A trailer for next year’s Ocean’s 8 was released recently on YouTube. It’s a remake of the Ocean’s 11 franchise that was also remade back in 2001 with George Clooney and Matt Damon. The new version next year will star Sandra Bullock, Rhianna, Helena Bonham-Carter, and many female leads. Whenever people hear that they are making a feature based on old material, the same complaint is made in the comments- “Hollywood is out of ideas!” And while I would understand why people would say that (especially when flicks like The Emoji Movie have been made), I honestly wouldn’t entirely think that is the case.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen more films based on best-selling novels, comic books, true stories, or any previous film that was proven successful in the past. For example, big films of the past like Jurassic World and The Incredibles are coming to get a sequel next year. Also, books like The Grinch, and Ready Player One are getting remade for release, and characters from DC and Marvel comics like Aquaman and Black Panther are heading to the big screen. I even looked back at this year and the same pattern occurred: Wonder Woman, Murder on the Orient Express, Baywatch, Blade Runner 2049, Beauty and the Beast and many more were based on existing material. Furthermore, all of the top 10 highest grossing films this year were based on other source material.
I have been to university to study Screen Production and the business side that occurs around this filmmaking process. Hollywood is a business, and like any business, it depends on making a profit (via the box office and merchandise sales) to survive, especially when it comes to making back the budget spent on the whole production. So it would make sense for them to create big screen features based on source materials that already have a loving fan-base that would still go see it.
But even fans of the adapted source material would occasionally wonder why Hollywood is just retreading the same stuff. As a creative person myself who writes music as well as a few short film scripts and worked with similar creative people, I can tell you that being original is nearly impossible. Most of the time, an idea would be based or influenced from another idea. Or maybe another idea that was done by someone you’ve never heard of. It’s sort of like that Flight of the Conchords episode where Murray signs with a duo known as Crazy Dogggz with their big hit “Doggy Bounce”, only to find it was facing copyright infringement from a song back in the 90s by a Polish band. It’s something that many artistic creators, outside of filmmaking, secretly fear.
In a few movie pitch exercises I’ve witnessed at university, the writer-director of a proposed project would mention that their film has the feel or style or similarity of other films in order to get producers and investors interested. And some people can catch on to that. Go to the YouTube comment section of the trailer for the Disney-Pixar film Coco, and you’ll see a couple of people comparing it to the other animated film, The Book of Life. So, that’s it? Creativity is no longer around and Hollywood is therefore out of ideas, right?
Well, honestly, I think creativity can be seen in different film remakes. Like I said before, we would never achieve full originality. But we can try to put existing characters from franchises in somewhat new and interesting stories. Or alternatively, you can make some changes to the story where it can be something different or somewhat original. The best example of this would be the remake of True Grit directed by the Coen Brothers. It’s a lot darker and grittier than the original film starring the legendary western film actor John Wayne, and ends on a more serious and darker note.
In conclusion, I don’t think Hollywood is out of ideas. Rather it wants to stick to popular ideas with successful franchises, rather than take risks and try anything new. But those type of films have the opportunity to bring out new ideas and different scenarios to before, like True Grit. Otherwise, any film that decides to re-do the same structure and beat can be seen as pointless and can be forgettable, like a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho in the 90s.