Is There No Original Thoughts Left in Hollywood?

Short Circuit Number 5

Oh Hollywood, Hollywood… why has thou forsaken me? Okay, seriously, I’ve come to wonder in recent weeks if what people have said for years (that there are no original stories) isn’t now true for Hollywood. It’s happened in stages… there would be the sequels that you would roll your eyes at and wonder why they bother. The odd remake, where the original was far better. Then, last year, with sequels for Rambo, Rocky and a less than brilliant sequel for Indiana Jones, I began to truly wonder. Why do a sequel for a movie where the last offering was some twenty years ago?

Now its no surprise that Transformers has a sequel, it was a fairly successful big budget movie. But in recent weeks reports have emerged of sequels to both Heathers and a third Ghostbusters offering. Then there’s the newly greenlit prequel for Alien, a series of movies which after recent offerings should really be buried.

And lets not forget remakes and reboots of Flight of the Navigator and Short Circuit. Flight of the Navigator? Really? Has it really come to this that Hollywood has to look to a little known Disney movie from the 80s for inspiration? Instead of getting me immediately into a cinema with a brand name I find myself more cautious than ever with these reboots and sequels. Despite overly large budgets and big name actors, many of these movies in their heart are direct-to-DVD releases in blockbuster clothing.

Does that mean that there’s no hope left for Hollywood? Well, only sorta, actually. Three new offerings do leave me with a great deal of excitement and of all the endless prequels, sequels and reboots, are the only ones that I do intend to part with good money to see. So who are these original minds within Hollywood?

Well, for starters, there’s the upcoming movie District 9 directed by Neil Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. The story is based on Blomkamp’s short movie Alive in Joberg and takes place in Johannesburg where aliens arrive and are forced to settle in a “non-human” only area of South Africa which is controlled by a company known as Multi-National United, who are utilizing the aliens and their technology for their own ends.

This movie is the most original movie to appear on the list of summer tent pole movies this year, with some fantastic viral marketing to include a District 9 website with two versions, one for humans and one for the non-humans. True, the story is an allegory for apartheid South Africa, but hey, V was an allegory for Nazi Germany. What I’m loving is that not only is the movie original but because it’s set in South Africa we’re not being bombarded with name Hollywood A list or even B list actors.

Avatar James Cameron

Hope # 2 comes with the upcoming release of Avatar. Apparently James Cameron didn’t get the memo regarding “no new original stories” because Avatar is not only new and original, it’s the first movie I’ve looked forward to and desperately awaited information on in a really long time. I’ll be the first to admit that the story of Avatar isn’t entirely unique. Set in a distant future where a wounded former marine goes with a team to an alien planet known by its exotic inhabitants as “Pandora” to exploit the planet and its ammonia-breathing inhabitants. Any avid science fiction reader will tell you that the story elements of Avatar have existed in a number of different novels, including Burrough’s John Carter series.

But it’s not that I expect a story to be entirely unique. Even outside of Hollywood, that is becoming more and more difficult to find. It’s the idea that Avatar is creating something new both filmically with its 3D technology and in a world-building sense with the alien life forms and even the language created for the life forms. There’s no milking a cash cow by lazily slapping a well known name onto a movie even if it only has a passing resemblance to the original. Avatar is one of those stories that I suspect will hold audiences because it has passion. Would I much rather see a unique movie that has been in the creation process for 14 years over one that was immediately greenlit because Number 5 and Wall-E look alike? You bet.

Haldeman Forever War

So what’s Hollywood’s last best hope? Well, this one comes from Ridley Scott and will be his first foray into science fiction in nearly 30 years. I am of course referring to his adaptation of Haldeman’s anti-war novel, Forever War. While brother Tony messes around with yet another addition to the growing Alien series, Ridley Scott found inspiration from Cameron’s Avatar to take on 3D and while little is known about this movie right now, the idea of the directors of Alien and Aliens taking on new science fiction projects and utilizing the latest 3D technology does fill me with hope. In addition, this is a novel that Scott has tried to gain rights to for over 25 years, and lets face it, not since the Vietnam war has a book like this been more relevant, so with that much passion and creativity surrounding the project, I’m willing to give it a go.

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