Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where Have All The Ideas Gone?, part 4

For the past few entries, we've noticed the escalation in convolutedness (though convolutocity sounds so much better) as to where Hollywood's inspiration comes from. From prequels to reboots to video games, it seems that Hollywood is having a hard time coming up with original ideas—and when the original ideas do come up, they usually leave a lot to be desired.

case in point
But what about the times when having an idea from a source just isn't enough? When those times roll around—all too often, I might add—it makes for some interesting scenarios.

The Producers
The year is 1968. The man is a relatively unknown writer by the name of Melvin Kaminsky. The movie is The Producers, a comedy about two men who try (unsuccessfully) to make a Broadway flop so they can rake in extra cash. The movie garnered plenty of controversy and plenty of money; it also catapulted Melvin Kaminsky into the limelight as a household name: Mel Brooks.

Springtime for Hitler and Germany...
33 years later, a musical was released on Broadway titled The Producers, and was a comedy about two men who try (unsuccessfully) to make a Broadway flop so they can rake in extra cash. The play won a dozen Tony awards and eventually had a US and European tour. Four years after that, a movie was released called The Producers. As you might have guessed, it was a comedy about two men who try (unsuccessfully) to make a Broadway flop so they can rake in extra cash.

In case you didn't catch it, we have the original film (The Producers). We then have a musical inspired by the original (The Producers). We then have a movie based off the musical inspired by the original (The Producers).

Confused yet?
In 1979, John Carpenter released a film; as I recall, it was a horror film. The film was called Halloween and involved a deranged homicidal maniac named Michael Myers* running around, murdering young babysitters. The original film did so well that it spawned a sequel (and, later, about 50 other -quels), appropriately called Halloween II.

*No, not this Michael Myers.
In 2007, somebody decided that giving Rob Zombie reign over another movie would be a good idea, and the viewing public was given Halloween, a remake of the original. Though the film did nowhere near as well as the original, a sequel was greenlit. Two years later, we were given a sequel, appropriately called Halloween II.

For those keeping score, we have Halloween, an original film. We then have Halloween II, a sequel to the original. We then have Halloween, a remake of the original. And lastly, we have Halloween II, a sequel to the remake of the original, which has nothing in common with the other Halloween II.

How about now?
In 1963, an Italian director by the name of Federico Fellini wrote and directed a semi-autobiographical film called Otto e Mezzo, known better by its English title: 8 1/2. The film was a huge success and served as an inspiration for numerous works, including a 1974 play called Six Passionate Women, written by Mario Fratti. Fratti then adapted his own work into English, which was first shown in 1998.

Too many numbers... what is this, LOST?
Meanwhile, in 1973 work began on a play inspired by Fellini's 8 1/2. The producers of the play originally hired Fratti to write the play—which he did, mostly by adapting his own Six Passionate Women—but later decided to go with another writer. This play was released in 1982 as Nine. 27 years later, a film adaptation of the play was released in theaters, also under the title Nine.

So we have a movie (Nine) based off a play (Nine), which was itself partially inspired by another play (Six Passionate Women) and by another film (8 1/2).

Sewiouswy, Stwong Bad...
Die Hard 2
The story of Die Hard 2: Die Harder begins back in 1966 with a man named Roderick Thorp. That year, Thorp wrote a book called The Detective about a renegade cop who plays by his own rules. The Detective was later adapted into a 1986 film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra. 13 years later, Thorp wrote a sequel called Nothing Lasts Forever about the same renegade cop playing by the same rules. Nothing Lasts Forever was later adapted into a film called Die Hard starring Bruce Willis, released in 1988.

Which makes these guys the same character...
Die Hard did so well in the box office that a sequel was immediately greenlit. As Thorp hadn't written a threequel, the studio scrambled for ideas. They eventually came across a book written by Walter Wager with the name of 58 Minutes, which was written in 1987. 58 Minutes dealt largely with a renegade cop playing by his own rules. As this matched the model, a pair of screenwriters were instantly tasked with an adaptation, and in 1990, Die Hard 2 was released.

This one might be a bit tricky to keep orderly. We have a movie (Die Hard 2) based on a book (58 Minutes) acting as a sequel to another movie (Die Hard) based on another book (Nothing Lasts Forever), which itself was a sequel to another book (The Detective), which incidentally was adapted into a separate film (The Detective).

A movie based on a book being a sequel to a movie based on a book which was a sequel to a book? Don't let's be silly!
And if you think the cycle of idea-theft is only a thing of the past, allow me to show you what we have to look forward to in the next few years:

The Warriors (2010) — A movie based on a movie based on a book based on a Greek tale.
The Little Shop of Horror (2011) — A movie based on a movie based on a play based on a movie.
Wicked (2012) — A movie based on a musical based on a novel based on a novel.

After discussing the various places Hollywood gets (read: steals/regurgitates) its ideas from, I personally am all the more grateful for those few-and-far-between times when an original movie does come out. But what is to be done with the Hollywood executives who can't seem to get any new ideas into their heads? I have just one thing to say to them. And yes, to follow their example, I'm going to steal it: cut it out.

Thanks, Uncle Joey.


lexi said...

Adam as your cousin i must respectfully disagree with one thing... Wicked (novel) was not based on the Wizard of Oz (novel). it may have many of the same characters but is nothing near the same story. having read both books... i think i can say this :D

Effing Frost said...

I have an idea for a movie. . . its about this dude who lives in West Valley Utah. He writes a blog and talks about how there are no original ideas in movies. I call it "N.U. 14 With a Vengeance." You will be played by Edward James Almos. I will be played by Bruce Campbell.