When the teaser-test footage for the upcoming Tron sequel finally hit the web recently, I watched with the sort of giddy excitement I normally reserve for Michael Bay blockbusters. Even in its shoddy, blurry, video-of-a-video form, it’s a nearly perfect encapsulation and update of everything that was awesome about the original. See for yourself:
The original film remains a geek classic, not as prescient about the web as some enthusiasts might claim, but twice as cool in retrospect, and an early indicator of tech-nerd culture’s coming domination. I’m happy to see it get a slick new update.
But I am worried, to an extent, about the way Hollywood is trending towards recycling its properties. Yes, Tinseltown has been peddling recycled goods for a while now, but increasingly, it seems as if most major projects are sequels, adaptations, or reboots. But I’m genuinely starting to wonder if we aren’t headed toward a Hollywood that looks a lot more like the world of comics than the world of novels.
My worry is that rather than storytellers, the big Hollywood studios will become property owners, each with its own stable of recognizable icons, some brought from other mediums, some original to cinema: Transformers, Freddy, Jason, Spider-Man, Batman, James Bond, Jason Bourne, Robocop, Aliens, and on and on and on. My sense is that just as the major comic book publishers have largely spent their time and money recycling the same familiar characters for the last five decades or so, the big movie studios are trending toward a similar model. In the last few years, we’ve seen Die Hard, Rambo, Rocky, and Indiana Jones revived. We’ve watched Bond and Batman get total overhauls. A Robocop reboot is in the works. Kids shows from the 1980s seem to be hot properties: Transformers and Ninja Turtles have already made comebacks, G.I. Joe is coming this summer, and He-Man is on its way. And, of course, there’s another Friday the 13th film hitting theaters this week.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love comic books, comic-book movies, and serialized genre fiction of all sorts. But it does strike me as sort of a shame that Hollywood, perhaps the greatest outlet for popular storytelling the last 100 years, now seems far less concerned with telling stories and far more concerned with retelling them.