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For movie fans, 2016 started with two grim Westerns, continued with two movies about iconic superheroes getting mad at each other, and will end with way too many continuations to dormant franchises that maybe should have been left alone. Then again, this approach seems to be working:

BoxOfficeMojo

So, why is it that Hollywood movies can be wildly successful and blindly unoriginal at the same time? Who's running this cash-eating donkey show? Well, sorry -- I'm not an expert. But if I had to guess in, say, seven listed points, they would probably look like this ...

7
Studios Are Using CGI To Make Actors Immortal

Paramount Pictures

Now that Pee-wee is back to haunt a new generation, headlines and memes everywhere have noticed how remarkably un-aged Paul Reubens looks.

Netflix
He looks like he traveled back in time to tell himself to stick to VHS porn.

Could it be that Herman's blood pact with the Prince of Darkness entails a forever-walk among the living damned? Perhaps that's the in-canon explanation, but as Reubens later admitted, the true secret is simply that they used computers to de-age the star, not unlike they did with Michael Douglas at the beginning of Ant-Man or that adorable li'l Robert Downey Jr. in Civil War.

Marvel Studios
Marvel's next project is a shot-for-shot remake of Wonder Boys.

We've come a long way since the anus-clenching horror of Tron: Legacy's CGI Jeff Bridges -- to the point that movies are applying "beauty work" so readily that we no longer notice it's happening. And it is happening. All the damn time. Here are some before and after samples from Vitality Visual Effects, one of the many CGI companies specializing in making actors and actresses look like vampire clones of themselves:

Vitality Visual Effects
The guy isn't impressed, judging by the jerk-off motion.

Supposedly, this process is being secretly done for every fucking TV show and film at this point. Shows like Glee get digital "pimple passes" on every episode, while in The Jacket Keira Knightley's skin got the CGI treatment after she suffered from an outbreak during filming. Zero flaws. Zero aging. Everyone looks the same in every film, and a 51-year-old Downey Jr. can play a wrinkle-free Tony Stark long after he decays into the soil.

Channel 4, Marvel Studios
That was actually Robert Downey Sr. playing him in Age Of Ultron.

No, really -- since this trend started, companies have been taking digital scans of actors at their peak weights in order to virtually replace their features for later reshoots. Meaning that in 2080 we could still have a new release exclusively starring an army of 30-year-old Chris Evanses. And speaking of a whole bunch of stuff that look the same ...

6
Vastly Different Films Have The Same Visuals (Because The Same People Are Making Them)

Lucasfilm

After Batman V Superman, how many times have you rolled your eyes at a CGI creature that was essentially the cave troll from Lord Of The Rings?

New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.
It's a disgrace that they don't have furry pink hair, as Tolkien described.

Somewhere between production and the drastically different concept art, Doomsday became a big, swole lump of gray crap with a mean hunched face and some forgettable growl. Just like every goddamn movie beast fit to slay.

Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Walt Disney
Even freaking King Louie is more cave troll than orangutan now.

So when did every monster become a dumpy nightmare? Since The Lord Of The Rings' Weta Digital became the go-to for these visual effects, turning grotesque renderings into one of New Zealand's primary exports. But this is far from the only case, as every J.J. Abrams monster is like first cousins of the one from Cloverfield.

Paramount Pictures
There's a lot of inbreeding, apparently.

It's always some festering-mouthed abomination with spider legs. We can trace this back to a single guy named Neville Page -- who in addition to all of Abrams' monsters, also did the crazy-mouthed aliens in Avatar and the crazy-mouthed squid in Prometheus.

20th Century Fox
It's like if H.R. Giger was afraid of anuses instead of dicks.

Noticing a pattern? Page loves nightmare mandibles and appendage onslaughts ... almost as much as screenwriters Damon Lindelof and Roberto Orci get hard for magical blood subplots.

Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 20th Century Fox
Not to be confused with blood magic subplots.

Did you think it was a coincidence that every film character suddenly needed or had special blood? Nope -- it was just two guys who kept going to that smelly well. Because once a writer or producer is obsessed with an idea (like cutting off arms in the Marvel universe), you can spot their work in a lineup. Hey, remember Jon Peters, the insane producer who keeps trying to put giant spiders in people's movies? Cracked has mentioned him once or six times. Well, suddenly, Hollywood is full of Jon Peterses.

Warner Bros.
He finally got one in a Superman film, by the way. The absolute maniac finally did it.

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5
All "Evil" And "Pretty" Cartoon Characters Are Based On The Same Template

Walt Disney

Last year, an overly infuriated Tumblr user was rage-watching Inside Out and noticed this:

Walt Disney, Pixar, Something Classy
Shockingly, this entry isn't about genitals.

While the male characters had a wacky variety of chin and nose shapes, the female characters were all stuck with the same button sniffer and rounded jaws. When applied to every recent Disney-Pixar character, a clear pattern emerged:

Walt Disney, Pixar, Something Classy
Always suspected the kid from Up had a vagina.

According to the Tumblr post, this gender discrepancy was an example of "lazy sexism" by Disney -- the company behind Frozen's main stars having eyeballs bigger than their wrists and looking more like clones than sisters. You can debate the ratio of "lazy" to "sexism," but judging by past interviews with animators like Lino DiSalvo, this assessment is right on the money.

Cartoon Brew
Ironically, this made many women very angry (and thus hideous).

Yes, apparently, it's very difficult for animators to create proper expressions while maintaining the fuckability factor at a steamy 10. And so female characters are given the same basic traits that they know will consistently work. It's the same principle behind why every Disney villain is made up of a series of pointed ridges.

Walt Disney
Where's Garry Shandling? He's a Disney villain too.

Ever notice that? Look at the collars, the eyebrows, the chins, and the fact that most of these characters have their hair up -- giving their entire face a V-like shape. This isn't an accident, as research has shown that by simply looking at a downward-facing triangle, we automatically detect a threat. And so that's why Mufasa looks like this ...

Walt Disney

... while Scar looks like this ...

Walt Disney
"Oh, hey, it's my uncle with the evil face and creepy, ominous stares! Love ya, uncle!"

Triangles, motherfuckers. And not just in Disney films. The LEGO Movie's villain is almost literally an upturned pyramid.

Warner Bros.
Realistically, it would be giant, naked feet.

So yeah, there's sexism here -- and, we guess, prejudice against sharp-chinned folk -- but the biggest crime is the corporate streamlining that is forcing animators to be lazy about how each person is designed. But hey, at least they aren't adding identical dipshit smirks to all their characters, like some companies ...

DreamWorks Animation
WHAT DO YOU KNOW THAT I DON'T, DREAMWORKS?!?

4
Dueling Films Coming Out At The Same Time? They Probably Started As One Script

Touchstone Pictures

Armageddon and Deep Impact, the historic dueling of apocalypse-rock movies, are often go-to examples for that bizarre phenomenon where Hollywood releases the same plot twice within months of each other. Other examples include Volcano and Dante's Peak, White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen, and Jungle Book and ... Jungle Book.

AV Club
They're hoping Bill Murray will forget he was in the last one so he'll fall for it again.

So why would studios think we'd want to see two versions of the same movie? The simple answer is: They don't. More often than not, dueling films come from a very deliberate race to the box office brought on by early announcements, projects splitting up, and flat-out thievery. In the case of Armageddon, it all started when the writer for Deep Impact had lunch with a former colleague and president at Disney, who casually asked him about the film he was working on ... only to use that conversation to craft his own meteor-themed film geared toward explosion and cracker fetishists.

Touchstone Pictures
Also, people who can't get it up without Steven Tyler shrilling in their ear.

Other times, this happens when a writer or actor have creative differences and is allowed to pursue their own version of the story -- which is what's currently happening with the three dueling Tupac biopics.

Rolling Stone
Tupac released a statement saying he was disgusted and also still dead.

And then there's DreamWorks. When Antz was released a full month before Pixar's A Bug's Life, that was the end-product of an idea swimming around Disney offices since 1988, when the DreamWorks co-founder was still working there. He later resigned to form the rival company in 1994, the exact same time that John Lasseter was pitching the idea for a movie about grasshoppers lording over ants. While the official explanation was "innocent coincidence," it's hard to imagine that three companies interwoven with each other would accidentally tell the same story or use the exact same setting ... especially when it keeps on happening.

Walt Disney, DreamWorks Animation
2000

Walt Disney, DreamWorks Animation
2003, 2004

DreamWorks Animation, Walt Disney
2005, 2006

DreamWorks Animation, Walt Disney
2006, 2007

But maybe we shouldn't be surprised, since ...

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3
There's A Literal Formula That Every Modern Film Follows (And It's Getting Worse)

Warner Bros.

Hey, here's pretty much every Hollywood movie since the '70s:

Stonoff.com
Spoilers!

No, really. Even the good ones follow that structure. Especially the good ones. With no need for introduction, here are four very different examples, all of which are cinematic masterpieces ...

Lucasfilm, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures
Yes, I dusted off my Criterion edition of The Core for this.

At 10 percent, or 12 to 15 minutes in, our heroes kick it off with some "call to adventure" -- such as being quested to find the Ark of the Covenant, leaving for Las Vegas, swerving the War Rig off-course, or crashing your Space Shuttle into the L.A. River.

Lucasfilm, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures
Trunk full of drugs optional but recommended.

This new situation leads to some big change of plans 30 minutes (or 25 percent) in, like being attacked by Nazis, failing your journalism assignment, getting hit by a sandstorm, or demonstrating that the Earth's core has stopped spinning by lighting a peach on fire in front of government officials.

Lucasfilm, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures
Getting a little tired of the "lighting a peach on fire in front of government officials" cliche.

And so on. Eventually, victory is declared, and with only 12 to two minutes left, the film wraps up when the good guys head back to the university/airport/Citadel/upper crust and hide the Ark/leave Las Vegas/release the drinking water/HACK THE PLANET.

Lucasfilm, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures
Or you can do all those things at the same time and get 20 Oscars.

Even though the tone and visuals are drastically different, the basic plot direction is exactly the same. And while none of this is bad (Fury Road is the top-rated film of 2015 and follows this to the minute), the problem starts when the framework turns ultra-detail-oriented. Enter Blake Snyder's Save The Cat -- a screenwriting guide that turned the three-act structure into a 15 specific beats such as the "theme stated" scene, the "bad guys close in" moment, and the part near the end where Seth Rogen gets mad at his co-star and says they were never friends.

While it's intended to be a loose foundation for screenwriters to consider, the formula became so specific that any lazy asshole can prop a story on it, and audiences can use it to time their bathroom breaks. And that would be tolerable if these films at least looked different ...

2
Cinematic Universes Make More Blockbusters Look Identical

Warner Bros.

Don't get mad, but I'm about to describe every Marvel film to you. The heroes wear some combination of red, blue, or black, when they aren't a giant non-speaking monster. There's often a suit of armor made up of seemingly endless overlapping pieces. During the action scene, characters will often stop to quip jokes highlighting their differences. The score will be orchestral with heavy emphasis of deep brass and string sounds. Also, the villain is bound to get in a giant robot suit ...

Marvel Studios

... even when the show is being run by another company like Fox or Sony.

20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures
And multiple people look like the exact same old guy.

None of this is bad (unless you hate this style; then it's terrible). Like your favorite band's discography, every Marvel film is highly distinguishable from the others while still keeping the same recognizable tone. The problem is that, like this hypothetical band you love, once a style is popular it's all the public gets to enjoy. Think '90s grunge or that brief, hilarious moment where everyone thought they liked swing music.

Suddenly, we have a super-genre swallowing all others -- and since every franchise is trying to expand out into a cinematic universe, we start to see less variation in the blockbusters we get every year. All fantasy is Harry Potter. All sci-fi is Star Wars. Popular cinema won't evolve visually in the interest of maintaining a consistent brand. Instead we'll get the two choices.

Screen Rant, io9
"Archie Comics CEO Is Just Happy Someone Remembered"

And don't you think for a second that there's anything in between. Did you enjoy the dark tone of the new Godzilla film? Good, because that's also how every King Kong film is going to look since they now exist as one.

/Film
Plot twist: It's Matthew Broderick Godzilla versus Peter Jackson King Kong.

Were you excited that Universal is remaking all their monster movies? Well, get ready for all those movies to look and feel exactly the same, because someone decided they should be connected. Sure, that completely snuffs out any visual variation or unique interpretation between these dynamic stories ... but thank God we get to see what the Wolfman and Mummy have to say to each other.

io9
"Hey, check out my trouser sna- oh God it bit me. Call an ambulance!"

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1
Thanks To TV And The Internet, Hollywood Can't Afford To Innovate

Universal Pictures

Every creative endeavor is done somewhere on the spectrum between commercial viability and artistic expression. The more complex the tools, the more money that medium needs to sustain itself ... and the more this scale is tipped toward making a profit. That's why it's impossible for major studio films to be made without some committee of producers watching the director's every move. In other words: mo money = mo problems. Which is why they call it show business.

Did I just blow your fucking mind with my Carlin-esque word analysis? Shut up, of course I did. Just like how this once had audiences thunderstruck:

Societe Lumiere
Don't watch this in front of your grandpa or he'll jump out the window.

See, the average moviegoer was once like an idiot child: limited in options and impressed with any shiny garbage that was shoved in their moon eyes. Back in the 1950s, there was literally only one place to see a moving picture -- and so every week we had 90 million Americans going to the theater to bask in whatever Hollywood chose to make. But that's changed. You know how financially terrifying it is to make an original film in a climate where 17 of the top 20 highest-grossing films ever are either a sequel or an adaptation? And that's technically counting Titanic and Avatar as "original" stories.

20th Century Fox
Romeo And Juliet on board the most famous aquatic disaster? What a long shot THAT was.

It comes down to this: People aren't stupid -- they're just busy. A cardiologist who sees four movies a year isn't going to spend his weekend watching Ex Machina or Green Room; he's going to see Star Wars or Jurassic World. He's going to bring his shitty kids to see that new Ninja Turtles, because he remembers them from when he was young. And he's totally right to do that, but the result is an industry that can't afford to give people something new.

And so for those of us who want to see the next Terminator or Star Wars or Indiana Jones, we're stuck with ... the next Terminator and Star Wars and Indiana Jones (sequels). All because of that dipshit cardiologist.

Fuck him.

David is an editor for the website you are currently reading these words off of. He also tweets on Twitter.

Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!

For reasons Hollywood is really just a bunch of hot garbage, check out Why Every Movie Plot Follows Weirdly Specific Rules and 5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look the Same.

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