4 Mistakes Hollywood Seems To Love Making
Hollywood is a machine run on dreams, nightmares, recycled lube, and the souls of many, many people whose names we'll never know because they weren't interesting enough to matter. Box Office Mojo lists 693 movies released in 2014 that, together, made $10,428,870,453 at the domestic box office. That's a shit ton of money. You could buy so many Double Down Dogs with that money.
And for all that money, and for all the things that seem to work, Hollywood will continue to stupidly bang its head against the same walls over and over again because they never learn. Every time someone does something insane, like film a four-hour movie about hobbits or blue cat aliens instead of a traditional 90-minute one that includes a comedy sidekick, the rest of Hollywood snickers, and then those movies gross over a billion dollars. Every unique idea is seen as weird. Same ideas are the best ideas, no matter how often they fail. It's weird and shitty, and it seems to be the only way the industry works.
PG-13 Will Be Better Than R
Did you ever see the movie Hellraiser? Far and away one of my favorite horror films, but only the first one! The sequels got real funky real fast. There's one that doesn't even have Pinhead in it, I think. And in Part 3 there's a guy who shoots CDs as weapons. It's tragic. Still, Part 1 was Clive Barker's horror opus. And for years there have been rumors of a remake. Taking the awesome story of the Cenobites and the Lament Configuration, but hitting it with a budget that can do it justice. And maybe even directed by someone who doesn't think Pinhead is a poor man's Satan who ran afoul of an acupuncturist in the underworld. It could be awesome. It got squashed, last I heard.
Many writers and directors have been bandied about for the Hellraiser remake over the years, and one of the last times I heard about it there was a script that was rejected because it was too dark and serious in tone. The studio was hoping to appeal to a younger audience. This means what it means for every horror movie produced in the last 20 years -- can we tone down that R-rating and make it PG-13? Can we replace that blood with maybe a ripped titty shirt? Not, like, actual titties, but just a ripped shirt with the hint of titties? Can we replace that F-word with something hip, like "bae"? Or "hashtag uh-oh"?
Studio executives have a simple formula for R-rated movies. If an R-rated movie is good, wouldn't it be better if 13-years-olds could pay to see it too? And therefore make several million dollars more? This theory pans out at the box office where PG tends to rake in more cash than R, which means we'll sacrifice story quality for fuzzy good-time feelings if it means a studio executive can add a second floor to his yacht.
"Kids these days won't even know what a 'motherfucker' is, Bruce."
Now, this isn't to say PG-13 movies suck. You can make a decent PG-13 horror or action movie; a good script is a good script regardless of excess gore and sex and swearing, but taking a good script that's maybe about horrible things, like gore and death and madness, and trying to make it cool for eighth-graders, that's maybe a problem.
Remake It The Same Way
If I have to see Superman get shuttlecocked away from Krypton or Peter Parker get bitten by that goddamn spider one more time, I may start hurling feces at a movie screen like some kind of proto-ape Roger Ebert. Remaking or rebooting a movie does not necessarily mean just filming the same piece of shit a second time. Or third time, as the case may be.
If anyone on Earth does not know Superman's origin story, I submit that they are not allowed to go to the movies to watch a Superman film. And if they do, and if they don't "get it," then management retains the right to doodle "fuck you" on their ticket stub and kick them out. Everyone knows where Superman came from, skip that part of his goddamn movie. Same with Spider-Man, Batman, Captain Kirk, Peter Pan, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Their name tells you their fucking origin.
Despite the fact that the only people who don't know Spider-Man was bitten by a radioactive spider are also people who don't have access to clean water, housing, vaccines, or walls that prevent cheetahs from eating them, Hollywood will insist on telling us how Parker got those powers over and over again. If Sony can't think of another movie to make so they don't lose the rights to the property, they will reboot it again, just like they did last time, so they don't lose the cash cow that is The Amazing Spider-Man. And they will just make the same movie again, as if you could care.
"This is the cinematic equivalent of a hate-fuck."
Every film franchise is pretty much marred by origin stories now. No one wants them. The sequels to superhero movies are inexplicably better than the originals because we're not hampered by all the exposition and back story everyone already knows. By the time we get a sequel, we just get to have fun with the characters we came to see, and that's the movie everyone wants.
Probably the best remake in recent history was J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, because it took the time to explicitly let you know that the old Star Trek you are familiar with just got time-porked into oblivion and we're now living in a whole new reality. So don't expect everything to be the same; we're going to make it not the same for shits and giggles. So now Spock and his haircut can get nasty with Uhura and Scotty can have a space midget and Chekov can be a toddler and it's OK.
Now if only we could figure something, anything, for Bones to do.
The movie Steel is an abomination unto the Lord and unto all of us. All up unto us. And not just because Shaq, despite seeming like a pretty amiable guy in real life, has all the acting chops of a wet sack full of sausage meat and size 23 shoes. It's not his fault. The dude is a natural at basketball; it's OK that he can't act. Not everyone can do everything. I can't figure out hula hoops. But he's not the main problem with Steel. In fact, Steel seems like it was meant for Shaq -- a massive hulk of a man, originally conceived as a bald, African American chap, who takes up the mantle of Superman after the real Superman dies. He makes a costume out of steel, hence the clever name, and tries to fight crime and keep Metropolis safe in Superman's absence. Good stuff. Until you watch the movie.
But Shaq as an enslaved provider to a spoiled white kid? Instant classic!
For reasons we may never understand, Hollywood abhors a lead actor in a mask. They refuse to do it with any real commitment. Superman was great; he doesn't wear a mask. But Spider-Man? You never see his face. Why would anyone pay to see their favorite actor if his face is covered? This is how Hollywood thinks. You, as a viewer, are too dumb to appreciate the performance of Ed Norton, or Brad Pitt, or Don Cheadle, if you can't see his face. You only go to see their movies because you love their pretty faces.
Steel tried to address the face issue by drastically and horribly changing a hero's costume. Hollywood learned that was a mistake, and now they make ultra-awesome, ultra-realistic superhero masks that have proven you can love Iron Man even if you can't always see Robert Downey Jr. And then they cram his real face into the movie as much as possible anyway, same as Tobey Garfield in those Spider-Man movies. You can't keep a superhero's mask on to save your life. But never mind that. Steel was so firmly rooted in the idea you needed to see an actor's face, look at the truckload of horseshit they put on Shaq's noggin.
"Now make a face like an angry bulldog trying to see a treat stuck on its nose."
Jesus H. That looks like something a dude at the gayest masquerade ball in Gotham would be wearing when he picks up the Penguin.
Have the rules loosened up since Shaq Kazaamed the shit out of this movie? Yeah, like I said, we have Iron Man and Spider-Man now, but count how many scenes in those feature the actors not in the mask, especially when it seems like they really should be in the mask. Spider-Man sucks at preserving his secret identity; it's like he can't breathe in that thing. And he makes a point over and over again of how dangerous it'll be for people he cares about if his enemies discover them, but dude takes his mask off probably every five minutes in Spider-Man 3. Just wait and see what they do with Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool. His classically handsome visage will be peeking out nonstop, you'll see.
The Release Gap
How long does it take for a movie to go from theaters to DVD or VOD? Six months? Four months? A year? The answer is: Who gives a flying turd of a fig? It's all made up for no reason whatsoever. The gap between theatrical and home release of films is arbitrary and governed entirely by film studios. The reason they give? In part it's to keep theater owners happy so they can milk every red cent out of a film, and in part it's supposed to drive demand. The longer you wait for a movie the more you'll want it. Research shows that's not only not true, it's entirely the opposite of what happens. The longer you wait for a DVD, the more likely you are to pirate it. The longer a movie is out, the higher quality pirated copies will become available, the more plentiful they become, the easier they are to get. In a nutshell, not giving people what they want makes them get it somewhere else.
"But this time, we're going to use the most expensive and sophisticated disc encry-"
Despite numerous studies and an abundance of research indicating that it would be more cost-efficient for studios to put less effort into theatrical promotion and more into DVD and VOD promotion, and that home entertainment sales are generally far more profitable than box office take, studios still keep this release gap to appease theaters and to ensure you have to sit next to someone who brought their kid who's terrified of raccoons to see and cry through Guardians Of The Galaxy. Despite the fact that eliminating it also virtually eliminates the piracy issue, and people have known since the Napster days that people who pirate content are still willing to pay for that same content if it can be made available, Hollywood lumbers on like some kind of village oaf chasing an uncatchable bunny through a pasture, causing more damage than it realizes with each stupid step.
The recent release of The Interview, a movie no one even liked (full disclosure, I laughed my ass off at that movie. It's funny; folks need to lighten up), has shown that a movie just released digitally can rake in a pretty fat wad of cash. It made $15 million in a weekend, more than any digital release ever, and passed $40 million before it went to Netflix, meaning it grossed more than past films starring Seth Rogen such as Observe And Report, 50/50, and The Guilt Trip, which were all released theatrically. Even though The Interview was all kinds of unintentional and half-assed, it's impressive. And it shows you can roll a movie out in nontraditional ways, and they can still work. People will still watch. And probably you don't need terroristic threats and a potential war with North Korea as part of the PR campaign. Now imagine a highly anticipated film, like Avengers 2, released to VOD and DVD the same day as it hits theaters. Of course it's still going to make a fortune; the only people who'd be pissy about it are theater owners and maybe popcorn jockeys.
That would make a hell of an ARG, though.
"Hollywood is run by your grandpa" is likely the best way to account for this issue. Grandpa hates change. Grandpa understands you go to the theater to see a double feature and a news reel for a nickel. He does not understand that most people consume content in 2015 on mobile devices -- smartphones, tablets, laptops; these are the tools people use to watch television and film, and they don't watch in traditional two-hour blocks over dinner with the family like Nielsen thinks they do.
For more from Felix, check out 4 Things People Get Away With At Work (And Nowhere Else) and The 6 Deadliest Foods Ever.
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