The 2000s: Decade of the Remake or Decade of the Geek?

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What is it about remakes that gets geeks so hot under the collar? Sure, there are a lot of terrible remakes that cannot be unseen, and the 2000s seems to be particularly rife with them, to boot. According to Slashfilm, only two of the top 30 films of the decade are original (the two films, consequently, are both animated: Finding Nemo and Kung Fu Panda).

But the whole “Hollywood out of ideas” concept really doesn’t hold water upon closer inspection. Before you get your panties in a wad, consider that the highest grossing film of the decade was, in fact, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King—based on Tolkien’s books but certainly with little resonance whatsoever to the films before it—and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest which was a sequel to a movie that was a remake of a… Disney ride?

Yes, there are a lot of sequels on the list: multiple Potters, hobbits, superheroes. But to say that everything on the list is merely a remake is, first of all, skewing the facts and secondly, well, really not news at all.

Film is not this sacred medium among the arts. No, it’s storytelling, just like the rest. And the stories that resonate with any given culture tend to repeat themselves (arguably, as well, in mythology and religion, too). The thing is, it took a long time for King Arthur to get from the hero of Badon Hill to King of All England, Once and Future. So let’s be patient, shall we? Remakes are not inherently bad.

By and large, even original works are retellings in some ways. Take Star Wars, for instance, which pillages from heroic fantasy and Western traditions like no one’s business. Just because it’s cloaked in a different, unusual setting, doesn’t change the core themes. You can’t tell me that Kung Fu Panda wasn’t derivative!

So, with all that in mind: let’s take a look at the list again. What do we see?

  • Books. Lots of movies based on books. This is not new for Hollywood and, hopefully, something they’ll keep doing for a long, long time. Between Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling, geek lit is quite prominent over the last decade. Cons will never be the same. (That The DaVinci Code was only 23rd is exceedingly comforting, too.)
  • Comic Books. It could be called the decade of the graphic novel, as well. Spiderman and Batman, primarily, made the biggest numbers this past decade and some pretty fine films to boot. Gravely (and squeaky) voices aside, these films have exposed audiences to the great geek pastime like never before.
  • Star Wars. This is a conflicting category, mostly due to the lackluster films themselves. But many of us feel a certain… draw to the Force, and all things Star Wars, in spite of the constant disappointment at the hands of George Lucas. But look at it this way: it’s better than having a bunch of Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana films in the top 30. Right? I mean, the new Indiana Jones made up for it all right… *cough* *crickets* Moving on!
  • Computer Animation. Sure there are naysayers out there, but generally geeks are not among them. Pixar and DreamWorks have put together some truly astonishing films over the last decade, classics already in their own rite. And that’s not to mention how amazing the actual animation has become.

No, not many of the films on the list are exactly groundbreaking. Quite a few of them suck. But we’re talking about popularity here, not necessarily film innovation, which would be an entirely different list. And I’d say, all in all, the geeks fared quite well this decade, no matter how you define a remake. Perhaps, instead of complaining about sequels and remakes, we should recognize the list for what it is: a celebration of geek culture hitting the mainstream.

All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.

[Image: XKCD CC]

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8 Responses to The 2000s: Decade of the Remake or Decade of the Geek?

  1. I don’t really think you get what the article was trying to point out.

    Of the top 30 films, if all were nominated for the best screenplay Oscars, only two would fit in the “Best Original Screenplay” category, that’s all – the rest would all be (whatever their original source, from books to rides to previous movies) in the “Best Adapted Screenplay” category.

    Which is a huge drop down from previous decades.

    Yes, many stories are retold and retold, but it’s one thing to be inspired by a past event/story (Titanic, for example) and another to take a already-made idea and redo it (Transformers).

    Yes, most people think Fight Club is a better film than Titanic, but Titanic is still ‘original’, and in the past, ‘original ideas’ (even if they were inspired by other true/mythical stories) were the massive majority of films, whereas now they’re almost all adaptations.

    • Should have said “adaptation or sequel”, as sequels do still sometimes get into the “Best Original Screenplay” category so long as they aren’t an adaptation of previously published material (the Ice Age sequel, for example)…however, they still cannot possibly said to be a real ‘original idea’ when they’re using whole characters, relationships and even themes from a previously-made work.

  2. I don't really think you get what the article was trying to point out.

    Of the top 30 films, if all were nominated for the best screenplay Oscars, only two would fit in the "Best Original Screenplay" category, that's all – the rest would all be (whatever their original source, from books to rides to previous movies) in the "Best Adapted Screenplay" category.

    Which is a huge drop down from previous decades.

    Yes, many stories are retold and retold, but it's one thing to be inspired by a past event/story (Titanic, for example) and another to take a already-made idea and redo it (Transformers).

    Yes, most people think Fight Club is a better film than Titanic, but Titanic is still 'original', and in the past, 'original ideas' (even if they were inspired by other true/mythical stories) were the massive majority of films, whereas now they're almost all adaptations.

    • Should have said "adaptation or sequel", as sequels do still sometimes get into the "Best Original Screenplay" category so long as they aren't an adaptation of previously published material (the Ice Age sequel, for example)…however, they still cannot possibly said to be a real 'original idea' when they're using whole characters, relationships and even themes from a previously-made work.

  3. If you already like something, you will probably enjoy another of it (aka it was sucessful before it might be again)…or I am just not as picky as some people?

    I love anything Star Wars :) even Jar Jar

  4. If you already like something, you will probably enjoy another of it (aka it was sucessful before it might be again)…or I am just not as picky as some people?

    I love anything Star Wars :) even Jar Jar

  5. People get excited about remakes because of the whole idea of "revisioning" a story, telling it again and adding something to it. Homer's Odyssey was added to many times, and changed, depending on the bard telling it, and before it was written to the version we know today. And, of course, the advent of special effects, and actors we grew up with, both don't hurt. Take Ocean's 11, I prefer the new one myself. But, often film companies just rely entirely on making the movie through special effects and don't really focus on retelling the story. Take Clash of the Titans or Planet of the Apes. The directors and producers merely thought they could flash us some nice special effects to make the movies, but those movies, lacking their own amazing special effects, actually did rely on other story telling conventions that make a movie good or "classic".

  6. People get excited about remakes because of the whole idea of “revisioning” a story, telling it again and adding something to it. Homer’s Odyssey was added to many times, and changed, depending on the bard telling it, and before it was written to the version we know today. And, of course, the advent of special effects, and actors we grew up with, both don’t hurt. Take Ocean’s 11, I prefer the new one myself. But, often film companies just rely entirely on making the movie through special effects and don’t really focus on retelling the story. Take Clash of the Titans or Planet of the Apes. The directors and producers merely thought they could flash us some nice special effects to make the movies, but those movies, lacking their own amazing special effects, actually did rely on other story telling conventions that make a movie good or “classic”.