Pop Cultured: Remakes, Sequels and the Death of Originality

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(Design by Malithi Gunawardena | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Luke Jackson, Arts Writer

 

Mark Twain once said “There’s no such thing as an original idea. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.”

In some sense, each story told will hold some element of similarity because they all are derived from people living in the same world. Stories are a by-product of existing in the universe. We each have reactions to the intricacies and incidents that occur in everyday life, and stories are told to amplify that. I’ve never been to space or fought in a rebellion, but I can still relate to Luke Skywalker’s desire to make something of himself.

I know there is no such thing as a completely original story, but unfortunately, it seems Hollywood has taken this fact and decided to give up on originality all together. Cinema — especially blockbuster cinema — has warped from an opportunity to tell a story to the opportunity to make a buck. I’m not saying that every movie today is out there to get your money, there are still plenty of great films being made. I am, however, saying there seems to be a remake and sequel sickness in mainstream cinema.

Remakes

Let’s start with this weird phenomenon of remakes. This is especially is prevalent in the Walt Disney Co., which let’s face it, basically owns the entire world. Over the last ten years, Disney has released 12 live-action remakes of stories they’ve already told. I can say in good conscience that not one of these remakes has lived up to the great films they are representing.

I want to bring special attention to one remake, the 2017 “Beauty and the Beast” starring Emma Watson as Belle. The 1991 animated “Beauty and the Beast” was one of my absolute favorite films as a young child. Even just thinking of Angela Lansbury singing the title track as Belle and Beast dance around the empty gold ballroom gives me chills. What I got in 2017 was Watson belting an autotuned rendition of Belle that just made me wish I was watching the original. The overall film is fine, but it doesn’t feel like a movie Disney poured its heart into. The token “Disney magic” felt reserved and misplaced.

I don’t know who is asking for these remakes, but I personally think it’s time to stop supporting them. Looking at the Disney slate, however, it appears we’ve got additional remakes coming our way. Think of the new mystical worlds we could be exploring! Instead, here we are revisiting the old worlds — only to find CGI-filled heartless shadows of what once was.

Sequels

Sequels are a fickle thing. Occasionally, they can be brilliant — for example, “Toy Story 2,”  “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Dark Knight.” However — more often than not — we are given tired, underdone movies that have me leaving the theatre saying, “They should have quit while they were ahead.”

It’s in sequels that we can really see major Hollywood studios looking to make a quick buck. Take some beloved characters, throw them into a wacky situation and call it a day. I’m really beating down on Disney here, but let’s take a look at “Toy Story 4.”

The “Toy Story” franchise in my mind was perfect. The first and second installments mean everything to me. I have Buzz Lightyear action figures, Halloween costumes, posters, you name it. I remember going to see “Toy Story 3” in theatres as a 12-year-old, nervous, that it wouldn’t hold up. Somehow, Pixar did the impossible, and eleven years after “Toy Story 2,” put a beautiful bow on a beautiful set of movies. Then, nine more years go by and they’ve brought Woody and the gang back. Why? I couldn’t tell you. My heart ached as I watched “Toy Story 4” fall short and tarnish the great name of “Toy Story.” Again, the movie was fine — but after I left the theatre, I wished it hadn’t had been made.

I believe a similar sentiment can be said for the seemingly endless stream of Marvel and Star Wars movies that constantly berate us. Hopefully, the day where we put these endless retellings to bed is nearby, I don’t know how much more my heart can take.

 

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@__lukejackson