It’s another rerun in Cinema 3 this week, but as reruns go, I would gladly see Get Smart again. I don’t think it is possible to get tired of looking at Anne Hatheway or watching The Rock drive staples into David Koechner’s head. Thanks to my friend and frequent movie companion Anthony for coming along this week.
As much as I did enjoy Get Smart, I won’t try to plumb new depths for an expanded review. Instead, I found myself wondering how many TV series remain to be converted into movies. I went to see the latest X-Files movie yesterday, and there was very little difference between it and an episode from the series; partly because the new film is modest in scope and budget, and partly because the series always kind of looked like a movie.
I find myself wondering tonight: when is the last time I saw something really original at the movies? Of the ten films playing at the local cineplex right now, two are based on television shows, three are sequels to recent films, one is a remake of a much older film, one is based on a musical. Sure, it’s summer, and that kind of thing is to be expected, I guess; but it also strikes me as lazy.
What we seem to be settling for as an audience in lieu of original (or at least interesting) stories is a fresh approach to art direction, cinematography, or even casting. I alluded last week to the fact that I didn’t think the new Batman film was all that great, at least not to the rhapsodic levels that some have been praising it. To me it seems like a functional and good looking film, but is that enough? Do we forgive its often-clunky script because we’re impressed with Heath Ledger?
It’s fine that Heath Ledger is getting posthumous kudos for his performance as The Joker; he deserves it. But I do wince when I hear all of the talk about Best Supporting Actor awards when we already have a really original film like In Bruges that holds three contenders for the same award: Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, and Brendan Gleeson. Unfortunately, In Bruges is not the latest kick at a franchise.
Consider the recent Incredible Hulk. Neither a direct sequel to the Ang Lee picture nor the TV series, it winds up as a weird fusion of both, employing actors who are not quite top-tier stars anymore but who are well respected for previous work. The lineage of this character boggles the mind: the film is very similar to the television show, which was essentially a remake of the David Janssen series The Fugitive, which had many other imitators and was itself based on Les Miserables. Meanwhile, The Hulk was created for the comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as an atom-age update of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So, from those two Victorian stories, we have seen several films, television series, comic books, musicals, and more. The outer shell keeps changing but the stories do not.
It was reported in 1989 that while shooting the first of Tim Burton’s Batman films, Jack Nicholson grinned across to Michael Keaton in the makeup trailer and said “kid, I figure on this one we can let the costumes do the work.” It feels to me like they still are.