This is a transcript for the video Everything is a Remix Part 2. Perhaps it's because movies are so massively expensive to make. Perhaps it's because graphic novels, TV shows, video games, books and the like are such rich sources of material. Or perhaps it's because audiences prefer the familiar. Whatever the reason, most box office hits rely heavily on existing material.
Of the ten highest grossing films per year from the last ten years, 74 out of 100 are either sequels or remakes of earlier films or adaptations of comic books, video games, books, and so on. Transforming the old into the new... is Hollywood's greatest talent.
Everything is a Remix Part 2 Remix Inc.
At this point we've got three sequels to a film adapted from a theme park attraction.
We've got a movie musical based on a musical which was based on a movie.
We've got two sequels to a film that was adapted from an animated TV show based on a line of toys.
We've got a movie based on two books, one of which was based on a blog which was inspired by the other book that was adapted into the film. Got it?
We've got 11 Star Trek films, 12 Friday the 13ths, and 23 James Bonds.
We've got stories that have been told, retold, transformed, referenced, and subverted since the dawn of cinema. We've seen vampires morph from hideous monsters to caped bedroom invaders to campy jokes to sexy hunks to sexier hunks.
Of the few box office hits that aren't remakes, adaptations or sequels, the word "original" wouldn't spring to mind to describe 'em. These are genre movies, and they stick to pretty standard templates. Genres then break-up into sub-genres with their own even more specific conventions. So within the category of horror films we have sub-genres like slasher, zombie, creature feature, and of course, torture porn. All have standard elements that are appropriated, transformed and subverted.
Let's use the biggest film of the decade as an example. Now it's not a sequel, remix or adaptation, but it is a genre film -- sci-fi -- and most tellingly, it's a member of a tiny sub-genre where sympathetic white people feel bad about all the murder, pillaging, and annihilation being done on their behalf.
I call this sub-genre "Sorry about Colonialism!" I'm talking about movies like Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, The Last of the Mohicans, Dune, Lawrence of Arabia, A Man Called Horse, and even Fern Gully and Pocahontas.
Films are built on other films, as well as on books, TV shows, actual events, plays, whatever. This applies to everything from the lowliest genre film, right on up to revered indie art fare.
And it even applies to massively influential blockbusters, the kinds of films that reshape pop culture.
Which brings us to...
Even now, Star Wars endures as a work of remarkable imagination, but many of its individual components are as recognizable as the samples in a remix.
The foundation for Stars Wars comes from Joseph Campbell. He popularized the structures of myth in his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Star Wars follows the outline of the monomyth, which consists of stages like...
The Call to Adventure
The Belly of the Whale
The Road of Trials
The Meeting with the Goddess
and a bunch more.
Also huge influences were the Flash Gordon serials from the thirties and Japanese director Akira Kurasowa.
Star Wars plays much like an updated version of Flash Gordon, right down to the soft wipes and the opening titles design.
From Kurasowa we get masters of spiritual martial arts, a low-ranking bickering duo, a beneath-the-floorboards hideaway, more soft wipes, and a boastful baddy getting his arm chopped off.
War films and westerns are Star Wars other major influences. The climactic air missions of films like The Dambusters, 633 Squadron and The Bridges at Toko-Ri bore a huge influence on the run on the Death Star. And in many cases, existing shots were even used as templates for Star Wars' special effects.
The scene where Luke discovers his slaughtered family resembles this scene from The Searchers. And the scene where Han Solo shoots Greedo resembles this scene from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
There's also many other elements clearly derived from other films. We have tin man like the tin woman in Metropolis, a couple shots inspired by 2001, a grab-the-girl-and-swing moment like this one in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, a holographic projection kinda like this one in Forbidden Planet, a rally resembling this one in Triumph of the Will, and cute little robots much like those in Silent Running.
George Lucas collected materials, he combined them, he transformed them. Without the films that preceded it, there could be no Star Wars. Creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.
As Isaac Newton once said, we stand on the shoulders of giants -- which is what he was doing when he adapted that saying from Bernard de Chartres.
In Part Three we'll explore this idea further and chart the blurry boundary between originality and unoriginality.
George Lucas was the most movie saturated filmmaker of his era, but that baton has since been passed to... Quentin Tarantino.
Quentin Tarantino's remix master thesis is Kill Bill, which is probably the closest thing Hollywood has to a mash-up. Packed with elements pulled from countless films, Kill Bill raises filmic sampling to new heights of sophistication.
The killer nurse scene in particular is almost entirely a recombination of elements from existing films. The basic action is the same as this scene from Black Sunday, where a woman disguised as a nurse attempts to murder a patient with a syringe of red fluid. Darryl Hannah's eye patch is a nod to the lead character in They Call Her One Eye, and the tune she's whistling is taken from the 1968 thriller, Twisted Nerve. Capping it off, the split screen effect is modeled on techniques used by Brian De Palma in an assortment of films, including Carrie.
For an extended look at Kill Bill's references, check this out.