Time’s Up for the Fairy Tale Trend

Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb

Mike Fleming Jr writes for Deadline about a new Robin Hood film, this time titled Merry Men:

Hollywood’s infatuation with revisionist fairy tales shows no signs of abating. DreamWorks jumped into the fray last night by closing a mid-six figure against seven-figure deal for Merry Men, a pitch for a film that will be scripted by Brad Ingelsby with Act of Valor co-director Scott Waugh attached to direct. Neal Moritz will produce through his Original Film banner. Waugh will also be a producer through his Bandito Bros shingle and Toby Ascher will be exec producer … I’m told that the pitch is for a tentpole re-imagining of the Robin Hood legend.

Read the full story here.

Ever since Alice in Wonderland took a ridiculous amount of money (shortly after Avatar), studios seem to be convinced that fairy tales on the big-screen is the future. I would argue that Alice in Wonderland was successful because (a) it was in 3D at a time whereby we all thought it was new and exciting and (b) Tim Burton and Johnny Depp making a Gothic-dream film seems like a match made in heaven. Snow White and the Huntsman had Twilight lead Kristen Stewart securing a strong box-office – but Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters? Jack the Giant Slayer? Mirror, Mirror? Oz: The Great and Powerful? It is only a matter of time until a 10-disc box-set of fairy tale “classics” are released whereby every one of these films are packaged together in a pseudo-leather sleeve.

But to imagine another Robin Hood story is truly remarkable. Remember the period of prequels and origin-stories due to Batman Begins, Casino Royale and X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Remember when Ridley Scott created the ‘origin’ story of Robin Hood? I remember it vividly as I watched Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and then watched Robin Hood the day after. Without a full review, the classic Kevin Costner / Morgan Freeman combination seems to capture the fun, romance and sword-fights that I believe Robin Hood should be. Throw in Alan Rickman and you have an incredible take on the story (and I would heartily recommend watching the Director’s Cut because there is much more Rickman and a considerably darker, sinister to the tale).

Suffice to say, the constant remaking must be having an effect on audiences. Is cinema going to turn into back-to-back revisionist versions of well known stories? At the very least, if we know the stories won’t the films hold less tension? It seems that, as soon as a trend begins to pick-up, suddenly a barrage of similar films emerge with every reviewer and critic arguing the same points about how it rates amongst the others. The irony surely is the inevitable end to these trends – by their very nature, they cannot continue forever. The Western genre had to stop in the 70s (with only small pockets re-emerging since), and that was nowhere near as specific as fairy tales and superheroes – that was an entire genre. I do believe the fairy tale film is beginning to lose its audience already – In the US domestic market, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters barely made its money back (earning $53m from a $50m budget) while according to BoxOfficeMojo.com Jack the Giant Slayer opened this weekend in the US ” to an estimated $7.7 million … that’s worse than almost all comparable titles, including last March’s big-budget debacle John Carter ($9.8m).”

By the time Merry Men appears, the craze will be over (and, in fairness, I can imagine they will pull the plug before the film goes to production) and we will look at the other crazes for new productions. Regarding the superhero craze, studios will expect a considerable amount of money from Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel but we know that won’t happen because, deep down, we know 2012 was the peak and The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises both completed long-running well-known series. The upcoming superhero films don’t have the same credibility or scale to pull the same type of audience – though Man of Steel has had some incredibly positive press in preview screenings.

The point is that you can see the signs. You can see when a craze starts (The Avengers makes a ridiculous amount of money = how can film franchises join together to capitalise on multiple brands = X-Men: Days of Future Past, Justice League, Spider-Man cameos in other films, etc). You know when it has maintained our attention because you are keen to watch the next film (how excited were we all about The Dark Knight Rises?)… but you know when it has outstayed its welcome, as films are released at quieter moments in the cinema calendar and nobody really cares about the films in production. And I certainly couldn’t care less about Merry Men.

Simon Columb