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… it just has to sound plausible

Creatively bankrupt


I learnt today that Hollywood is planning to remake Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. And, in fact, there’s a remake of his Total Recall due next year (starring Kate Beckinsale and Colin Farrell). We all know of Hollywood’s recent penchant for remakes and reboots. It’s allegedly financially safer to trade on a known name than to try something new. The only person losing out in this strategy, of course, is us. Because we’ll see well-loved films completely ruined. Starship Troopers was a pitch-perfect satire of Heinlein’s right-wing novel, but who wants to bet the new version will keep the book’s odious politics intact? I will not go and see such a film; I will stay at home and watch my DVD of Verhoeven’s version again.

It might well be that the Starship Troopers remake isn’t so bad. But the odds are against it. Not only is there the online vocal hatred of Verhoeven’s film by conservative and libertarian sf fans (they’re totally wrong, of course), there’s also the US’s slow drift to the right over the past three decades, and… well, and there’s 2009’s Star Trek, a monumentally dumb sf film. And there was 2008’s The Day The Earth Stood Still. And this year’s The Thing. And… need I go on? This is what reboots do: they put the boot into well-loved and well-regarded films.

To be honest, I gave up on Hollywood’s output years ago. The best films these days are made elsewhere. And that’s not just genre films. But then, Hollywood chases that 15 – 25 male demographic and, let’s face it, focusing on the stupidest sector of society is not going to be good for your creativity. The superhero tentpole blockbuster is a case in point. Such films are all spectacle – they are like their titular heroes, all pumped-up muscles and no brains.

The best sf film I have seen in recent years, Cargo, was made in Switzerland. The only time I visited the cinema this year was to see Apollo 18, an independent Russo-American production. The bulk of my DVD viewing in 2011 has been foreign-language films, and 1950s and 1960s Hollywood films (made long before the rot set in). I’m planning to see John Carter next year, which has been produced by Disney, but I suspect that will be the last Hollywood film I go to the cinema to see. Given that the success of films is judged by their cinema takings, that seems a sensible way to express my disappointment and displeasure at Hollywood’s output.

3 thoughts on “Creatively bankrupt

  1. Creative bankruptcy is not exactly the only thief in the gang. Cinemas must now compete with other movie delivery systems, many of which are superior to the theater in terms of sound quality, intimacy and even picture quality. The movies that draw best on the big screen tend are the movies that rely on lots of CGI and other FX. Asgrad looked better on the 40-foot screen than the 40-inch. Hollywood is only slowly catching up to the idea that they can make movies to fit a specific venue. There is a negative stigma to direct-to-DVD or streaming project. Once we cleanse our selves of that, maybe they can make decent ‘small’ films again.

  2. Coming from a Star Trek fan, I agree that the latest movie is a complete waste of time. But then again, all of the Star Trek movies are bad. I make it a point to go to opening night for each and every one with the expectation of coming away from a groaner.
    The Day The Earth Stood Still was so awful that I almost wished the original Gort had annihilated us years ago. There was one original concept and that was the evolving of Klaatu into human form at the beginning of the movie.
    In general, it is the SF films that buck political and social conventions or turn them on their sides that really sing. And how many of those can you think of from the past 15 years.

  3. While I don’t agree with your taste in films, or rather I like a lot of stuff that you don’t, including the latest Star Trek reboot, I will agree heartily that there has been an ever growing amount of creativity bankruptcy in the movie-making business.

    We arguably have a host of talented published authors who would probably jump at the chance to pen a film, not to mention untold numbers of screenplays that no doubt would make good films languishing in offices because the majority of Hollywood wants to take the easy route. Instead they make superhero movie after superhero movie. I like superheroes. But we need a long break. And why must we remake films? Even when they are excellent (rarely) I would much prefer to see something original.

    It used to be that if a remake was coming along, it would be decades later. Now we have an entirely new origin story for Spiderman coming out when the last trilogy of films have hardly left the theater. It makes no sense whatsoever. I just don’t get it.

    And while I like Heinlein’s novel, Starship Troopers, and feel that the film version is complete dreck (and not because of any political leanings, its simply a steaming pile of crap), I have NO NEED to have another one done, even if it turns out to be the SF equivalent of Lawrence of Arabia. Enough with the retreads already.

    The sad thing is I believe the creativity is there and on rare occasions we get gems, but with all the money being poured into the film industry it should be the other way around. The spit-polished turds should be the exception, not the rule.

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