With “Snow White & the Huntsman,” a revisionist take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale hitting theaters this weekend, we wonder once again whether Hollywood is out of ideas.
The reality is this: Movies are expensive, and there’s a lot riding on their success. Therefore (often unfortunately), movies that are based on stuff people already know have a better chance of getting made. So let’s look at where movie ideas come from, shall we?
Adapting novels for the screen is tricky business. What makes for a great read may not be paced well on film. That doesn’t stop Hollywood from trying, over and over.
Good: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The Godfather”
Bad: “Twilight.” All of them.
Live theater productions have their own energy, and that can sometimes feel a little cramped on-screen. Elaborate musicals get to run wild, though.
Good: “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Hedwig & the Angry Inch”
Bad: “Carnage,” “Rent”
Comic books/graphic novels
It seems almost every comic-book hero has made his way to the big screen. It’s easy money, but there is some really great storytelling here, too.
Good: “The Dark Knight,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
Bad: “Catwoman,” “The Spirit”
Occasionally, great TV shows get to make a big-screen leap (“Arrested Development” is coming!). More often, it’s a tongue-in-cheek reworking of a beloved TV show.
Good: “Serenity,” “21 Jump Street”
Bad: Most movies based on “SNL” skits, “Dark Shadows”
Folklore and popular children’s stories have been great fodder for animated films, though there’s some grown-up live-action creeping in there.
Good: “Aladdin,” “Freeway”
Bad: “The Brothers Grimm,” at least one of the two new “Snow White” movies (probably)
Toys/board games/theme-park rides
Pretty much anything that was marketed to us as kids can be re-marketed to us as adults. Childhood nostalgia is big business, you know!
Good: “Clue,” the first “Pirates of the Caribbean”
Bad: “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”
One of the most popular video games of all time (Super Mario Bros.) was made into one of the worst movies. The record hasn’t gotten much better.
Bad: All of them
The lives of people
The biopic, as it’s known, is another favorite genre. Trying to distill a life into a movie is tough, but it can be done.
Good: “Raging Bull,” “Citizen Kane”
Bad: “Evita,” “The Passion of the Christ”
One of Hollywood’s favorite sources for movies? Other movies! Remakes — or the more recently en vogue “reboots” — aren’t always unnecessary. Just usually.
Good: “Scarface,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
Bad: “The Vanishing,” Michael Bay’s slasher movie reboots
Once upon a time, people used to come up with ideas for movies. Then studios turned these movie ideas into movies. Isn’t that quaint?
Good: “Annie Hall,” “Star Wars”
Bad: All Adam Sandler movies except for “Punch Drunk Love”