What once was old is new again: A look at modern Hollywood remakes and adaptations

Harry Potter book series next to a poster for the movie.

It is a dark time for cinemas. Movie theaters all over the world have been devastatingly impacted by the pandemic, as crowding with a group of strangers indoors to stare at a screen for hours goes against every single bit of advice doctors have been giving. When—or if—the world decides to finally calm down, and it is deemed safe to return to the silver screen, every studio is sure to release every blockbuster they’ve been holding onto. Marvel will put out a few movies, a few remakes of Disney classics will come out, and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson will be as charismatic as usual in a “Jumanji” film. Everyone will be firing on all cylinders.

Think about the examples that I gave. Sure, they’re all “popcorn” movies made to collect money, but they also have something else in common. Almost none of them are new ideas. They may not be remakes exactly, as Marvel movies are adaptations and “Jumanji” sequels are sequels… of an adaptation. It seems like movie studios are determined to keep popular franchises going. Where are all the new ideas?

I could sit here and type about how lazy Hollywood is being, but the truth is, I get it. “Avengers: Endgame,” the highest grossing film of all time, cost $350 million to make—and that’s ignoring marketing costs. Luckily for Disney, that movie made back that money on its opening weekend. I don’t think anybody expected that movie not to make that money back. The other big money-makers in 2019 that Disney put out were also remakes and sequels (like “The Lion King” and “Toy Story 4”). Nostalgia and familiarity get butts in seats, and when it costs so much to make a movie, then why wouldn’t you want to guarantee the return on your investment?

Movie making has always been just as much a business as a creative endeavor. Studios will put out whatever will make money. If books like “Dracula” and “Gone With the Wind” had never gained a following, then they would never have been movies. If studios hadn't seen the appeal of movies like Star Wars or Indiana Jones, then the camera would never have been pointed at either Han Solo or Dr. Jones. What is happening now is just a natural extension of that. Creators are not any more mediocre than they’ve ever been at storytelling. They’re just giving audiences what they pay for.

Of course, that’s the realist in me talking. While I certainly have no problem with adaptations, remakes, sequels, etc., I certainly feel that new, fresh ideas should have a larger presence in movie theaters. The availability that streaming services like Netflix give is certainly convenient, but nothing beats the thrill of experiencing a work of art with an audience. Laughter is nicer when you’re laughing together, scares are more chilling… just about every emotion is amplified through the dozens of other people in the theater with you. Ideally, there'd be a place for both. Yet, we don’t live in a world of ideals. We either keep the old or bring in the new, and if the amount of money Hollywood has invested on the past is any indication, then there’s no need for the future. Why buy a band’s new album if you can get their “Greatest Hits” instead? 

So, whenever we can all go back to theaters, keep this in mind. Your ticket is a vote for what movies you want to see get made. So don’t complain that Hollywood is all out of ideas if you’re going to see “Snow White meets Rambo: Part 2.”

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