Is Hollywood Out of Ideas? WongDoody’s James Noble On Why We Need More Originality

Is Hollywood Out of Ideas? WongDoody’s James Noble On Why We Need More Originality
B&T Magazine
Edited by B&T Magazine

James Noble, Chief Experience Officer at WongDoody, calls for more originality in 2025, asking if Hollywood has run out of ideas.

In the glitzy realm of Hollywood, the eternal tug-of-war between artistic innovation and commercial viability has long been the axis around which the industry spins. As we head into 2024, it’s evident that the scales have tilted precariously toward the side of safe, familiar territory: movie sequels, remakes, and franchises.  The effects are visible here in Australia, where the box office results tell tales of nostalgia, with the three biggest movies currently remakes and sequels: Wonka, Trolls and The Hunger Games. Yet, in this age of safe bets and nostalgia-driven cinema, are we sacrificing the potency of original ideas at the altar of commercial assurance?

One look at the line-up of movie releases for 2024 suggests the answer is yes. No less than 27 of the most anticipated releases next year are sequels, prequels, remakes, and spinoffs: The Lion King, Lord of the Rings, Deadpool, Gladiator, Twister and even our very own Australian cult classic Mad Max is getting a prequel. I might be a self-confessed 80’s movie tragic, but that doesn’t mean I want to see the modern interpretation of classics like Alien, Beverly Hills Cop and Karate Kid. In fact, the reason I love 80’s cinema is the originality and risk-taking we saw. It’s clear that in a year of global economic challenges and cost of living challenges, Hollywood is banking heavily on the proven, the known, and the secure.

Striking a balance in Hollywood

The recent strikes in Hollywood highlight the tensions between the major studios and the creative talent that makes the movies. The strikes were some of the longest in the union’s history and threatened to shut down film and television production in the United States. Studios are under pressure to deliver ever-higher profits to shareholders, and they are often reluctant to take risks on original projects. This can lead to a cycle of sequels, remakes, and franchise films, as these are seen as safer bets. In this era of risk-averse filmmaking, the desire for guaranteed returns might be clouding the pursuit of true creativity and cinematic innovation. The film industry, much like any industry, thrives on the bold strokes of originality, daring to venture into uncharted territories, exploring untold stories, and bringing novel perspectives to life. The narratives etched from scratch, devoid of pre-existing blueprints, possess the magnetic charm to both challenge and enchant audiences in ways that sequels often struggle to replicate.

 AI is changing how movies are made

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already having a major impact on the film industry. Being used to create special effects, write scripts, and even edit movies. In the future, AI could be used to create even more immersive and personalised movie experiences. For example, creating movies that adapt to the viewer’s preferences, or to generate different endings based on the viewer’s choices, or used to develop new forms of storytelling that are not possible with traditional filmmaking techniques, such as generating a movie that is constantly evolving and changing, based on the input of the audience.

However, there are also concerns about the potential negative impacts of AI on the film industry. Some worry that it could lead to the loss of jobs for human filmmakers and writers. Others worry that it could be used to create movies that are formulaic and unoriginal. It is still too early to say what the long-term impact of AI on the film industry will be. However, it’s a powerful tool that has the potential to both revolutionise and disrupt the way movies are made. Assisting is the best way to look at it, not replacing Hollywood and its creative talent in all their forms to enhance and evolve the industry.

Creativity and originality are the lifeblood of the film industry. They inspire filmmakers to push boundaries, challenge norms, and breathe life into stories that resonate deeply with audiences on an emotional and intellectual level. However with the lure of guaranteed profits, studios risk relegating these innovative endeavours to the side-lines, thereby stifling the very essence that propels cinema forward. The paradox lies in the fact that while sequels and franchise continuations assure a certain degree of financial success, they often pale in comparison to the impact and resonance of original, trailblazing narratives. The risk inherent in championing novel ideas might not always yield immediate financial dividends, but the creative dividends and legacy they offer are unparalleled.

 We’ve seen this story before

A research paper which analysed over 4,000 films and major studio production over the 28-year period of 1988 to 2015 found “major distributors have adopted increasingly risk-averse release strategies, while at the same time benefiting from a market environment that has seen the reach of films expand, both in international markets.” “For audiences this has meant an environment in which choice is restricted, and the unanticipated, ‘surprising’ film experience less likely to occur.” The research found some studios consistently outperformed industry averages, and these high performers were often those pursuing successful sequel strategies.

Sequels were seen to enhance studio profitability by reducing unexpected surprises for consumers, narrowing consumer risk. But the pursuit of franchise movie succuss doesn’t come without its own risks. Last year, DC films attempted to launch its own Marvel style Cinematic Universe, with its film Black Adam starring Dwayne, The Rock, Johnson, which fell epically flat at the global box office, cancelling plans for future productions. The critics’ view was fans weren’t naïve enough not to see through the manufactured attempt lure them into a franchise. Finally, a win for originality.

Beyond the silver screen, this same quest for originality echoes loudly in the corridors of the business world, especially in the tough economic climate of 2024. Companies that dare to innovate, to charter new territories, and to birth disruptive solutions amid adversity, often emerge as trailblazers even in the bleakest economic landscapes.  In 2024, it will be those enterprises willing to pivot, to evolve, and to conjure up inventive solutions, not unlike the groundbreaking narratives on the silver screen, stand poised to not only survive but thrive.

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    1. Your discourse on Hollywood’s artistic originality, or the apparent scarcity thereof, sparked a cascade of thoughts in my mind. The enigma of creativity is indeed complex, isn’t it? Subjective to its core. We’re often ensnared in the belief that authentic creativity demands birthing concepts never before witnessed. However, the essence of creativity isn’t always rooted in crafting the unprecedented.

      Consider sequels, for example. While some critique them as mere regurgitations of prior narratives, I perceive them through a different lens. They represent creativity in evolution – augmenting a pre-existing tale and steering it towards uncharted territories, aided by technological advancements. It’s akin to rejuvenating an old melody with a novel rhythm. The foundational tune may resonate with familiarity, but the innovative arrangement can breathe new life into it.

      Delving into the realm of AI-enhanced visual effects and screenplays, yes, they’re revolutionizing the cinematic creation process. This shift may lead to a reduction in conventional roles within specific sectors. Yet, they’re also paving the way for unprecedented narrative possibilities. We shouldn’t perceive this as a diminution of creativity, but rather as its metamorphosis.

      Reflect on the iconic symbols ingrained in our daily lives, like the cog representing settings or the floppy disk denoting ‘save’. We’ve transcended the technologies these icons depict, yet their presence persists. Why? Due to their simplicity and universal recognition. This phenomenon isn’t indicative of creative bankruptcy; it’s centered around utility and familiarity. Sometimes, the comfort and ease of what’s known trump the pursuit of novelty.

      Cinema, akin to any art form, is a reflection of its era. In our technology-saturated epoch, this influence is palpable in the films we see. Thus, sequels infused with technological enhancements aren’t harbingers of a creative recession. They’re simply a reflection of our times, where technology is a pivotal element.

      Considering the structure of movies – the tried-and-true Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 blueprint – it endures because of its efficacy. It’s comparable to the foundation of a dwelling. You can alter the facade, revamp the interior, integrate avant-garde technology, but the base remains constant. Is redefining the foundation the sole avenue to creativity? I argue otherwise.

      Lastly, regarding the behavioral research you referenced – it presents an intriguing concept. As we mature, we tend to cling to the relics of our youth, elevating them as the ‘paragon’. Contemporary creations often fail to resonate with similar intensity. This isn’t merely nostalgia; it’s a recognized psychological pattern. It mirrors the belief prevalent in every generation that the music of their youth was unparalleled.

      In conclusion, Hollywood’s creativity, or that in any domain, isn’t confined to the fabrication of the utterly novel. It encompasses adaptation, evolution, and at times, reinterpreting the familiar with a fresh perspective. The absence of absolute novelty doesn’t equate to a lack of creativity.


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