Monday, June 29, 2015

FilmLight - The Necessity of Originality

Article author: Alwyn Ash
"At the right time, in the right light, everything is extraordinary"

2001 Space Odyssey Image
2001... and there's absolutely nothing
to watch on the new Monolith TV?

In a regular column, Alwyn Ash shines a spotlight on different film-related subjects. This week it is the need for sequels, reboots and remakes...

This subject has likely been touched upon by other sites previously, but I simply cannot hold back on my own personal feelings presently regarding the film industry's lack of vision... No one is in any doubt that movies are all about profit, just like in other forms of entertainment. A product is created in order to be a financial success. In the case of Hollywood, any film that under-performs at the Box Office is unlikely to ever see a sequel green-lit for production. That is just the way of things! However, a question I raise is, "Have movie executives gone too far in relying on the familiar?" Just what does the future hold in store for cinematic experiences?

In a once golden age, Hollywood produced some wondrous theatre, original storytelling, visually breathtaking. Though my era of cinema truly evolved in the 1980s, I applaud the ingenuity of Byron Haskin's 1953 feast "The War of the Worlds" (with absolutely amazing designs of Martian war machines by Al Nozaki), the quite simply brilliant and effective morality of Robert Wise's 1951 spectacle "The Day the Earth Stood Still", and the out-of-this-world event of Fred M. Wilcox's 1956 masterpiece "Forbidden Planet". The 1950s produced so many features to praise that I would be here all day.

However, you name a decade and there are titles that immediately spring to mind: "Psycho" (1960), "The Dirty Dozen" (1967), "Grease" (1978), "Rocky" (1976), "Life of Brian" (1979), "Top Gun" (1986), and "Schindler's List" (1993). Whatever the era, you are certain to have your choice of films... One could give a hearty mention to George Lucas's "Star Wars"; or Franklin J. Schaffner's "Planet of the Apes", itself an adaptation of Pierre Boulle's 1963 novel "La Planète des Singes". When approached correctly, book-to-film adaptations can make for captivating additions: never forget that the ground-breaking special effects giant "Jurassic Park" was a novel first, by American writer Michael Crichton; and James Bond's literary assignments such as "Casino Royale" would spawn a movie franchise - "When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument... when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, (James Bond) is the dullest name I ever heard" - Ian Fleming, The New Yorker, 21 April 1962

One of my pet hates right now are the seemingly endless stream of remakes and sequels that Hollywood is so obsessed with. Though everyone has an opinion regarding the best of these, I cannot help but take a dislike to Marvel and DC Comics transfers to the Big Screen. Please DO NOT misunderstand, I simply ADORE Tim Burton's 1989 re-imagining of "Batman"; and Christopher Reeve's performance in the "Superman" franchise (perhaps NOT "Superman IV") touched my childhood with such magic and fascination. But how many times must there be a reboot, or a clash of titans just because it seems like a good idea?

In my opinion there just aren't too many surprises in cinema now. When there are, it is a wondrous event. In the good old days remakes were produced sparingly, with much screen time devoted to new and experimental movies. Arthur C Clark's "2001: A Space Odyssey" was a masterpiece of cinematic art; and Tron's visual style a unique blend that gave access to a digitalised universe unlike any other. Directors such as Stanley Kubrick and Steven Lisberger knew how to craft the unusual. They were masters of vision.

Have we now also reached a time when merchandise determines what is to be filmed and commercially released, with the extra revenue firmly in the minds of studio bosses? Though a financial necessity in some ways, are we in danger of losing original and singularly entertaining motion pictures? This is where I value independent film companies and their movie directors, whose single aim is to create something that tells a story, well-written and passionately produced. Because of their limited budgets, everything is crafted with care, each scene made to count.

I am now off to watch "Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Return", at the theatre. Apparently the aliens forgot to leave one of their abductees behind in the previous instalment, and Columbia Pictures felt it reason enough for a sequel... Expect burning eyes and a crystal skull... Sorry, already done? Thank goodness for Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity", Caradog W. James's "The Machine", and Alex Garland's "Ex Machina".

Follow Alwyn Ash on Twitter: @AlwynAsh. Image source courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Article © Alwyn Ash 2015. Quotes (if applicable) used for publicity purposes only; no infringement of copyright is intended.