2012 was a pretty good year in terms of films: we had the conclusion to The Dark Knight trilogy, The Avengers came to fruition and of course the first of The Hobbit trilogy was finally released. But while reflecting upon the Oscar nominations released during the week, something odd struck me. Almost all the biggest movies of this year are either adaptations, sequels or remakes. Now that by no means eliminates them from being amazing works of art or watershed moments in the world of cinema, but it does say a lot about studios’ unwillingness to take risks and suggests a certain creative stagnation in the film industry.
This fear of the untested has only been exacerbated by the current dismal economic climate with the studios even less likely to back a project which hasn’t previously proven its worth. For example, this year we saw the first entry into a new Spiderman trilogy although the last trilogy only finished in 2007. I can understand the motives behind making a film such as The Amazing Spiderman instead of making a superhero film which is inspired by the themes which the character evokes, but that does not mean that it is forgivable to reboot a film franchise which is only barely ten years old for no artistic reason beyond the lust for cash.
Neither is this problem isolated to the world of cinema. Other media are similarly obsessed with the idea of brand recognition and the use of pre-existing intellectual properties. This can be attested to by the woeful efforts made by MTV to remake The Inbetweeners for American audiences and the release of yet another entry into the already stale Call of Duty series.
This year has not been entirely devoid of originality, however, with films such as Looper achieving both critical and financial success. Looper clearly harkens back to the sensibilities of 1980s science fiction films such as Blade Runner and Total Recall, but is an entirely original story. However the remake of Total Recall, which was also released in 2012, not only struggles to remove itself from the shadow of its predecessor, but it also fails to understand what made the original so popular.
Another outlier in the increasingly franchised world of cinema is Chronicle, a found-footage superhero movie which makes both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises seem ridiculously gaudy when compared to its subtle investigation of how the human mind copes with power. As with Looper, Chronicle accomplishes all it sets out to achieve without the need for a pre-established property.
Hopefully the success of films like these will improve the chances of seeing more wholly original films by demonstrating that there is still a market for original quality products. There is nothing wrong with wanting to see beloved franchises brought to life on the silver screen or your favourite film remade, but these occurrences should be the exception rather than the rule.