Monday, October 08, 2007

Observing the Obvious

It's funny, I put the post up the other day about "War" and I'm kind of amazed that I never really thought about the topic too much before. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm afraid I have to admit to a certain amount of mindlessness when it comes to my entertainment. I've always maintained that I am not a movie/book/whatever snob. And I'm not. But at some point we have to be a little more discerning don't we? Okay, maybe not. But I find that as I get a little older I don't have as much patience for crap as I used to. I look back at some of the movies I watched as a kid and think how did I sit through this tripe? As kids we can be forgiven our lack of taste, right? But what are the rules we're supposed to follow as adults? I know, there aren't any. But when I sit and look at my movie and book collections I'm kind of amazed at how similar so much of it is. I like fantasy, but all the time? How many quest novels can one realistically read? I'll probably never know since it's likely I'll read them 'til I die. Oh wait, what was I talking about? Confused? So am I. No, what I'm trying to get at is that it's amazing how many movies and books are simply recycled ideas. I did a review on a book called "Crystal Rain" recently and the main character suffered amnesia. The book itself was pretty good, and original in most respects. But it was impossible not to notice how common the amnesia storyline was, especially since I watched "The Bourne Ultimatum" the same week I read the book. Then I look at my movies and see "50 First Dates," "Memento," all the "Bourne" movies, "The Long Kiss Goodnight," "Paycheck," "The 6th Day" "Total Recall"-- and I could go on. Man! This is a popular movie topic isn't it? Then I start thinking of all the other movie/literary tropes: the heist, the dorky-guy-gets-the-girl, romantic misunderstandings, youthful rebellion, the underdog story, car chases that don't encounter traffic, if someone shows a picture of their wife or child in a move- the die. You know what I mean. Oh lord, are there any original ideas left? Probably not. And the truth is, there probably aren't any original ideas left; somebody sure as heck thought of it before. All we really have left are original adaptations of old ideas. Take the "Batman" franchise. It was a tired old thing until "Batman Begins" came along and then, Wham! It's good again. (I just watched it again and fell in love all over again) And I find that as I get older I crave better imaginings of old ideas. "Spiderman" had a good start, though the finish wasn't quite what we'd hoped. And what the heck happened with "Fantastic Four?" Are all my hopes being pinned on "Batman" now? Oh, say it isn't so. I still feel characters like "The Punisher" have life in them, if only someone would care enough to put it back together. And please, for the love of God, no more "Ghost Rider(s)." Ever. Well, at least with Nicholas Cage. Please.

9 comments:

Scott Marlowe said...

I'm really looking forward to the new Iron Man movie. I just hope they don't screw it up.

The Curmudgeon said...

Original adaptations of ideas that 'have been done' will never go out of style.... I hope.

S.M.D. said...

There are probably a lot of original ideas left, the problem is that those ideas might not be to the liking of society as a whole and may never be written. Fantasy and SF are pretty much dead for truly original ideas though. But the hope is that someone can take a cliche and make it feel and seem new. That's the mark of a good writer.
You also have to remember that the common themes we see in books have been around for forever. They're archetypes! Hence why we see them repeated. Although I don't think I'll ever write something with a character who has amnesia having read this post...

Charles Gramlich said...

I agree that a lot of what constitutes originality is taking older ideas and redoing them from a new perspective. I like that sort of thing, personally. I don't want to see exactly what I've seen before, but there is still a lot of good wine in those old skins

Avery DeBow said...

The concept is just the bones. The writer's unique perspective is what makes a story flesh and blood, a unique animal. Do you know how many times my heart has nearly stopped when I've seen back cover blurbs that closely mirror the (potential) back cover blurb of my novel? But, when I read the book, it turns out those similarities are only superficial.

I think it's when writers don't invest their (sorry to be hackneyed) souls in their work that ideas start to appear as regurgitated ghosts of other stories. If a writer invests time, effort and especially themselves in their plots, I think the new twists on the old ideas will continue to keep readers happy.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It shows that there are few basic plotlines.

ShadowFalcon said...

The lack of originaly is made worse by the fact book/comic to movie is often bad.

i always look forward to it and am 90% of the time dissapointed...

Chris, The Book Swede said...

There's a quote:

"An original idea? There must be libraries full of them!"

Can't remember who said it, though! :)

~Chris

Alex said...

"I've always maintained that I am not a movie/book/whatever snob. And I'm not. But at some point we have to be a little more discerning don't we?"


Start with Harry Potter. Those books are for children under the age of twelve, and the developmentally disabled.