You see it all the time: a press release goes out, touting the newest Hollywood blockbuster, coming soon to a theater near year. Probably a sequel to the blockbuster you saw a couple of years ago, or a remake of a film that was the talk of the town thirty years back. And invariably, the comments start to show up: Hollywood is out of ideas!
The idea of sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes leading the way isn’t news. Look at what’s coming out this year to see the trend. Just from Disney, you have three more installments in their Marvel Cinematic Universe, two of which are direct sequels. You have the sequel to the ever-present “Frozen” coming. And you have three – THREE! – of their cartoon-to-(sort of)-live-action films coming out this year. The Oscars this year were all atwitter about the fourth incarnation of “A Star Is Born.”
But there are other films coming out, too, some that have been talked about for years. “Alita: Battle Angel” has already been released. “Captive State” with John Goodman is starting its run. Jordan Peele is following us his successful “Get Out” with his next offering, “Us,” this year.
These latter films aren’t getting as much buzz and chatter, though. They’re all original films, with “Alita” being the only one coming from previous source material (a Japanese comic book, or manga, called “Battle Angel Alita”). And it’s a perfect example for this discussion. Let’s take a look.
“Alita” has star power, both in front of and behind the camera. While the star – Rosa Salazar – is a newcomer, the film also has Oscar-winners Mahershala Ali, Christoph Waltz, and Jennifer Connelly, while it’s produced by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez. All of this firepower is focused on a character-driven, effects-heavy sci-fi film based on a comic book property. The movie opened with less than $30 million, and after four weeks now, has taken in less than $80 million total.
By comparison, the newest Marvel film – “Captain Marvel” – opened last weekend. Starring Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, with support from Jude Law, Annette Benning, and Lashana Lynch, the move was directed by the team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. There’s no lack of talent in this cast or crew, don’t mistake me! But unless I’m missing something, Oscar hasn’t visited any of the homes of this cast. While awards aren’t the be-all, end-all, they do still mean something. In this case, it doesn’t make a difference, though. “Captain Marvel” nearly eclipsed the four-week total of “Alita” in one day on the way to a $153 million opening weekend.
Money is not the measure of quality, just as awards are not the final say on what you should see. But money is the measure of what studios want to make. People complain that movie studios are “just out to make a buck.” Yes. Yes, they are. They’re massive corporations whose entire existence revolves around profits. They don’t shell out hundreds of millions of dollars to make products out of the kindness of their hearts. Every studio wants a $100+ million opening weekend for every single movie they release. The reason you see the reboots and remakes and 14th installment of a franchise is because that’s where the money’s at. That’s what people are going to see, even the ones that are bemoaning the state of affairs.
To put it bluntly, if you want to know why the studios are making things like “Hobbs & Shaw” from the “Fast & Furious” franchise, or recreating “Dumbo” with Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton, or bringing out the 25th James Bond movie next year, the answer is simple: you!
Collectively, you, the movie going audience are buying those tickets. You’re pumping your money into the things you know and love and want more of. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s your money, you should spend it on things you enjoy. The studios are listening to you. Not what you’re saying out loud or on social media, but what you’re saying with your dollars. You’re rewarding with financial success things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the James Bond franchise, the Disney ‘live-action’ remakes, while at the same time ignoring fresh products like “Alita: Battle Angel,” “Arrival” (2016, totaled just barely $100 million), or even Oscar’s Best Picture for this year “Green Book” which has taken in just over $80 million. Hollywood studios are absolutely not out of ideas, they’re just not filling seats with them. And for these studios, it’s truly about the numbers. If you want originality, you have to support it. It’s really that simple. And it really is all up to you.
Oh, and the next time you feel that Hollywood is out of ideas because they’re doing another reboot of a story, just keep this in mind: the 1939 beloved, classic Judy Garland film, “The Wizard of Oz?” That was the eighth time L. Frank Baum’s book was adapted to screen.
(note: box office figures all according to boxofficemojo.com)