Friday, May 7, 2010

Prequels, sequels, remakes: Is Hollywood in the recycling biz?

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20th Century Fox's 'Predators'

Can Hollywood think of nothing new?
That is the question moviegoers are asking at the start of 2010's summer blockbuster season. Frankly, it is not that surprising.
Prequels, sequels and remakes are everywhere this year: "Iron Man 2," "Toy Story 3," "The Karate Kid," "TRON Legacy." The list goes on, with the trend continuing well into 2011 and beyond.
Toss in a slick glossing of 3-D bells-and-whistles (thank you "Avatar") and … will Hollywood ever bet on an original, 2-D movie concept ever again?
This is no fad. It is no business blip. It is the way of the future for cash-strapped studios contending with more online piracy and fewer moviegoers in theatres.
When studios have already spent millions building up a brand why not spend more refreshing properties that come with loyal followings and the potential to lure younger audiences?
That's just good business in today's economy. And, boy does it work.
To remake or not to remake? That is the question
Critics and fans may not like Hollywood's retro recyling.
For example, consider 2007's Alvin and the Chipmunks. It was dubbed one of the worst movies of that year. But it made millions at the box office: more than US$361 million to date in worldwide grosses according to
The 2009 sequel, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel," exceeded that figure, raking in more than US$442 million in worldwide grosses.
Those nuts Hollywood simply does not ignore.
In 2010 Louis Leterrier's "Clash of the Titans" was lambasted by critics, largely for the 3-D touches that were slapped on at the last minute. Shot for US$125 million, "Clash" has made more than US$390 at the worldwide box office.
Now wonder Sam Worthington, the film's star, is keeping his sword, sandals and bod nicely buffed for "Clash of the Titans II," which will hit theatres in 2012.
Such manoeuvring may not seem creative to us Average Joes. But, it capitalizes on Hollywood momentum. For a movie machine that craves billions it's the only way to go.
Retro recycling works for Hollywood. What about you?
"There are pluses and minus with sequels and prequels," says Betsy Sharkey, the film critic for the Los Angeles Times.
"The upside, assuming that the first movie did well, is that consumers know going in essentially what they are getting," says Sharkey.
"The down side is that it's difficult to make a known quantity fresh. Very few have been able to make the films that follow as good as the first," she adds.
There are exceptions.
"‘Godfather II' was terrific," says Sharkey. "Even ‘Pirates of the Caribbean' and ‘Shrek' haven't suffered too badly as they have been strung out."
But what if that stringing out dilutes a franchise? Worse still, what if it irritates moviegoers to the point of no return?
Visit any movie blog today and you'll find thousands of fans who are either thrilled or horrified at some of the re-dos Hollywood has in development.
Such commentary is wildly subjective. But it does raise some valid points, especially when reboots start tampering with Hollywood classics.
Do we really need to see a remake of "My Fair Lady," and with Carey Mulligan filling Audrey Hepburn's shoes?
Are audiences really clamouring to see a new "Rosemary's Baby," or Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes redo "Last Tango in Paris?"
Even today, blogs were buzzing with the news that Robert Downey Jr. may play the Wizard of Oz in Sam Mendes upcoming film, "Oz: The Great and Powerful."
That is just one of the scripts reportedly being considered by Warner Bros., the makers of the 1939 masterpiece.
What's next: a remake of "Citizen Kane?"
Just the thought is enough to make some classic movie lovers choke on their popcorn.
In final analysis, some may argue that every movie -- or stage production for that matter -- is a reboot of some kind.
Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Hemingway…Change the names and eras and one thing becomes clear: no story is truly that original when it comes to what drives us.
And yet, as Hollywood's prequel/sequel fever continues one cannot help but wonder if those pushing this agenda are being too cocky.
Consider this: In 1939 "The Wizard of Oz," "Gone with the Wind," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Ninotchka" and "Dark Victory," to name only a few, were released.
Will 2010's "Saw VII," "The A-Team," "Sex and the City 2" or "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" top that level of creativity?
"The challenge is always the same," says Sharkey. "You have to have great dialogue, a strong structure, some surprising twists and turns along the way. Odds are people will like it whether it's the first or the 15th film."
From Hollywood's recycling bin to a theatre near you.
Here are just a few blasts from the past headed to a theatre near you this summer:
  • "Iron Man 2" (May 7)
  • "Shrek Forever After" (May 21)
  • "Sex and the City 2" (May 27)
  • "Marmaduke" (June 4)
  • "The A-Team" (June 11)
  • "The Karate Kid" (June 11)
  • "Toy Story 3" (June 18)
  • "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" (June 25)
  • "Predators" (July 9)
  • "The Expendables" (August 13)
  • "Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang" (August 20)
  • "Piranha 3-D" (August 27)
10 fall picks:
  • "Resident Evil: Afterlife" (September 3)
  • "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" (September 24)
  • "Jackass 3-D" (October 15)
  • "Saw VII 3-D" (October 22)
  • "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" (November 19)
  • "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (December 10)
  • "TRON Legacy" (December 17)
  • "Yogi Bear" (December 17)
  • "Gulliver's Travels" (December 22)
  • "True Grit" (December 25)
25 prequels, sequels and remakes in the works
  • "Avatar 2"
  • "Alien 5"
  • "The Birds"
  • "Bourne 4"
  • "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
  • "Da Vinci Code 3"
  • "District 10"
  • "Excalibur"
  • "Fast & Furious 5"
  • "Frankenstein"
  • "Ghostbusters 3"
  • "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"
  • "The Hangover 2"
  • "The Hobbit"
  • "Lethal Weapon 5"
  • "The Lone Ranger"
  • "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides:
  • "RoboCop"
  • "Roger Rabbit 2"
  • "Sherlock Holmes 2"
  • "Spider-Man 4"
  • "Star Trek 2"
  • "The Thing"
  • "Superman Returns 2"
  • "Wolverine 2"

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