Blockbuster burnout

The dominance of adapted screenplays and sequels makes us question what truly counts as original in cinema, challenging the idea of a golden age of unmatched creativity.
Blockbuster burnout

At the 2024 Oscars, before presenting the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, host Jimmy Kimmel cracked a joke about the category,

“The worry about creating an adapted screenplay is at what age do you tell a screenplay it’s adapted?”

While the audience laughed it off, it left many thinking about just how many screenplays are adapted, and in turn, unoriginal.

An adapted screenplay is simply a screenplay based on any other material. Whether this be a book, play, television show or in 2024’s case, a plastic doll.

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Searching through releases of new movies seems like a never-ending time loop of remakes and sequels, with live-action versions of Disney movies coming out every year. From never-ending franchises to constant remakes and sequels, movie fans across the globe are finding themselves asking if Hollywood has run out of ideas.

Nowadays, Hollywood churns out movies that are carbon copies of one another, whether it’s sequels such as “Top Gun: Maverick,” true stories like “Blonde” which is based on Marilyn Manroe’s life or movies based on literature such as “Where the Crawdads Sing.” 

When looking at the top three movies of last year, we truly see just how unoriginal every movie has become.

The number one movie of the year, “Barbie,” is of course based on the iconic Mattel doll.

Following that, “Super Mario Bros” was based on the smash-hit Nintendo Game.

And finally, rounding out the top three, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is the second movie in the Spiderverse series, and one of the dozens of Spider-Man adaptations, all originally based on a comic book.

This year, the most adapted movie of all is yet to come. “Wicked” is the movie adaptation of the Broadway Musical of the same title, which is based on the book by Gregory Maguire, which is based on the “Wizard of Oz” movie, based on the “Wizard of Oz ” book. 

Unoriginality doesn’t end on the big screen. New television shows such as “How I Met Your Father” or “The Golden Bachelor” all serve as cheap and pathetic excuses for more money-generating television shows.

One can argue that stories have been retold for hundreds of years, considering even Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” was based on the Greek Myth “Pyramus & Thisbe.” But in recent years, the percentage of movies that are remakes or sequels is rising exponentially.

In 1981, just 16 percent of the most popular movies were sequels, spinoffs or remakes. In 2019, 80 percent were. And in 2023, over 87 percent of movies were nothing more than a rehashing of the same old plots.

While our resources and cultures expand and grow, our creativity shrinks, leaving movie lovers like myself concerned about what the future of Hollywood will look like. 

I cannot agree with the argument that Hollywood has just simply run out of ideas and things to write about. It’s more complicated than that. Original films still exist, it’s just that people are not watching them. 

“Barbie” drew in large audiences because its source material was so popular, and everyone wanted to see just what Greta Gerwig was going to do with such an iconic toy. 

Meanwhile, the original and untold story of Robert Oppenheimer, while incredible to watch, truly only had popularity because of the Barbie Movie and the Barbenheimer trend which had movie-goers watching both films in a single day.

Hollywood’s current rut of creativity all comes back to the financial aspect of the movie business. Original movies do not appeal to as wide of an audience as some of the more well-known, pre-existing properties. As such, they do not advertise as aggressively and do not perform as well at the box office. 

Meanwhile, movies like “Avengers: Endgame,” the second highest-grossing film of all time, reuse sets, props and costumes to grow their fan base while saving money.

When considering the upcoming release of “Wicked,” it’s going to be one of the most popular movies of the year. It appeals to a dense base of theater fans who are going to see this movie with no questions asked, whether it’s wonderful or whether it’s a flop.

Realistically, I don’t see this trend of sequels and adaptations changing anytime soon. So as a consumer, I am left with few options. I could be upset about the types of movies that dominate the box office, or I could accept it and sit back and enjoy both categories: the original and the not-so-original.

Looking ahead to the rest of this year, fans can look forward to some original film material, such as “IF”, a young adult movie about invisible friends, or its horror counterpart “Invisible.” Viewers can also expect more long-awaited adapted material, like “Inside Out 2.”

Cinema enthusiasts constantly wish that Hollywood would return to the way it used to be, a time when every movie was a mind-blowing masterpiece of originality. But the fact of the matter is, that version of Hollywood never existed — it’s a creation of our collective nostalgia. 

Classic Hollywood Cinema, such as “The Wizard of Oz” or “Gone with the Wind” are both based on books. Hollywood doesn’t serve as a place for new material only, and it never will, it serves as a place to turn existing stories into cinematic, big-screen ideas and experiences. 

So, here’s a counterpoint I’d like you to consider whenever you browse Twitter or YouTube for that hot new movie trailer. Instead of saying there aren’t any new ideas in Hollywood, tell yourself, there never was one.

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About the Contributor
Madison Thacker
Madison Thacker, Arts/Entertainment Editor
Madison Thacker is junior who's embarking on her first year in journalism. Her journey through the performing arts started at just 5 years old, and today, she's ever-present in the performing arts magnet at VNHS. Beyond the spotlight, Madison has dedicated over eight years to the Girl Scouts, earning both bronze and silver awards for her commitment. As high school nears its end, Madison's plans point to a UC education, where she plans to major in education and minor in child development, shaping young minds for a brighter future.
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