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Ryan Johnson, Published January 23 2014

Johnson: We need original movies, not more remakes and sequels

One of the defining movies of my childhood tells the story of a brave police officer who is murdered, then brought back to life to save mankind from the evils of the world.

Beneath the sci-fi violence and dystopic view of the future, “RoboCop” tells a surprisingly deep story about the hero’s inner conflict. While he gained new strengths and crime-fighting abilities in his robotic resurrection, he also became a soulless killing machine, and Alex Murphy spends the film trying to make peace between the man he once was and the potentially devastating machine he has become.

In its own weird way, the plot of this 1987 film has become the perfect analogy for the sorry state of the movie industry in 2014 – an industry that’s more than willing to suck the humanity and meaning out of the original ideas and characters that we used to see at the theater, increasingly replacing them with remakes, reboots and sequels that often are a mere shell of the original concept.

A “RoboCop” remake will hit the screens next month, relying on splashy special effects and a big budget to try to recapture the magic that this story had in 1987 and somehow tweak the plot to work in 2014.

In recent years, a lifeless remake of “Total Recall” ruined my appreciation of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name, while an unnecessary fourth “Indiana Jones” movie made me want to scream at the absurdity of the worst film ending I’ve ever seen.

Think six “Star Wars” films were enough? Well, you’re wrong, because it sounds like we’ll get at least another trilogy in the coming years.

We’re also in store for a fourth movie based on the cartoon and toy series “Transformers.” While I’m on the subject of explosion-obsessed producer Michael Bay, his upcoming live-action remake of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series will be in theaters later this year, sure to leave me sobbing from his bludgeoning of a franchise that I loved dearly as a child.

Yet another “Godzilla” movie is coming soon; a sequel to 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” itself the second attempt at rebooting the five-film “Planet of the Apes” franchise that began in 1968, is scheduled for release in May; “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the sequel to 2012’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” that rebooted the comic book hero franchise that had just completed a trilogy with other actors a few years earlier, also will come out this spring.

And don’t even get me started on the atrocity that surely was last year’s “Grown Ups 2,” a sequel remarkable for somehow managing to earn a lower Rotten Tomatoes score than the first film – a dismal 10 percent for the original in 2010, and 7 percent for the sequel.

Today, “I, Frankenstein” comes to theaters, offering up the baffling premise of Aaron Eckhart as the 200-year-old son of Frankenstein who battles werewolves and vampires in the future, if my understanding of the trailer is correct.

Who comes up with these movies? Who decided pumping millions of dollars into yet another revamp of something as overdone as the “Godzilla” franchise would be a good idea? Most importantly, who is spending their hard-earned money supporting these atrocities of the big screen?

Screenwriters are still out there, writing compelling new stories about interesting, complex characters we can relate to, or who can challenge the way we view our world.

But you’d never know it by looking at the lineup for big-budget movies that will be coming out of Hollywood, like it or not, in the next couple years.

For now, I’ll stick with independent films, mid-budget movies and cable TV, which has become the new place for great writing, directing and storytelling.

It’s a sad day when the most reliably entertaining and interesting movies from Hollywood studios are the endless sequels and reboots of comic book heroes.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587.