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It’s déjà-vu all over again! Who would have thought that a phrase uttered by former baseball MVP, Yogi Berra in the early 1960’s could still apply to so many situations some fifty years later? Déjà-vu, which translates from the French to literally mean “already seen”, is the phenomena in which a person believes that they’ve already witnessed or partaken in an event or situation. With that said, the phrase seems to be tailored made to describe what most moviegoers undoubtedly think after witnessing the “newest” Hollywood blockbuster. With creativity lacking in almost every aspect of the film industry, it is safe there is no hope for creativity making an appearance in future generations. But the true question remains unanswered: why? Where has the creativity gone and will it ever make an appearance again in film again?
Over the last few years there’s been an increase in the number of sequels, remakes, reboots, and spinoffs in the entertainment industries and this is not necessarily a good thing. Sequels are the most notable of the four. A sequel typically picks up where the original left off. Sometimes sequels are placed a number of years following the original. At times the sequel is only slightly related to the original source. Remakes are self-explanatory; they’re a retelling of a film that was already released. For the most part remakes serve to reintroduce a film franchise to a new generation. Spinoffs are movies that derive from another source material. Typically, spinoffs hold some connection to the source material—some characters from the original even make cameo appearances in spinoffs. Reboots are fairly similar to remakes; the main difference is that reboots usually add new elements not found in the original source and tend to add a new twist or two to the film. As one can see, all four of these movie types are lacking one common factor: originality and, consequently, creativity. But what is pushing film studios to revisit old sources?
It’s a well known adage; money makes the world go round. Maybe this is the motivation for film studios to revisit past material and invest in sequels and remakes. Some of the more recent remakes, such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, have outdone their previous incarnates in terms of sales. Others, such as Friday The 13th, failed to generate more money than their older counterparts. According to data collected by Daniel Hom from “Box Office Mojo” and “The Internet Movie Database”, both reliable sources for anything film related, sequels do not necessarily ensure big bucks (Hom). It is shown in the data that, besides the original, only the first sequel seems to bring in any significant amount of money. By the time the third sequel (meaning the fourth installment) rolls out, the films are barely making a quarter of their original profit. Bearing that in mind it seems that money isn’t the only reason for the increase in rehashes of old films. If it’s not about the profit, then why hasn’t creativity made an appearance in film studios in a very long time?
If money isn’t to blame for the obvious lack of creativity in films, maybe it’s the lack of risk-taking film studios that is to blame. It’s a ubiquitous opinion; it’s almost always easier to sell something familiar than it is to sell something that has yet to prove its worth. Los Angeles Times writer Patrick Goldstein seems to share the same opinion, stating in his LA Times piece “THE BIG PICTURE, The thing about remakes” that commercial motives are the reason that Hollywood is riddles with so many remakes and sequels (Goldstein). Goldstein isn’t necessarily wrong in stating that “the whole mania for remakes tends to revolve around commercial motive” (Goldstein). In fact Goldstein’s words seem to hold some merit as seen by the increasing number of remakes and sequels. Instead of taking a chance on a new movie concept, entertainment studios would rather pump out countless sequels of movies that are none too deserving of them. As stated by blogger, Chris Graham, it seems that film studios entertain the notion that if something works once it’ll work again (Graham). Reality tells us that this is very rarely the case. Have you ever tried to withstand being run over by a Mack truck? Just because you survived once doesn’t mean you will survive again. The same logic can be applied to movies: one hit comedy about the drunken misadventures of a groom-to-be doesn’t ensure that a second comedy about the drunken misadventures of yet another groom-to-be will be a hit. But maybe film studios aren’t the only ones that should bear the blame. Maybe it’s not them, maybe it’s us—the consumers.
What if it isn’t only Hollywood that is lacking creativity, what if it is the world as well? A quote that would fit perfectly here is “it’s not you, it’s me”. This age old phrase is typically only put into use when someone is ending a relationship. Nobody like to hear it but to be fair, we cannot entirely blame the increase in sequels on the Hollywood film studios. Anybody who has ever taken a Business 101 class knows that business is essentially supply and demand. If people continue to support the countless rehashes, the principle of business tells the film studios that they should continue cranking out remake after remake. If we can continually watch and enjoy these hackneyed stories we are just as uncreative as the big film companies. Take note that “enjoy” is included in the previous sentence; enjoyment is a key factor in lending support to the “it’s not you, it’s me” mantra. If we’re content with watching the same actors play out the same story with the same effects, then we too deserve to carry the blame for the lack of creativity.
At this point some people are undoubtedly wondering what we can do to bring back the creativity. It’s simple really; all we need to do to revive the creativity is stop for a minute and think creatively. The topic of missing creativity is further explored by writer Scott Adams in his piece “The Heady Thrill of Having Nothing to do” (Adams). In his piece, Adams states that the current lack of creativity is credited to the fact that people are so preoccupied with everything else in their lives that they have no time to think creatively. Like Goldstein’s, Adams’ words bare some truth. If everyone is too busy running errands or playing video games, when will they have time to think creatively? Once upon a time the notion of playing a game that pits birds against pigs from a mobile phone was a frivolous one. However, that notion has found its way into the world of reality. It would seem that nobody has time to sit around in a fit of boredom and think creatively. With so much hustle and bustle in our daily lives and mobile games to fill up our free time, it’s no wonder that creativity is at a low.
Adams’ opinion is holds a large amount of validity; boredom is needed to allow people time to think creatively. If one of the main sources of creative thinking is boredom, what happens when that source is gone? If people are too busy to be bored then by default they are too busy to think as creatively as they could. Put simply, no boredom amounts to no creativity.
Aside from commercial motives, what’s causing the sudden increase in rehashed movie plots and subsequent decrease in creativity? Is it that we’ve come full circle? It’s just as it sounds; to come full circle means to have gone around completely and start back at the origin. To apply that to creativity it’s as if we’ve tried everything possible in a field, this one being film, and now there’s nothing left to do but retry exactly what we’ve done before. Take for example the movie series, Final Destination. The first movie is about a guy who has a premonition that many people will die in a bizarre twist of fate. He uses his newfound knowledge to save the lives of those around him. In the end almost everyone who was originally supposed to die, die anyways. In the second movie a girl has a premonition that many people will die in a bizarre twist of fate. She uses her newfound knowledge to save the lives of those around her. In the end almost everyone who was originally supposed to die, die anyways. Sound familiar? There are 5 movies in this series all with the same plot. Do these movies keep getting green-lighted because we continue to support them or is it because the film companies have already tried everything else in the horror genre and there is nothing left to do but put out the same movie with a different Roman numeral at the end of it?
Everyone can offer their own opinion as to why movies all seem to be a re-serving of last Tuesday’s “Macaroni Surprise”, but whatever the cause may be something must be done. Whether it is because film studios are looking to turn a profit or because they are afraid they won’t turn a profit, Hollywood needs a wakeup call. Just because something was funny once doesn’t mean it’ll be funny a second time around. On a global scale, we as a population need to do two things. First off we need to stop indulging in the pointless, hackneyed and stilted sequels. Secondly, we need to unplug from the plethora of technology we are currently hyped up on and take an hour or two to do nothing. At some point we the creativity will be left on the back of the milk carton asking “have you seen me?” The truth of the matter is there’s only so long we can enjoy last week’s “Macaroni Surprise” before we grow sick of it and want another, more appetizing, dish.
Goldstein, Patrick. October 16, 2011. “THE BIG PICTURE; The thing about remakes”
Adams, Scott. August 6, 2011. “The Heady Thrill Of Having Nothing To Do”
Hom, Daniel. August 18, 2011. “Are Movie Sequels Profitable?”
Graham, Chris. February 25, 2011. “Unnecessary Sequels Express Hollywood’s Lack of Originality”