Friday, November 5, 2010

Random Rants: Originality, Dreamworks, and Blue Brainy Dudes

It's really hard to be original these days. Everything's already been done. Aliens, robots, swords, knights, sci-fi, superheroes, zombies, zombie superheroes, etc.

Okay, I made up that last one, but Marvel or DC probably shoehorned zombie Superman into a comic at least once. (I don't know, I don't read comics.)

Anyways, it's impossible to be totally original. If you want to create something with originality, you have to take an existing idea and make it fresh and new, pump it with new ideas, and/or present it in a new way we haven't seen before. By no means is this easy. But by the same token, unoriginality is really easy. Take an existing idea, change the names and faces and maybe a few elements, slap your name on it and call it good.

And no unfairly successful film company has the unoriginality gig down pat quite like Dreamworks Animation. Very few, if any, of their more popular films, are original concepts, mostly drawing off of existing materials. Now, that wouldn't be so bad if they tried to do it in an original manner, and succeeded in doing so. However, I'd like to say that the company does not have a very good track record. Some examples: Antz was a ripoff of a Disney/Pixar film (A Bug's Life) that ended up being released BEFORE the movie it was ripping off. That takes talent. Story behind that incident as follows:
Jeffery Katzenberg left Disney in 1994 to form Dreamworks. According to Katzenberg, the idea for Antz came from a 1994 story pitch by Tim Johnson that was related to Katzenberg in October 1994. However, Disney had been working on developing an ant movie since 1988. Pixar head John Lasseter pitched came from a 1991 story pitch by Tim Johnson A Bug's Life the day Katzenberg left Disney in August 1994, and said he felt "betrayed" when he learned Antz was scheduled for release before A Bug's Life. According to Lasseter and Steve Jobs, Katzenberg offered to stop development of Antz if Disney moved the release date of A Bug's Life, which was coming out opposite Dreamworks' The Prince of Egypt. Pixar refused. The release date of Antz was moved up from March 1999 to October 1998 in response to Disney's refusal. Even though A Bug's Life was the first to be pitched, Antz was finished and released first. A Bug's Life, however, was more profitable.

But enough copy/pasting from Wikipedia. Continuing on about Dreamworks. Their next film was Shrek, which, in my opinion, was merely "okay". It didn't win me over and I didn't find it hilarious, but fantasy satire was entertaining enough for a while. However, it turned out that fantasy setting + fart jokes = comedy gold, because their next film was Shrek 2: We're Gonna Have More Sequels. After that came a Finding Nemo ripoff known as Shark Tale, which wasn't quitesure what it was supposed to be marketed towards. Madagascar was an interesting film, because it wasn't directly based on anything being released at the time, but despite the creative freedom, the film turned out to be an enjoyable mediocre. It was entertaining and marketable in its own right, to be sure, but not a lot of it stood out as exceptional. After that, Dreamworks decided that the "Comic strip movie" was the new cool they had to get in on, so they nabbed license for and churned out a movie very, VERY vaguely based on the somewhat-popular comic Over the Hedge. Now, said comic was about three forest animals commentating on human life. How does that translate into an hour and a half film? Short answer: It doesn't. It trod all over the comic's established story and characters and made it into a generic (and therefore marketable and uncharming) film. Then came Shrek the Third: The Sequel Nobody Asked For. Bee Movie came next, which, like Madagascar, failed to make a real splash with the general public. (Actually, it was sort of released then forgotten about. The fate of Madagascar will be described shortly.) Kung Fu Panda was released afterward, and was a bit of a shock for me. I really thought this movie was going to be a stupid Dreamworks cash-in, but it was legitimately entertaining, well-animated, and funny. Dreamworks at its best. Then came Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which I have not seen, so no comment, and Monsters vs. Aliens, which is as stupid as it sounds. How to Train Your Dragon came next, which I also need to see, because I've heard good things about it. After that, we got Shrek The Final Chapter: Because We Finally Decided This Cash Cow Was Milked Enough. (save spinoffs, of course.)

So as you can see, Dreamworks' stuff can be kind of hit and miss, and very little of it is really original. As a result, every time they announce a film, I'm pretty skeptical of it just being a cheap cash-in or an attempt to start what would basically be another Shrek. So upon us now is Megamind- A superhero comedy film slated for a close release date. From seeing the first trailer, I thought it was going to be stupid- a quick ripoff of more successful superhero films watered down for kids and making the bad guy good because evil is always bad. However, I recently got the chance to watch a short clip from the film- a clip that has given me hope for this movie.

This clip actually gave me a good chuckle. It's been a while since Dreamworks did that to me. Being someone who likes good villains, I think I can get behind this one if it's good.

Dreamworks, do us proud.



    The orginals were always the best.

    Admittingly, I have both Shark Tales and Finding Nemo, and I'm not really sure why I like Shark Tales, but I think it's just the vegetarian shark that made it slightly anything interesting for me.

    In each of these ripoffs, there is only one redeeming quality, hich tends to be just one character. Over the Hedge had the squirrel.

    I have not seen Monsters vs Aliens because I don't want to, but figured it'd be a ripoff of Monsters Inc. Most movies that I suspect are ripoffs, I try to avoid.

    How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda are both movies I haven't seen and really want to see.

    The ONE thing I am worried about Megamind is that it MAY be like The Incredibles, which was an okay movie. Judging by the clip, though, it may do Pixar some justice.

    That's all I got right now.

  2. There actually is a Superhero Zombies comic. I swear it. It was a series. Marvel Zombies. I haven't read it. I haven't decided if I should. xD

    My worry is that they're going to handle the villain in Megamind the way they handled Dr. Horrible/Billy in Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog (which is awesome), but whatever. I'll reserve judgment for now. :P

    Was Sunny with a Chance of Meatballs a Dreamworks film? I don't remember...