Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Some Things Cannot Be Improved

     My friend Adam wrote a post on Facebook the other day about movie sequels that Hollywood would never make, but that he would "totally pay to see." That list included Blade Runner 2 and Back to the Future IV. Adam is a geek of the highest order and knows far more about comic book and sci-fi movies than I ever will. But, like many fanboys, he is yearning for stories that are best left untold. 
     Adam could do a dissertation on all of the various incarnations of Batman or Superman and what worked or didn't work with each one. He would admit, I think, that there have been more disappointing adaptations than there have been exciting, well-made versions. But he will still pay to see the next film in the franchise because he couldn't live with himself if he didn't. 
     My wife, Jane Ellen, is like that with some movies. Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings come to mind.  Jane is a member of the "Han Shot First" brigade.  She's still annoyed that George Lucas added extra special effects on the re-releases of the original films. And she, like most of the planet, was extremely disappointed in the mess that was Episode I: The Phantom Menace.But that didn't keep her from plopping down cash for Episodes II and III.
     I remember telling her before Revenge of the Sith started, "I bet by the end of the movie, Anakin will become Darth Vader." She elbowed me in the ribs.
     Adam and Jane are trying to recapture the magic they felt when they first saw great movies in the theater. But what made those movies great were fresh, original ideas, not a rehashing or, as Hollywood likes to say, a "re-imagining" of an old story. There are exceptions. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a better movie than Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but, again, only because it told a better story.
     If I were a Hollywood executive, I would have never given the green light to The Lone Ranger movie, and -- in hindsight -- I would've been correct. I also wouldn't have greenlighted the remake of True Grit because, for all of their talent, the Coen brothers could not resurrect John Wayne, who shall always be Rooster Cogburn. And I wouldn't have OK'd any of the Transformers movies. I would still have been right in making those decisions, but I would've lost my studio millions of dollars.
     It's not creative inspiration, but the opportunity to make lots and lots of money that drives Hollywood decision making these days. How else do you explain plans to make Jurassic Park 4? (By the way, both Jane and Adam will probably shell out cash to see that movie, too.) And while Adam had an impressive list of sci-fi superhero films that deserve sequels, I would submit that some films simply cannot be improved.
     No writer will come up with a better script for Casablanca. No actor will turn in a better performance than Jimmy Stewart did for It's A Wonderful Life. No director will make a better version of North By Northwest. And yet, in my darker moments, I envision a Hollywood executive thinking that Return to Casablanca, It's A MORE Wonderful Life, and Further North and West are blockbusters in the making.
     But only if they're shot in 3-D.