Generation Loss

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As usual, I’m a little behind on picking up the latest movie news. I read earlier this week about two very strange upcoming projects. The writing team of Bill Collage and Adam Cooper (New York Minute, Accepted) have been hired by 20th Century Fox to write a retelling of the story of Moses, on the heels of their finishing a popular script for a re-imagining of Moby Dick. From the first article: “‘Moby Dick’ was pitched as a “300”-like reimagining of the Melville story as a visually stunning action piece, and the story of Moses is conceived similarly.”

This reminds me an awful lot of the apparently Snyderized version of Sherlock Holmes that will hit theaters this winter.

This is all conjecture, but it seems like the latest branding trend has finally come to the point of studios pursuing classical “properties” to sell to familiarity-hunting audiences. Now- I, for one, like branding. It can produce some great, epic continuities (Harry Potter, Star Wars), shoehorn interesting discussion into mass appeal storytelling (Nolan’s Batman, the Jason Bourne films), and it can force new and interesting brainstorming into still-profitable veterans (Star Trek, Casino Royale). Brand recognition is our bizarre, corporate-oriented version of nostalgia and comfort. It sounds cold and alien to accept it this way, but hey, I’m an optimist.

What’s not so sunny, however, is the fear that new interpretations of established classic stories will taint the legacy of said classics. Does a generation really need to see Sherlock Holmes as a Jack Sparrow-esque party animal? Does Ahab need to be redefined as “a charismatic leader”? Isn’t this just taking established icons of literature and – at the risk of sounding reductive – making them stupid? Does everything need to happen in slow motion or with visual garnish to be worth paying attention to? At this rate, how will the legacy of these characters continue? If more people watch Timur Bekmambetov’s AvD than read “Moby Dick”, will the story survive? Will our grandchildren laugh at the crazy, free-wheeling Sherlock Holmes of their culture?

Again, it looks like the discussion is veering towards the inevitable counter-argument: through providence or the strength of the human intellect, great stories survive. Really, what’s the difference between the Snyderization of bible stories and, let’s say, the Muppetization of Dickens? What about “Classics Illustrated”, or other demographic-targeted “reimaginings”? I suppose a bigger audience will see these mega-high-budget reinterpretations (in fact, they HAVE to for the studios’ high stakes gambles to pay off), so that would be one argument… Never before have the powers of classic-twisting been so motivated or powerful. But again, it seems like no one remembers King Kong ’76. No one cares about Crystal Skull a year after it was released. We still all sit there and ogle Empire Strikes Back when it comes on TV. But these aren’t tried and true literary icons, either… What do we accept as Dracula, the character in Bram Stoker’s novel, or Bela Lugosi? Who do you see when you read “Frankenstein”?

What are your thoughts on these Classics Snyderized? Is it as harmless as a Mickey’s Christmas Carol or is it a corporate conspiracy to make us all dumber? Are you anticipating these movies?