The Force Awakens in many ways is a reboot of A New Hope and the Star Wars franchise in general from the master of the reboot, JJ Abrams. But it was also written by Lawrence Kasdan who wrote Empire and Jedi and stars the original cast, so it's diffenitely not a reboot but a continuation of the franchise. What does this mean for the future of film?
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
As of last week The Force Awakens will overtake Avatar as the all time high grossing movie domestically and will overtake The Avengers as the fourth highest grossing movie of all time worldwide. This is all after 19 days in theaters and it still hasn’t been released in China. It’s also broken about 40 records so far, being the fastest to every money number imaginable, having the highest opening weekend, and was only a million short of being the highest grossing movie of 2015 with only being alive in 2015 for 14 days. But besides box office records, what does The Force Awakens mean for the film industry? Are there lessons in this seventh installment?
What does it all mean?
Reboot City Rebooted
Hollywood is reboot city. And let’s face it, JJ Abrams is the king of the reboot. All of his movies are homages to an earlier Hollywood whether it’s his two Star Trek films, The Force Awakens, Mission Impossible, or Super 8, all are taking on the past and redoing it. And when the reboot is done correctly, ala 21 Jump Street, The Force Awakens, or even The Brady Bunch movies from the 90s, it’s a success and people love it, but when it’s a failure like any of the MGM reboots (Poltergeist, Carrie, Red Dawn) or Warner’s recent reboots (Man From UNCLE, Point Break), people hate on the remake, say Hollywood has run out of ideas.
Here’s the problem with that ideology. Story transcends time and yet story is very finite. For instance there are only seven stories according to Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch:
man against man
man against nature
man against himself
man against God
man against society
man caught in the middle
man and woman
And then Joseph Campbell famously asserted that the hero’s journey is a monomyth that basically says every story follows the same pattern, which most know is what influenced George Lucas when creating Star Wars and anyone else who has ever said a story. So it really isn’t that Hollywood is out of ideas, it’s more like Hollywood has old ideas. And these old ideas are old tv shows and films that they own. Old ideas that hold emotional value to human beings. Some of those old ideas we even see as children and they lock into an emotional core of feeling like a child when being viewed. The valuable thing to a movie studio isn’t story, it’s a story world. It’s some old idea that is a dormant idea universe that the studio owns and that the people own with their emotional ties to it when it was first in the zeitgeist. Disney has been buying old story worlds, like Star Wars and Indiana Jones and the Muppets due to the emotional connection we all have to these stories. New ideas are great, but we don’t have anything attached to them, except for maybe an actor who’s been cast that we like or if the story already existed as a novel, which the studios buy because they have no ideas. It’s also interesting, most studio producers say hear the same ideas all the time, that they always get pitched the same type of story in the same type of setting. This is because there are only seven stories or one monomyth.
So the question shouldn’t be “Why are they remaking everything, Hollywood is out of ideas,” it should be more like, “What story world are the six major studios going to buy up next, or pull out of their library and will they handle it with care?” And sometimes the answer is incredible and we get The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road, and other times we get the worst movie ever like the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2015’s Jem and the Holograms and Halle Berry’s Catwoman. Gods Of Egypt will be a $150 Million dissapointment for LionsGate when it's released in 2016, this is because you cannot give a budget over over $100 Million plus to a property that doesn't already exist, to a story that has already been proven to be loved.
So what does this mean for the future? Well Hollywood will do what it always has done, it'll adapt anything that they believe people will see. Giant tentpole huge budget films will be sectered off into things that we already know and have emotion for, while new ideas will have to be less than $50 Million or they will fail. That means no movie will be made for $50-100, which is what is happening right now. All three Hobbit movies cost a billion dollars to make, but each pulled in a billion at the box office because they are proven entities. What happened here was a fan made another movie in the franchise and paid respect to the past all at the same time, similar to what happened with Creed and the Rocky franchise in 2015. Most stories owned by Hollywood have a way in to reboot them. For Star Wars it was gathering the actors from the original trilogy and letting them play the same characters 30 story and real life years later. For Star Trek, the way to reboot was a parallel universe, where we get the same characters played by different actors. For James Bond it's getting a new actor to play Bond every 15 years. And for the Brady Bunch it was having them think they still live in the 70s but they actually live in a 90s world. Most franchises that people are fond of have a way to reboot them, they just have to find the proper way to do it.
Film Stock is Saved! (For Now)
Well, JJ Abrams was very smart in shooting The Force Awakens on Kodak film, actually returning the dying Kodak back into the black of profitability
According to the Hollywood Reporter when JJ Abrams decided to shoot on film the Kodak CEO said that decision was, “a key part of Kodak’s decision to keep making film when we were down 96 percent.” Kodak said only 90 things were shot with their film this year for the major studios across TV and movies. It’s important to keep the old way alive because it’s the old way but more importantly because film gives a soul to a movie. When watching a movie up close, the look of the film grain from the actual film gives the movie weight, there were chemicals responding to each other to create that grain which then made up the picture and the entire movie.
Here's the list of Disney's upcoming films:
The Finest Hours - January 29, 2016
The Jungle Book - April 15, 2016
Alice Through the Looking Glass - May 27, 2016
The BFG - July 1, 2016
Pete's Dragon - August 12, 2016
Beauty and the Beast - March 17, 2017
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales July 7, 2017
Untitled Disney live-action fairy tale film - December 22, 2017
Untitled Disney live-action fairy tale film November 2, 2018
Untitled Disney live-action fairy tale film March 29, 2019
Untitled DisneyToon Studios film April 12, 2019
Untitled Disney live-action fairy tale film - November 8, 2019
Disney Animation Studios / Pixar Animation Studios:
Zootopia - March 4, 2016
Finding Dory - June 17, 2016
Moana - November 23, 2016
Cars 3 - June 16, 2017
Coco November 22, 2017
Gigantic - March 9, 2018
Toy Story 4 - June 15, 2018
The Incredibles 2 - June 21, 2019
Untitled Pixar film - March 13, 2020
Untitled Pixar film - June 19, 2020
Untitled Disney Animation film - November 25, 2020
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - December 16, 2016
Star Wars: Episode VIII - May 26, 2017
Untitled Han Solo Anthology Story - 2018
Star Wars: Episode IX - May 24, 2019
Untitled Boba Fett Anthology Story - 2020
Captain America: Civil War - May 6, 2016
Doctor Strange - November 4, 2016
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - May 5, 2017
Untitled Spider-Man film - July 28, 2017
Thor: Ragnarok - November 3, 2017
Black Panther - February 16, 2018
Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 - May 4, 2018
Ant-Man and the Wasp - July 6, 2018
Captain Marvel - March 8, 2019
Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 - May 3, 2019
Inhumans - July 12, 2019