Hollywood loves being unoriginal.
This means remakes, reboots, sequels, remakes of reboots and reboots of remakes.
They're remaking 90s action movies Stargate and Cliffhanger, even though the odds are stacked against them, Nia Vardalos is reportedly working on a sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and James Cameron is not only doing 3 sequels to his megahit
Dances With Wolves Avatar as well as a Dances With Wolves Avatar themed Cirque De Soleil live show.
It's not a new phenomena. Hollywood's done it since the dawn of the medium, and in the old days such things didn't cause people to sigh in exasperated frustration.
A little known fact is that the version of The Maltese Falcon, by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor, which is considered a classic was the third adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's legendary novel. Another case is that Christian Nyby/Howard Hawks' The Thing and John Carpenter's The Thing, are both classics in their own way.
Sequels are also nothing new, but were actually fairly rare outside of horror and science fiction, since audiences were invested in the romantic happy endings as being just that "happily ever after" endings. The mystery genre is a bit of an exception, because most were treated as stand-alone procedural stories with very little, if any, reference or mention of previous films. Usually because many were adapted from popular novels, and were made by not only different filmmakers, but often by different studios.
One thing that was popular in Hollywood were what I call "unrelated sequels." The classic examples were the comedy team films of the 1930s to the 1950s where the same actors played variations of the same characters going off on new adventures in every instalment.
So why are we so exasperated by sequels and remakes now?
It all boils down to motive.
Sure money has always motivated the film industry. In fact, we wouldn't have a show business if people hadn't figured out ways to make money from entertaining people.
But in the old days Hollywood knew that they were in the business of selling stories, and that audiences wanted fresh stories and/or fresh ideas.
Remakes were motivated by either a desire to tell a story in a better way, like The Maltese Falcon, or to take advantage of new technology or resources. Lots of silent films were remade into talkies, black and white standard screens into colour and cinemascope.
Sequels were partially driven by money, but mostly because there was a new chapter in the story to tell.
However, nowadays those motives don't matter.
It doesn't matter if a filmmaker has a new take on old material, or if there's another tale to be told of a character's adventures.
What matters to Hollywood these days is "brand awareness."
Hollywood's ivy league educated experts believe that if something has a familiar brand associated to it, you will buy it irregardless of quality.
This comes from our shopping habits. When you go shopping for laundry detergent the odds are pretty good that you don't just walk into the laundry aisle and grab a jug at random. You have a brand of detergent that you always use and it would take something pretty radical to make you change your habit.
Sure, novelty and originality is great, but it's risky. Brand awareness is a kind of snake oil, executives tell their masters that it's a safety net, and gives them license to be both frivolous and lazy at the same time.
That's what I think. Let me know what you think in the comments.