I get that there’s really nothing new under the sun. I mean, I’m the guy that said originality was cliche. Still, in a world where finding a fresh take on a story is like finding lost Spanish doubloons, there’s something heinously wrong when there are folks in the world chasing new Hollywood movies like hack lawyers chase ambulances intentionally trying to make a cheaper version faster.
For those of you unindoctrinated to this phenomenon, say hello the the Mockbuster.
Around the same time a big budget motion picture is debuting in the theater, a knockoff version is available to rent on a straight to DVD release. Instead of Transformers, you get Transmorphers. You wanted Snakes on a Plane, but what you got was Snakes on a Train. This isn’t the movie “Battleship” with Liam Neeson… this is the movie “American Warship” (changed from American Battleship after Universal threatened to sue that ass) with Carl Weathers.
I don’t know what comes to your mind when I say Carl Weathers, but this is what comes to mine:
The mockbuster makers say that they’re not trying to confuse people, but rather they figure if someone wants to see a movie about giant robots that turn into cars or snakes infesting mass transit vehicles, then that same movie-goer may want to see another movie featuring these things. Clever thing to say, but its bull. They’re exploiting that scale of interest that resides in all people, the one where your lack of interest in an upcoming movie bites you in the ass when you’re at Redbox, looking for something new to watch and recalling something you vaguely saw slash maybe heard about Abe Lincoln. And instead of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter you wind up renting Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies. That’s why mockbusters get rushed to market; the longer a property’s out, the more people see it, the more reviews grow, the more interest increases and, consequently, the more you’re likely to know The DaVinci Code from The DaVinci Treasure.
But truth be told, I’m not even mad at the mockbuster makers, at least not for these kinds of films. Hollywood isn’t exactly tip of the spear when it comes t0 new ideas. It’s a land of sequels, reboots, and re-imaginings, a place where a writer’s magnum opus can get throttled and stripped and reworked into utter crap thanks to executive meddling. Its full of its own turn-a-quick-buck ambulance chasers, ready and eager to capitalize on proven intellectual properties (Street Fighter the Movie, anyone?) rather than taking risks on telling new stories. I find it fitting that an industry that’s willing to exploit public interest with derivative shlock to make a quick buck has to contend with an industry that exploits their millions in advertising to confuse the masses into renting/buying even more derivative shlock.
So why is this a rant? Because of this:
I can just see the poor kid, whose interest in seeing Kung Fu Panda is through the roof, telling his or her parents that they absolutely have to see this movie please please please. No way a knockoff’s gonna fool them or satisfy. But the parents, whose scales of interest are decidedly different than the kid, are at the rental store after a hard day of work knowing the basics of their kid wants to see a cartoon panda movie. They come home with Chop Kick Panda, which proceeds to make the kid feel neglected and unloved and the parents feel like crap for killing Christmas and getting fooled by people intentionally trying to fool them. Was all this worth the three bucks in rent?
C’mon, guys. We gotta draw the line somewhere. Even Scarface had a rule against hurting kids. I guess this rule didn’t make it into the mockbuster equivalent, Scarcheek.