Archive for March 19th, 2012

Regarding movie & TV show remakes

It has been a constant complaint in the last few years, especially by genre fans: the countless Hollywood remakes or re-imaginings of older movies and TV shows. I personally prefer original works (even if everything is a remix of previous artistic knowledge in reality), and I don’t discount all direct remakes as useless. But in the last few years there’s definitely an identified problem in the sheer concentration of remakes or blatant copies of older ideas. It feels like there’s nothing really fresh coming out from the world anymore. I believe that it’s a three-tier issue:

1. Hollywood doesn’t take risks anymore
Why would Coca-Cola change its recipe? They normally wouldn’t. Similarly, in these difficult financial times we live in, Hollywood prefers to serve us tried & tested recipes. Can you blame them? Actually, you can. Hollywood is an immense artistic influence and force, we like it or not. While the various execs are in it just for the money, this doesn’t discount the fact that as industry leaders they also have an ethical obligation to be artistically progressive. And this can only happen when some risk is taken. With the explosion of various art mediums in the ’90s, Hollywood has entered a second phase of maturation, which unfortunately made it more bureaucratic, and more concentrated. There are of course a lot of politics behind the scenes, but the gist of it all is that these companies are now running like old oil factories: one step in front, two steps back.

“Kichwateli” (Swahili for TV-head) is a short film by self-taught animation & film director Bobb Muchiri set in a post-apocalyptic African slum and city. This afro-sci film takes the viewer on a spiritual and metaphorical voyage through a young boy’s dream mixing new imagery of a young boy wondering inquisitively with a live TV as his head to show the effects of media on a young generation.

2. Lack of imagination
Has capitalism sank its fangs into us to the point that we’re culturally bankrupt already? I don’t think so, because whereas in the past only a few people would become artists, today almost everyone is one. Human beings are resilient artistically to be able to go around such obstacles, such as a rotten political and economical system. Or could it be that every cool story is already being written and there’s nothing new to provide to the world? Sure, our world is cataclysmically bombarded with various works every day, but not everything is shown on screen, and not absolutely everything has been thought-up yet. And yet, not many radical works are getting released recently. I find the lack of imagination (or at least the exec disapproval of imaginative works) very disturbing. Science Fiction is supposed to be about what it could become, while at the same time is being current to today’s problems. What is our existence without a window to a possible future or solution? What is art if it doesn’t strive to imagine some sort of utopia?

3. Plot timing
As I wrote above, science fiction describes both a possible future but also our present. When remaking an old sci-fi movie, you’re running into the danger of re-discussing a then-current issue that is no more. Often this is “fixed” by re-writing specific plot points, enough to piss off the old fans and sabotage the new movie any way the can. And failing at the box office, it gets the business back to point No 1 above. Rinse, repeat.

The solution? By definition, the new wave will come from indie filmmakers (especially as tools become even more inexpensive), or from an anti-Hollywood conglomerate of international media companies. Hollywood won’t survive this new reality, the same way the big-4 music labels haven’t survived the indie music onslaught in the last few years.