Hollywood plays it safe

Short of the week has put together an interesting ‘info-graphic’ that clearly illustrates a trend we’ve all been aware of for years – sequels,
prequels and adaptations are ruling the box office. With every passing year, it is becoming increasingly difficult to see a big-budget film based on an original idea.

The article doesn’t pretend to critique such films – it makes no effort to discuss whether the latest Transformers film is more worthy of our attention than say, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Independence Day – it simply puts forward the evidence that our blockbuster hopefuls are increasingly less original.

Click here to take a look at the info-graphic and to read the original article.

A worrying trend

Regardless of where you think the blame may lie, I think we can all agree that it is a shame that less original material sees the light of day. Even if we love the Harry Potter series (I do) and are salivating at the thought of returning to Pandora in Avatar 2 (hmmmm…..maybe a little bit), its hard to ignore the threat – creatively speaking – that this trend poses.

Of course, blockbusters represent but a fraction of what I love about cinema, yet I gain a great deal of pleasure from seeing a big-scale, flashy summer release. All too often that pleasure is tempered by the nagging thought that what I am watching has little in the way of soul and, all too often, a mere wisp of a plot hidden behind the CGI and explosions.

I do think that these short-comings are directly linked to the fading originality of summer releases. Seriously, how can they expect us to become emotionally invested in the movie adaptation of the board game Battleships? And surely it must be  increasingly difficult for film-makers to be emotionally invested when they hold so little sway over the subject matter of the films they are creating.

Its all about the money

Of course the driving force behind these changes is money. A film that has a pre-existing audience – that are guaranteed to go and see the film – is a safer investment than a film based upon a strange and new idea. Also it seems that we increasingly expect our blockbusters to be HUGE. Budgets have ballooned to the point where a tent-pole picture is rarely produced for less than $150 million and regularly for $200 million or more.

Do you remember the outrage when $175 million was spent on Waterworld? Well, that is a fairly standard budget now for a big release. When Sam Raimi’s Spiderman was released in 2002, it cost $139 million. Now in 2012, when Marc Webb came to make The Amazing Spiderman, he somehow dropped $230 million, and no one batted an eye.

With these huge budgets becoming the norm, is it any wonder that film companies are less likely to make riskier investments? I’m not sure that a film requires such a hefty budget in order to provide the spectacle that modern audiences want. Whilst I am glad that the new Star Trek film will be as visually impressive as it will no doubt be, I wish there was some way to go back to a time when films did not cost such a huge amount to make.

Ultimately, the movie-going public like their summer blockbusters to always be bigger, louder and more special-effects driven every year. What we need is for Hollywood to to show a little more strength of character and produce some films that will not only generate a nice return for their investors, but also stand the test of time as well as entertain us for a couple of hours.

Budget information taken from the IMDB.