Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Let me ask you a question. What are some movies you’ve seen recently in the theater? I’m willing to bet some of you might say films like these: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Wonder Woman,” “Fifty Shades Darker,” “The LEGO Batman Movie,” “John Wick: Chapter 2,” “The Mummy,” “Kong: Skull Island,” “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “War For the Planet of the Apes,” “Annabelle: Creation,” “The Fate of the Furious,” “Ghost in the Shell,” or “Power Rangers.” What do these films have in common? Well, none of them are original, they’re all based on something.
If something has been proven recently, at least from my observations, it’s that Hollywood has a desire for taking ideas which have been done in the past, either as an art form or as a real-life event, maybe in some cases regardless of how interesting they are, and making their own adaptations out of it. Even some of the greatest directors of all time have done this, directors who have come up with BRILLIANT original ideas. Christopher Nolan for example, he did the “The Dark Knight” trilogy and he also did “Insomnia,” which is a 2002 remake of a movie released in 1997 which goes by the same name. Robert Zemeckis, the director of the “Back to the Future” trilogy and “Cast Away” has done films based on true events, including “The Walk” and “Forrest Gump,” which were both well received. Joss Whedon, well known for creating original TV shows which have been well received by various people such as “Firefly” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” has eventually gone on to direct Marvel’s “The Avengers,” released in 2012, along with “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” released in 2015. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of times when unoriginal content can work.
There have been plenty of comic book movies that are making buttloads of money at the box office. If one thing has been proven over the past few years, it’s that people, no matter what age, love superheroes. I love em too. When it comes to superhero movies, I generally find them to be fun movies where I can just munch on popcorn for a couple of hours, enjoy some action, perhaps get a few laughs out of my system, or just simply get completely caught up with whatever is going on in a studio’s “cinematic universe,” which both Marvel and DC have going for them at the moment.
There have also been highly appreciated book-based adaptations, in fact, there are some movies that exist I don’t even think some people realize were based on books, or if they do realize that, they never bothered to read them, including “The Martian,” “Arrival,” “Room,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and the entire “Lord of the Rings” saga. Another set of unoriginal ideas that have usually worked include movies based on true events. You might see a number of these around the Oscar season including “Deepwater Horizon,” “The Lone Survivor,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Ray,” and “The Hurt Locker.” These films are usually powerful, while also paying tribute to someone or something associated with an event of focus shown throughout, and while they might not always be ENTIRELY TRUE bit by bit, they can make for compelling and interesting stories.
When it comes to misses on unoriginal ideas, one thing people often point to, are remakes and reboots. There are a number of comic book adaptations that are getting rebooted left and right, I’m looking at you “Spider-Man” and “Batman.” Although there have been remakes of movies that were done in the past that have been well received as original ideas, but poorly received as unoriginal ideas. These include “Point Break,” “Ghostbusters,” “Psycho,” “The Wicker Man,” and “Poltergeist.” I don’t work for Hollywood in any way, shape, or form, I’d like to, and I have some ideas for movies and TV shows, both original and unoriginal, but there’s no time to get into that. Although as one who doesn’t work for Hollywood, people like me usually assume that people who think remakes, reboots, and other unoriginal content are what studios should be putting out are just “lazy.” And it may be true, after all, people might sometimes go see a movie if it is something they’re familiar with. As a kid, I was familiar with “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” both the books and the original movie, so when I heard “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules” was coming out in 2011, I figured I’d go see that. When “The Amazing Spider-Man” was coming out, I went to see that. I went through this phase for awhile, I barely saw any movies in theaters, although in 2013, that changed, I started getting into other material, and YouTube had an overload of trailers that I checked out and became interested in, therefore intriguing me to see movies involving original ideas such as “The Internship,” otherwise known as, a near 2 hour Google commercial, although not a bad one. “Pacific Rim,” which combines monster movies and “Power Rangers.” and “Gravity,” which might as well be called “The 3D Is So Amazing, You Can’t Even Tell It’s Post Converted!” Now that we’re here in 2017, I think original ideas aren’t happening as often, or, if they are still happening as often, they’re not as successful as I feel they could or should be. Just look at the box office totals for 2017 thus far. I checked Wikipedia’s “2017 in film” page, and the top 10 films in terms of what they earned at the box office are currently all unoriginal.
The movies I found on the list in order from the highest earned total to the lowest happen to be “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Fate of the Furious,” “Despicable Me 3,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Wonder Woman,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Wolf Warriors 2,” “Logan,” and “Transformers: The Last Knight.” After seeing this, I went to a page on Box Office Mojo dedicated to the box office results of 2017, and the highest grossing movie I saw on the list which was original happened to be “Your Name,” an animation from Studio Ghibli. I’ve heard fantastic things about the film so far, I haven’t watched it, but I heard great things. This film is at the #15 spot on the list, which interested me. The movie didn’t make much money where I live, which is the US, but it did make money in other countries. I noticed it made lots in Japan, which didn’t really shock me considering how Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation company. But I also took into account that it made loads in China and South Korea. It’s easy to see why it would make money in countries like Japan, Studio Ghibli is Japanese, it’s an animation which is going to encourage people to bring younger audiences along for the ride, “Spirited Away,” another piece of work from Studio Ghibli was Japan’s highest grossing film ever when that came out, and Studio Ghibli has an excellent track record with their movies. Don’t understand? Just look up films such as “When Marnie Was There,” “My Neighbor Totoro,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and “Castle in the Sky.” In a way, Studio Ghibli, may as well be viewed by Japanese audiences in a similar way to how American audiences view Pixar.
One time period that interested me when it came to the making of original content is the 1980s. This was something that came to mind after reading Curtis Armstrong’s new memoir, “Revenge of the Nerd.” In case you don’t know who Curtis Armstrong is, he is a famous actor, and in this book, he talks about his days as a stage actor, converting into a film actor, and everything before and after. At multiple points throughout the book, he’s talking about the “Revenge of the Nerds” series, a series which may contain a defining role for Curtis, Dudley “Booger” Dawson. In case you didn’t know, that series has four installments, although it almost didn’t even make it to two. The first installment came out in 1984, and 20th Century Fox, the studio who owns the movie, thought it was a travesty that belonged in movie hell. For the record, this became a cult classic and perhaps one of the most quotable comedies ever. Just the “Nerds!” chant alone is stuck in my head. 20th Century Fox thought that because of this movie, they should put an embargo against any sequels. Armstrong states in a chapter dedicated to “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise,” “Fox still considered Revenge of the Nerds a misstep and, in addition, had implemented a strict studio-wide no-sequel rule as part of their new “quality-control” policy. As far as quality control went, it was successful in eliminating sequels but it didn’t stop them from continuing to release plenty of inferior product. But it was “original” inferior product, so that was okay.” I’ll say, just be glad that “Return of the Jedi” came out in 1983 or we probably would have less of a chance of seeing that movie come to life, perhaps zero chance even! Although, if the sequel embargo were still around, “The Phantom Menace” would have probably never been made so that’s one disappointment of the embargo going away. Well, as long as prequels count here too and not just sequels. “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise” was actually the first sequel to be green-lit by Fox once the sequel embargo was no more, as Curtis heard from one of the cast members from the series, Robert Carradine, who’s known for playing the character of Lewis. What people like Curtis and Bobby saw from Fox in the 1980s is pretty much the opposite of what everyone’s seeing today from just about every film studio. Boy have times changed!
When I look at studios today, not to mention people making pitches to studios, I kind of feel bad at times. Part of me imagines a reason why we aren’t seeing original ideas anymore. That reason being, is that studios are afraid. What are they afraid of? Not getting enough money, and they see a movie that has been successful in the past and their brain is directed towards remaking that movie instead of new and fresh movie. Just look at Disney right now!
Here’s a question. When was the last time Disney made an original movie? OK, it actually wasn’t that long ago with films like “Zootopia” and “Moana,” but they’ve released LOTS of unoriginal content over the past few years! Disney seems to have a fetish for live action remakes, with movies like “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” “Pete’s Dragon,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and you even have remakes for “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” currently in the works. Lucasfilm, which has “Star Wars,” was once owned by Fox, but now they’re part of Disney! So you can basically say that Leia is now technically a “Disney Princess!” Disney even owns Marvel, so basically every single movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a Disney movie! Fox still has the rights to “Fantastic Four” and “X-Men,” but Disney has “Iron Man,” “The Avengers,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Captain America,” “Doctor Strange,” “Thor,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Ant-Man,” and part of the rights to “Spider-Man.” They are continuing to make separate stories about superheroes including “Black Panther” and “Captain Marvel.”
Despite what I’m seeing with all of these unoriginal ideas, I still occasionally take a glance at original ideas every once in a while when the opportunity comes up. This year, when it comes to original ideas, I’ve seen movies like “Baby Driver,” “You Can’t Have It,” “Gifted,” “Snatched,” and “Colossal.” Believe it or not, I actually dislike three out of these five films. Although I wouldn’t say they’re absolute atrocities, except for “Snatched.” I walked out of “Baby Driver” and “Colossal” with grades of at least 9/10. This is a sign that original films can still rock. When it comes to the box office, “Baby Driver” was on the higher end of the spectrum this year, not as high as “Your Name,” but so far it’s beating unoriginal content like “Power Rangers,” “The Emoji Movie” if that counts, “Rings,” and “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” For “Colossal,” that film’s in the middle when it comes to the box office as a whole this year, but keep in mind that it’s a film from a studio that’s just starting out and it wasn’t in too many theaters. “Colossal” is an independent film directed by Nacho Vigalondo, and it’s being distributed by Neon, and according to Wikipedia, this is the first film Neon ever distributed. For home video, they have a distribution deal with Universal, which part of me dislikes because they’re owned by Comcast and I hate those psychos right now, but whatever. They haven’t done many films right now, so if you’re perhaps an independent filmmaker and looking for a distributor, try looking into Neon.
Another hope for originality, believe it or not, is Amazon. How do I know? Recently I Googled, “how long does it take for an amazon original movie to become free” because I wanted to check out an Amazon Studios movie called “The Wall,” but I was also curious, as an Amazon Prime member, the average time it takes for a movie under Amazon to become free to Prime members. I clicked on the first result that came up, stating: “Amazon Studios Frequently Asked Questions : Amazon Studios.” Before we get any further into this, Amazon has done original movies including “Manchester by the Sea,” “Paterson,” and “The Neon Demon,” and even done original TV shows including “Transparent,” “Goliath,” and “Sneaky Pete.” When it comes to the process of making something such as a movie or TV show which can be distributed by Amazon, it’s all explained where I checked. This whole process is not for minors, however if you are 18 or over you can submit your ideas to Amazon all you want, which honestly just excites me. Why? I turn 18 in November. So if I have an idea that I feel could make a good script and it’s completed when I’m 18 or older, I can submit it to Amazon! As far as I know, Amazon hasn’t done much unoriginal content whatsoever, they’ve taken content that revolves in one way or another around past events including “The Man in the High Castle,” “The Big Sick,” and “Gleason.” Another part that a lot of consumers might enjoy is one that I somewhat hinted at not long ago, if an Amazon Prime member ends up watching your movie on Amazon once its out of theaters and releases on home video, chances are it might be free, because Amazon has a list of exclusive films and they’re all free for Prime members.
I want to know, do you have an original idea for a movie or TV show? Well, if you do, I recommend pitching it somewhere, probably Amazon, but if you want to leave a comment as to what your original idea is, go ahead! But be careful, because if you don’t pitch it, that idea could be someone else’s, possibly mine! I would give my own ideas, but there could be a chance that some schmuck could see it and possibly steal it in a couple months!
Thanks for reading this post, I once again want to remind everyone that next weekend I’ll be at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT for Terrificon, a three day convention lasting from Friday August 18, to Sunday August 20. I’ll be at the convention center on Friday and Saturday, but I will be in the building all three days, although I won’t be there for long on Sunday. I’m planning on possibly livestreaming for some of the convention on Twitter, so follow my account, @JackDrees, if you want to check some of that out, but that’s if I actually livestream. Also, if you are at Mohegan Sun for the weekend, don’t hesitate to give a hello to me if you know who I am or recognize me. You might just find me somewhere wearing blue sunglasses. And no, not for cosplay purposes. I’m not sure if I want to do any future posts on the convention, like on what I get there or anything like that, but only time will tell. But if you do want to check out my post that I did, exposing some details about the convention itself, I’ll have a link to that down below, and if you want to check out the website for Terrificon, I’ll have a link to that down below as well! Stay tuned for more posts and reviews! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
MY TERRIFICON PREVIEW: https://scenebefore.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/announcement-im-going-to-terrificon-at-mohegan-sun-in-uncasville-ct/
TERRIFICON WEBSITE: http://www.terrificon.com/