As has becoming depressingly clear these days, Hollywood has abandoned coming up with anything new. These days the multiplex is dominated by sequels, reboots, and films that were “inspired” by other sources. Superheroes jump from comic books onto the screen, and bestselling books are adapted by screenwriters, sometimes successfully, other times not. It doesn’t stop there, though. We now see movies based on action figures (G.I. Joe), board games (Battleship), video games (Resident Evil, Prince of Persia) and even amusement park rides, (Pirates of the Caribbean, Tomorrowland).
This trend continues to the medium of television, which these days frequently outstrips the movies in terms of writing quality. (One reason why we’re seeing Academy Award winners like Halle Berry opting for TV. She appears in CBS’s Extant.) So rather than films being made into TV shows (remember M.A.S.H.?) we now see TV shows being made into films. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which opened two days ago, are just the latest examples of a trend that’s been going on for decades. (Top photo: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television show which starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, who viewers now relate to as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on CBS’s NCIS.)
The Muppet Movie (1979)
This American-British musical comedy was filmed between the third and fourth seasons of The Muppet Show, and became the first of a long series of live action feature films starring Jim Henson’s Muppets. In this outing, Kermit the Frog makes a cross-country journey to Hollywood while fleeing a restauranteur intent on making him the spokesperson for a Frog Legs business. Along the way he befriends Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Ms. Piggy and many more. Thus beginning one of the most beloved franchises of all time.
The Fugitive (1993)
Directed by Andrew Davis (Under Siege, Chain Reaction) and based on the popular 60’s television series of the same name. Dr. Richard Kimble’s (Harrison Ford in his prime) wife was murdered by a one-armed man. Falsely imprisoned for her murder he goes on the run in an attempt to find the real killer and clear his name all the while being pursued by dedicated Deputy U.S. Marshall Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). Widely beloved by audiences and critics alike, it took in over $300 million at the box office, (on a 40 something million budget) and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and Tommy Lee Jones actually won for Best Supporting Actor.
This Western comedy was based on the 1950’s television series of the same name, and directed by Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies). Wisecracking card sharp Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson before he imploded) is intent on entering on a five card draw poker tournament and in his misadventures along the way he encounters surly fellow gambler Angel (Al Molina), vivacious con artist Annabelle (Jodie Foster), and lawman Marshall Cooper (James Garner). Critics and audiences alike enjoyed the films light hearted charm and its box office receipts totaled over $180 million.
This crime drama adapted from the British Channel 4 TV series Traffik, and directed by Steven Soderberg, explored the illegal drug trade from multiple viewpoints in three interweaving storylines. A politician (Michael Douglas), who is appointed to the President’s task force on drugs, watches his own daughter (Erika Christensen) as she spirals into addiction. A spoiled trophy wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is shocked when her husband (Steven Bauer) is arrested as a major narcotics distributer. And lastly, a Mexican police officer (Benecio Del Toro) is caught in the war between the cartels. Besides earning over $200 million on a $46 million budget it was universally acclaimed and won four Academy Awards including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Benecio Del Toro, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
As America’s longest running sitcom, longest running animated series, AND longest running scripted primetime series it was only a matter of time before The Simpsons got their own movie. Springfield finally deals with its water pollution problem only to have Homer Simpson befoul the lake once more causing EPA head Russ Cargill to order the whole town sealed in a gigantic glass dome. Exiled by his neighbors and eventually abandoned by his own family Homer has to redeem himself by saving the town from an increasingly power mad Cargill. An instant hit that grossed over half a billion dollars world wide.