The number of remakes, reboots, adaptations and sequels/prequels/three-quels hitting cinemas nowadays is nothing short of ridiculous. This year alone we’ve seen Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Man of Steel, Monsters University, The Hangover 3, Despicable Me 2, The Wolverine, The Smurfs 2 and Red 2, not to mention all of the upcoming cash-grabbers like Thor: The Dark World, Robocop, Carrie, Muppets Most Wanted, and the next Hunger Games and Hobbit instalments. I’m all for the continuations of everybody’s favourite superheroes and cartoon characters, but the point has to be raised – is it all a case of cinematic overload?
It’s obvious why studios push these sorts of major blockbusters – sequels and remakes immediately catch the viewer’s interest through recognition and familiarity. They may not be cheap to make, but the establishment of a loyal Star Trek fan base or a teenage bookworm’s curiosity on how their favourite novel is going to translate on the big screen is enough to garner
At the end of the day, the mass audience is going to want to see a Hollywood blockbuster with Hugh Jackman
or Jennifer Lawrence in the lead, rather than a quirky, low-budget original indie-drama with a no-name cast. But that’s OK – because who doesn’t want to see J-Law kicking some serious butt or a legion of super powered humans saving a city from destruction with some of the biggest and best special effects ever seen? After all, there’s a time and a place and an audience for everything. For every Juno there’s an Avengers, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of wanting to see either.
What I’m trying to get at, however, is the shameless cashing in of some of our favourite film heroes with no regard as to what’s come before it. The Amazing Spiderman swinging in only a few years after the Tobey Maguire-helmed trilogy? (Which was actually awesome, and gave the franchise a whole new energy, but that’s not the point here. The point is that Spidey 4 already has a 2018 release date.) Batman vs. Superman directly after Nolan’s incredible Dark Knight series? MORE Star Wars movies? And let’s not forget the slew of average horror remakes in recent years – Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the upcoming Carrie. (OK, I’m excited for that last one but whatevs.) It’s clear these films are trying to capitalise on previous successes, wringing the content dry until the next cash cow strolls along.
The thing is these mammoth films are not the sure-fire money-makers they once were. A blockbuster like Pacific Rim cost $190 million to make, and while it fared pretty well at the box office, it still barely broke even. Marvel’s various offshoots are grossing billions, but it doesn’t leave much room for Man of Steel which also just scraped into the green, and The Lone Ranger which is possibly one of the greatest film disasters of all time, losing just shy of 150 MILLION DOLLARS. (Cue Dr Evil voice.) With average film budgets going up and box office figures going down, what is the underlying culprit? The internet? Rising ticket prices? An over-saturated market? Viewer fatigue? Or, more likely than not, all of the above? After all, there is a limit to the number of movies people are going to see per year. Check out this great article on Cracked for more facts and figures I’m not going to plagiarise: http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/4-reasons-2015-could-be-movie-industrys-worst-year-ever/
So, what can the studios do? Make fewer blockbusters, at a cheaper cost? Probably resulting in a drop in quality. And can we really see Warner Bros. making that decision, really? Come up with new and inventive marketing strategies to get people into cinemas? Please, nobody can download that many apps. Or better yet, actually produce original, unique films that aren’t a sequel or a reboot or a book-to-film adaptation? Studio execs would stare blankly right about now. But what we need to remember is at the top of the box office table right now is Gravity, an original, game-changing space thriller attracting both critical and commercial success. And recent comedies like Bridesmaids and Ted show it’s not always superheroes pulling in audiences – to a certain extent, these kinds of films are more profitable thanks to their lower production costs.
Expect to see a hell of a lot of sequels and reboots in the coming years, but not to the level of success as you might think. What the studios need to do is take some risks – and not ‘who would serve as a better Batman’ or ‘which city should get destroyed by robots’ next – but really offer the audience something new and original that can bring the excitement and magic back into movies. As great as Man of Steel 17 is going to be, maybe I, along with moviegoers everywhere, will be more enthralled in something I truly haven’t seen before.
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!