I understand that movies need to make money, and that production costs have gone up with the number of special affects, and with the growing size of the cast. Hence, movies with superheroes or super-villians are likely the most expensive.
I also understand that movie makers like to have a sure thing. Hence, when Harry Potter sells hundreds of thousands of copies of the first book in the series, and lines start forming to get copies of the next books, making the stories into movies seems like a fairly safe bet.
But I can’t help wondering—is the mad dash to make money squeezing movies into a narrow slot? Must they be movie re-tellings of books or comics . . . or of other movies? Is there no room for a brand new story made originally for the screen?
I’m not the only person to wonder about this trend:
We all know it’s true. Every single movie that’s overly promoted is what exactly? A sequel, a remake, a reboot, a movie adaptation, take your pick. (“Hollywood’s Need for Original Scripts”)
Since movies are considered an art form, albeit a pop art form, I wonder what having so little original material says about our creativity as culture.
At the least, I’d say our art, when it comes to movies, is subservient to the money it makes. Again, I understand that those who produce movies invest great sums without any assurance of a return on that investment. Movies aren’t like books. When the UK publisher, Bloomsbury took a chance on an unknown debut author, they ran a print run of 500 copies. Five hundred! In other words, their investment was rather small. Sure, they had to pay for editing and layout and cover design and so on, but if the book failed, they likely would not lose thousands of pounds. (As it turns out those first edition copies are now worth upwards of $90,000.)
But I wonder if the movie industry isn’t squeezing itself needlessly. Seems to me there was a time not so long ago that quiet movies with smaller casts were quite possible. In 1968 a movie with an original screenplay became a $56 million success. I’m referring to Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn. Big stars at the time, so I’m guessing this was not a cheap movie.
As it happens, that movie did what art sometimes does: it molded as well as reflected the culture in which it was made.
When special effects gained so much in the computer age, I was right there applauding with everyone else. Now, at long last, movies could depict the magical creatures of fantasy and science fiction in a realistic way. Our imagination came to life on the big screen!
Perhaps this fact alone explains the explosion of speculative movies in the 21st century. On one list of top box office successes, of the 25 movies that made the most money in this century, twenty-one were speculative movies.
I applaud this trend.
I do not applaud the lack of original material.
One site decrying the fact that movies are reliant upon adapted material says the answer lies with moviegoers. The approach is much the same as the one I took fifteen years ago when I longed for more publishers to give Christian fantasy a chance. Since money drives the industry, we consumers of art need to speak the language of those making the art work available to us.
With books, self-publishing has had a huge impact on the availability of speculative fiction, including Christian speculative fiction. A quick look at the library here at Spec Faith should convince a reader of that fact.
Could the same thing happen with movies? Only time will tell. But the task seems rather daunting—finding the actors, the staging, the skilled technicians, and of course the great screenwriters. Making a movie is not as simple as putting up a YouTube video.
I don’t know what the answer is. But I for one, would like to see the art of movie making include original scripts, written for the film media and not dependent on an adaptation.