What’s with all the sequels, Hollywood?

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The Geologist and I went to see Joel & Ethan Coen’s True Grit last night, (great acting, directing and cinematography – but where did the rest of the Oscar nominations come from?!) which reminded me of a Moviefone blog post that I stumbled across recently.

Basically, they spoke to a handful of actors and filmmakers at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and asked them what they would change about Hollywood. And the answers were largely the same – and something that’s a major gripe of mine. Filmmakers and studios need to be more original, take greater risks with the material they produce and – for the love of all things good and holy – stop churning out remakes, sequels and franchise films.

If you look at the list of films scheduled for release in South Africa in 2011, you’ll notice it’s jam-packed with sequels with ridiculously large numbers (Saw 7, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Scream 4, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Hangover 2, Transformers 3, Cars 2, Spy Kids 4, Final Destination 5, Paranormal Activity 3), remakes and adaptations (The Green Hornet, The Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America, Water for Elephants, Footloose, The Three Musketeers, Never Let Me Go and Let Me In) and other, massive franchise films (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part One, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two and X-Men: First Class). *

And it all boils down to money, really. Studios know that no matter how crap the sequel is, if the first film was good enough, people will stream into cinemas and wave their wallets around. Look at Transformers 2 – where even the cast and crew involved reckoned it was a load of rubbish. So it’s a safe bet – why spend $20-million funding an original film, no matter how amazing the cast/crew/script, when you can splash out $100-million on a big-budget remake and/or sequel and just watch the money roll right on in?

I’ve come under fire for this before (I wrote a column for iafrica.com last year entitled ‘Avatar’ is a big bully) but it’s something I truly believe in – if all you’re doing is punting big-budget movies with big names, then where the hell are you developing new talent and encouraging new ideas? A few newbies have managed to slip into mainstream cinema through the luck of the cinema gods – people like Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Tom Hardy have all done some great work over the past year or so – but there’s massive cause for concern.

The same goes for sequels and franchises. They’ve all become so fashionable lately because it’s a no-brainer for execs. There’s no risk involved. And so other, “smaller” films are brushed to the side. Yes, filmmaking is a business – yes they need to make money in order to keep on making films, I understand that. But it’s got the point where it’s a bit silly, really. You can pretty much pick out the studios who are making films just to make money. Do they need another Paranormal Activity? Another Saw? Would your life be anymore fulfilled after you’ve seen Final Destination 5? There’s no art, there’s just carelessness and greed.

To be fair, True Grit is one of the major exceptions to the we’re-remaking-itjust-for-the-money rule. Although at this point, Jeff Bridges and the Coen Brothers are pretty safe bets too. Although True Grit is a remake of an adaptation of a novel (I love that), the Coens went back to the source material and actually tapped into the original spirit of the novel. It’s a great film and the Academy has recognised it as such.

There are so many important stories to tell – I really wish that the major studios would just man up and take a risk. Do something original, try something new – sure, knock yourself out and cast a “safe” actor like Johnny Depp – but, as Eva Green (herself a former Bond girl) says, just “have more balls”. Look how well The Social Network turned out.

Just leave Transformers to rust, let Captain Jack Sparrow sail off into the sunset and retire the Scream mask. I’m ready for something different.

* If your eyes clouded over while you were reading that, don’t worry. Mine did too.

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