Hollywood is obsessed with continuously trying to duplicate the magic of previous releases. When a movie is a hit, every producer in town gets on the phone and yells, “Get me one just like it!”
To be fair, part of the reason movies get stuck in this rut is because of the huge financial risk of movie making. In order to convince investors to put up $60—$200 million for a film, box office success must be virtually guaranteed. So, instead of developing new, original talents, we are subjected to never ending installments of popular franchises such as Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond, Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman and so on.
The other Hollywood box office insurance policy is the remake, or “reboot.” Every 20 years or so, another generation gets nostalgic for its youth, and Hollywood is there to reel them in with an overhaul of fondly-remembered stories and plots.
Still, any struggling young screenwriter can tell you there is no shortage of original material to be had—it simply isn’t being bought. When the bottom dropped out of US economy, it dropped out of the spec script market, too. Major studios stopped taking risks, trimming the number of movies on their slates. When only a handful of movies per year per studio get made, they all have to be blockbusters, and blockbusters are almost always another installment in an existing franchise. Familiarity sells.
That being said, here are some of what we believe will be the bright spots and dim bulbs on the movie release slate for 2014:
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill delighted audiences in 2012 with 21 Jump Street, which you can stream from both Netflix and Directstartv.com. Now they’re back with a comedic sequel in new headquarters, plotting another undercover caper and once again trying to fit in, this time on a college campus. The movie’s release date, June 14, means that studio executives are expecting a summer hit.
After many delays, the reboot of Robocop has finally arrived. Robocop was originally set for release on August 9, 2013, but was replaced by Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, which had been originally slated for March 1, 2013. Sony and MGM made the decision to push the release date in order to give the crew extended time to work on special effects, and it appears to have paid off. Appearances by heavyweight talents Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton might be one of the reasons the movie has well received, despite its February release date. Even with the black cloud hanging over previous 80s remakes (Total Recall, anyone?), reviews for the updated Robocop so far have been generally positive.
The highly anticipated sequel to 2011’s The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier has been generating buzz based on its strong script ever since Comic-Con 2013, where the first trailer was released and an appearance by Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and other cast members, who answered questions about the upcoming film. Whenever a comic book series lands a great screenwriter, you can expect a hit. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who worked together on Thor, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the previous Captain America, have once again taken the helm. It doesn’t hurt to have high-profile stars Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford and Scarlett Johansson on board, either.
Look out for this adaptation of John Green’s bestselling book of the same name. The quirky and touching love story about two young people who meet in a cancer support group is expected to be a sleeper hit. Set for release in June.
“World-building” is the latest term used by movie executives as code for the next big franchise. The Lord of the Rings movies, for example, exist in their own world. After the first Spiderman installment was criticized for its weak script, this second go with “Part 2” looks stronger, and will bring in many of the characters from other Marvel comics, such as Electro, The Green Goblin and Robin.
Here we go again, and this time it’s with Autobots, Decepticons and stereotypical bad politicians. Love him or hate him, director Michael Bay is expected to deliver more crashes, explosions and careening action sequences. His movies often don’t make sense, plot-wise, but his core audience doesn’t appear to mind one bit.