The big news this week has revolved around JJ Abram’s next project, and the rumours and half truths surrounding it. Did he just direct the teaser, is he directing the full film? Is it a Cloverfield sequel or prequel? Right now we have as many questions as answers, but we do know that JJ Abrams is directing Super 8, Steven Spielberg is producing, and we’ll see it in Summer 2011.

We also know that it will be set in 1979, and will revolve around an extraterrestrial happening of some sort, reminiscent of Spielberg’s movies from that very period, speaking of ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It is an interesting and exciting idea. You don’t get the kind of alien movies Spielberg made any more, filled with mystery and wonderment. We are much more cynical nowadays, and demand grittier, more realistic storylines. As intrigued by the movie as i am, whilst reading the post, and the others around it, i felt an odd feeling come over me. It was kind of like Deja Vu, only, not.

Scanning over the news articles from Friday, there was a very definite theme. A Planet of the Apes prequel is in the works. Titled Rise of the Apes, it shows the lead up to the events of Planet of the Apes, made in 1968. Also on the page, more posters from Tron: Legacy, which picks up the story from the original movie some 25 years on. There were also some TV spots for the characters from the new A-Team movie. Due out in July, it is based on the TV series, which like the original Tron originated in the eighties.

There were further stories covering Mission Impossible 4, a movie series based on a sixties and seventies TV show, and Predators, continuing on from the series that began in 1987. The Nightmare on Elm Street remake was also mentioned. There’s a lot of resurrection going on, revolving mostly around the seventies and eighties. Trends, fads and particular periods do tend to come back in fashion, but there are much older properties being exploited too.

The highest grossing movies so far this year have been Alice in Wonderland, based on stories from the 19th century, and Clash of the Titans, a remake of a movie from the 1980’s based on ancient Greek mythology. Next week sees the opening of Ridley Scott’s latest film, Robin Hood, about a semi-fictional character purported to be around in the 12th or 13th century, just one movie in a long line made about the character.

Even cinema’s big innovation, the current 3D movement, is rooted in a 50 year old plus concept. 3D movies were released in the fifties, then again in the eighties. The technology has been improved upon, but it still isn’t really innovative. The current state of the movie industry is mirroring that of the fifties and early sixties, when big spectacle was being employed to draw in an audience.

The only stories about modern, original movies were the news that Kick-Ass was getting a sequel, and a new poster for Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Kick-Ass is a contemporary take on the comic book movie, it subverts the genre somewhat and is a very original movie in many ways. It was the first great movie of the year, but turned out to be not what mainstream audiences were looking for, and disappointed at the box office. Inception is an original sci-fi movie directed by one of the best filmmakers in the business. Nolan used  modern Imax cameras for The Dark Knight, a much newer innovation than 3D. Unfortunately Inception hasn’t made use of this technology, though apparently some scenes were shot in 65mm. Inception should fare far better than Kick-Ass at the box office too. Lets hope it does, because if original work isn’t succeeding, we may lose it altogether!

Is there a genuine lack of good, original material out there, or is Hollywood just reluctant to risk money on it? It isn’t unusual in times of economic recession to see attempts to bring about nostalgia. It gives people a warm feeling inside, and reminds them of better times long past. And don’t get me wrong, i’m not against remakes, rehashes, reboots or sequels per se. There is a definite place in the industry for all the projects i mentioned at the top. But if you look at all the other movies being released this year, an overwhelming percentage of them have some tie to the past. It looks to be getting a little out of hand. It seems to be a little short sighted too. For instance, will Nightmare on Elm Street really make any more money than an original horror movie could have made?
I’d argue there is no real evidence that these ‘nostalgia’ movies are more likely to be successful than new films with no pedigree. Just last year, the highest grossing movie of all time was released. The general storyline may have not been particularly original in itself, but the property held no tie-in to previous work. Completely new characters and settings proved not to be a barrier to financial success. This should be proof enough that new ideas are worth exploring. Unfortunately, it took a powerful filmmaker like James Cameron to get it done. Lesser known writers and directors are struggling to bring their ideas to fruition.

Recently, it seems the most effective way to get attention for great new ideas is to put together a brilliant short film. Last year, Shane Acker’s 9 was released. A truly unique animated film, it came together because a short film he made in college several years ago caught the attention of some big name producers. It was a similar story for District 9. Director Neill Blomkamp’s short film Alive in Joberg came to the attention of Peter Jackson, who put together the financing for a feature length movie. Then just last month, one of the five shorts made for the Philips Parallel Lines project made a big impression, and now Carl Erik Rinsch’s futuristic The Gift looks to be developed into a full length movie. It’s easy to see why short films are replacing independent features as the calling card of choice. If you spend the same amount on a short as you would a proper length indie movie, the production values are infinitely more impressive, and it is much easier to see how good a full length, big budget version would look.

Going back and revisiting great concepts from the past is fine, and the practice shouldn’t be eradicated altogether. But powerful movie producers should try to be a bit more broadminded, and seek out more all new material. There is money to be made from the future as well as the past, and if Hollywood goes back to the well once too often it could result in a jaded movie-going public. Some of the biggest and best films of recent years have been based around great original ideas, and i hope that will continue. Possibly starting with Christopher Nolan’s Inception, potentially the film of the year, coming to cinemas very soon.

Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at