With award season closing in on us, it’s that time of the year when we look back on all of the entertainment that graced our screens in 2017. Nothing very obvious changed this year in cinema; the box office was still dominated by "Star Wars" and whatever new superhero releases there were, and the Oscar nominations for Best Picture still consisted of films which the majority of people didn’t see.
There was one statistic, however, that startled me when I read it: “Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ is the only live-action film in the top 25 worldwide box office of 2017 to be original — not an adaptation, remake or sequel.”
As crazy as that fact sounds, what makes it even wilder is “Dunkirk” was still based on a historical event, a non-fiction film with events written largely by history, not screenwriters. Even the sole “original” film in the top 25 was still based on a story that already existed.
Today, it seems like only animated movies are consistently putting out new and original stories. A top-tier animation studio like Pixar knows fans love sequels to massive franchises (“Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” etc.) but does a good job at spacing out sequels between original releases, like “Coco,” the beautiful top animated film of this year.
The rise of this trend toward remake/adaptation/sequel mania started a few years ago, probably around the time Marvel/DC superhero movies were beginning to skyrocket in popularity, perennially annihilating the box office and trampling any poor film to release within a month of them.
Once sequels to these superhero hits started being churned out, studios quickly realized people were enjoying following the same characters and their story developments. Superheroes like Thor, Iron Man and Captain America had the charm and likability to appeal to the masses, get them hooked. And leave them begging for more whenever the credits of one chapter rolled. Post-credit scenes and the “Avengers” movies created this seemingly never-ending chain of content, a sprawling web of dynamic characters and stories that all begin to work into one decade-spanning picture.
Other studios quickly caught on to this trend of familiar faces being more popular than new ones, as they began to look toward the past for any popular story to revive. It is easy to see why people are attracted to adaptations/remakes/sequels, as recurring and familiar characters are somewhat comforting, like revisiting an old friend in some way. Following a story or plot you already know and love is much easier than having to learn a new set of characters and background lore each time you enter a theater.
Is this current drought of new and original stories a problem? I don’t think so. It’s just mildly disappointing for anyone who doesn’t mind learning new characters and unique stories with each trip to the movies. The idea of a complete story being told in two hours with no intention to milk it out in the future appears to be an art form lost on the general public.
What concerns me, however, is the movie-making industry, being the profit-driven business it is, will one day no longer find independent, stand-alone films worthwhile in the current landscape of capes, CGI and explosions. The independent, stand-alone film is what typically receives the award nominations when all is said and done, and I find comfort in this still being the case. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which won Best Picture at the Golden Globes, was one of the most thoughtful and entertaining stories I’ve seen in recent years, and I love it is getting the attention it deserves.
The problem isn’t necessarily adaptations or remakes. “Call Me By Your Name” was the most aesthetically beautiful film of the year and it was based on a novel by the same name. The concern is that such unique films might one day not receive the recognition they deserve, as studios and award committees start to view them as less worthy than those that dominate the box office.
Andrew Hall is a UF management senior. His columns focus on entertainment and music.