Decline in Hollywood’s Originality Caused by Fear of Failure


Photo by Simon Ray

For many years, there has been an ongoing debate circling around the originality of movies. We always end up watching, no matter what the plot is. “Star Wars” is a truly incredible and beloved franchise but has been watered down over the years due to its numerous sequels, prequels and TV productions. Oftentimes, ideas are repeated with a short period of time in between. “Elvis” was one of the highest grossing and most anticipated films of the year. Recently, a new film directed by Sofia Coppola, centering around Elvis and Priscilla Presley, was announced. The upcoming film has already stirred controversy online for reusing the story of Elvis. All of these reasons show why Hollywood’s creativity is fading. 


Nowadays, Hollywood churns out movies that are carbon copies of one another. Whether it’s sequels, such as “Top Gun: Maverick,” true stories, such as “Blonde,” or movies based on literature, such as “Where the Crawdads Sing,” there’s no denying that Hollywood is losing its originality. Hollywood has been lacking in originality for a number of reasons such as sequel reproduction and fear of failure.


One of the most talked about films this year was Baz Luhrmann’s long awaited “Elvis” starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks. The film was a hit and received a 12-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. However, within the span of less than a year, another Elvis-centered film was announced. Many film fans online feel there is a repetitiveness in the movies being made. On the Internet, fans criticize that there is an obsession around these certain celebrities which causes this monotony of biographical movies. A 2015 study by film data researcher Stephen Follows found that just 39% of the most popular American films from 2005 to 2014 were actually truly original. In a 2018 study, Follows discovered that prequels and sequels now account for about a third of all top-grossing movies, a percentage that has doubled in the past 10 years. Another example would be  the newest Marilyn Monroe movie, “Blonde” starring Ana De Armas. People have criticized the movie for repeating Marilyn Monroe’s life in movies. Furthermore, many other movies about Monroe’s life have been made such as, “My Week With Marilyn” and “Marilyn and Me.” The same has been said for many other prominent figures such as Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth, and Steve Jobs. Biopics aren’t inherently a bad thing, but because the storyline is based on a real person’s life, they tend to lack some originality.


Many critics have countered that the absence of creativity and repeat of movies in the industry is not due to a talent shortage but rather a fear of commercial failure. According to an opinion piece from DMARGE, author Bec Milligan, states that Hollywood is unwilling to place significant bets on fresh movies because it is obvious that remakes and reboots are successful and have been for quite some time. This example is shown in the top box office hits of this year. The majority of the top 10 box office successes of this year are sequels to films that have already made a name for themselves, such as the Marvel universe franchise, “Top Gun: Maverick”, and the Minions series. This can also be seen with highly anticipated and upcoming films such as, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “Snow White.” The majority of big budget films that are released are sequels to popular movies because producers seek a project guaranteed to be a hit. The cycle of sequel production prevents new films from joining the Hollywood industry, thus preventing upcoming and original filmmakers. 


Film fans online have contested that Hollywood is not in fact losing originality but building on the stories of popular movies. As established, sequels are highly popular in Hollywood today. Many suggest that even though the sequels are based on previously established pieces of work, they still contain some element of originality. To some extent, this point is agreeable. Obviously, not all franchises get worse with time such as Harry Potter, however, we can see that these sequel plots eventually get run down and lose their originality too. For example, Pirates of the Caribbean; the film was highly popular and successful thus promoting a sequel. However, as the sequels went on, the reviews got lower. The first installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean boasts a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. To differentiate, the latest installment received a whopping 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As the years go by and the sequels get made, the quality of the movies go down. The movies also begin to lose their charm as they become overused and repeated. The same thing has happened to the “Star Wars” and “Fast and Furious” franchises which have lost the plot over past years. As the sequels go by, the story can become tedious and worn out.


This doesn’t imply that every movie that comes out of Hollywood is a remake; it just suggests that fewer original movies are being made there. Many smaller, independent films still feature original narratives.  The careers of upcoming successful directors may be supported viewing these smaller films. Hollywood brims with potential, but because of the lack of originality, it could all be wasted.