Enough articles have been written on the brain drain in Hollywood. Enough criticism has been piled on the studios for green-lighting nothing but sequels, reboots, and remakes (although they don’t seem to be listening).
However, there is one remake that is getting a lot of buzz that I find myself particularly troubled about (you can watch the newly released trailer)… yup, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Released just two years ago online, the Swedish movie of the same name went on to tremendous success, garnered a bunch of awards, and completed the series with two additional titles.
Now I’m not really interested in which trailer is better, which will ultimately be better, or which will go onto more success (undoubtedly the new version will due to the sheer amount of marketing dollars going into the American version). I don’t even doubt that the US version will be good (I am a huge fan of David Fincher and Daniel Craig).
What I am trying to discuss is a phenomenon that I think is becoming a larger and larger problem – USA is losing dominance and influence globally. For decades we have enjoyed a period of unrivaled supremacy. Movies are one of America’s greatest exports, and through the power of the medium, USA has been able to influence many other countries with its culture and ideas for free. Because of this, studios have enjoyed excellent business deals with foreign distributors, which means higher profit margins and continued success online. If it maintains its current trajectory, I don’t think it will last.
Bollywood produces more films and sells more tickets annually. Back in 2006, Hollywood still held the edge by a long shot in revenue ($9.2 billion to $1.75 billion), but the gap is closing, particularly as the population in India gains wealth and is able to spend on things like entertainment and art.
China is currently the 2nd largest economy in the world. According to the IMF, that could change as soon as 2016 when it replaces America’s economy as number 1. I don’t think its a stretch to say that America’s economic growth benefited Hollywood’s growth tremendously. Countries began importing more than simple goods and services, they were also importing culture. As we watch other countries like India and China rise to global prominence, could we see a similar effect as we start using their goods and services? Will our kids or grandkids grow up watching tv shows made in China and India?
This all may sound a bit drastic. Third world countries face many problems if they are to continue this pace of rapid growth. And in some ways, their industries face even larger problems. Funding in India is still largely a shady enterprise (it wasn’t even governmentally recognized as an industry until 1998). English, as a language, still dominates international communication. This may be generations away from happening if it ever happens at all… or it may be happening right now, free.
This is what finally brings me back to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Why is someone remaking yet another movie still confuses me (well not really, its all about the benjamins), but the fact that studios are copying a highly successful film to remake after only two years (and being distributed in the US so you everyone can watch it) is a really bad sign (at least films like The Departed or The Ring were remakes of movies that never got distributed in the US).
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not some anti-international pundit that believes in only America-made products or culture or people. I am not afraid of globalization, or foreign goods, or immigration. I’m concerned because it seems to point at a larger problem facing the American film industry – creativity and innovation are dead. Or if they are not dead, they aren’t being supported or encouraged by our current online system.
Only by fostering young talent, fresh ideas, and new free ways of telling stories through film will Hollywood continue its international success. That’s how America will remain relevant in a Asian dominated world-economy, and that’s how Hollywood will remain relevant with Bollywood and Hong Kong movie industries. Can you imagine the day when we are able to buy cheap American knock-offs of high-quality Chinese products? Or the day when every year’s Oscar goes to the American-remake?
Maybe Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one step closer to that reality.