Quick, what's your favorite movie? Is it Lethal Weapon 2? Pirates of the Caribbean 3? How about Next Friday?
It's never a sequel, is it? Our favorite movies, the ones that stick with us, are always new experiences. We meet characters, we connect with them, we get drawn into a story from the beginning and watch its resolution at the end. It's a complete experience. It just works. There's nothing more satisfying than being told a fresh story from start to finish. And yet practically the only things Hollywood pumps out these days are sequels and remakes, reboots and reimaginings. Why is that?
Because we asked them to, of course.
"Will you pleeeeaaase make another Superman movie? THIS time, surely, somebody will enjoy it!"
You know that feeling when you finish a really good book, and you're just goddamn empty inside? If you could measure exactly when kids turned the last page of the Harry Potter series for the first time, I could probably extrapolate a pretty mean graph plotting the demise of childhood around the world. Finishing a good story is devastating. Because there's nothing more addictive than a good story, and just like any good high, it's going to be brutal coming down. The longer you spend hopped up on 'shrooms and bouncing around the rocks like a Gummi Bear, the longer you're going to spend sweating on the kitchen floor, trying to decide which is worse -- the existential crisis or the projectile diarrhea.
A good story makes addicts of us all, and addicts will always demand more, even if there's no more good stuff to give. You find a junkie in the middle of withdrawals and he's not going to turn down your heroin because you dropped it in the litter box. He'll shoot that shit into his arm, cat-poop rocks and all. That's why we'll watch Jack Sparrow fuck a squirrel on a life raft rather than say goodbye to him in a dignified manner.
Source."He's such a great character! RAPE HIS CORPSE FOR OUR AMUSEMENT." - The audience.
By pumping out crappy, cynical, slapdash sequels to our favorite properties, Hollywood isn't supplying anything that there isn't insane, drooling, shaky-handed demand for. It's only rebooting the reboot of the Spider-Man reboot because, when it closed the book and tried to leave the room, we all snapped wide awake and collectively screeched "NOOOO! READ IT AGAIN!"
How long has it been since we got a fresh, original story to get addicted to, though? If something's not a sequel, it's a reboot. If it's not a reboot, it's a reimagining. If it's not a reimagining, it's a mashup, or an homage, or a series of transparent references. It feels like we've seen everything before, doesn't it? Movies today aren't like new hit songs; they're like house DJ remixes -- more obnoxious versions of classic hits we've all heard a million times before. Are movies getting worse, or am I just getting old, or has the unique combination of exhaust fumes, whiskey, Red Bull and sun exposure that comprises my typical weekend permanently deformed the part of my brain that registers joy?
But ALSO, it's because the last few generations of us all came of age at the highest point of media saturation in human history. When we were kids, cable TV was just hitting its stride, home video was all the rage, video games were first realizing their potential and the Internet was connecting everything together into one all-consuming pop culture blob. That blob hungrily, mindlessly devoured every piece of media it could get its gelatinous jowls around, and inevitably, it started excreting the desiccated remains out the other side.
This is that other side.
We, friends, are living beneath the asshole of the pop culture blob.
Pictured: You. Your life. Covered in blob-shit.
There's nothing new or exciting to people like me, because people like me were thrown body and soul into the media Big Bang. The atoms of everything we love were used to build everything you see today. If you grew up in the '60s, the first time you saw Planet of the Apes, it probably blew your mind. How could you have seen that twist coming? There had never been anything like it. And that's because you spent maybe two hours a week at the movies, if you were a huge fan. Between those times, you did other things like "run around outside" or "speak to other human beings." My generation didn't watch movies in the theater -- we watched them in our living rooms, in our bedrooms, on our phones or in our friggin' cars while driving on the highway. We're not blown away by the reboot of Planet of the Apes, because we not only saw the original -- we watched the first reboot, the sequel to that reboot and the Director's Cut of the reimagining of that sequel, and played the Alternate Reality Game for the pre-release of the reboot on the movie's website.
It's not that Hollywood's out of ideas -- they've never had a ton to begin with. It's that we've simply hit our saturation point. I said I was excited about Looper, earlier -- but I've seen Goodfellas, The Professional and Back to the Future a billion times each. I'm so up on its source material that everything is probably going to feel mind-numbingly familiar. I watched Brave this weekend, but I saw Mulan when I was younger -- I didn't get much out of the Scottish reboot.
I mean, an inappropriate erection in front of some children, sure, but not much else.
It used to be fine to create along the lines of your influences, because most people didn't share the same influences. But now we're growing up connected, watching and reading and listening to the same things -- because we're all watching and reading and listening to everything. I mentioned earlier that movies are using niche markets like a crutch, and you've probably never seen a Madea movie -- but I bet if you did, you'd catch elements of Soul Food and Mrs. Doubtfire, a little Friday and just a touch of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.
If you've heard all of the songs a million times before, even the most talented musician in the world can only issue remixes.
Hey, I don't mean to be preaching the end times here. If you're not this jaded yet, great! Go out and enjoy things (your time will come, you rotten little bastards). But if the luster seems to be flaking off movies these days, maybe the problem isn't with Hollywood. Maybe it's because, with people our age, with our knowledge and our backgrounds, all Hollywood can do is pull a nervous Chris Farley routine and mutter "Hey, remember that time with the thing? You do? Yeah ... that was awesome!"
Hey look, there's another little reference that we can all get.
Get the first episode of Robert's Sci-Fi Serial Novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here, or buy Robert's other book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.
For more from Brockway, check out The 5 Most Mind-Blowing Moments from Indian Action Movies and 5 Movie Martial Artists That Lost a Deathmatch to Dignity.