Nobody can deny that the last decade or so have given us many great and diverse movies. The Harry Potter films, Jurassic Park, Titanic, The Dark Knight, The Shawshank Redemption, Slumdog Millionaire, The Social Network, Inglorious Bastards and District 9, to name a few. Despite the great films, one complaint remains: the film industry seems to be losing its originality.
Think of all of the sequels that came out (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Live Free or Die Hard, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, seven Harry Potter films, etc.), or adaptations from books or television (The Smurfs, Winnie the Pooh, Get Smart, Mission Impossible, eight Harry Potter films, etc.), or just flat-out remakes or reboots (Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ocean’s Eleven, Planet of the Apes, King Kong, Alice in Wonderland, etc.). There are also foreign films adapted for the American market (The Departed, which was based on Hong Kong film Internal Affairs, and the poorly American version of Death at a Funeral).
It would appear that all creativity has left Hollywood, but is this too simple of an analysis? If one looks closely at which films make a heavy profit, it becomes obvious why there have been so few original films. In 2008, five of the top-ten grossing films were sequels, two were based off of comic-books, two off of an actual book, and one based on a musical. In 2009, five were sequels, four were based off of books, two were special effects eye-candy, and one was based off of a line of Hasbro toys. In 2010, five were sequels, three were books, one was a comic book, with only one original film. 2011 set the record for the most sequels in a single year.
It certainly seems apparent that films with big budgets and brand-awareness do better at the box-office, so that’s why they keep making them. But is that a new movement? If you look at some of the great films of the last century, this trend was already in place. Gone With the Wind was a book; almost all of the famous Disney animated movies (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians, Winnie the Pooh, etc.) were based on old fairy tales and books; The Godfather was based on the book of the same name by Mario Puzo; most James Bond movies were based on the books by Ian Fleming, the list goes on and on.
The realization that movies are losing originality is horrible, studios make them because well-known franchises make money. Big budget Hollywood adaptations will always remain, but only time will tell if they completely replace original ideas.