Private Viewing: Can we create modern hits by merely re-inventing the past?
- Credit: PA
A look at the slate of upcoming films and TV has convinced arts editor Andrew Clarke that we need to cherish our originality
Looking at a list of upcoming film and television programmes the other day has left me with a distinct feeling of deja vu. Scanning the titles I felt as if I was reliving my youth as title after title proved to be unsettling familiar.
On the big screen we have Disney rebooting both the Star Wars franchise and the Indiana Jones films, JJ Abrams is revisiting Star Trek and the former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger is busily revisiting his past, coming up with sequels to The Running Man, Twins, Conan The Barbarian and rebooting the Terminator franchise with Terminator: Genisys. There are also plans for a new all-female version of Ghostbusters. Not to be outdone the British film industry is throwing in a remake or re-imagining of Dad’s Army.
Television is also currently awash with remakes. We have Still Open All Hours, a new Birds of a Feather, there are plans to redo Lovejoy and we have an unnecessary second series of one-off serials like Broadchurch. It begs the question: ‘why’?
Theatre also is not immune. The West End has been trading on the success of identi-kit juke box musicals for years and now they are busily transferring hit movies to the stage. In recent years we have had Legally Blonde, The Commitments, the X-Factor musical I Can’t Sing, Happy Days, Made In Dagenham and Shakespeare In Love.
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It seems to me that all semblance of originality and creativity seems to be flying out the window and we are just re-inventing things that have been popular in the past.
I’m not adverse to going back and re-visiting something with a view to doing something different with it – look at the success of new The Planet of the Apes films – but those films worked because they didn’t try to replicate what had gone before. It really was a re-imagining whereas the majority of the other revivals are merely trying to recapture the success of previous incarnations and are as such are doomed to disaster.
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Most films and television programmes are successful and gain a popular following because they were original. They offered viewers something different. Surely, by trying to copy what has gone before, you are onto a loser before you start. Why not just restore the original prints and show those?
It seems that the creative world has become increasingly risk adverse. The sub-text to these current and forthcoming so-called treats is why do something no-one knows about when we can piggyback on the fame of something that has gone before.
I think the problem lies not with the writers, directors or the actors but with the money men. For some reason they believe that because people recognise a name or a title then an updated re-hash will be just as successful as the original.
It all comes down to the fact that the keepers of the purse strings have become notoriously reticent about backing something that doesn’t look like a sure-fire hit. But, the whole point about the arts, about culture and creativity is that no-one knows anything. Everything is a big unknown.
If someone could accurately predict the next big hit, they would have patented the formula and would be licencing the secret for vast sums of money.
The only guarantee is that the next big hit will be completely different to anything that has gone before. Look at the success of Game of Thrones as the perfect example. Who five years ago would have bet on a densely plotted, medieval fantasy with CGI dragons and a vast speaking cast would be the biggest hit on television?
The lack of ambition displayed by mainstream film and television is also reflected in West End theatre at the moment. What’s the point of trying to transfer film on to the stage? They are completely different media with different strengths and inevitably invite unhelpful comparisons.
Surely, it would be far better to create something new, something designed for the stage, something that reflects the concerns of our age? The time has come for us to start creating films, television and theatre which will be future classics rather than continually trying to reinvent the past.
The money men need to realise that young audiences don’t necessarily have the same nostalgic regard for these older franchises and maybe they would get a better return by doing something new.