To infinity and beyond: part 2
By Rob Horsley | Monday, August 13, 2012
Photo by "farlane" via Flickr
If this sounds familiar, it's because it hasn't gotten any better…
As many of you already know, a number of disturbing trends have made their way into the movie-going experience of the 21st century. A movie theatre used to be a place you could take your family or significant other. But lately, things have reached a new level of awful.
And if you think I'm talking about the escalating amount of violence, sexuality, and/or coarse language, I'm afraid your mistaken.
Not that those things aren't troubling, but it's pretty easy to know which movies to avoid if you're looking to stay away from any or all of those things. I'm a big believer in actually reading up on a movie ahead of time, checking the rating (they're there for a reason), so as to avoid the inevitable discovery that movies like The Watchmen, Passion of the Christ, or The Exorcist really aren't for kids.
No, what I'm talking about is the horrifying number of sequels set to hit the theatres this year, as my predecessor Bruce Solderholm commented over a year ago.
I'm not saying that all sequels are bad. The Godfather Part II still stands as one my all time favourite movies (and currently sits at the 32nd greatest movie of all time according to the American Film Institute, the only sequel to crack to top 100). As seen in a recent review, I really liked the new Batman movie. And I can't wait for The Expendables 2 to hit theatres in all of its ultra-macho, brain-dead, shoot-em-up glory. Call it a guilty pleasure.
However, it's getting to the point (if it hadn't already gotten to the point a long time ago) where something fresh would be nice.
But that leads me to ask, "Where do new stories come from? Do those even exist anymore?" And while some might be inclined to say "yes of course, Rob. There's always a possibility for new inspiration." I'm a little less optimistic.
Remember Avatar? It was the most profitable movie of all time. Well, if you're a real jerk like me, you'll have noticed that it's basically a rip-off of Dances With Wolves, Pochahontas and that weird Ferngully movie that my mom would always through on TV when I was a kid. Probably to keep me from complaining.
But the point is, stories get retold all the time. Avatar isn't an original movie, but it has some good things going for it. Unoriginality in storytelling isn't a new critique. Even complaining about movies is pretty unoriginal, if you think about it.
'Re-boots' have become pretty commonplace in Hollywood these days as well. A reworked version of the 1990 action film Total Recall hit theatres to new audiences just last week. I recently reviewed The Amazing Spider-Man, a movie released only five years since the last installment in the previous Spider-Man franchise.
Sequels to sequels are getting to be more popular too. The final chapter in the Harry Potter movie series was released in two parts, and Twilight is set to do the same thing in a few months. While you could make the case that the filmmakers are simply trying to stay true to the source material in not leaving out any details, the pessimist in me can't help but feel it's nothing more than a cash grab.
And now it's official: Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson will make The Hobbit, roughly a 300-page book, into a trilogy. Where will it end?
There's a couple conclusions you could draw from all this. First, and probably the more popular argument is that Hollywood cannot get enough of itself. There's too much money to be made in keeping a franchise going, no matter how unnecessary it might be to do so. And the same old junk seems to keep people entertained, so why change it?
But second, maybe some stories are worth keeping alive. Maybe good stories are simply too good to go away. Obviously, there's some sifting that needs to be done here. Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 doesn't even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as The Godfather Part II (at least I can only assume so, given that the former is yet to be released).
Maybe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. We re-read stories like the Bible because they continue to strike us as interesting, and meaningful. Even after many years we haven't gotten sick of exploring what the text might have to say to us, sometimes years after we last examined a particular passage or story. Movies can strike us the same way, occasionally.
But at the same time, we don't add unessential chapters and volumes. We've got the essential text, and as such we recognize that things like the Gospel of Judas or the Book of Mormon aren't really things that add value to our lives as Christians. They're unneeded appendixes for the revelation that we already have, kind of like every Scream movie after the first one. Such stories may, in fact, serve to hinder the truth of what we have in the original.
The point, as always, is to be discerning. Stories cry out to be retold over and over. The trick is figuring out which ones are deserving of a second audience.