Dec 10 2012 11:00am

Are All Big Franchise Films Essentially the Same Now?

Your favorite place is in ruins, and a really mean guy is behind it all. He’s so bad, he’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. He’s the definition of fear, and other things which are very…unpleasant. Nothing will be the same ever again after this. Your favorite person or persons in the world will be pushed to the limit in a new adventure that will shatter their world, and yours. If you thought things couldn’t get harder, grittier, or contain more monotone music, you’d be wrong. The next installment in your favorite movie series is here, and it’s similarity to other movies is striking, but not unsurprising.

Sound familiar? Have you seen twenty versions of this trailer?

Calling the majority of big franchise movies formulaic would be almost a compliment at this point, because it would denote some sort of basic originality. But with the release of the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer, I’m worried that all of these popular franchise films have become not just formulaic, but straight-up copycats of one another.

To be clear: I like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, and I’ll probably like Star Trek Into Darkness, in spite of myself. Taken one at a time, none of the plot elements of these movies are all that bad. But, it does seem like there’s some sort of phantom uber-movie premise haunting all these various big-time flicks, forcing them to all end up—superficially at least—the same. Here’s what I mean:

Last week, the nerdsphere (and everyone else) was treated to the first teaser for Star Trek Into Darkness. I’m a rabid Star Trek fan from childhood—I was Spock for Halloween in both the 3rd and 4th grades—so a new Trek movie registers pretty high on the scale of major life events. And, like a breakup or a bad tax return, a disappointing new Trek movie could seriously mess up my whole year. So, the first nine minutes of Star Trek are being shown before The Hobbit? I’ll have to leave after those nine minutes and skip The Hobbit, because I’ll be too busy processing what the hell I’m going to do about not being able to time-travel and go see the new Star Trek right now. (Does The Hobbit have Spock? It does not.) I say all this to make clear how much I like Star Trek. I like every kind of Star Trek, even Enterprise.

BUT. The trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness is the new poster child for what can only be called the Big Franchise Film Epidemic. It presents a “story” which doesn’t seem remotely different from The Dark Knight Rises, or for that matter, Skyfall. Earth is under attack from a major asshole who is going to destroy everything the good guys hold dear and nothing will be the same anymore now that major asshole has blown everything up. (Remember how this also happened in the last Star Trek movie?) The bad guy is almost always going to be an English guy who is an awesome actor. If you can’t get Tom Hardy, get Tom Hiddleston. Or, if you’ve got the big J.J. Abrams guns, get Benedict Cumberbatch. If your main good guy is already English, find someone with a different accent. Is Javier Bardem around?

Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers are all eerily similar in structure. Sure, The Avengers features multiple characters joining to together to fight Bane Loki, but in the end it’s all about protecting their homeland from a bad guy. (Have we had enough with the terrorism stuff yet?) In both Skyfall and The Avengers, the bad guy is captured for a good period of time, only to escape and reveal that was all part of his ruse. The audience knows that this is going to happen, but somehow these films get away with it, creating tension out of something we all know is coming. We also know a giant, epic battle is likely going down in all these movies—it’s been happening ever since the The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Phantom Menace allowed for lots of extras to be dropped in via computer. Even Alice in Wonderland randomly needed to add in people running at each other and fighting; Breaking Dawn—Part 2, too!

If you’re not going to have people running at each other in some kind of battle scene, you better make a few of them fight in a giant inside/outside structure where they can leap from platform to platform, like in GoldenEye and all the Star Trek movies from 1994 until the present day. Luckily, in The Avengers, all the various buildings create lots of places for people to perch and leap.Oddly, Skyfall decided not to do this, but instead took a more Home Alone-inspired approach to its big fighting finale. This is one of the reasons why I’d argue Skyfall is slightly more original than the other movies I mentioned (in that at least it borrows from a less likely franchise).

I’d say this repetition is actually getting worse and worse, lately. Is there a particular reason why Star Trek Into Darkness has a poster that looks exactly like that of The Dark Knight Rises? Does it need to have the Transformers font? Do we need the oppressive BRAAAM Inception horns in the trailer? (Or as Vulture recently called this, The Super Loud Movie Noise of Our Time).

All that’s being accomplished in this trailer is one clear and loud message: Hey! Watch this movie! It has all the things you like in it! Here they are, reproduced exactly as they were in another movie.But why is this so bad? Who cares if all these movies are the same?

In the first Star Trek episode ever, “The Cage” a race of aliens called the Talosians is introduced. These guys got so into creating illusions with their minds that they forgot how the technology of their ancestors even worked. They forgot how to be original and grew bored and warped and immoral. Are the big-franchise filmmakers of today like the Talosians? Giant pulsing brains who’ve created the same illusion over and over, reusing the same formulas so often that they have forgotten how to be creative? How to take a risk?

Recently, I was watching Tim Burton’s Batman; I was so absorbed that it was a surprise to find myself suddenly watching the climax of the film. Batman crashes his nifty plane and then is jumping around a bunch of big ringing bells. He has to fight off a few henchmen (all who are clearly better stuntmen than Michael Keaton) but ultimately finds the Joker dancing around with his girlfriend. Batman says, “Excuse me,” and then gets to throw the “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” line back in the Joker’s face before punching him like champ. That’s it. That’s the big finale. Simple. Personal. Good dialogue. Original. What was the cool line Batman said in The Dark Knight Rises? Wait for it: “I came to stop you.” (Which is basically just the spoken-word version of those ”BRAAAAAM" horns in all the trailers.)

These big awesome franchise movies may look slicker, but they’ve lost soul. Cumberbatch’s monologue in the new Star Trek Into Darkness trailer is the most generic thing I’ve ever heard. He might as well just be talking like Bane and saying “I’m Star Fleet’s reckoning,” before detonating the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (Or worse, a space football field).

At least Khan had the class to quote Melville. These new movie bad guys are just quoting each other. The best thing that could happen now is for Loki, Bane, and Cumberbatch to storm all the Hollywood studios and demand action/sci-fi/genre movies with different elements. Hollywood’s reckoning? Get some diversity.

Ryan Britt is a staff writer for

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
1. Lisamarie
You know, I can't say I disagree with you, I've felt like most movies I've seen lately have been the same (and shot with that same kind of drab-colored lens to make everything 'gritty') - actually, I'm kind of worried that when they make new Star Wars movies we're going to just get more of the same again.

I also really liked the Nolan Batman movies, but I was actually rather meh about The Avengers. It had some really good parts, but also some parts that really bored me.
Dirk Walls
2. dirk
Unfortunately, movies, especially big budget genre movies, are financed by people that don't really care about the quality of the movie, they just care about the return on their investment.

We can write bad reviews for these movies all we want, but we still go see them and so do millions of others, and that's all that matters to the money guys.
4. mikers123
This is all much the same thing. Too much formula from Hollywood. Please get some properties of popular SF/Fantasy authors (done right and done well, please) and then, maybe I can justify spending almost 100.00 for my family and I to go see your first run movies, Hollywood. I really miss when things like "Star Wars" etc were not just brands to be exploited for profit, but real, cultural events enjoyed by and honored by a lot of people. Not just an excuse to watch commercials before the previews and spend $50.00 for a family to buy junk food.
5. StrongDreams
Khan quoted Milton in "Space Seed," he quotes Melville in Wrath of Khan (and maybe others, but this is the Melville bit)

"I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up."
6. wingracer
Unfortunately, formula sells.

What's about the biggest money maker in the music business? Country. It doesn't get much more formulaic than that. I can describe every country song in the last 30 years as one of just four basic types. Whenever someone tries to do something a little different, their legions of fans complain. All they want is more of the same. Movies are no different.
7. joelfinkle
Well, it's still better than the run of 90's movies from old sitcoms, where the plot was "They've got something valuable that someone is going to worm their way into the family to steal."
Brady Bunch? Check.
Addams Family? Check.
I'm sure there were more.
John McClay
8. jmcclay3
I certainly agree with you. Big blockbuster movies are far too formulaic these days. You can pretty much guess what is going to happen before it does because all you have to do is use the same tired plot and insert the appropriate characters. And what about dialogue? It's like writers are desperately trying to create a quotable movie, so they throw in the most cringe inducing lines you've ever heard. If I hear one more character in an action film use the line: "My turn," or something like, "I have got to get me one of these," I will kill myself. These movies may be entertaining, but like you said they have no soul. I'm tired of watching a film where I could care less if the main character lives or dies.
Robert Evans
9. bobsandiego
I agree with eaxctly your sentiments. I too have been a Trek fan for life, as a child I watched the original series on original broadcast. I didn't hate the reboot, looking at it as a reinacarnation for the new generations, I still had *my* Kirk et al to watch.
This trailer?
It actaully made me want to see the film less. There's absoluetly nothing in it to spark my interest.
Villian Looking for revenege? Been there
Crash the enterprise? Been there
Lots of death and destruction? Been there
I mean in the teaser the villian's monologe states "I have returned"
umm who are you? What do I give a frak if you are back?
Ryan Britt
10. ryancbritt
@3 and 5
"For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee" is some hardcore Melville Captain Ahab action.
Ryan Britt
11. ryancbritt
Yeah, but Star Trek movies and science ficiton movies and genre movies didn't use to be all this eariely similar. Star Trek IV and Aliens came out the same year and they are nothing alike. And yet, Batman, the Avengers, James Bond, and now Star Trek, all seem pretty much the same. Of course formulas exist, but it seems to be getting persvaisely worse.
Ryan Jackson
12. KakitaOCU
I've truly never understood this type of critique. Everything is formulaic. Everything. It's always going to be the details, the specifics, the characters involved and the small pieces that give you something different.

Look at literature. TOR's Biggest success? WoT. What is WoT? A retelling of pretty much every major myth in the world. It's an amazing series that I love to death, and I've known what the formula was going to be sometime around book three or four. Nothing has been a surprise to me in this series in terms of what happens, the only surprises come in the how it happens.

Same with Modesitt Jr. All his book are functionally a similar outline, but the details and the people living in his worlds are so varied and unique that each book is solid and amazing on its own.

So with the movies. You claim this is a now thing, but I can twist pretty much any movie in the last twenty years into the Formula you're saying new films are latching onto.

Perhaps the issue is less that the genre is becoming "Formulaic" and more that the audience is getting more jaded and numb to the story because they keep seeing it? Kind of like how after going through TV Tropes you never look at films the same? Or how I can't be scared by Horror films anymore no matter how well they're made...

Just part of growing up.
Liz J
13. Ellisande
Since Avengers, TDKR, Skyfall, and Into Darkness were made at roughly the same time, they can't be copying each other. Instead I'd say they're films that faced the same problem and came up with roughly the same 'solutions' simultaneously. And that problem is - in a long-running action/superhero franchise how can you have huge stakes for the hero, bigger than he's faced before? The answer is massive destruction by a villain who's at least as capable as the hero, if not more so. And that villain is going to be English because Brit actors can deliver outlandish lines (and also, they're white, to avoid Terrorists of Ethnicity problems).

But while STXII may face a problem being the tail end of this and thus overly familiar, I don't think the general plot summary sameness bothered audiences too much for the other three, because there are differences too, and generally it's the franchise character who's important to get right, not the basic plot. Nobody goes to see them just for the plot - every single person knows the villain will be defeated going in, right? The question is only how and how hard it will be.

I agree with you in the sense that I think there'll have to be a pull back eventually though. Just as the Bourne Identity served as a correction to Bond and Mission Impossible excesses, there'll be a superhero franchise that resets the stakes in a new way. Certainly if I was writing Justice League right now, I'd be thinking really hard about the climax. It has to be huge (it's the Justice League!) but I'd want to do something besides "Big Villains trashes New York and the JL fights them". And the irony is, whoever is writing that and Whedon writing Avengers 2 may come up with exactly the same solution, so in 2015 this will happen again.
Ryan Jackson
14. KakitaOCU
10 to 1 says Avengers 2 will be the movie version of Civil War, so definately not the big bad guy formula.

I'm basing this off it being a good story to tell, and that Joss Whedon has been on record as saying he wants the next film to be more personal and less outlandish and grandstanding. So with the next 4+ Films leading to Avengers 2 we can introduce all of these elements along with fleshing out a bigger cast to support Hero vs Hero.

That said by Avengers 3 Expect Thanos.
Steven Lyle Jordan
15. Steven_Lyle_Jordan
I would've been happier with "I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up." ... if Khan had actually used it.

Instead, he actually said "I’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibir, and round the Antares Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up." Epic Melville FAIL.

But then, Khan was a poor movie all around anyway, no better than the other movies mentioned here. Pure ticket-selling dross.

We do need less mindless formula from Hollywood, and the Trek movies, based on a supposedly intelligent franchise, would be a great place to start.
Ryan Britt
16. ryancbritt

I think The Wrath of Khan is better than all the movies mentioend here for a lot of reasons, the biggest of which is that it took several risks and had a cool science fiction premise at its core. I do contend that Star Trek was sort of poisoined by the sucess of the film, but that doesn't discount how great it was at the time. For the record, Star Trek IV, to me, is the most pure Trek film. :-)
Ryan Britt
17. ryancbritt
Maybe I'm being too subtle. I'm actually saying it's much worse than formulic. I like formulas that work! What concerns me is how similar the actual specific events, the aethetics, the sounds, the dialouge, etc. I for one enjoy getting into the specifics you mentioned ,the things that make formulaic stories different. But, I'm alarmed when even those specifics aren't unique.

Finally, I have no interest in growing up. :-)
18. Pally
All three of the films you describe (Skyfall, Dark Knight (Rises), Star Trek Into Darkness) share elements because all films are products of their time. And all three were made in a world that is increasingly being affected by terrorism. The villains of the films reflect that: The Joker was an anarchist, Silva wanted revenge and Cumberbatch...well, he'll have a similar motive, but from what we've seen he still seems like a terrorist. I find that interesting - that a lot of the contemporary creatively ambitious (Nolan, Mendes, Abrams) directors are hooking on the the same themes, the same questions. And I think that all three films are/will be very good. Yes, Skyfall and The Dark Knight share the same tone, the same /basic/ concept of a terrorising antagonist, but that's one of the few shared elements just like all Spaghetti Westerns in the 60/70s were all, well, Westerns. Skyfall doesn't have Spock, TDK(R) doesn't have Catwoman...and Trek doesn't have Bond.
Ryan Britt
19. ryancbritt
That is a genuinely interesting way to look at it! I suppose it comes down to how interested we remain in those themes. Right?
Ryan Jackson
20. KakitaOCU
@17, that's where I think we disagree, I don't see them as that similar. :)

I haven't seen the trailer for the new Trek, and I haven't seen Skyfall, but to discuss Avengers and Dark Knight Rise.

Sure, at their base, the story is as you say, but breaking it down even a little shows them having major differences. Starting at the Director Level.

It starts with the directors themselves. Whedon is one of us and tries his best to show an amazing world where even at its darkest anything can be possible. Nolan is all about realism, the point that he refused Robin, the real origin of Ras'al'Ghul, etc, because it didn't fit what he wanted. As for the films themselves...

Spoilers below If someone could let me know how to white the below out I'd be greatful, I've tried turning it white three or four times now, it takes right until I hit Post/Update then leaves it black.

TDKR is gritty and real. Bruce is on his last legs, broken even before his first run in with Bane makes it worse. The world is dark and has been, the villain outclasses Bruce is nearly everyway. Moreso the Real Villain completely outwits Bruce even to the very end of the film. It's about anarchy, destruction, chaos, and testing not only if Bruce can become what he once was and more, but if others will step forward with him, because no one can save the world alone. At the end Bruce does save his people, and then retires, feeling he's earned his rest and can let things go into the hands of his successor.

Now for Avengers. Loki was never a threat. He was a turning point, a test jab by the Chitauri to see what Earth was capable of and to see if Thanos could pick up a nifty toy. He is outclassed at every turn by the Avengers. He's already beneath his brother, he can't fight against Hulk, or outsmart Widow. He can't intimidate or impress Rogers and Stark. He is a second stringer and he's desperately trying to prove that assessment wrong. The movie is less about the even alien invasion and more about the growing pains of getting seven odd people with huge ego's and "go it alone" mentalities to mesh well and get together.

It's their growth that builds the film. Loki's plan only gets as far as it does because they take so long to hammer out their own issues. In the end, when the army comes, they triumph, and other than figuring out how to close the portal and if Stark would survive it, there was never a question of them losing. This movie is almost a prologue, as have the five movies before.

Nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree, but I just don't see them as the same animal at all. Not visually (Mercs with tanks and guns vs Alien invasion. Simplistic, realistic uniform vs actual Comic book heroes.), Not in terms of threat ( Dark, vicious superior Villain vs Snarky Little brother trying desperately for relevence.) and not even really in formula beyond the most very basic "Bad guy out to conquer must be opposed".

For what it's worth, I don't want to grow up either. It's just a side affect sometimes. Like I mentioned with the horror film piece. No matter how good the movie is, they don't scare anymore. I've seen too much, been through too much IRL that it just becomes a point of my assessing "can the monster be physically hurt?" If the answer is yes the movie's boring to me immediately. If the answer is now then it just becomes a case that I know the tropes too well and can usually parse out what'll happen as I watch. I've had to let go of the scare and jump and enjoy the film for the tricks played and how well it flows.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
21. Lisamarie
So, the funny thing is, now that I have grown up, I can't watch horror movies at all because in some ways they are too scary. I used to think gore and watching people get all slashed up was totally entertaining, and now...I just think of my husband and kids. Lame, huh ;)
Steven Lyle Jordan
22. Steven_Lyle_Jordan

I'd personally call Star Trek IV about as pure as "A Piece of the Action." As for Khan, it was a typical "defeated @$$hole comes back for revenge" story, with a lot of old-vs-young angst mixed in. Cool premise? That script's older than television.

But your opinion definietly highlights how moviegoers consider Trek movies, vs the TV series: Trek moviegoers clearly turn their noses up at "intellectual" stories, but cheer loudly for action and explosions. It's the Star Wars effect: Who cares how much sense the story makes, as long as it's cool?

I don't have a problem with cool movies. But Trek is supposed to stand for more than that; and in the theatre, at least, it's been a solid letdown.


I agree, the times dictate the villians; from evil foreign powers; to evil scientists; to evil aliens; to evil corporations; to evil politicians;
to evil anarchists; to evil terrorists. Our history of villainy has seen the gamut. Makes you wonder what villains will be here next? (Evil moviemakers?)
23. studio17b
Groan. When it comes to the James Bond movies, that's what James Bond movies have been doing all along. Villain who wants to destroy/rule the world? Check. Weird accent? Check. Weird looks? Check. Fighting inside a big building? Check. And so on, and so forth.

This article feels like shoehorning.
Joseph Newton
24. crzydroid
The villain in Into Darkness is Shinzon?

I gotta say, the Talosian analogy was gold. I pretty much have to agree with a lot of this article.

A little while ago, I read some article about which Bond plots would have succeeded, and it really made it clear that all the Bond films had the same plot. Villain tries to devalue commodities of competitors so their own commodity is more valuable.
marian moore
25. mariesdaughter
All of these people have studied The Hero's Journey ( so all of the plots follow that formula. Just try attending a writer's workshop and departing from that formula. People will cream you right and left.
Chelsea Rash
26. Crashwriter
You know what was also monotonous? A few years ago, when every single one of these franchises was at the "origin story" stage of their development (Casino Royale, Batman Begins, Star Trek, various superheroes). These movies are essentially the same graduating class; it isn't epecially surprising that they are all maturing at about the same rate.

1: Create protagonist(s)
2: Pit protagonist(s) against EVIL
3: Probably, pit protagonist(s) against themselves (I'm with @14 on the Civil War Avengers).

I'm also with @18 and @22 that the evil!terrorist is a product of the times. Scary individuals with weapons are scary. Thirty years ago, you couldn't swing a dead Ewok without hitting some sci-fi incarnation of the evil!USSR. Once the culture finds something new to be afraid of, franchise evil will morph into that.

As for the BRAAAM, I have no excuse.
Chelsea Rash
27. Crashwriter
Less than 24 hours later, let me reiterate:

Scary individuals with weapons are scary.
28. Max Udargo
What concerns me about the Star Trek trailer is that we seem to be going beyond what we traditionally mean by formulaic and taking it to another level. It's almost like the "formula" now is less a plot outline than a checklist of action set pieces, a checklist that must have everything checked off even if certain set pieces make no sense in the context of an established sci-fi/fantasy universe.

For instance, I guess we have to have something really big (here, the Enterprise herself) crash into the ocean. Then we have to have a battle among the skyscrapers in a towering metropolis with lots of explosions and falling rubble, along with the implausibl platform-jumping athletics the author mentions. Then here's the scene where a world-famous, iconic structure is destroyed, here perhaps the Golden Gate Bridge (although it looks more like the Bay Bridge in the screenshot).

Do we go to Star Trek movies to watch superheroes fly from platform to platform fighting supervillians among the skyscrapers of some gothic city? Does that make sense at all for the Star Trek franchise? Or is it just demanded by the checklist?

I want my Star Trek to have some trekking. Trekking amongst the stars, preferably.
29. cube3
30 years of comic book culture and computer adding machines...
this is your reconing.
30. MRCHalifax
I've noticed that many movies tend to follow this pattern. Not just current blockbusters, but virtually all SFF movies told in a 1-3 hour span.

They start off with a naive or at least untested protagonist, who hears a sort of "call to adventure." Then the movie generally has them facing some initial troubles, a "guardian threshold" if you will, that starts their transformation from ordinary to Hero. A mentor often plays a big role in this part of the story. Then something really, really bad happens, and the character is thrown into a figurative or literal abyss, something that no orderinary character could escape from, but which catalyzes their transformation into a Hero. The Hero then atones for all the things he's done wrong, both personally (apologizing to the people he's failed through his own ego) and professionally (putting together a plan to stop the bad guy, and stopping him or her). The hero then returns from this "journey" of sorts, a changed individual, able to better his or her community.

You can see it in Star Trek, as Kirk heeds the call to adventure by joining Starfleet, how he works his way past initial boundries to get on the Enterprise, gets thrown into the metaphorical abyss of the ice planet, comes back and makes amends with his crew, and then goes to kick the bad guys butt. Finally, he's comfirmed in his new role as the captain of the Enterprise, able to repay his community for the trust given to him. You can apply similar patterns to Bond, to Batman (in Batman, the hell in the third movie was almost literal), to the Avengers, to Spider-Man etc.

It's like all of these heroes are on a journey of some sort, and as long as movies fall into that same pattern of call to aid/threshold guardian/abyss/atonement/return, the movies all seem alike.

Strange, strange thing.
Eliza-Rose Lartey
31. lerenardvert
The film making 'formula' is infinite. As long as there are people out there making films that generate a high enough level of media acclaim, others will copy and try (sometimes succeed) at making a better one.

You have to also realise that people aren't used to/ don't really appreciate change so once they find something they are comfortable with, they WILL try and hold on to it for as long as possible...until they realise how samey-wamey their cinema listings are gradually getting.

Also the 'action/sci-fi genre' have an extremely high similarity on film because of the vague similarity of the stories they are created from. Most of their original stories are equipped with one or more of the following:

1. Good Guy(s)
2. Bad Guy(s)
3. Awkward-to-Obtain Relationship Interest(s)
4. Endangered Civilisation(s)
5. Over-the-top Fight Scene(s)
6. Destruction, destruction and more DESTRUCTION

...that's just six alone!

So when translated to film, it opens up a whole new medium to incoporate all those elements and experiment. Considering the extent of cinematic effects that can actually be produced these days, no wonder these filmmakers strive for The Best out of the rest. Even if that means practically re-making a film, giving it a different title and plastering their insignia along with the opening credits.

P.S Filmmakers are running out of ideas.
32. Auriette
Wow, reading this article was like reliving the conversation my husband and I had after watching the new Star Trek trailer and looking at the poster art. Unfortunately, as long as moviegoers flock to the latest generic-sci-fi/comic-action-flick, the studios have no motivation to encourage creativity and individuality. They'll just keep hiring the same hacks to puke out franchise pictures instead of finding people who care enough about the source material to make movies that reflect and enhance the series that audiences fell in love with 20-30 years ago.
33. Cold Drake
Interesting article. A lot of movies are copying the Dark Knight where the series gets darker, the villain is an actual threat and pushes the hero to the limit. This usually is a good thing though it's getting a bit tiresome. Iron Man 3 looks very much like Dark Knight Rises. I'm sure Thor 2 will be the same way. And Cap 2 for that matter.
Also, it seems like almost everyone who doesn't like the Nolan Batman is a fan of Burton's version. They were probably kids when it came out and got attached to it. Poor fools ;) I'm glad I grew up with the Animated series. Easily tops any of the vaunted 80s cartoons.
34. AlanMorlock
"It's not unsurprising." you are surprised then?
A more accute version of this complaint is that the third act of all of these movies is "The villain has a device! Stop the device."

Two of the biggest movies this year ended with a billionaire playboy philanthropist flying a nuclear weapon away from a city.

It is ridiculous.
36. ahoyhere
In re: Pally, and the idea that terrorists are the archetype of our time and so of course all the movies are basically the same variations on terrorist…

Anybody remember Die Hard? The first one.

It's proof you can do a "popular theme" (terrorist) and you can do a not-super-serious movie and still go nuts with creativity. Die Hard wasn't like any other action movie I'd seen before or since. It still holds up really, really well, too. The dialogue, the characterizations, the mix of seriousness and comedy, much better than any of the me-too movies mentioned in the article.

Now compare Die Hard with True Lies, a movie that came out a few years later and also had a lot of apparent similarities: action star as law enforcement, trouble with the wife (who has a terrible hair cut), estrangement from the kid(s), wise-cracking fat sidekick who's also a part of a government law agency along with the main character, oh, and, terrorist.

Despite these similarities, the movies couldn't be more different.

To me the major differences are: the new movies truly are like Bolero, nauseatingly repetitive. Meanwhile, too much budget. And they're full of absolutely ridiculous scenes, but little to no sense of humor about themselves. Sure, there were funny moments in Avengers, but they were exactly where, using the Formulaic Movie Prediction Apparatus, you'd expect them to be. And they were slapstick, too. But cheap slapstick, we've seen all before. The movie can't poke fun at itself; if you can poke fun at yourself, you can get away with so much more. But this wave of New Repetitive movies act as if they're super serious despite the sheer ridiculousness of their contents. (Live Free or Die Hard!? REALLY?)

The Original Die Hard, while hardly Schindler's List, was at least as "serious" a movie as The Avengers, and it poked great fun at itself, which Avengers was afraid to do. A lot of these older movies mix up the drama and hilarity of life in a way that's a lot warmer & more believable.

FYI — this isn't the haze of nostalgia talking. I first saw Die Hard and True Lies in the past 3 years (as a 25+-year-old adult). The movies charmed me and impressed me on their own merits.

Recently I watched the first season of a popular new TV show. The TV show had a twist a lot like a major blockbuster from 1999, and another movie I loved from 2001 which also had the same twist.

But the thing is, in all of the above movies/shows, I never saw the twist coming. Surprise: the two movies and TV series didn't feature the exact same elements.

The stories and characters were complete opposite ends of the spectrum (even though in all three, it was a mixture of parent(s) and kid(s) and not, like, boss and employee(s)). The settings were very different (while still being "a house"). The minor conflicts on the way to revealing the twist were different. The way they stoked the suspense was totally different. The plots were different. The way the situation came to be was different. The way they set up the twist, and then revealed it, were all different.

Oh, and their movie posters didn't look the same.

Each time it was a surprise and a delight.

All three of them may have had the same skeleton, but they didn't also have the same dress size, AND the same dress, AND also the same hair cut, hat, and sunglasses, and oh yeah, accent!

That, imo, is yet more proof you can have a lot in common while still being totally different. Proof that you're right, Ryan!

PS: in case you're wondering and aren't afraid of year-old TV spoilers and decade-old movie spoilers, the 3 in question are, in reverse chronological order, American Horror Story, The Others, and The Sixth Sense. SURPRISE: YOU'RE A GHOST!
37. 51mon
Most of the modern blockbusters are recipes instead of stories.
38. Jon birch

Totally hit the nail on the head!

As Roger Ebert was quoted as saying "A movie is not what it's about, it's about how it's about it."
39. Sean007
Starlog 2013 addendum: ditto for Ironman 3!! The meme continues!!!1!!!!!

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