The writer of Ecclesiastes once said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Such a statement has never been truer than in the case of movies. As we endure the endless onslaught of prequels, sequels, remakes, etc, we strongly suspect that our age is derivative and has nothing new to say. It appears as if our time has lost the ability to create stories and has the talent only for taking the stories of and adding CGI, explosions, and tedious dialogue by performers who are easy on the eyes. Though there is truth to such an excoriating critique, it deserves noting that these movies also function as our culture’s mythology. What stories we keep retelling and how we choose to retell them provide glimpses into what we as a culture find most meaningful and valuable.
It is possible to interpret the endless remakes pouring from Hollywood in a positive light. We finally have the emergence in our country something that amounts to tradition. The TV shows of our fathers age are being redeveloped into movies. Some think this reveals the unoriginality of our time. Though there is some truth to it, it also marks the development of continuity and tradition. A father complaining to a son that the new movie remake doesn’t compare to the timeless classic TV or movie version of yesteryear is our modern American version of an Ancient Athenian lamenting that Euripides new drama reuined the timeless old school version of Sophocles and Aeschylus. We have traditional stories that we as a culture are repeating to ourselves….finally.
In addition, the retelling of these stories provides the opportunity for innovation. How we change and modify stories is just as important as the stories we choose to retell. Maybe, as I said above, our remakes only amount to pretty CGI, but surely from a sociological standpoint this is understandably a product of an age which saw the rise of computers. But beyond CGI, the modifications made to movies gives insight into what the culture that watches them find believable and meaningful.
Watching how a new generation develops and tells a familiar story provides a window into the soul of a people. Perhaps if we don’t like what we see, instead of criticizing and condemning as inferior, the first step is to understand clearly what is being said and why. From there true dialogue is possible.