Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Reel Opinion: Original vs. Retread

The vast universe of movies has always served as a grand battleground for debates and unanswered questions; questions such as who played the role of James Bond the best, or who made the better Bruce Wayne, or did Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in INCEPTION ever wake up from his dream, or which of the ten-thousand versions of BLADE RUNNER is the definitive? These questions have fueled debates among movie buffs and casual filmgoers for decades, and recently, a new question has been resurrected; which is better…a bad original film or a good remake or sequel? 

The question comes around due to the odd era that mainstream Hollywood has placed itself in lately. While churning out remakes and sequels (lets’ call them retreads, for brevity’s sake) is not a brand new practice, this day and age finds Hollywood heavily favoring them over original stories. So far this year, we’ve received an 11th entry in the ongoing series of Marvel’s superhero films, and a 4th entry in the 30-year old MAD MAX franchise. On top of that, this weekend sees the third sequel to JURASSIC PARK, and next month, a fifth overall entry in the TERMINATOR franchise. If a time traveler landed in the summer of 2015 and looked at the upcoming schedule of movies (which includes a seventh STAR WARS film and a 25th JAMES BOND movie), that traveler would not know which year he had landed in. 

There have still been some high-profile original films this year; Disney’s TOMORROWLAND, the indie-flick EX MACHINA, the Wachowski Siblings’ JUPITER ASCENDING, and Neill Blomkamp’s CHAPPIE. None of these films were based on a pre-existing source like a book, comic, or another movie…but they are clearly outnumbered by the vast amount of retreads which will be released by the end of the year.
Original or not, most of the films released so far this year have been met with reviews and fan-reactions which are all over the map; ranging from very good to ho-hum to downright awful…and this is where the real question comes in; is it better to take in an original film which is bad, or a retread which is very good? 

Clearly, a movie fan should value not only entertainment but the art of storytelling itself. Original filmmaking should always be sought after and supported, because without that, the medium of film will eventually wither and die…no matter how many JAMES BONDS or STAR TREKS or MAD MAX’s roll out every year. Mainstream Hollywood values storytelling and art but they value dollars more. It is still a business and an industry, after all, and if Hollywood doesn’t make bank, there will be no more movies no matter what. Based on that alone, those of us who go to see a retread shouldn’t be feeling guilty about feeding the big machine and supporting the industry we love, and so far this year people have indeed spoken with their wallets. Marvel’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON has already surpassed the billion dollar mark, and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is bringing in the green just fine. 

So we should be supporting originality and it’s OK to enjoy a sequel or remake, but which is better? The often overlooked piece to the puzzle is quality. People have come in hordes to see what Marvel and MAD MAX has to offer, but they shied away from original works such as TOMORRROWLAND and JUPITER ASCENDING. But here’s the hidden factor: both TOMORROWLAND, JUPITER ASCENDING, and CHAPPIE received mixed to dismal reviews. Bad movies rarely do well, and people spoke loudly this year.
This Blogger has always believed that a good movie can be found anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s based on a book, comic, news article, or a drawing on a cave. Hollywood’s task isn’t just to make movies, but to make good movies…no matter the story. 

What say you? 

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