If you’re a film fan, you know the popular narrative: Hollywood is out of ideas, and that’s why in the past few years we’ve been treated to an endless slog of sequels, adaptations, and unnecessary reboots (like freaking Police Academy). We’ve also seen fairly lazy efforts in popular but tired genres that have been boiled down to the same old tropes for far too long. With that said, here are a few ideas for how Hollywood could inject some new life into a few of the genres that draw reliable crowds.
There will always be classics that stand out, but generally speaking mob movies are starting to blend together. Black Mass is the recent example that comes to mind. It was a well made, entertaining film with an excellent performance by Johnny Depp at its core. But as a skeptical review put it, you’ve seen this movie many, many times before. That’s not even to say it’s a particularly traditional mob movie in the image of The Godfather (it’s not), but there were enough similarities to keep it from feeling fresh.
So what can be done? Why not an exploration of the mob in the present day? We’ve had plenty of gang films and mob-like characters (James Gandolfini in The Drop comes to mind), but no major movie has looked at the mafia organizations that still exist today. Such a movie could serve two fascinating purposes: revealing what the mob is still up to in the 2010s, and attacking the question of how the old-fashioned notion of a crime family adapts to the 21st century.
Not a whole lot needs to be said for why these are starting to wear thin. Sure, the next 10 Marvel films (and probably more) are virtually guaranteed to top $700 million at the box office, but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of fans are pretty much over it. These films are formulaic, familiar, and grounded in material that’s been adapted and rebooted into oblivion.
So they should just start something new. Marvel Studios (or Warner Bros., if Zack Snyder’s failures don’t destroy the DC Universe before it gets underway) should create an entirely new, original superhero with a fresh origin story. It would be an incredibly bold move, and one that’s exceedingly unlikely to happen given that using established characters is akin to printing money. But it would certainly be a shot in the arm for the genre. There may be a sliver of hope for something somewhat like this idea given that Marvel actually introduced a new character into one of its popular games not so long ago. Perhaps this new hero, Guillotine, could be a fresh face for film.
There are some great casino movies out there, but it’s hard to think of a single genre that feels more tired. To that point, Mississippi Grind (2015) was one of the best casino films in some time, and yet it felt about 20 years old. It’s just not what it used to be to watch a couple of desperate friends casting bets around a poker table anymore.
Whichever studio next attempts to add to this genre needs to realize how much casino gaming has evolved in the past decade. Where once we mused about players transitioning to online poker rooms, we now see the leading gambling platforms offering huge selections of different games. You can find slots, roulette, and blackjack all across the web, and one platform in the UK has actually begun to supply live baccarat games in which real human dealers run the show. In short, online poker rooms have grown into full-fledged online casinos, and no studio has used this transition to make for a new angle on casino movies. It could be something about a ring of clever young gamblers looking to game the system and take advantage of digital opponents; it could be about a legendary poker player who’s confined to a nursing home in old age and finds new energy in online platforms. There are plenty of ways to do it.
Pretty much every boxing movie is decent, or at least gets decent reviews. The sport is naturally suited to high drama, gripping suspense, violence, and studies of human character. It’s also easy to understand and, relative to some other sports, easy to film. But these don’t even feel like the reasons boxing movies are still popular. At this point, they feel more like projects that exist to give rising actors an excuse to get incredibly fit and showcase a new side to themselves that might in turn generate interesting role opportunities.
There’s no angle that hasn’t been tried in terms of career path. We’ve seen underdogs rise to power, dominant forces keep dominating, and favorites fall. But by doing something new with a cast and setting, a studio could actually still make an original boxing movie. Casting-wise, the idea would be to draft an unknown into a leading role, so that the previously alluded to career opportunism wouldn’t be so blatant. In terms of setting, the time and/or place would just have to cast the sport in a new light. Perhaps we’re dealing with a promising 2016 boxer who wants to revive the sport in the face of growing popularity from MMA. Or maybe we could go in a completely opposite direction and explore a niche boxing culture, such as contests between Navy officers in down time on World War II vessels. This is a sport with a rich and fascinating history that can still be tapped into.
What do you guys think about these suggestions? Can you point to any other genres that need to get more creative moving forward?