Turn and burn: has the entertainment industry finally run out of ideas?

A chemistry-free couple

Like many my age, I screamed like the afterburner of an F14 Tomcat when I saw the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick. The original movie played an almost religious role in my childhood (from the age of 7 to 37) and taught my impressionable young self to love fast jets, hate communists and question every shower I took in public changing rooms. But, in wishing away the days until “Summer 2020” to catch my first glimpse of Pete Mitchell in three decades, I’m supporting a movement that I’ve often moaned about and am helping prove a long-held belief to be true – the entertainment industry has run out of ideas.  

The revamp revolution
Tom Cruise announced the new Top Gun at Comic-Con in San Diego, the birthplace of the phrase “We haven’t made a movie for this Marvel character yet, let’s do it.” This morning, I read that Keanu Reeves has signed on for another Matrix movie. Point Break, another Reeves classic and seminal film of my youth, has already been butchered for the Red Bull-swigging, attention-limited tween crowd. And that’s just a tiny slice of this revolting revamp revolution. Bands that were only barely acceptable at the height of their 90s fame are now embarking on world tours, franchises are flogging a fragile premise across seven or eight-movie runs, you can’t move for Star (Wars or Trek) spin-offs and even Magnum-bloody-P.I. is getting a reboot. Is the polarised world we live in forcing our hearts and wallets toward memories of simpler, happier times?

Is the polarised world we live in forcing our hearts and wallets toward memories of simpler, happier times?

Money for old rope
Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t good stuff out there – I’ve swooned over stunning original content in the last few years too – but I can’t get away from this nagging feeling that there’s an element of laziness in all this. I understand the pressure studios are under, I know they need to make money and lots of it, but do fresh ideas need to be sacrificed to do so? Sadly, the minds of decision-makers are unlikely to be swayed when you consider that all of the top-grossing movies in 2018 were either adaptations or franchise sequels.

The pessimistic part of my brain believes overpaid execs are simply closing their eyes and dropping a swirling finger onto retro film and TV schedules to decide what to shoot next. It’s so much easier than all that audience research, reading original scripts and championing upcoming talent. In reality, it’s probably more to do with the superior spending power of an audience that grew up with the originals. People like me who never forgot those thrilling first experiences of testicle-swinging bravado, military insubordination and the joys of silhouetted sex in the mid-80s. 

Know your audience
The people paying for a second bite at old-school cinema have now got money and kids. They want the little ones to have the same experience they did, meet the same characters and be wowed by the same stories. In 2050 their offspring will probably do the same for theirs. 

Whether it’s research-based or greed-driven, I’m still not comfortable. However, it seems remakes, reboots, revamps and reimaginings are here to stay and, for me, there’s no more precious or tantalising a commodity to mess with than Top Gun

Maybe the Hollywood photocopier has simply got around to my demographic…

…or maybe they just knew I’d never lost that loving feeling.  

Ben Harvell