The earth is round, water is wet, and it is physically impossible to drive on a highway around the L.A. area and not see a huge, obnoxious billboard for the next Fast and Furious movie.
You would think that by now—16 years after the first movie was released—the franchise would have died of shame long, long ago, but put out 2 hours and 16 minutes of exploding cars and Dwayne Johnson in a tank top and fans practically trip over themselves on their way to Muvico, where they can ogle Vin Diesel’s rippling biceps on the big screen and munch on curly fries that cost enough to feed a small island civilization.
There’s really nothing wrong with money–making remakes, and definitely nothing wrong with Vin Diesel’s biceps, but the fact that sequels and reboots make so much money means that studios often push original movies aside in favor of their shinier, higher-grossing counterparts.
For instance, The Fate of the Furious—the tenth movie in the franchise—brought in a whopping $1.24 billion in box office revenue. To put this into perspective, Moonlight only brought in about $65 million, even though it won the Oscar for Best Picture. That’s more than 19 times less.
Yes, some remakes are charming, relevant, and just plain fun. But the seventh Saw movie? The 24th Bond movie? The Hobbit—which wasn’t even that long of a book in the first place—split into three three hour-films? As much as I love Bilbo Baggins and his hairy little feet—really, Warner Brothers? Really?
Disney is another offender. Of the 27 movies it has scheduled to release from now until 2020, 18 are sequels or remakes. Out of the other nine, four are based off of fairy tales, three are based off of books, and only two are completely original: a 2018 live-action comedy called Magic Camp that wasn’t even mentioned at D23 Expo and an untitled Pixar movie with no release date in sight.
Forget about Frozen 2—I can practically taste the hype for Nameless Pixar Movie, in theatres nowhere on the 12th of never! Bring your invisible popcorn!
And that’s the real problem with Hollywood today. Every now and then a good original surfaces on the radar, but, according to film researcher Stephen Follows, the top ten movies of each year are truly original only 15% of the time.
And it’s easy to understand why. When it comes to remakes, studios know exactly who their audiences will be and how much they will make–all with minimal creativity required. If you can remember anything distinct from Disney’s remakes of The Jungle Book or Pete’s Dragon, I’ll be massively impressed, but with a healthy dose of celebrity stars and VFX, oh, did they sell well.
I do agree that there is a very specific case in which a remake is the best way to go. When the new Beauty and the Beast came out in March, I was convinced that Disney would take the same route that it did with Cinderella and recreate the original with a pretty dress here and a new song there. But alas, my unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter prevailed, and I bought a ticket just to see Hermione Granger waltz with a CGI buffalo.
I ended up seeing it twice. Not only were the visuals and performances stunning, but instead of mimicking the original movie, it fully reimagined it, added significant changes to the plot, and fleshed it out where it previously fell short. Not to mention composer Alan Menken’s amazing new songs—I won’t rave, but it’s a miracle that my neighbors haven’t sent me a passive–caggressive note telling me to stop blasting “Evermore” at one in the morning.
Does this mean I want every cinema to fill up with weird indie movies like Rubber, the story of Robert, a sentient car tire with terrifying telepathic powers that rolls around the desert making people explode with the power of his diabolical mind (no, I couldn’t make this one up if I tried)?
Maybe not, but I do think Hollywood should acknowledge that a good remake must be relevant, well-crafted, and, most importantly, different from the original. I want to see sequels and remakes that are created for the sake of building on, not just recreating their predecessors, and, most of all, I want the industry to capitalize on a new, pooling talent base to see much more original movies.
All starring Dwayne Johnson, if possible.