Movies And The Quest For Originality

How I feel about the lack of originality in films

How I feel about the lack of originality in films

I’m far too excited for Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, considering that those movies won’t even be released for over half a year. They’ve been on my mind a lot lately and that got me thinking about how hardly any movies are original anymore.

They fall into two categories. First are the movies based on books. Here are some that came immediately to mind: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Twilight, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, The Host, Jurassic Park, Ella Enchanted, Alice in Wonderland, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the Avengers films, Les Misรฉrables, The Princess Diaries, Bridge to Terabithia, Chronicles of Narnia, and I had better stop now before my fingers fall off from typing so quickly as I think of one adaptation after another. Notice that these are all rather recent movies.

In addition, Merlin, Sherlock, Elementary, and Game of Thrones are TV shows based off of books. I’m sure there are plenty of others but I watch barely any TV so I couldn’t think of any more. I may think Doctor Who is ridiculous, but I’ll give it credit for at least being original.

The second category is made up of sequels. Obviously there is some overlap here with the first group because many books have sequels so their adaptations usually do too. These include Star Wars, Star Trek, Miss Congeniality… oh darn, I can’t think of anymore, which doesn’t help me prove my point.

It’s not like adapting books into films is a new thing. As an example, several of Alfred Hitchcock’s famous horror films were based off books. It’s not like adapting books into films is a bad thing, either. I read The Hunger Games a few years ago and wasn’t impressed but after I saw the amazing film based on it, I was sufficiently convinced to give it another go. Similarly, the reason I now won’t shut up about Middle-earth is that I decided to read The Hobbitย and Lord of the Rings before the new movie came out. Adaptations can encourage people to read the original books. And it’s just plain cool to see what everything looks like, provided the filmmakers did a good job in following the book’s descriptions.

Still, I think it’s a bit disappointing that so many movies right now aren’t original. Are screenwriters unable to create stories on their own? Obviously Star Wars has gone into sequels by now, but I think George Lucas is pretty cool because the first movie was completely original. Yes, he was inspired by other things, but he didn’t take someone else’s entire story. I wish there were more “fresh thought” in the filmmaking world.

Now that I’ve complained about this for most of the post, what are my suggestions for solving this problem?

Um. I don’t really have any. I was going to say that we need more screenwriters but I would sound like a hypocrite if I did because I don’t want to be one. I’d rather write books.

Wait, I’ve got an idea. I’ll write a script about a screenwriter trying to come up with something original.


About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
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26 Responses to Movies And The Quest For Originality

  1. matttblack42 says:

    The problem is, just about every good idea has already been taken. Even movies that are mostly considered original (Inception! Woot!) still have a lot of similarities with at least a couple other movies.
    Although I think you script idea is a pretty original one.

  2. wolfluv745 says:

    Now that I think about it, that is true…
    (Doctor Who ridiculous?!)

  3. So. Good post, though shorter and less complete than usual. I get the feeling that you know that already, because you started out with a good premise and went absolutely nowhere with it.

    But you made a good point. It’s difficult to find original movies these days. Rick Riordan’s someone-or-other (agent, editor, something like that) said that the Percy Jackson wasn’t an adaptation, but more of a ninety-minute trailer for the book. For many movies out of books, that’s true. For the Hobbit and other strict followers of the original book, it might not be so true.

    Nevertheless, it isn’t too hard to find good movies these days. Star Trek actually used its sequel status to good use– its story was quite original. If you notice, just about anything Pixar is completely original. Predictable, perhaps, but original enough.

    Anyway, like your post, this novel-length comment started out well and ended aimlessly. Sorry ’bout that.

  4. cait says:

    It’s true. A lot of my favourite (and most memorable) movies I’ve seen are/were books. A lot of the more action/adventure/thriller ones aren’t though (at least not that I know of! :P) I like “Real Steel” and “Source Code”, which I’m pretty sure aren’t adaptions. I could be wrong though.. ;P

  5. Miriam Joy says:

    Merlin isn’t exactly based on a book. It is inspired by legends, of which the most “authentic” collection is in one book, Morte d’Arthur, but there are millions of different versions that have been told through oral tradition and therefore aren’t often written down. And, of course, the show is not a direct adaptation of existing legends. It kind of takes the ideas and runs with them in a completely different direction… ๐Ÿ™‚

    • nevillegirl says:

      I was counting it as one because it’s based on preexisting stories, or at least I think it is. But I’ll take your word for it running the ideas in a completely different direction because I haven’t actually seen it. *awkward non-TV-watcher*

  6. Charley R says:

    A point well made, I think – although I must put in a point that “Merlin” is not based off books, but rather the Arthurian myths, which were never properly written down in their original format. Even “Morte D’Arthur” wasn’t written until a good few centuries after the events supposedly happened.

    As for lack of originality – I think there ARE original movies still going – mainly animated ones it seems at this stage – but I think producers are seeing that a surefire way of getting more moneys is to adapt a book that already has a large following, and thus pretty much guaranteeing itself success. Original films are a bit more of a gamble, and some people evidently aren’t willing to risk that in this economic climate.

  7. Erin says:

    Teehee! I was about to make a comment about how Merlin is based more on legends than a specific book, but I see that Miriam and Charley have already pointed that out. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Anyway, good post! I think I may write a post regarding this issue as well. Maybe. We’ll see.

  8. There is a natural sort of decrease in originality as an ever greater number of stories build up. A lot of low hanging fruit has already been picked. Try to think of an original invention and you’ll run into the same sort of thing.

    I sure wish the Atlas Shrugged movie adaptations were better. Whatever you do, don’t ever see any of them before reading the book. ๐Ÿ˜

    • nevillegirl says:

      I know – everything original was done ages and ages ago. Now I think it’s just a matter of combining good old ideas into some new story.

      I haven’t read that or anything else by Ayn Rand, but my mom has. The other she saw the movie (I think it was Atlas Shrugged, anyway) and said it was awful.

  9. But to be clear, I do actually think there is something more going on than just a buildup of told stories. There is a factor that makes the lack of originality worse than it otherwise would be. It actually has to do with issues brought up in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

  10. hcfbutton says:

    Someone once quoted to me “everything’s been done before, but not by me!” I think that’s the case in movies and unoriginal stories. by the way i think the comic book genre is the biggest reason for all the remakes out there, because the remakes happen every decade in that industry.

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