“Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.” And we just keep retelling and re-singing it. I’m talking about the year’s biggest movie.
In a segment on NPR last Wednesday, Bob Mondello documented the bizarre entertainment phenomenon known as “movie twins.” Hollywood has long puzzled the public by releasing films with nearly identical premises and plots within months or even weeks of one another. “Mission to Mars” and “Red Planet,” “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact,” “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life,” and “Happy Feet” and “Surf’s Up” are just a few of the uncannily similar flicks to hit theaters at or around the same time.
“Hollywood is a small town,” says Mondello, and directors, producers, and screen-writers often swap ideas. But the trend has recently intensified and commingled with a growing preference for remakes. “Interstellar” and “Arrival” tell strikingly similar stories, as do “Life,” and “Alien: Covenant,” both slated for release this spring.
Spiderman has starred in no less than half a dozen movies in the last fifteen years, as have Batman and Superman. And next year Warner Brothers’ take on “The Jungle Book” will follow last year’s live-action remake from Disney, and “not two, but seven Robin Hood movies are currently in development,” because, as Mondello quips, “the over 100 previous ones listed in IMDB just weren’t enough.”
As I said last year on BreakPoint, the new “Star Wars” sequels also retread familiar ground, with what some called a “beat-by-beat” recycling of George Lucas’ original.
Trailers and posters for a “Power Rangers” movie will greet theatergoers this month, as will previews for the um-teenth installment of “Transformers,” a series that’s gone on so long, most of the original cast has quit.
Of course, Disney just achieved its biggest opening ever with a “re-skin” of its award-winning 1991 “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s the latest in a series of live-action remakes of classics from the Disney vault, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. And Allison Wilmore at Buzzfeed wasn’t wrong when she described it as “the mouse-house’s strange, sad ode to itself.”
Fans of the original and deservedly beloved “Beauty and the Beast” will likely enjoy this new version because, other than the live actors, a longer run time, and some not-so-subtle politicking, it’s the same movie! As my BreakPoint colleague, Shane Morris, put it, “this was a special edition of the original with eight times the budget.”
But if the quarter-century-old cartoon was so perfect, why did we need a scene-by-scene remake? Putting aside the obvious answer, which is money, the observation I made last year about “Star Wars” still rings true. Hollywood has run out of ideas.
And even movies that shine—and make no mistake, this new and high-budget “Beauty and the Beast” shines—are borrowing their glory from decades past. If asked to name recent films with truly original plots and characters other than dusted off, fifty-year-old comic book heroes, many of us would have a tough time. And that’s not cool!
By the way, the much-ballyhooed “exclusively gay moment” which “Beauty and the Beast” director Bill Condon referred to turned out to be two or three suggestive moments, plus an “in-your-face” transgender moment involving a man dressed in drag and loving it. As a Christian dad, that bugged me. But as a fan of good stories, I found it far sadder that LGBT propaganda was the most original thing about the new “Beauty and the Beast.”
Folks, we need fresh stories! And judging by the recent fare from Disney, Mickey Mouse is fresh out. The familiar can feel good—especially with so much uncertainty when we turn on the news. But it doesn’t uplift us, challenge us, or inspire anew as truly original work can. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I think Christians are the ones to write, produce, and direct these exciting, new stories and break the spell of non-stop nostalgia.
Eric Metaxas is the host of the “Eric Metaxas Show,” a co-host of “BreakPoint” radio and a New York Times #1 best-selling author whose works have been translated into more than twenty languages.
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.