I cannot help but wonder: when exactly did originality become a bad thing in Hollywood?
Look at the last few years. Almost every major ‘event’ picture to come out of Tinsel Town has been a remake, reboot, sequel, prequel or based on a book/comic/TV show/game/line of action figures/dirty limerick. The same goes for Hollywood’s more artistic side. Oscar-baiting films are all seemingly adaptations of books or ‘based on a true story’. So the inevitable question is: why? At what point did originality become a sin?
The problem seems to be that ever since film budgets ballooned to the point where any one of them could bankrupt the studio, producers have become very squeamish about taking a chance with new ideas. Anything that the suits are willing to sink money into has to have an existing fanbase so that there is a good chance of recouping the hundreds of millions of dollars sunk into the production. Taking a risk on a new idea is, frankly, too much of a risk.
The problem is, sooner or later the soulless machine that is Tinsel Town is gonna run out of source material. The prime example is this year’s heartless remake of RoboCop. Of all the films in existence that could be remade, they settled on bloody RoboCop!? If you listen carefully you can hear Paul Verhoven turning in his grave and he’s not even dead yet! It’s not even like the suits who authorised this travesty of a film gave a damn about the source material. RoboCop now leaps about like Super Mario despite weighing as much as a VW Golf; the whole origin story and supremely visceral depiction of mob violence at its worst is restructured for a 12A audience; and, perhaps worst of all, the entire subtext of raising a middle finger at corporate America was gone. The result? A mediocre actioner about a cyborg lawman that would’ve been far better received if it only had a different sodding name.
Sadly, it’s hugely unlikely that something like The Matrix would be made today. Two unknown filmmakers pitch an insane idea about reality being a computer programme and want $63 million? I think I can guess what the answer would be: two words, and the second would be ‘off’. Since only film-makers with a proven record of serious return are ever allowed a personal project these days (Cameron, Spielberg, the Wachowskis, nobody else), there is little chance of any truly original film-making hitting our screens. Sadly, for every original film that breaks through from the indie scene there is a director who will inevitably end up doing the same film in numerous iterations for the rest of their career. Speaking as an aspiring writer, it would be nice if the powers-that-be took a chance on some new ideas. Remember, apart from George Lucas’s mate Steven Spielberg nobody thought Star Wars would ever make any money.
Now if anybody needs me, I’ll be sucking up my hypocrisy and awaiting The Winter Soldier like an excited kid on Christmas Eve…