When Originality is Overrated

Boiling Point

There has been a constant war against sequels, prequels, and remakes for a decade now, one draped in the flag of “Originality.” There are no original films anymore, they say, as everything is in someway derivative of something. Indeed, when looking at the top ten films of 2012 thus far, only two (Ted and Brave) can really be called original, while everything else is either a sequel or an adaptation of something else.  Taken 2, despite being a bland affair according to Mr. Hunter, opened strongly at the box office pulling in $50m. Then again, the Disney remake of a short, Frankenweenie, stumbled and was seen, undeservingly, by only a small audience.

Despite that stumble it’s pretty safe to say that revisiting properties is still strongly in vogue and probably will be for some quite some time – but is that really a bad thing?

One can first ask “what makes an original idea anyway?” After all, humans have been making stuff up on the page, the screen, the airwaves, and the stone tablet for thousands of years. Plenty of movies are in many ways already retreads of something that came before. A movie like Brick that is easily credited as being a unique and original idea is really just a clever repackaging of classic noir detective movies. I’m sure if it was called The Maltese Falcon 2005 and billed as an update of the Bogart film, we’d have all been in an outrage. Much like people were in 1941 when people found out The Maltese Falcon was actually based on a book. Kidding. No one cared.

This is obviously just an argument tactic – we can all agree that there are ideas that are more original than others. No matter how much it has in common with Pocahontas or FernGully, Avatar is more original than Shark Week and Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies are to Shark Night 3D and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer. 

But really, what’s wrong with sequels? What’s wrong with revisiting great characters? If it ain’t broke, why are we upset no one is fixing it? The Avengers is one of the most well received movies of the year and it’s pretty much 4 sequels and an adaptation all wrapped up in one. People went nuts over The Dark Knight Rises, for the most part, or at least for some part, and everyone still loves Christopher Nolan despite his biggest movies being either adaptations or sequels or both.

Also on the list is The Hunger Games, based on a popular book series – so what? All kinds of media have been adapted into all sorts of other media. This has resulted in truly great films, from Jaws to Gone with the Wind, from The Thing to The Godfather, The Shining, and The Lord of the Rings.

People love to complain that there are no original ideas out there when something like Madagascar 3 or Men in Black 3 is on the release schedule, but when The Avengers or Batman or any Marvel sequel is in the pipes, we all get a little excited pee trickle in our pants.

I’ve always been an entertainment-based movie goer. I’m there to be entertained. I don’t necessarily care to learn or be changed by the experience. If that happens, awesome. I’m not averse to Amistad or Schindler’s List or some fantastic documentary on the secret lives of bees. There is plenty of room for both culture and enjoyment, but on any given Sunday, I’d rather reach for The Avengers over some heavy drama or Transformers 3 over some quirky independent romantic comedy. I just want to have a good time. It’s like hanging out with friends. I hang out with the same friends all the time. I don’t get new friends every year, so I’m not upset when I get The Expendables 2. Sometimes movies are fun enough to warrant another go round, even if it is a money grab from the studios. After all, we are, en masse, paying to see this sequels. If it makes us happy, then it can’t be all that bad.

This fits in with the three way debate argument amongst Reject Cole Abaius, Digester Devin Faraci, and Salonist Andrew O’Hehir about the death, or life, or rebirth of film culture. O’Hehir likes to dump on the current film culture, especially guys like me since I’m perfectly happy to watch a lot of the mainstream movies that, in all honesty, don’t require a lot of brain power to enjoy. O’Hehir comes across as the type of guy who only likes a movie if it’s in French, while Faraci asserts that film culture has become the purview of a new ruling class – geeks. Abaius then asserts both should, more or less, chill the fuck out.

How is this related? That there is some idiotic idea out there that film culture, or film, has somehow become worse over time.

You know the saying “You don’t know what you got til it’s gone?” I think that’s how film works. Sitting in the thick of it now, we look around and we judge. Remakes. Sequels. Whatever. That’s what we have, so that’s what we complain about and lament. I’m pretty sure in 1993 a lot of us were complaining about how something or other sucked,but now, almost twenty years later, what comes to mind? Jurassic Park. Tombstone. Dazed and Confused. True Romance, The Sandlot, The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Sure, now when we want something to complain about, we complain about the lack of original ideas, but you know what? In a decade, we’re not going to remember all the shitty sequels that came out. We’re not going to care about the shit and the mud and the dreck. We will remember the good, no matter how original or unoriginal it is. Who really cares about where the film came from so long as it’s actually good? Let’s not harp on a film for reasons that have nothing to do with it’s actual quality. I don’t give a fuck if a Hungry Hippos movie exists if it’s good. Sure, odds are it will blow – but if it’s good, who cares that it was a board game?

Good movies are good. Bad movies are bad. Everything else is irrelevant and to think otherwise pushes me to my boiling point.

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Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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