[Theology Thursday] The Nothing New Lament

In a recent article in USAToday, writers Scott Bowles and Andrea Fuller report on the idea that original stories seem to get eaten up by "sequel-itis" and "reboot raves".  To bolster their argument, they bring out an impressive assortment of statistics:

  • Original films accounted for just 39% of box office from 2003 to 2012, down from 65% in the 10 years before.
  • So far this summer, original stories account for just 30% of sales.
  • Original movies accounted for less than half (47%) of the top summer releases from 2003 to 2012, down from 70% the decade before.
  • Pacific Rim cost the studios $190 million while only earning $94 million as of the publication of the article.

They quoted University of Nebraska film professor Wheeler Winston Dixon, who is generally unhappy about the trend: "Films routinely cost $100 to $200 million, and with that kind of money at stake, who has time for originality? It's much safer to bank on a franchise."  On the other hand, Robert McKee who lectures on screenwriting is in the other camp, saying that sequels "have always been around. Homer's Odyssey is the sequel to The Iliad. Audiences love sequels because they get hooked on a character like Odysseus in the first story and want to enjoy him again and again."

I am inclined to agree with both individuals quoted above from the USAToday article. I do like to see and hear about new stories with familiar characters. However, I am also aware that by playing it safe with sequels and reboots, Hollywood runs the danger of becoming mired in needless ennui, or worse feeding us a steady diet of visual junk food.  I was very disappointed that Pacific Rim was not more successful, and it appears that Elysium will follow along in that category.  Having said that, it is helpful to remember that Blade Runner was also a box-office disappointment that has grown beyond cult status into its own legend in the subsequent years since its release.

The cry "there is nothing new!" is, itself, not new. In Ecclesiastes 1:9 Solomon writes"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (NIV)  It almost seems as if he was seeing prophetically into Hollywood in the second decade of the 2Ks.  Even then, the man who had been supernaturally gifted with intelligence and wisdom was frustrated with what he saw as an endless cycle of the "same old thing."  With all of his insight, wealth and power, Solomon could not enact the creative change necessary to break free.

However, there is Someone who is able to end the seemingly endless cycle of history repeating itself.  It is none other than the One quoted in Revelation 21:5: "He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'" (NIV) Jesus possesses divine creative power, and an immense creative mind, such that the universe in all of its complexity and beauty was created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).  Christians should be leading the charge for creativity as we seek to lift Jesus higher in all that we do. Not in a didactic or sermonizing way, but in an incarnational way, where His truth, beauty and grace are displayed for all to appreciate.

Larry Wall, the creator of the Perl computer programming language, indicated his faith in Jesus in a great interview on Slashdot. In it he shows how much he understands the creativity and infinite variety of the Divine Mind when he acknowledges that the answer to the question "What Would Jesus Do?" is actually "something unexpected."  This is what we see in His life, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection. Jesus was constantly doing something unexpected, and he calls us to follow.

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