If there’s one thing Hollywood movie studios love to do, it’s to overuse the same ideas over and over until it stops making money. While the success of these trends are dependent on audiences either not noticing or caring that they’re being overused, anyone who watches a lot of movies is going to quickly realize that some trends are growing increasingly tired and repetitive. Building off of that sentiment, it would be nice to see the following 10 trends retired.
10. Casting Johnny Depp As A Flamboyant Weirdo
There was a time, believe it or not, when Johnny Depp was a highly-regarded actor who picked unlikely roles that challenged him as an actor. One such role was that of Captain Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, which rightfully earned Depp as Best Acting Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, Depp took the originality and flamboyance of that character and ran it into the ground for the next decade and counting. “Flamboyant Weirdo” is now Depp’s trademark acting mode, whether it be portraying the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s live action Alice in Wonderland (2010) or, most recently, as a secret agent in Mortdecai. Depp’s penchant for playing the same type of character has hurt the actor’s reputation considerably and until he turns in a prominent role that is as far removed from Jack Sparrow as possible, this reputation will likely stick.
9. Pointless Reboots
Since Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, no less than 5 different actors have portrayed the Dark Knight on screen, with Ben Affleck set to be the fifth in next year crossover film Batman v Superman. Spider-Man is about to be given his third recasting/reboot since 2002. Rebooting popular characters and concepts is an incredibly popular trend in Hollywood right now and it’s beginning to get exhausting just trying to keep up. Nobody wants to see yet another origin story for Batman or Superman; they want to see new stories. Recasting these characters is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean the story needs to be reset every time a new actor steps into the shoes of a popular superhero. With DC and Marvel committed to serial storytelling with their films, superhero reboots will thankfully become less common. Unfortunately, judging by unnecessary reboots like last year’s Robocop, the rest of Hollywood won’t be giving up the reboot anytime soon.
8. Historically Inaccurate Biopics
Historical biopics have a reputation for being “Oscar bait”, and this year’s Academy Awards nominations for Best Picture are no different – 4 out of the 8 nominees (American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, and Selma) fit into this category. As a genre, there is nothing wrong with biopics, but Hollywood should really try and hold itself more accountable for releasing films that are sometimes woefully inaccurate, to the point of being offensive. American Sniper, now the highest grossing war film ever, devotes little time to Chris Kyle’s PTSD and doesn’t even depict his tragic death, while The Imitation Game barely addresses the serious issue of the British government forcing Alan Turing to commit chemical castration and suicide. When done right, historical biopics can be immensely valuable films, but the practice of sugar-coating, even outright ignoring, historical facts has to stop.
7. Shared Universes
It’s no secret that Marvel struck gold by emphasizing interconnectivity among all of its feature films. The problem is, everyone seems to want in on this trend because from the outside, it looks like a sure-fire way to print money. Unfortunately, for some studios, creating a shared universe makes no sense and will likely end in disaster. For instance, Universal is attempting to create a shared universe of monster movies, beginning with last year’s terrible Dracula: Untold and including other iconic monsters like Frankenstein and The Mummy. While this decision makes sense from a financial perspective, it’s not really a concept that inspires much enthusiasm. Other examples are even worse, like the recent connectivity between horror films The Conjuring and Annabelle. The Marvel strategy is not going to work for every franchise and it’s only a matter of time before these plans blow up in the faces of studio heads who can’t think of anything better to do with their aging franchises.
6. Bad Young Adult Adaptations
In addition to superhero movies, Hollywood is also fixated on adapting every young adult novel in existence, it would seem. There is some justification in doing so; one only has to look at the enormous success of book-to-film franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games to understand that young adult fiction is potentially a goldmine. The problem is that, judging by some more recent adaptations, some fiction may be better left on the page. For instance, Divergent – one of the biggest YA adaptations of 2014 – operates like a poor man’s Hunger Games, set in a post-apocalyptic world that makes little logical sense. Unfortunately, Divergent is part of a trilogy, so 2 more assuredly derivative sequels are on the way. It’s understandable why studios are anxious to adapt any moderately successful piece of fiction, but when a good movie can’t be made, it’s an artistically-empty gesture fuelled only by dollar signs.
5. Live Action Fairy Tales
Disney is a hit-making machine right now and doesn’t seem to be hurting for movies to make between their endless suite of Marvel material and ever-expanding animation department. So why are they so keen on adapting seemingly all of their classic animated features into live action? Last year brought the Sleeping Beauty adaptation Maleficent, which to its credit told a very different story than the 1959 original, thanks to its focus on a scene-stealing performance by Angelina Jolie as the title character. In contrast, 2015 is delivering a live action Cinderella film that doesn’t look to deviate very far from its animated sibling, making its existence totally unnecessary. Recent years have also seen disappointing live action renditions of Hansel and Gretel as witch hunters and no less than 2 Snow White adaptations in the same year. The Fairy Tale gravy train shows no signs of letting up, as titles like The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast are set for release in the next few years.
4. Releasing Sequels Too Late
It’s fitting that 300: Rise of an Empire and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For were a couple of the worst films of 2014, as they were both sequels that nobody really wanted. The original films in both franchises were well-received fan favorites, but their popularity was more a product of filmmaking trends at the time of their release than anything. The almost decade-long gap between the original films and their sequels means that the popularity of these franchises has waned considerably, to the point where in 2014, their releases just felt like too little, too late. Timing is everything and not being able to gauge the appropriate time to release a sequel is essentially a death sentence in the movie business.
3. Over-Reliance On Computer Graphics
Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, which thankfully finally reached its conclusion in December, spent an enormous amount of its budget on cutting-edge computer graphics (CG)…and it looked terrible. While Jackson is the most recognizable filmmaker relying on bloated special effects, there is an unfortunate trend in Hollywood right now that overuses computer graphics, even when a scene can be done more convincingly with practical effects. CG, when used correctly, is an invaluable tool and has revolutionized the way films are made. However, like any tool in a craftsman’s arsenal, it has to be used for the right job and can’t just be used to duct tape an entire film together because it’s easier and saves time. Notably, the biggest film of 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is using a mix of practical and computer effects, which hopefully should spur other studios to take a similar approach in the future.
2. Pointlessly Long Running Times
The length of a film is closely connected with its overall pacing – a 3 hour film with breakneck pacing will feel much shorter than another of the same length that is plodding and unexciting. For whatever reason, there seems to be a mentality that longer runtimes are better and movies have been getting longer across the board for some time now. The reasoning is understandable in some cases, as there is a mentality among consumers that the length of a piece of entertainment is tied to its value – a longer experience equals a better bang for your buck sort of thing. The problem is that many films are ill-suited to longer runtimes (does a Transformers film really have to clock in at almost 3 hours, as last year’s Age of Extinction did?). Going forward, it would be great to see more commitment to cutting a film down to the runtime it needs, rather than what it can get away with.
1. Releasing Nothing Good At The Start Of The Year
This trend has been around for so long it’s hard to see it ever going away. Simply put, the first few months of the year are very light in terms of theatrical releases and the films that are released are generally of lower quality. There are generally a few bright spots (Kingsman: The Secret Service this February, The Lego Movie last year), but going to the movies between January and March is generally a dismal experience. There is some justification for this practice, as cinemas are usually dominated by the previous year’s prestige pictures in the run-up to awards season, while more expensive films are generally left for the summer months where they are more likely to make more money. Still, it would be nice to not have to see only bad movies for the first few months of the year – winter is hard enough to get through as it is!