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Hollywood is playing it safe with remakes, sequels, and licenses

Thompson on Hollywood posted up a brief, but very true, article today about the lack of original movies coming out of Hollywood lately.

It’s an age old argument, and has always been a problem, but it’s reaching dangerous levels. The Hobbit is in development, as are 4th installments to the Alien, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Spider-Man franchises, among others. Steven Speilberg is working on a remake of the classic James Stewart film, Harvey Next, as his next project. I can’t see anyone adequately replacing Jimmy Stewart, but he’s looking at Tom Hanks for Will Smith. Robert Downey Jr. is Sherlock Holmes. There are also quite a few classic novels and other licenses in development, including video game movies like World of Warcraft. What we aren’t seeing is original movies, entirely created for the screen, not adapted to it.

Films like Funny People and Up are becoming a rarity. And if Funny People ends up underperforming, there’s another mark against giving directors free reign.

Every studio is desperately seeking franchises, tentpoles, remakes, reboots, prequels and sequels. Original is a dirty word. It means having to start something from scratch with no safety zone…We know that books, plays, tv shows, videogames, theme park rides, comics and graphic novels are easier to make than anything original…

If you want to go original at a studio, you’d better be the Coen brothers (A Serious Man), James Cameron (Avatar) or Peter Jackson (producer of District 9)….It’s about fear of failure. In today’s Hollywood, it takes guts to be original. - Thompson on Hollywood

The recent rush toward 3D films is indicative of this problem. 3D an easy gimmick to get people into cinemas and charge higher ticket prices. Nearly every major animated movie in the next year will be released in digital 3D, and a lot of live-action films. Even Titanic and the Lord of the Rings trilogy are being retooled for re-release in 3D. Just today, a 4th Resident Evil movie was announced (a franchise that started as a video game); it’s going to be 3D. It’s not a good sign when 3D zombie movies start to pop up.

What makes me most fearful is that even Pixar is starting to churn out sequels instead of original films. Cars 2, Monsters Inc. 2, and Toy Story 3 are all in development. Judging by Toy Story 2, these will be good sequels, but are they necessary? Does everyone at Pixar want to make these sequels or is Disney pulling the strings? The first two Toy Story films are being re-released in 3D as well. Luckily, Newt, an original Pixar movie, is coming out in 2011.

Are we doomed, or are big budget sequels, remakes, 3D movies, and branded films a good trend? One could argue that some fo these movies have been pretty good.

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