Dear Hollywood. You are all mostly a bunch of idiots.

I know, I know. Not news to anyone. But it's never been so hilariously blatant as it has been lately.

First, there's the Jay and Conan debacle over on NBC. Way to give Conan room to grow and thrive, NBC! Wait, you sandwiched him between the "Jay Leno Show" (ie--"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.... at 9pm!") and the Jimmy Fallon show, scrapped a bunch of your most popular 9pm scripted shows that used to lead into the news, had news stations threaten to to not air Jay Leno, and then gave Conan 7 months to fix the inevitable rating nose dive for you? Alone?

It's almost like your motto from the start was "aNybody But Conan." How do these people become presidents and officers?


Beaker and Conan. Two equally beloved and silly names characters. Equal parts smart and suave. High pitched. Ginger-haired. Somewhat effeminate. And pure comedic genius dribbles forth from both with ease.

Statler the Muppet Critic and Leno the Puppet. Big-chinned, smarmy, and willing to stab someone else in the back in order to make himself look better.

So, now we get a reboot of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Only seven months later. And it will be the exact same thing. Again. Which reminds me...

Second, that's not the only other reboot on the near horizon.

After Sony tried to force Anne Hathaway (Ella Enchanted?!) down Sam Raimi's throat for Spiderman 4, the director buckled and basically said "I can make you three of the most successful films of all time with the quality I want and the control I need, but if you start to micro-manage, I'm out.

He's out. And now Sony has announced plans to REBOOT Spiderman for 2012. Mind you, the first three Spiderman movies grossed about 2.5 billion dollars between them. That's nothing to sneeze at.

But, and here's where Hollywood just baffles me, Variety (Hollywoods professional journal/daily) reported in the above-linked piece that there's already a new script for this remake of a remake of a comic book. Tatiana Siegel reports that in this new/old/rebooted Spiderman:

"The new untitled Spider Man film will center on the webslinging teen as he grapples with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises."

Wait. That sounds an awful lot like... wait for it... the LAST new remake of Spiderman. Where Peter Parker, the recently graduated high school student, grappled with his contemporary human problems (of going to school, trying to get a girl, and dealing with a death in the family) and amazing super-human crises presented by the super villain du jour, The Green Goblin.

And therein lies the problem. It's not that Hollywood has run out of ideas, per se.They're just rehashing them. Of late, there are "reboots" of several barely-old even newish movies or franchises. Lots of horror movies: Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc. (Can't say I've seen them, but they're there).
Lots of comic book movies: Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Superman, Batman, etc.

This is especially disappointing because there's so much opportunity out there with leaps in digital effects and cinematography. See, for example, last month's Avatar.

While the archetypes and story arc may feel very familiar (and may even smell a little too much like other movies), the imagery, scope,  and world-building that director James Cameron engaged in on behalf of his latest sci-fi masterpiece has struck a chord with audiences like few movies before it have.

People compare it--and rightly so I think--with The Wizard of Oz, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, and Gone With the Wind in that, when experienced on the big screen, these films transcend their medium. They are movies that envelop viewers, draw them into the story, and make them feel less an outside observer than a participant in something much grander than their own mundane Saturday afternoon. (Alas, some have taken Cameron's film a bit too seriously--and tragically).

It's not even that Hollywood has "told all the stories there are to tell." When you get down to it, there are really only a handful of stories out there that we routinely like to read about, listen to, or watch. A few examples:

(1) The Orphan Messiah. Kid's parents die; he is raised alone as an orphan, often by meanies, and thinks he's a nobody; kid realizes, with the help of a grandfatherly mentor that he has super powers; kid saves the city, the country, and sometimes even the world.
Harry Potter, The Sword in the Stone or The Once and Future King, The Matrix, Star Wars, Spiderman, Avatar, The Hobbit, Superman.

(2) The Dream Team Travelogue. Random, often awesomely powerful, strangers must band together in order to save the world/save the cheerleader/win the game/escape from prison etc. This story often includes the reluctant wunderkind, the average guy, the Wookie/Warrior, the wise teacher (who ALWAYS dies), the lovable rogue and/or the beautiful princess who all pool their individual talents to overcome tragedy, personal betrayal and other emotional things to--save the world.
Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Lawrence of Arabia, The Seven Samurai

(3) The War. Snippets from people's lives that have been ravaged or are being ravaged by war. Often they are overcoming odds just to survive, but sometimes they also win the war. It doesn't even have to be physical war--it can be drugs, politics, intrigue, high school, you name it. There is a central conflict with delineated sides of good and evil and usually a nice kid/cheerleader/soldier we can relate to. Sometimes we get the villain's version of things. In the happy versions of this story, the protagonist wins out and everyone becomes friends. In the sad version, people die and nothing is solved.
All is Quiet on the Western Front, Schindler's List, Hamlet, MacBeth, Platoon, Mean Girls.

Before this post gets out of hand, my point is this: we have a handful of similar stories that we all like. Hollywood's problem now is that, instead of taking these overarching themes and archetypes and dressing them with new, exciting characters, dialogue, and plot points, they are rehashing the same plots with the same or similar dialogue and the same or similar characters.

They're basically repackaging something that was successful or should have been (in their minds) in something brighter, louder, neater, and expecting us to flock to it.

Sad thing is, we probably will.


Gary said...

An excellent post. I have often had the same thoughts. Did you hear they might get Robert Pattinson for the new Spiderman? Yikes.

Ru said...

So bugged when I heard this, especially when they announced the plot would basically be Spiderman 1.

It's okay to reboot the Incredible Hulk like six seconds after the first one because the first one sucked. Same thing if X-Men 4 comes out - I don't mind pretending X-Men 3 never happened. But you can't redo something that's still basically new AND didn't suck.


Catherine said...

Forget The Wizard of Oz, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Warrs and Gone With the Wind.

Avatar = Ferngully.