Hollywood And The Search For Original Ideas

By November 9, 2016
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The following is an opinion piece about how un-original Hollywood has become. And to stick with the theme, I stole this disclaimer from a previous story. Enjoy!

You’ve heard it before, just as much as I have: When will Hollywood start coming up with new ideas again?

We catch ourselves saying that, or at least thinking it, every time a sequel is announced, or a remake of some kind, or something that has been tried already. It’s tough to imagine there being so many story ideas in our society, so I guess we could safely say that everything that could have been thought up has been thought up, right?

ghostbusters-inset110916Yet, we have to get out of that mindset. We have to stop blaming Hollywood for the dearth of brand-new films, and instead look in the mirror. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Ourselves.

First, let me ask you a question: How many movies do you think are made each year? And I’m not even talking about television programs. Just think about movies.

The Numbers, my go-to site for everything box office, lists the top 100 movies each year. That alone is a lot of movies! Seriously, 100 … each year? That’s like a new movie coming out every three days.

But it’s actually more than that. The Numbers lists the top 100 films. Last year, at least in North America, No. 100 was Secret in Their Eyes with Chiowetel Ejiofer and Nicole Kidman. It grossed $20.2 million, good enough for, well, No. 100.

Considering most films don’t even break the $10 million mark, you can start to get a better perspective on how many movies are produced each year. And many of them, especially if you visit an independent film festival, are stories and ideas you’ve never heard of before, and probably never would’ve imagined.

So yes, they do exist. And there are plenty of them. If that’s the case, then why do we hear about so many remakes and continuations?

crusher-mug110916Because that’s not what Hollywood writers want. That’s what the audience (aka you and me) want. That’s what we are demanding from Hollywood. To blame the writers and producers for remakes and sequels is like blaming Wil Wheaton for the crappy lines the writers gave Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Just look at the top films of 2015. I’ll go just with the top 10, and point out all of the non-sequels, non-reboots in the list (primarily because it’s shorter. You have Inside Out, which made an amazing $356.4 million domestically. It’s No. 4.

And look! Matt Damon’s awesome film from last year, The Martian! It made $228.4 million in North America to finish at No. 8.

And … well, and … that’s it. Two films in the top 10, grossing a total of $584.8 million domestically.

The rest falls into the list that we’re not supposed to like.

• Star Wars: The Force Awakens – a continuation of 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope. And it’s No. 1 at $936.7 million.
• Jurassic World – a continuation of 1993’s Jurassic Park. It earned $652.2 million domestically.
• Avengers: Age of Ultron – a continuation not only of 2012’s The Avengers, but of several already established Marvel movie franchises
• Furious 7 – a continuation of the 2001 film The Fast and the Furious.
• Minions – a spin-off of 2010’s Despicable Me.
• The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 – a continuation of 2012’s The Hunger Games.
• Cinderella – the long-told fairy tale.
• Spectre – a continuation of the James Bond franchise that started with 1962’s Dr. No.

That’s right, eight of the top 10 films in 2015 were remakes and continuations of some kind. And combined, they grossed $3.4 billion. That is just in North America, compared to $584.8 million for the rest. Don’t even let me get into worldwide grosses.

The fact is, we like our nostalgia. We like our familiarity. We like to see more of the things we like. And sometimes that’s sticking with the tried and true, and not so much something untried and new.

But I also think it’s unfair to writers especially to denigrate them for taking on a sequel or a reboot. Ask just about anyone who has had to embark on such a task, and they will tell you it’s one of the most difficult things you can do. You not only have to find the balance between keeping things familiar and keeping things new, but you have to find a way to innovate within the tight constraints of a universe already laid out.

beyond-inset110916Like I didn’t envy Simon Pegg and Doug Jung at all when it came to Star Trek: Beyond. I think it’s almost impossible to write something Star Trek anymore that people wouldn’t complain about. Although the franchise universe is vast, it’s also extremely limiting.

Many years ago, some news outlet interviewed me and asked me about fiction writing. I said I dabbled in a bit, and hoped to even write screenplays at some point. They asked if I would ever consider writing something in Star Trek or Star Wars, or anything like that … and I said absolutely not. I don’t like playing in other people’s sandboxes, because I want to make my own rules.

The interviewer looked at me and said, “Well, that’s the only way you’re ever going to make money.” And he was right.

I just looked back at the 2015 list one more time, and wondered where the most recent Oscar-winning Best Picture was. You know, Spotlight? The movie about the real-life journalists who uncovered abuse among Catholic church priests?

I found it. At No. 62. Just behind The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

So the next time you read about a remake or sequel or whatever on GeekNation, complain all you want about the lack of original ideas. But make sure you join me in putting the blame where it rightfully belongs – on ourselves.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael has spent more than 18 years of his way-long journalism career in entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based in New York City.