Sunday, August 18, 2013

ECHOES IN THE DARK

I am certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that except for a proliferation of stupid and cruel baby names, Hollywood doesn’t have a creative bone left in its rotting corpus.

Now, let me be clear. You may have noticed I did not say, “Out of ideas.” There is a subtle but important difference. If I had said the latter, I would be implying that it is still on the lookout for that next great idea. Well, as far as I can see, it’s not even trying.

Case in point: according to Den of the Geek, there are as many as 111 sequels at various stages of development within its gabled, crumbling halls. That’s right, 111! Try and grasp this. In 1980, Hollywood released just 43 films altogether, only five of which were sequels. It was a great year for cinema, too, with releases of such iconic films as The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack and yes, the original Friday the 13th.

(Authors note: I picked these films as examples because—tragically—they suffered their own particularly agonizing sequel Hells in the form of horridly bad follow-ups and, in the case of FT13th, the lingering death of many sequels, each one worse than the previous.)

Think about that. Just 30 years ago, Hollywood put out less than a third of mostly original films it is now creating as sequels! Hell, in the earlier days of American cinema, sequels were almost nonexistent. Can you imagine a sequel to Metropolis or Citizen Kane? Ack! Ack! Sputter! Sputter!

Why this is happening is obvious to anyone bothering more than a transient look at the industry: greed. Yup, that Hammer of Order, that Root of All Evil, which comes so easily to an industry run by sociopath business executives and accountants, an industry so dysfunctional it uses marriages and divorces, drug abuse and its treatment, fashion ridicule and sexual orientation as part of its marketing plans.

People like the familiarity of characters they’ve already been exposed to, and are mentally and emotionally invested enough to want to share their new adventures. Hollywood knows this, and now exploits it to see just how much blood they can get by beating whatever dead horse they have on hand.

Do you think that Austin Powers would have spawned two sequels, with one the way, if studio execs didn’t want to squeeze every little ounce of marrow out of its spent bones? Come on! Except for that dialogue gag at the beginning of The Spy Who Shagged Me, it was manure!

The same could be said for Caddyshack II and Blues Brothers 2000: trash, both of them, but that didn’t stop the execs from making a few million bucks off a public hoping to relive the enjoyment they felt when they saw the originals. It’s a scam, really.

Well, now Hollywood’s sequel phenomenon has evolved. Now studios are planning multiple sequels without even bothering to wondering if the first sequel will even make it or not. The best example is James Cameron’s Avatar, or, as I like to call it, Dancing with Wolves in Spaaaaaaace!, which is now looking at three—yes, three—sequels! Whiskey tango foxtrot!

But before you say it, yes, I’ve been sucked into that sequel hole myself, many times, in fact, but I’m getting tired of the whole thing. You know, though, I guess I’d feel less strongly about sequels if the industry would just try making a good movie while using the previous film as a springboard. Far more often than not, a sequel is just a recycling of the first movie, same plot, same gags, and same cinematic approach, like what happened with The Hangover and Hangover II. Give me some slack, guys! If I’d known that I would have just watched the original again!

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