EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: REHASH CITY

Sin City presented an unusual dilemma for me; I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see a movie where I already knew the story. I had read the comics years ago, and I saw that what Robert Rodriguez and company were doing happened to be a direct imitation of what was originally presented on the page. In the end, there wouldn’t be much new there.

Don’t get me wrong, everything about the movie appealed to me. The cast, the directors, the story, the film style — all those things made me want to see it. The only problem was that I already knew the outcomes of the stories, and if I saw the film, that was time and money I was taking away from someone who was doing something original.

I believe originality, for good or bad, should be rewarded. Yeah, I may not like a movie, I may even mock it, but if it’s original … well, how do you argue against that? You can’t. An original film means that people are taking chances, even if it is similar to an idea that has been seen before. With a new story, anything can happen.

When I discussed this issue with my friends, they all told me to go see the film. They said it would be “good” and that I was making too much of the fact that it was just a different canvas for a painting that had already been painted once before. They may have been right, but I still wasn’t buying it.

This wouldn’t have been a problem had I not wanted to see the film. The fact that it looked so appealing to me made my decision even harder to come to. Would I cave in? Maybe. Or maybe I wouldn’t go, and instead see some other film that wasn’t based on a book, comic book or old television show, or be a remake of another movie. Good luck with that, right?

In the end, I caved. I went and saw “Sin City,” and I enjoyed every minute of it … just like I thought I would. There were no surprises or moments I thought were supremely cool, though. Even Frank Miller’s new coda seemed like I had seen it before. But yes, I loved it. It was a ride, but I was now guilty of promoting the sin that is Old Hat. I was now part of the reason films derived from other works continue to be made. And nowhere was this more apparent than in the trailers I endured before the film.

As the theatre darkened and the other audience members, which to my surprise were ninety percent women, settled down in their seats, we watched the screen light up with the trailer for the remake of The Amityville Horror. Then we got to see a trailer for “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” These were followed by Kung Fu Hustle and “Batman Begins.” Finally, we were left with High Tension.

Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture? The original version of “The Amityville Horror,” which I saw when I was eight or nine, was based on a book I read well before seeing the film. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is based on a radio show that became a book and television series. “Batman Begins” takes elements from a bunch of different comics starring Batman and does something different with it, though not much different, mind you. And as for the other two films, I don’t know if they came from other sources (which is doubtful with “Kung Fu Hustle”), but I don’t really care. At least two of the five trailers were stories people already knew, and one was a combination of a bunch of stories and well-known mythology. And here I was, sitting and waiting for “Sin City” to begin.

The more naive among you may say, “Hey! Not everyone knows those stories. These movies are for those people. The ones who haven’t read the books, the comic books or seen the original films.” No they aren’t. That’s the exact people they aren’t for. Those people are an added bonus. These movies are made because they already have a built-in audience.

The people I found who were most excited about “Sin City” were those who had previously read the comic books and graphic novels. People who didn’t know anything about it thought it looked “interesting, but weird.” The folks there opening night were mainly “Sin City” fans. Not every one of them, but I assert that it was a majority. The movie was made by a fan for the fans, which puts it miles above most adaptations and remakes, but that doesn’t change what it is.

I’m guilty of promoting this culture of remakes and adaptations, and I hang my head in shame because my attendance at “Sin City” helps bring “Spawn 2” that much closer to becoming a real entity. My ticket money tells studios and producers that there is possible profits to made with an adaptation of James Yardley’s 1970 camp novel “Kiss the Boys and Make Them Die.” (That could already actually be a movie for all I know.) I’m guilty, and I feel kind of sick about it.

Look, this may not matter to some people. For them, a movie is a movie is a movie. It is good, or it is bad. There is no gray area. But for someone like me, a guy who champions originality, this was almost unforgivable. I only wish the movie would’ve sucked so I could at least feel good about the fact that it wasn’t on par with the source material. I can’t even complain about that, though, because it was like watching the comic book pages flip by really fast as someone read the dialogue to me — it was that close to the original.

So, for all you guys out there trying to sell your original script, and for all you directors trying to get your original vision seen by the masses — I apologize. I’m sorry I did this, and I hope I can make it up to all of you someday. In the meantime, though, keep doing what it is you do. Believe it or not, there are people who want to see something they’ve never seen before. You just have to work hard to find them.

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>




Posted on April 28, 2005 in Features by
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