We all understand that even Charlie Sheen doesn’t have shit on your addiction to reboots, which is why I’ve chosen to word the following plea as such: it’s time to either reboot yourself or risk collapse.
It’s no secret that for you, Hollywood, movies are first and foremost a business. This makes perfect sense; who in their right mind invests millions of dollars without some realistic expectation a profit?
But when dealing in entertainment, an industry built on creativity, one would hope any businessman would recognize the need to balance financial decisions with creative concerns. Perhaps you allowed a healthy balance to exist once, but this time has surely passed. Today, the need to turn a profit has almost completely smothered the creative process, leaving us each year with less decent-to-great movies than the year before.
By now, nearly everyone recognizes that reboots, remakes, and needless sequels have creativity and originality in a stranglehold. But people with a lesser understanding of the industry don’t realize how grave the situation really is. There is another force at work that compounds the damage already done by continuously telling the same story time after time: the option.
Let me not-so-briefly explain a simplified version the “option” for anyone who has intercepted this letter before it reaches you, Hollywood.
Sony wants to make a superhero movie. Sony hears of this great character from a Marvel comic, a teenager who dresses in red and blue to fight crime with the strength and agility of an arachnid. So, Sony approaches Marvel and “options” the rights to the comic. This option gives them the rights to the character/comic book in question, allowing them a set timetable for which they must make use of the newly acquired rights. If the time stated in the option lapses, the rights to the hero revert back to Marvel. Then, if Sony wants to make a film with the character, it has to start the optioning process anew, allowing Marvel to withhold the rights or raise their rates. Similarly, the option may require fines/damages be paid to Marvel if a movie is not developed by a certain date.
I realize that you let options expire every day, Hollywood. For every movie you release, there are thousands upon thousands (if not millions) of optioned projects sitting on the shelf, most of which you will never produce. A lot of the time, the years/decades associated with an option will pass before you have time to act and you will simply let the property go, deciding it wasn’t as valuable as once thought. Then there are the options that are too valuable to allow to expire, no matter the circumstances.
Case in point: Superman and Spider-Man. Though one could argue on Batman’s behalf (especially in the film world), we’re talking DC and Marvel’s crown jewels, respectively.
What results is a rush to make a Superman picture, giving birth to WB’s MAN OF STEEL, set with a 2012 release date. This release date is very nearly set in stone, no matter what creative challenges face the production team. There has already been word around the interwebs that MAN OF STEEL has third-act issues, but rest assured, the film will be made whether the issues are resolved or not. If WB doesn’t make a Superman movie now, it will pay through the nose. Yet, nowhere is it legally contracted to make a good Superman movie.
Therein lays the rub. Your problem, Hollywood, is not just that you insist on making films based on comics, board games, books, and other movies instead of trying something new. I find it far more egregious that you shoot movies because you are contractually obligated to, not because you have a worthy script prepared.
This brings me to my other example: Sony’s upcoming (also in 2012) THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.
Last year, Sam Raimi and team were on track to produce SPIDER-MAN 4, an obvious progression following a film titled SPIDER-MAN 3. When Raimi and Sony had “creative differences” (one of my favorite phrases of yours, Hollywood) and parted ways, Sony was left with a conundrum. Losing Raimi most likely meant losing Tobey Maguire, the current face of Spider-Man. Do they let the franchise sit for a few years, waiting until the right time for a new take on the character? Or do they risk diluting the brand by creating a new version in so many short years, a trick that even the Hulk couldn’t smash.
There was ever only one choice for Sony – make another Spider-Man movie! Who cares if people will tire of such a lucrative character quicker, the initial reboot is guaranteed to be a hit because “Spider-Man” will be in the name! Besides, allowing the Spider-Man option to expire really isn’t an option (pun totally intended. Sorry!) considering Marvel is now a part of the Disney fold. You know the house of mouse would love to get its hands on the Spider-Man license, but as long as Sony keeps making Spider-Man movies, it gets to keep the character (for at least a few more years).
And so, Hollywood, we currently live in an age where you make movies not because you have a story to tell, but because you are legally obligated to tell it. Gone (for the most part) are the days where a fresh take on a character breathes life into a brand-new interpretation of what has come before. Instead, you proudly sport a “use it or lose it” mentality.
It is only a matter of time before said mentality catches up with you, dear Hollywood, and the results could be disastrous. At a time when foreign markets are more important than domestic, can you really risk diluting such lucrative brands? The world may love flashy Hollywood fare now, but after 10 Spider-Mans, maybe Bollywood will start looking more and more appealing.