The Twilight Effect

13 11 2009

6 days!!!

New Moon Quote-of-the-day: “Here’s to responsibility twice a week, and recklessness every day in between.” –Jake, Chapter 7

If you missed Stephenie Meyer on Oprah today, you can watch it here. On Monday (Nov 16), don’t miss Kristen Stewart on The Tonight Show, Taylor Lautner on The Jay Leno Show and Dakota Fanning on Ellen!

Hollywood believes that the masses prefer familiar plots and characters, so that they can get easy entertainment without putting too much effort into it. This theory does have some sense to it – this is the generation of instant gratification. God forbid we read a book when we can get a quick shot of entertainment in the form of a 30 minute TV show or two-hour movie. This same mindset appears to go into the production of the plethora of remakes and book adaptations that fill the silver screen year-round. One is hard pressed to find a movie today that isn’t a remake, sequel or book adaption – or sometimes a combination of all three – and it can be argued that this methodology has gotten out of control. The number of sequels in certain franchises has reached astronomical levels. Sam Raimi has signed on to direct the fourth and fifth installments of the Spiderman franchise. Saw 6 came out in October, Rambo 5 is in the works for 2011, with the possibility of a Rambo 6 to follow at a later date. DenOfGeek.com also speculates that, following the success of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there will certainly be a fifth installment in the franchise. A fourth and fifth Shrek film have also been confirmed. Virtually every successful movie produced today is followed by at least one sequel. Even movies that were really intended to be a holiday one-hit-wonder and weren’t created with a sequel in mind, such as the Christmas event film Alvin and the Chipmunks, have fallen prey to Hollywood’s penchant for recycling. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel hits theatres Christmas 2009.

Furthermore, it seems no film is off-limits, no matter how long it has been since the original was released. According to DenOfGeek.com, the 80’s cult classic Heathers has a sequel in the works, though no release date has been set. For series based on books or comic books that have a set number of installments and thus a finite potential for sequels, Hollywood has resorted to making prequels, such as The Hobbit, which precedes the enormously successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, prequel to the successful X-Men franchise.

The decision to adapt The Hobbit for the silver screen points to another trend: Book adaptations have run rampant. According to ChasingTheFrog.com, 30 novels a year are adapted for the big screen. In recent years, the number has far exceeded the average. About.com reports that in 2006, 50 books were made into movies, and in 2007 that number rose to 70. Some of the better-known adaptations include the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and, more recently, the Twilight Saga. These adaptations prove what the movie industry is only just beginning to realize – fantasy novels, an underappreciated genre in written form, make excellent movie fodder. The appeal of book adaptations is understandable – books already have preexisting fan bases that are certain to turn out at theatres to support the movie version of their favorite book. Plus, many action or fantasy novels are geared toward special effects and sequels, which are two key ingredients in the Hollywood formula for success.

However, it is often the case that movie incarnations of popular novels are inferior to the print version, which serves to outrage loyal fans rather than win them over, but incensed fans are not enough to stop the Hollywood’s production machine if they think they can make a buck or two. In what EW.com has dubbed the “Twilight Effect,” a slew of similar book-to-film adaptations are on deck for upcoming years, such as James Patterson’s teen-oriented Maximum Ride series, because the Twilight film, based on author Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel of the same name, has done for the fantasy genre what Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey did for science fiction. The teen hit also proved to Hollywood what, deep down, they’ve known for years: If a movie can draw in a teenage audience, the demographic with the most free time and disposable income, it’s sure to be a smash hit.

However, Hollywood has recently started to dip into genres and books less appealing to the teenage crowd, as well as less well-suited to franchises, action thrillers, and special effects. The film incarnation of Jodi Picoult’s popular novel My Sister’s Keeper premiered last June. While the film featured a blockbuster cast of Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin and Joan Cusack, the story of a young girl battling cancer and her sister’s fight for the control of her own body is not typical summer blockbuster fare. Hollywood has even gone so far as to turn a children’s bedtime story book into a film set for released in October: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. This is not the first time this particular book has been adapted for the big screen; another version was released in 1973. Nor is this a record for remakes. Many films have been remade multiple times, most frequently films who have their origin in classic novels. For example, IMDb.com shows that Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte has been adapted as a movie four times, not counting multiple made-for-TV versions, and is set for yet another remake in 2010. The same is true of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which is set for an eighth remake in 2011.

Films based on classic books are not the only genre in danger of being remade these days. Hollywood has now turned its eye towards cult classic films, such as Footloose, Fame, Dirty Dancing and even The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which all beg the question: Is nothing sacred? One would be hard-pressed to find a film that doesn’t have roots in a novel or previous film, or sometimes both. It was once said that there is nothing new under the sun, and in today’s Hollywood it rings truer than ever. In fact, the only original cinematic attractions in modern Hollywood are the movies full of gross or ridiculous humor, such as You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, and the movies that mock other films, such as the Scary Movie franchise. However, even these movies draw upon the films they parody.

In short, Hollywood today isn’t producing anything that’s going to last. Hollywood’s Golden Age seems to be over – the age of stars like Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, whose films are still favorites with modern audiences. But this phenomenon isn’t isolated to just the film industry. The modern age also isn’t producing lasting literature comparable to that of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, or revolutionary music like the Beatles, who still have die-hard fans, even though two of the band members are dead. Perhaps Hollywood is not the only problem; perhaps modern audiences are demanding less by repeatedly shelling out 10 bucks to see the same film they’ve seen a hundred times before, packaged under a different title. Nevertheless, Hollywood cannot be completely absolved. Film studios, producers and directors have found a formula that works and don’t want to risk their financial security in these uncertain times by generating radical or revolutionary films that have the potential of shocking or alienating audiences. But it’s been proven a hundred times before – the only way to make progress is to push boundaries and move into new territories that have never been charted before. Audiences will love it or hate it, but hey – at least they tried it.

What do you guys think of the “Twilight Effect”? Is it getting out of hand? I’m really starting to wish they’d leave my favorite series alone! They’re turning all my favorite books into sure-to-be-substandard adaptations. The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld and the A Great and Terrible Beauty series by Libba Bray (both of which I highly recommend) are set to be adapted in 2011 and 2010, respectively. How do you guys feel about this recycling-gone-amok?  Discuss in the comments! Plus, don’t forget to follow on Twitter!

6 days!!!

My Never

PS – Click on the image to buy this hott American Library Association poster (that sounds strange, I know lol):

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