December 1, 2014

Running The Well Dry: Star Wars, Jurassic Park, & The Rest of The Reboots


I always thought the phrase "everything old is new again" was a phrase that probably had a bizarre history but people just used anyway without really knowing the history. But when I dug deeper I found out it is from a song from the 1975 broadway musical "Chicago." Actually maybe it was from the 2002 adaptation of the play. Perhaps it was actually from the 1979 movie "All That Jazz" which was a 70's cool retelling of the Chicago story. Or finally maybe it was from the original 1926 play, that the 1975 musical was based off, which inspired the 1979 movie, which impacted all the retellings, which impacted the 2002 adaptation, which then...whoah...hard to keep track. It's a never-ending loop of riffing and retelling the same story. Kind of like the movies these days, right?

I'm not betraying my hard core nerd tendencies I've combed over the most recent Star Wars and Jurassic World trailers like a kid sifting through the trash looking for his lost retainer. Every detail seems to lead to another clue, which starts an email chain I'm mildly embarrassed about (after all I'm 28 years old and cross light saber blades shouldn't have this much of an impact on me right?). But I also believe that part of my mega-nerd-geek-fanboy foundation is slowly getting chipped at with each new reboot/sequel/prequel/midquel (not even sure if that's word).

The business of these mega-franchises existing until the end of time is obvious. Now that the movie studios are run by HUGE corporations, there is a powerful incentive to maintain the flagship "brands,"you know the Jurassic Park, The Star Wars/Treks, The Harry Potters, etc, to keep the lights on for everyone not just the movie studios - but it makes you wonder - how long can this last? When we keep returning to the same nostalgia wells for more water they eventually go dry. How are we meant to survive -  dig new wells, that's how.

Imagine what it would be like if these bright young directors all had blank checks to make something original. J.J. Abrams might give us something better than "Super 8." "Jurassic World" director Colin Trevorrow's previous film "Safety Not Guaranteed" was a blast, imagine what he could cook up with a blank check. Gareth Edwards who showed great promise with "Monsters" is now just retelling our old stories with "Godzilla" and a new "Star Wars" spinoff. I understand that going back to the same wells of characters, worlds, and stories is tempting but don't you just yearn for something truly new? It's like if we just stopped exploring space after we landed on the moon, actually, not sure if I'm comfortable with that metaphor.

A shining example of the "dig new wells" style of storytelling is director Neil Blomkamp who has made two amazingly original movies of varying quality: "District 9" and "Elysium." Each of those two films could have started their own franchise and his new film "Chappie" looks to be equally original (trailer also kind of made my shed nerd tears). This is what we need more of. More Blomkamps, more Shane Carruths, and more Gareth Evans.

I want to make sure that future movies are creating new worlds and not just new stories in our existing imaginary playgrounds. While having our modern stories get re-told and expanded is cool, with each new piece of the "world building tale", we're just boxing ourselves into our own creative prison. Once we're at the point where we've run out of three sided sabers, mega dinosaurs, and towering monsters to impress us, we'll wish that everything is old is just old and that everything new is well... new. It will be awesome.

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