quite as significant. And we are too quick to forget the influence of older cinema – Pulp Fiction doesn't seem so radical when one sees Nashville. And The Thin Red Line, The Pianist and the New World (most significant film this year – why can't I find a review on Warwick Blogs?), all recent classics, were made … by directors famous in the 1970s.

    Funnily enough I think musically things have gone downhill since then too, but then as I was born in the 1970s I guess I'm biased!

    05 Apr 2006, 22:08

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