It's All Been Done Before

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Originality is often bemoaned to be lacking in modern cinema. Sequels and adaptations lie in waiting every weekend. Yet with all of the complaints about there not being anything new in film anymore, take faith that this is not a new problem. Hollywood has always put out movies that are a little too similar to other movies.

Familiar plots collide at least twice in any given year. In 2006 three films about magicians all saw the screen: The Prestige, The Illusionist and released to less fanfare, Scoop.

2013 is shaping up to repeat that again with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Now You See Me. Prestidigitation just keeps popping up lately. If something as obscure as magic manages to appear that often how could any unused plots be mined out of Hollywood?

Nearly all motion pictures are based on one of these simple premises 1) someone goes somewhere, 2) someone wants something, 3) someone falls in love with someone, 4) someone gets revenge, and 5) someone saves the world.

Formulas are a given in filmmaking; the tales we see on the silver screen are recycled from one of the plots listed above. All stories are bound by restrictive plots. If there were a film not confined to character arcs, transitions, subplots, then you would have my upcoming documentary about the world's laziest man watching Downton Abbey re-runs. Nothing would happen.

So to tell someone that Hunger Games is a rip-off of Battle Royale, or that Inception borrows from Paprika, is not the definitive put-down that one would believe. Battle Royale and Paprika aren't the first flicks to peddle those storylines either. Still, using elements from previous films shouldn't be looked down on. Without them, audiences also wouldn't have Unforgiven, a Western that manages to be something special because it subverts so many of the expectations that many anticipate within the genre.

Before science fiction, there were Westerns, prior to that there were Samurai films, even further back it was opera. There is nothing new under the sun, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything good either. Sure, there are plenty of studios making movies for money, but there are artists as well, and they need you to give them a shot.

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About the author


Colin Biggs founded Never Mind Pop Film in 2009. The blog just recently passed 1000 posts and he is busier than ever. Along with writing here, Colin is a member of the Nevada Film Critics Society and has contributed to Awards Daily, Hollywood Elsewhere, Anomalous Material, Top Ten Films, Front…

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