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Originality in film: a must or a risk?

ByCathelijne Both

Jun 9, 2019

With the tonnes of movies, songs and books it can sometimes feel like every story is simply a repeat of another story. This can make it hard to find an original narrative, and when you do you aren’t always happy about how it turns out. To prevent this, we use reviews, trailers and summaries to get to know what we are going to invest time in. Why are we not bothered by so many remakes and sequels? This is a question that has been playing through my mind, and there is a variety of answers.

One of these reasons is for those situations where the creator imagines a whole world. When a creator has put in a lot of time to create an entirely original universe, this creator won’t throw this away as easily; such as in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), it becomes a ground for multiple, continuous stories.

Another thing that could be the reasoning behind this flurry of remakes is that the makers believe that the multiple characters have a lot of interesting things that should be explained to the viewer; just in the way that Game of Thrones was deemed too dense for a feature film, some stories naturally take longer to tell. You could imagine being this a reason for the hundreds of Marvel films. Here there are a lot of different characters with different powers. Explaining this in one film would either make a really long film with just little focus on the important things or one film that would be overloading the audience with a lot of information in a short amount of time. Alternatively, it could give flat characters with no interesting development and no explanations for the powers.

Another reason for recreating what you already created a couple of years ago can be to practice new skills and use CGI (computer-generated imagery) to construct a more realistic and impressive version of stories. This is something that you could mostly see in the remakes of this time like the ones Disney is doing or the new Jumanji films. With the technological developments from the past couple of years, you can see older companies wanting to see how the new technology would enhance the stories whose core narrative trajectory is still brilliant.

Another reason, and undeniably one of the most prominent motivations, could be found when you look at it from a financial perspective. In a world where cinema survives on a reliable audience and familiar actors, finance teams from all major companies want to reduce the risk of losing money. They could do this by investing in something which is pretty similar to what already exists but still has differences. If a similar thing is successful than you could use this as a way to predict the success of the other; simple economics.

From the viewers’ perspective, we can also find a couple of things that could explain our behaviour. Since we mostly watch movies to provoke a certain feeling you will want to watch something that provokes that feeling otherwise that craving could stick with you for longer. Although the idea of young people mindlessly watching Netflix is not unfounded, we still favour mindfulness in our choices of cinematic viewing: in the two-hour commitment process that is a feature film, we need to know what our emotional outcome is going to be.

Another motivator for people to watch something they know can be the idea of safety. Imagine being a person not liking horror movies. If you go to watch a movie then you will want to prevent watching a horror by accident, so you take certain measurements to prevent this. You could see watching trailers, reviews and summaries as a way to prevent this, in the same way we look at restaurant or holiday resort reviews before travelling there.

All in all, the popularity of the stability of familiar stories in film has engendered one thing above all: originality is no longer a must but is at its best a luxury, and at its worst a risk.


Image: Asebire via wikimedia commons

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