The common phrase that pops up when someone mentions Hollywood nowadays is that Hollywood has run out of ideas. This phrase comes up in particular when constant remakes and sequels comes up, mixed with only a sprinkling of original movies. However, the modern situation isn’t new. In fact, it’s not only been an old tradition in Hollywood, but also Nollywood and Bollywood as well.
Ever wonder about all the sequels to Alien, Godzilla, and other films? Not the modern connections, but the ones that go as far back as the 1950’s? The many romantic comedies that came out during the 1950’s and 1960’s? Remakes and sequels have always been a quintessential part of Hollywood, since it’s inception. The sequels in particular, come when a series is popular- Hollywood is a business, and will run with a popular idea until it dries up. Such a tactic is not modern, nor unique. It has been happening.
Remakes, on the other hand, are usually made when a director decides that there is something to be improved upon in the original film, something that can be different. Of course, this choice is not always for the better, as we’ve seen with the remakes of Clash of the Titans and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Usually, though, a director or screenwriter wants to improve on the story, and tries to portray their vision of how the film should be. This has worked, even, with the 2015 release of Mad Max: Fury Road. The films were an original series of films in the 1980’s, revamped in order to try an alternative story route, one that actually worked.
On top of the remakes, Hollywood has had a long history of taking from books and myths, despite the modern criticism that Hollywood only does it to get a guaranteed fan base. Characters such as Dracula and Perseus have found themselves on the big screen on multiple occasions in multiple forms, adapting them and re-adapting them to try and make a take on a story or myth unique. Especially from the 1970’s through the 1990’s with movies such as Psycho, the Shining, and Silence of the Lambs, all of which being smash hits, the tradition of bringing books to the big screen is nothing unheard of. Shakespeare has found his most famous play Romeo and Juliet in multiple movie retellings. Hell, just about all of Disney’s 2D animated films are based around different fairy tales (and even some 3D ones, such as Frozen and Tangled). To say that based off the fact that Hollywood makes films from stories and books is the key to showing that it no longer has originality is a farse.
Now, if you’re keen on the international films industries, you might be saying that they’re much more original. Now that may be true in some cases, you will find the retelling of famous stories and legends in Bollywood, Nollywood, and K-dramas. They do the same thing as Hollywood. Plus, they straight up make remakes of Hollywood films as well. Movies such as Resevoir Dogs, the Godfather, Silence of the Lambs, and When Harry Met Sally all have successful Bollywood remakes, and Nollywood is pushing to have a TV show based around Black Panther. To say that they don’t pull the same tactics as Hollywood would be ignoring a portion of their production system.
This isn’t to say that Hollywood is in the clear, however. Large companies often get trapped in the idea of making remakes or sequels, hoping to gain an automatic audience (increasingly without success). They’re trying to play it safe, but that’s clearly not what the audience wants (i.e: the box-office flops of Solo and the Mummy). People want more unique films to come back into Hollywood, and as usual, Hollywood is going slow in its response. Hopefully, however, it does respond soon.