50 Lashes With A Wet Noodle

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!” –Hamlet, Scene 5, Act 1

I hate when I see another reboot come on the television or a movie release. It reeks of desperation, of a complete and utter lack of imagination. It has that slick and greasy feel to it, like when the doctor uses too much petroleum jelly during an ultrasound. The public knows that it is laziness, the studio knows that it’s laziness, and even the director knows that it’s laziness. The only people under the delusion that it is not lazy writing seems to be the producers and the actors.

According to Amazon, there are currently over 3,000,000 book series over there and something like 10,000,000 individual books available for sale. Within that there could be as many as 3 different interpretations of any said novel, so 30 million potential movies.

So what do we, the paying populace, get from the land of Hollywood? A reboot. An 8th sequel. A prequel that isn’t but it really is but nobody wants to say anything so hush hush.

I can’t believe that we’re out of ideas. I’ve been to Amazon, read unknown authors, and seen ideas that I have never seen before. If me, with my limited book buying budget and reading time, can find new and intriguing ideas in fiction, why can’t a movie producer? Why can’t a star with guaranteed drawing power pull a novel out of nowhere and turn it into a movie?

I can already hear people running to the comments and screaming “They do that, you twit! And they turn into flops!” And while I understand your argument, I believe that what constitutes a blockbuster has changed over the past 20 years. Because despite what we want to think, the United States is no longer the target market for any movie producer.

Look at it this way: did we really need a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie? Misty Massey has an excellent fantasy series based on pirates (Mad Kestrel) which would translate to movies amazingly. Yet we got another PotC movie. Why? Not because it made any money in the U.S. (production costs- $300 million; domestic gross- $309 million) but because it made money overseas (worldwide gross- $963 million). And the world market loves them some reboots.

So does this mean that we’re cursed to see nothing but reboots and sequels? Welllll…. I’m not going to say “no” because I see what Marvel is putting out over the next four years and yeah, that’s a ton of sequels. I also think that we’re going to see a Fast and Furious 28: Dom’s Nursing Home Adventures. Hey, if they can wring money out of an intellectual property like that, more power to them, right?

Ehhh….

This is where me not being a “pure” capitalist rears its ugly head, because I love originality. I do enjoy sequels, don’t get me wrong. Reboots? Meh. Prequels? F*ck you, George Lucas.

Ahem. Pardon me.

But not all reboots and whatnot suck completely, and not all original ideas make money, so I’ll try not to generalize here.

Possibly the best movie I’ve seen recently was Kubo and the Two Strings. It was the perfect movie for someone like me: good story, original idea, good pacing, great accompanying music.

The one thing that it didn’t do, however, was make any money. Domestically it lost something like $20 million. And since studios are out to make money (despite what we tend to think), “failures” like Kubo make them gun-shy about trying new and original ideas. The same thing happened to John Carter. 

So it’s back to reboots and unwanted sequels, of prequels that reek of desperation and a lack of hope. Of tired old tropes being thrown out there, and more unwanted movies with Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

So alas, poor Yorick the muse, struck down by 50 lashes with a wet noodle because there is no more imagination in the minds of those who seek to entertain us in media.

50 Comments

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50 responses to “50 Lashes With A Wet Noodle

  1. I’ve given up on Hollywood with regard to theatrical movies for …(counting up swiftly on fingers) six years now …I’ll skip seeing it in a theater, and if mildly interested, will wait until it is available on DVD, or on Amazon streaming service. There’s nothing much there for me any more. I was never into comic books, or video games, and eight or ten bucks to sit in a theater and have my intelligence insulted – no. Not interested.
    The other aspect of Hollywood big movies is that they cost so darned much – they HAVE to make the money back, and the best way (or so they apparently see it) is to bet on an absolutely guaranteed sure thing. Take a chance on a new and untried concept? Too much of a gamble.

    In my own opinion, I believe the most original and creative filmed entertainment is being put out by content providers like Amazon and Netflix. They already have the established audience – so why not sink some money in generating their own original movies and miniseries: things like The Man in the High Castle. Then there is HBO, who set a high bar with Band of Brothers.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I saw Pacific Rim, mainly because of my love of Eva/Lovecraft fanfic. Before that, I dunno.

    • Uncle Lar

      Loved Band of Brothers. Was much less taken with the Pacific theater series they did. Both of course based on true (more or less) accounts written by active participants.

  2. I made a not too dissimilar comment when Magnificent 7 came out. “The Magnificent Seven. .. .. A remake of a remake. Proof that Hollywood really has run out of ideas. ”

    The response I got some a fanboi: Hollywood hasn’t run out of ideas, There are hundreds of films made a year, only a fraction of that get a wide release, just this month the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival showcased lots of original films. The problem is theaters want the sure thing so they don’t go for the smaller original films but the films that have proven to be a safer bet. At the end of the day, Studios and Theaters needs to make money and Transformers 80 will break a Billion dollars and that’s what counts for them and I’m all for these billion dollar making blockbusters because they bankroll the dozen of films that would never be made because no theater chain, outside of the Indie Film chains, will show them.

    Is it just me, or does that argument sound familiar? (never mind that what I have heard from people who’ve worked in movie theaters is that they don’t make money on the movies – in fact they usually just break even. They make the money on the concessions)

    • IIRC, in addition to creating the original movie “The Seven Samurai”, Akira Kurosawa, worked uncredited on “The Magnificent Seven”, but was actually credited in the remake, for which he did nothing on account of being quite thoroughly dead.

      • Having seen both The Seven Samurai and the Magnificent Seven, I find this is one case where I prefer the remake rather strongly over the original. Having not seen the new Magnificent 7 I cannot comment on it.

        • The first “The Magnificent Seven” movie also benefited greatly from its rousing, Oscar-nominated theme, the creation of Elmer Bernstein. I love that music.

          There’s also at least two animated take-offs on it. There’s the Japanese anime “Samurai 7” which is a series-length variant on the concept. At the other extreme there was an episode of “The Clone Wars” that is a similar story in a 22-minute format, with a number of major and minor characters introduced earlier having to briefly team up to defend a small colony from an attack by raiders.

        • 0ldgriz

          Have you seen Battle Beyond the Stars? Johnboy Walton in space remake of the Seven Samurai. Johnboy leaves the planet Akira searching for some hired guns to save his planet.

          Not the greatest movie but I liked it.

    • TRX

      > the problem is theaters

      The same way the problem with publishing is bookstores.

      My town used to have three bookstores and two theaters. Now it has none. And most of the ones in surrounding towns have vanished as well.

      If your business plan depends on theaters or bookstores, you’re standing on a sinking ship.

  3. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I like the trailers I’ve seen for the new Power Rangers movie, which is a reboot.

    • More than one person I know saw the start of those trailers and thought they were for a Breakfast Club reboot.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Recently watched a compilation of Super Sentai openings.

        Saban’s original problem was adapting a heavily formalized style of story for an audience that wasn’t familiar with the prior art. He managed it somehow while using a lot of episodes.

        Saban is trying to bring in new viewers, so he has to reestablish things without the benefit of what he has already done. The psychology of the team is critically important, so establishing it is a priority. You could just do action if the audience had already internalized the genre. Since the audience may be new, you can most afford to trim the action.

      • 0ldgriz

        So true, but I’m still going to go watch it with my daughter.

  4. Both Kubo and the Two Strings and John Carter suffered from horrible advertising campaigns. I saw a bunch of Kubo ads and never knew what it was about. And I don’t remember ever seeing a John Carter ad on TV.

    I did end up seeing Kubo, but at home after it came out on video. I agree with your assessment of it, too. It was extremely entertaining, quite a bit better than the animated darling of 2016, Finding Dory (which wasn’t bad, but was no Kubo). Being a longtime ERB fan and lover of all things Barsoomian, I did see John Carter in the theaters and enjoyed it.

    The big problem, as best I can tell, is that the old style Hollywood mogul–the one who knew movies first and business second–is gone. Now, we’ve got business school grads who want to apply the same business theories to every business, no matter how different they are, and who know nothing about movies (and especially the history of movies). I doubt if Star Wars could be made these days because there wouldn’t be someone like Alan Lad, Jr. pushing the company to keep giving Lucas money.

    I’m damned glad I don’t have to run my novels past anyone but myself. I doubt any of them would have been published, otherwise.

    • That matches my theory. Hollywood is no longer run by the Creatives, but by risk-averse Accountants, who would rather bankroll a “sure thing” like yet another 70’s cartoon turned into a live action movie, than anything original – which they read as not having a bankable track record.

  5. When moviegoers get bored with the latest remake, perhaps they’ll turn to the wealth of novels available in all colors and flavors. And authors will get paid.

  6. Bob

    I credit PotC for one thing: the fourth installment was based on the blot of a Tim Powers novel. That alone might have drawn some attention to Powers’ other work.

    A movie based on Declare? Hide me Among the Graves? The Stress of her Regard? Maybe Last Call? How great would that be?

    If only…

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Indeed.

    • They did make a stage play of “The Anubis Gates”, so there’s hope.

      • TRX

        I’m not much for plays, but I’d watch that.

        The Anubis Gates rocked. Dinner at Deviant’s Palace was very good. Most of his others had severe continuity problems I just couldn’t shrug off, though.

    • Ben Yalow

      Not really based much on the Powers novel. More probably something like:

      “This novel has pirates and the Fountain of Youth, and so does our movie, so we’d better buy the movie rights to the novel, so he can’t sue.”

      (I think I just listed all of the common elements in the book and the movie — although I exaggerate slightly in that statement.)

      But, as Powers has pointed out, his novel is still in print, if people want to find out what he wrote, instead of the movie.

      The movie is closer to the book than the Will Smith “I, Robot” movie was to that book — but that’s a really weak claim.

  7. Bob

    One thing to look forward to is the rise of the ‘mid-range movie’, stuff like Iron Sky. Not big blockbusters with enormous sums of money invested that HAVE to draw tons and tons of people worldwide, but able to hit more niches and make their money back and at the same time they can afford to take more chances.

    • TRX

      Iron Sky flopped because Torssonnen lost creative control to his investors. Following the web site as production progressed, I think we got a much different movie from what Torssonnen planned.

      Oddly, most of the movies I’ve seen in recent years *and liked* were from Romania, Hungary, and China (noting that Hong Kong is Chinese now…)

    • Draven

      But Iron Sky’s production was a cluster-f*ck. And despite what some people like to believe, the animation was not done by a bunch of nobodies with no experience.

  8. Christopher M. Chupik

    Eh, doesn’t bother me much. The movie version of The Maltese Falcon everybody knows? The third screen version. If it’s good, that’s all that matters. If it’s not, nothing else matters.

    • Good point – also The Wizard of Oz was also technically a remake.

      A hefty chunk of Shakespeare’s plays were also retellings of existing stories (and not just the histories).

      Having said that, it was great watching Arrival last year and seeing an original SF movie (but yeah, I enjoyed watching Rogue One as well)

  9. Why Hollywood As We Know It Is Already Over. A pretty good analysis of how Big Movie is likely to go the same way as Big Music.

    • Stephen J.

      I read that article, and was more impressed by the analysis of inefficiency than I was by the suggestion that AIs would eventually master the art of formulaic story-writing to the point of acceptable mediocrity. In the same way that practical effects just always seem to pack more punch than CGI, no matter how good the CGI, I can’t help but feel that readers/viewers will always be able to tell auto-assembled stuff from the output of an actual human mind, if perhaps only on an intuitive level.

      (No story-generation program, I suspect, could ever come up with Sharknado, just as an example.)

      • (Or even better, Polar Vortex vs. Sharknado)

      • TRX

        The computer-generated stuff might make more sense…

        I still think people are happy sitting in their chair and working the remote control “watching” half a dozen movies at once because they don’t *expect* them to make any coherent sense. I’ve sat through far too many movies from beginning to end, watched the credits start, and wondered “whaaaaat?!”

      • (No story-generation program, I suspect, could ever come up with Sharknado, just as an example.)

        Is that supposed to be argument for or against computer-generated scripts? 😉

    • I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the drivers behind the Axanar lawsuit by CBS and Paramount is that they could see that “Prelude to Axanar” was gorgeous, and if they could turn out a feature film of equal quality for only $1 million then maybe what they do isn’t quite as special and unreplaceable as they proclaim.

  10. Zsuzsa

    I wonder if it isn’t just the studios that have become risk-adverse. I wonder if audiences are equally gun shy about giving unproven products a chance. Do you want to go see that movie that’s being praised for its original take on superheroes? Could be as fabulous as all the reviewers claim. Could be boring and preachy message fiction where we have to listen to the hero sing the praises of Obama in between nausea-inducing “artistic” fight scenes. Better not to take the chance with your $10 and 2 hours. Go see the latest Marvel offering instead; it may be almost identical to last month’s Marvel offering,but at least you know what you’re getting and that you at least like if not love it.

    Trying to build an audience for “original films” could be just as difficult as trying to get the producers to make them in the first place. With the exception of a few big franchises, Hollywood has largely lost the trust of moviegoers, and getting it back won’t be easy.

    • Terry Sanders

      This. After fifty years of hearing “original” and “daring” and a number of other words, and automatically (and almost always correctly) translating as “predictable, preachy, amoral, nihilistic trash with an anvilicious undercurrent of Communist propaganda,” I find it hard to change the habit. Especially given the lack of evidence that anything has improved.

  11. Zsuzsa

    And for what it’s worth, my thoughts on sequels-prequels-remakes.

    Remakes I hate if I liked the original product because it feels like they’re trying to write the original out of existence. That may not be rational, but it is how I feel: that the new Ghostbusters for example, is trying to write Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston out of our collective cultural memory and replace them with these new ladies. Uh-uh, nope, not for me, no thank you.

    Prequels are okay in principle, but in practice they usually run into trouble. I read somewhere (and I don’t remember exactly where or who said it, sorry) that while sequels can expand a story’s universe, prequels always seems to contract it by making it seem like all of history was about these same handful of characters running into each other. In theory, there’s no reason this has to be the case, but given that people usually want to keep the same characters who were popular in the originals, they always seem to work their way into prequels no matter how little sense it makes for them to be there (and as usual in prequel discussions, Lucas is the prime offender).

    Sequels…I’ll differentiate here between “book” sequels and “movie” sequels. I define book sequels as stories where the author asks, “What would happen to these characters next?” These have the potential to be fabulous. Movie sequels, however, are stories where the answer to “What happens next?” is always, “They do the time warp again” and have pretty much the exact same adventure they had in the first movie. Movie sequels are essentially remakes by another name, although without the Orwellian problem I have with actual remakes. (I should mention that despite the names I’ve given them, I know not all books and movies follow the general trend of their media. “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” are both book sequels by this definition, while “Catching Fire” is a prime example of a movie sequel).

  12. John R. Ellis

    KUBO was such a wonderful film. The fact that derivative swill like “The Secret Life of Pets” made a fortune while Studio Laika’s masterpiece played to mostly empty theaters just shows the power of a relentless marketing campaign over a quality production. 😦

    • 0ldgriz

      Kubo is an awesome movie. The same thing happened with Iron Giant. Not from one of the Big Name Studios so they didn’t have sufficient advertising to find an audience.

  13. 0ldgriz

    Speaking of game movies I watched Warcraft on an overseas flight. Must not have been too good because I nodded off and missed most of the middle. Domestic box office $47M an obvious flop. Then it hit international. $433M worldwide box office. I guess there will be a sequel.