Latest 3 Things

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

3 Sequels Better Left Un-Made

As Hollywood (and our latest generation of young adults) becomes more and more bereft of creative ideas, we have been increasingly subjected to a parade of ill-considered and hastily executed sequels that no more capture the essence and soul of their storied predecessors than your karaoke version of Bon Jovi does. And yet, as slick trailers with stoic voiceovers continue to promise a transformative combination of reminiscence and artful revision, we continue to march into ever-more comfortable and over-priced theaters, only to be woefully disappointed yet again. Hollywood knows that the places that certain movies hold in our hearts is so unassailable that even the chance that we might be able to feel that way yet again - especially as we've grown older and further from the wonderment we were once capable of - will get that twenty bucks out of our wallet faster than the latest Bring It On sequel can get to DVD. But there are a precious few films which they have left alone. A small cadre of inviolate stories which even the promise of hundreds of millions of dollars cannot inspire the violation of their memories... or so we hope. So here it is Hollywood, I'll continue to suffer your prequels, sequels and remakes, so long as you promise to leave these scant survivors alone; 3 sequels that you'd best leave unmade:

1. Top Gun 2. The temptation to recreate the magic of this 1986 blockbuster must have been overwhelming. This testosterone-filled portrait of the fighter-pilot chic of the mid-80's is arguably the most quotable movie of all time. With more memorable one-liners than all the Die Hard movies combined, and more potential leading men than Oceans Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen, this movie was almost single-handedly responsible for the home movie rental shop explosion. The idea that you could bring the magic of this brash, loud and sexy romp home to your living room to relive whenever you'd like, was too tempting to be ignored. I recall many video club memberships were signed based on the promise that there would be a copy of Top Gun available guaranteed. But it can't be redone; it just can't. Since that time, Tom Cruise has gone couch-jumping crazy, Anthony Edwards has been the most recognizable television doctor since Alan Alda, Kelly McGillis took two marriages and twenty years to figure out something we all knew back then (that she was gay), and Val Kilmer has gained enough weight that I think he might be preparing for a mitosis. The military not only isn't cool anymore, it's downright pedestrian. These days, serving your country is something you only do if you fail to study hard, do your homework or make an effort to be smart... right John Kerry? It's not his fault, there are a nation of people who feel the same way. The idea that in 2010 you could walk into a beachfront bar in a uniform and pick up on attractive women is now laughable to the point of derision. What's more, no matter how bad the special effects were, how spectacularly inconsistent the cut scenes of flying and flight controls seemed, or how tactically ridiculous any of the combat exercises appeared, fixing any or all of that simply wouldn't make a better movie. In fact, it would probably make it worse. Modern casting directors would likely turn any revisiting into a fourth High School Musical, or worse - and replace the cheese-filled but genuine bravado with a neutered and facile masculinity written and edited by people who wouldn't know masculinity if it walked up and slapped them, and portrayed by young men whose only interest in it would be locating it in potential love interests. Top Gun is perhaps best treated by that immortal exchange between Maverick and Iceman - Top Gun was a good movie... still is a good movie... yeah, that's what I meant.

2. Star Wars: Episodes 7-9. Though I rage against it, it's inevitable that these movies will be made. Ever since we first realized that the original movie was "Episode IV" and that only one of a planned nine-part story, we've dreamed of what wonders the remaining and untold chapters might hold. Even the epic disaster and titanic disappointment of Episodes I-III haven't truly killed the curiosity that George Lucas planted in us as adolescents. But for the good of us all, they shouldn't be made. At this point, it seems a foregone conclusion that Lucas himself won't undertake this venture anyway, but the licensing fee he might command for the rights for someone else to do so might simply be too much to resist. At this point, it's hardly as though he has a franchise to worry about protecting. Even after the hyper-feminine and soulless slop that he giddily served up us to as a prequel to one of the greatest modern allegories ever, the Lucasfilm empire is still able to hock original Star Wars fare with little or no impairment. Is there any doubt that we'll all flock to the theaters, DVD and Blu-Ray aisles when they turn the original three movies into 3-D? But, as we learned with the abortive and ill-advised prequel episodes - just because there is a demand for something, doesn’t mean that it should be answered. One can only imagine what might result from the next attempt to amend this storied space opera, especially when this time it won’t be under the watchful and caring eye of its original creator. I think I’ve had quite enough of discovering the inane and dispassionate pasts of the iconic characters of my youth. I’m not sure I can take learning that they have even less interesting futures.

3. Ferris Bueller's Next Day Off. In fairness, I could have put any of the John Hughes “Brat Pack” films here. Because I no more want to see what the current generation thinks might happen on Ferris’ next malingered day of freedom, more than I want to see them tell me what they think might happen the next time the Breakfast Club gets a Saturday detention, or what hi-jinks and heartache Samantha’s seventeenth birthday might entail. But there is something ubiquitous about Ferris, something that escaped the simple zeitgeist-nature of the story, some gleeful and youthful innocence that we all seem able to share in with him, regardless of the generation from which we came. Even my parents could agree, Ferris should be inviolate. Because there is only one generation capable of producing a “Ferris” and it has long since grown up. There simply isn’t a need for a Ferris anymore. There is no more innocence to recapture, as the generations that have followed have sold their souls to the shameless self-promotion offered by MTV, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. There is no use for icons when each young person truthfully believes themselves to be one. And what point is there to a “coming of age” story when we expect that our youngest generations have either done so long before their high school years, or will fail to do so at all? Schools no longer have a Ferris, and friends no longer have a Cameron. School administrators can hardly be relied upon to even feign an interest in attendance and discipline (lest they become the target of litigation, parental complaint or outright dismissal) let alone the caricatured determination of Mr. Rooney. The truth is, there are no comedies left in the stories of modern American high school - because there’s nothing funny about what’s happening there. As we watch year after year’s worth of children spiraling into self-absorbed and delusive comas of sloth, entitlement and utter-unimpressiveness - the wonderfully simple and exciting scenes of our own high school days seem as fantastic and impossible as the worlds of Avatar and Harry Potter, and the scenes of modern day schools as desolate and dramatic as any dystopian wasteland that could be imagined by Terminator franchises or Mad Max epics. The truth is, I’d be more surprised and bemused to find a modern day high school student having a single day on than anything else.

* * *

Film is not a commodity, no matter how hard they try to make it one. At its core, and despite the tremendous and awful business machinery built around it, film is still art and art cannot simply be supplied when there is a demand. I’m certain we’d all like to see a second Mona Lisa, a tenth Beethoven symphony, and just one more Frank Lloyd Wright house - but there is also some value in the wanting of these things. Stories, creations and careers come to an end, though our appetite never does. It is the scarcity of genius in art which makes it valuable, and that scarcity can neither be controlled or overcome. Artists will reach the end of their inspiration, ability or even time on this Earth, and that will be that. What painting was to Renaissance Europe, film is to twentieth and twenty-first century America. It is our art, our expression, and when we become as historic as the Europeans of that era, it will be how we are remembered. While only time will tell which bits and pieces of this media will ultimately become the masterpieces upon which we shall be judged, we ought to be careful to protect those few which we might fairly hope become those that do so. And so, dear Hollywood, in your relentless quest for dollars, spare those stories which simply cannot be made better by continuing to tell them - and see if these latest lost generations can begin to find their way by telling a few stories of their own.



Bill Friday said...

I've always loved the "re-make or not re-make" conundrum.

In particular, those that would raise even more questions than they would attempt to answer--like any Bruce Campbell movie that doesn't involve zombies, Holly Hunter and musical instruments, and my all-time favorite, "Another Day Without A Mexican: Salt Lake City", in which we discover that the only ethnic minorities in Utah work for the Jazz, not McDonalds.

Brent said...

Well said......well said.....getting so sick of the remakes! Having said that, there are a lot of older movies (before my time) that have been remade and I've liked a lot of them. My parents must be pissed! Maybe it's just too soon for some of them.

Post a Comment