Instead of leaning on tired tropes, movies could really use some more originality
Recently, I was watching the film Free Guy. It was… fine up until the end where during an epic final confrontation, Ryan Reynolds pulled out Captain America’s shield, a hulk fist, Megaman’s blaster, and then a lightsaber all with the appropriate accompanying music.
I’ve been seeing this more and more in movies over the last several years. Studio executives throwing anything recognizable into their movies to create the illusion of a high-quality film.
This practice is lazy and cheap, having to rely on products and moments from the past to try and elevate your movie should be unacceptable but the practice remains. Why?
The practice of adapting things from other media into film is about as old as film itself. One of the first feature-length, widely acclaimed horror films ever made, Nosferatu (1922), wasn’t an original idea having been based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.
Adaptation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, oftentimes it’s quite the contrary. Some of the most recognizable and well-respected works of film are based on or include elements of books, television, and even other films. What makes these examples better than their contemporary counterparts is that something creative was done using these elements.
As an example, let’s talk about the most recent Star Wars trilogy.
Throughout the series, there were many times different characters, props, and plot points made a return to the series. Nothing particularly interesting was done with these aspects most of the time. Their main purpose was for the fans in the audience to go ‘oh, I recognize that, cool.’
It doesn’t help Hollywood’s image as a creatively bankrupt industry when that’s all the creativity you can muster.
In contrast, take a different contemporary example in Logan (2017). The film is much darker and gritty than other superhero movies that preceded it. With R-rating and inherently violent main characters, the dull-colored visuals of the film matched perfectly with the invented tone.
At one point during the film, Logan is shown an old X-Men comic book, full of color and fantastical themes. It’s a great juxtaposition with the apparent reality of the X-Men universe we see in the film.
When Logan talks about how the stories in the comics didn’t really go down like that, it shows us how far the Wolverine character has gone. Now, in what is likely to be his final film, all of the vibrant life of the comics has now turned into drab dust.
References aren’t necessarily a bad thing to include in films, but the way major studios have been incorporating it into their films leaves a lot to be desired.
Anyone can throw something recognizable into a movie with hardly any rhyme or reason, but to use references for the betterment of the film, requires much more careful forethought and planning.
Without being careful, sometimes you just end up giving Ryan Reynolds a lightsaber and letting him wave it around for no reason.