Is Hollywood Creatively Bankrupt? (Or, how I keep running into Spiderman at the cinemas)

Spiderman is ruling Hollywood, and if it isn’t him – well, it sure feels that way. In 2002, Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire brought your friendly neighborhood webslinging wall crawler to the cinemas, and it has since spawned two sequels, released in 2004 and 2007. It’s a fun franchise, to be sure – but do we really need to “reboot” it in less that five years? Yes, The Amazing Spider-Man, set for a 2012 release (and with a 2014 sequel already in the works), will combine the talents of Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans, but…isn’t there someone else we could make a movie about?

What is the most creative Hollywood blockbuster you’ve seen in the past few years? One with a plot that feels fresh, like it hasn’t been rehashed or remade to shreds. Think about it. Most people would say Christopher Nolan’s Inception, or maybe Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Now think about the movie line-up for 2011. Here’s a small selection of the released and upcoming movies for the year:

The Hangover Part II; Cars 2; Paranormal Activity 3; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol; Spy Kids: All The Time In The World In 4D; Fast Five; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Try something else. Think about the number of superhero movies out there (or what I like to call the rise of the Marvel/DC comic book movie empire).

Thor; Captain America: The First Avenger; Green Lantern; X-Men: First Class

Why is Hollywood doing this? Has it become creatively bankrupt? Have we run out of good ideas? Is this a black hole of creativity?

Well, here’s the thing. Say what you want about art, but the movie industry is a business, and at the end of the day, the main point of any business to make money. Making a movie is very expensive, and producers are going to expect profit – or to get their money back, at the very least. Now if you want to think outside of the box, if you’re going to be brave enough to be creative, you’ll have to take risks – and the whole point of risks is that there is no guarantee. That’s not something producers are readily willing to do.

In Hollywood, the safe thing to do is to make a movie about an established brand. This means that the movie has been successful before, and Hollywood is willing to bet that it will be successful again. An established brand means there’s already a sure audience in place ready to flock to the cinemas. After all, the ubiquity of comic book movies simply meant Hollywood discovered the buying power of teenage boys (and Twilight was when they discovered teenage girls). When you’re building on a franchise, sometimes the title will sell itself, regardless of the quality of the movie itself. Maybe the familiarity is comforting for moviegoers.

Quantum of Solace, starring Daniel Craig, is the 22nd movie in the James Bond franchise.

Or maybe it’s because these storylines are just so good that it would be an absolute shame not to make movies about them. It’s easy to point fingers at the suits, but we’re just as much to blame here. These are stories we cherish, characters we love. We love the material so much that we like seeing how this particular director will remake it or how a certain actor will portray the character.

Christopher Nolan made the Batman franchise darker than it's ever been; Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker was critically acclaimed and earned him a posthumous Oscar

We like seeing new perspectives on old stories and exploring the gray area outside of what we already know. We like how Hollywood can utilize groundbreaking technology to make something we’ve all seen before into something completely new.

James Cameron waited a decade to make Avatar, so he could utilize groundbreaking motion-capture and CGI technology.

So is it really that hard to come up with something new? Has everything been done before? Of course not – there’s so much talent in the world. But it’s going to be much harder. After all, everything we do, everything we are, is but a mashup of everything that has inspired us.

But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, famed French director Jean Luc-Godard once said: “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below.

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6 thoughts on “Is Hollywood Creatively Bankrupt? (Or, how I keep running into Spiderman at the cinemas)

  1. Good comment! I completely agree with some aspects but more specifically, the way that concepts are being reused.

    Just found your blog and I love it! Have subscribed!

    • It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Quite interesting topic to discuss 🙂

      Thank you for subscribing! I loved your blog as well 🙂

  2. Unfortunately I must agree with you. I do love superhero movies so I don’t care that they are sequels or rehashed ideas. I just love them. I am looking forward to the prequel to Alien. If you truly want to see something original and don’t mind foreign movies check out Oldboy. I believe it is Korean.

    • I know how you feel, I enjoy a good superhero movie just as much as anyone. They’re just plain entertaining 🙂 And I loved Oldboy, it took my breath away! I’m not sure, but I’ve heard that it was Quentin Tarantino’s inspiration for Kill Bill. 🙂

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