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If anything like me, you enjoy settling into a comfortable movie theater seat with a refillable buttered (flavored oil) bag of popcorn to escape for a couple of hours into mindless suspension of disbelief. In here, I’m enclosed in darkness and can escape into a hopefully compelling story that absorbs my senses.

I enjoy watching any genre, from thriller to suspense, some action, science fiction, comedies and, yeah, I’ll admit it, even some chick flicks like Sleepless in Seattle and Serendipity.

After more than a half-century of digesting an unknowable number of films, I certainly wouldn’t qualify as a critic of the nuance and technicalities of producing Hollywood creations. Neither do I claim that. Yet I do know what I find entertaining, relevant and compelling as opposed to unoriginal, bland and not worth the price of admission.

It wouldn’t surprise me if many of you share similar impressions of the movies, especially the thousands of films offered over the past two decades.

I find many movies nowadays to reflect a mass-produced feel while lacking the crisp and clever writing and originality of so many films produced before the turn of this millennium that became culturally ingrained.

How many Alien films have been churned out since Ridley Scott’s original thrilled audiences in 1979? I count five. Remember James Cameron’s mega-expensive and creative film, Avatar, from eight years ago? Word has it he’s currently filming four sequels at the same time to be released during Christmas season in 2020, 2021, 2024 and 2025.

I realize there are huge expenses involved with creating a movie, especially ones where fresh ideas break new ground worthy of capturing the public’s interest. When prospective audiences are asked to shell out at least $15 apiece for a ticket, small popcorn and drink, they deserve so much more than a rewrite and rehash of the original film. Don’t you agree?

For instance, at least count, no fewer than 29 Godzilla movies released since that reptilian beast was loosed on Japan in 1954. There have been six Rocky sequels since its original in 1976. The Karate Kid since 1984 has seen three sequels, and Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street has had eight since initial release in 1984.

I can’t leave off the two dozen James Bond movies, 13 Star Trek and eight Saw films.

There are occasional exceptions to generating freshness in sequels, such as Star Wars, whose original trilogy that launched in 1977 set box-office records worldwide.

Truth is, a lot of films nowadays are sequels (including the voice-over animations like Toy Story), which makes me wonder what happened to the originality and creative mind that spawned the first one. Someone had to develop the original story behind each successful film that drew vast crowds. Have they tapped out of new ideas, or just decided to follow the more convenient path?

There’s certainly a ravenous hunger for new big-screen stories that captivate and hold our attention. And it can be less work and cheaper to take a proven success with previously disclosed storylines and characters, such as in Rocky and Star Trek, and sprinkle the sequels with new developments and character challenges.

But increasingly I’m convinced there’s a price to pay at the box office today for producers taking such endless shortcuts when it comes to creating new and entertaining films. Rest assured, I won’t be paying to see Pirates of the Caribbean 6 or the seventh version of another predictable slasher movie, although the original Halloween was engrossing.

The continual rehashing creates opportunity for independent filmmakers. I’m talking about those finding success with fresh, spiritual-based and films such as Let There Be Light and other smaller-budget productions like Greater, the unlikely story of the late Brandon Burlsworth of Harrison who became the nation’s most celebrated college football walk-on.

Conversely I have zero desire, even if the popcorn is fresh, to sit through Alien 6 or any other warmed-over subsequent offering manufactured solely to lighten my wallet regardless of what I thought about it afterwards.

I write on this today because, like so much else in our intentionally dumbed-down society, the original films that once inspired us to become greater, often by valuing noble causes outside ourselves (Braveheart, Serpico, Hoosiers, Gandhi, Dances with Wolves, Saving Private Ryan and so many even earlier classic films minus sequels) seem few and far between nowadays.

Beyond lackluster, many film offerings also have become either uninteresting and/or loaded with clearly politicized messages that obviously push social and moral engineering on audiences. The last thing I care to pay to see is another spiel on film from the land of wealthy Hollywood elitists (aka Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Roman Polanski, Madonna) who have zero standing to lecture society on such matters.

The film industry today feels a bit to me as if that outstanding restaurant we once appreciated and enjoyed for its original and exceptional cuisine has been busy converting itself into a fast-food McDrive-through serving only popcorn, soft drinks and candy.

Think I’m exaggerating, eh? I just read Hollywood currently has 178 movie sequels in the works as I type.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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