Friday, 29 August 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1174: Original Origins

Hollywood loves superhero movies, they make a lot of money.

Hollywood loves reboots, rehashes, and remakes, because they make executives feel safe.

Combine the two, and the Hollywood studios think that they've got a license to print money.

One problem, it's driving fans nuts, because not only are we seeing origin stories, we're seeing the same origin stories over and over again.

Here's a good example...

When Sam Raimi's Spider-Man franchise sputtered out in the overwrought and overcrowded Spider-Man 3, Sony, desperate to keep the franchise in the hands and not back with Marvel/Disney had two options. They could have "James Bonded" it, and just changed the actors and filmmakers and had Spider-Man go off on a new more or less stand-alone adventure, or they could reboot it, with a retelling of the origin story.

They decided to go for the reboot.


The real reason is that the people running the studio think that simply continuing a successful franchise isn't enough, you have to go and redo a specific story that they know for a fact has succeeded in the past.

However, that's not what they told the public and the filmmakers.

Those people were told that the reboot was necessary to bring about a new creative vision that will take the characters and the franchise in new directions.

But did it?

In the retelling they just seemed to take the elements from the first Sam Raimi film and just shuffled them around like a deck of cards with a few tweaks to create the illusion of depth. They added a storyline about a conspiracy about Peter Parker's dead parents, had Norman and Harry Osborne switch places in the whole Green Goblin storyline, and piled money on the whole thing with two hands.

It seemed to work. The two Amazing Spider-Man films made a lot of money at the global box-office. But there's a catch.

So much was spent on those movies that Sony's margins on them were either paper-thin, or nonexistent. This means they've delayed the third film, and are, no doubt, thinking about rebooting the whole damn origin story all over again.

There's also reports that Fox's reboot of The Fantastic 4 will feature a retelling of their origin story, which was done in the first Fantastic 4 movie.


So let's take a moment to consider when and why you should tell a superhero's origin story.


Iron Man needed to have his origin story told, because the general audience really didn't know where he came from and why he does what he does. Simple.

However, if his story was fully part of modern folklore and can be recited by a child in a country that doesn't even have comics, then you probably don't need to do it.

But what about Batman Begins?

Batman Begins was technically a reboot of Batman's… beginnings, but unlike Amazing Spider-Man it actually served two purposes.

First, it corrected the error of Tim Burton's Batman that made a pre-Joker Joker the killer of the elder Waynes instead of common street punk Joe Chill. By denying Bruce Wayne vengeance against the person directly responsible for the deaths of his parents, it forces him to act out against crime in general.

Second, it filled in the mechanics of how a young boy survived a terrible trauma to become the ruthless butt-kicking cape-wearing maniac we all know and love today.


Let's face it, you can sum up the origins of a lot of superheroes fairly quickly. Superman: Alien gets powers from our sun, Spider-Man: Gets bit by a radioactive spider, loses his beloved uncle. Etc…

So if you can get away with just saying "This happened and that's why they're like this" and just get going with the adventuring. 


Right now Marvel is casting their Doctor Strange, and it would probably be a good idea to include his origin story in the film. He's not that well known, and his becoming the Sorcerer Supreme plays a major role in his character's story arc. He starts off as an arrogant neurosurgeon, confident he has mastery over life and death, has an accident, can't do surgery anymore, and his desperate search for a cure leads him into a hidden world of mystery and magic.

That's a pretty involved story, and pretty important to the character. So it can be forgiven for telling his origin story, as long as they only do it ONCE.

Anyway, that's what I think, let me know what you think in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I think the issue is, with comics the most interesting stories (or at least the most interesting stories with a low creativity bar) are typically the origin stories (after those the drama becomes challenging because the audience needs to feel there's a danger to the hero to experience drama, but know that the hero will win and do so in a non-gimmicky way).

    Thus superheros retell their origins over and over and over again no matter the media, because after effortlessly defeating ever increasingly powerful foes the story gets boring.