It is surprising that in Hollywood’s current climate of change, nostalgia is the most popular trend. When pay disparity and sexual harassment are at the forefront of conversation in popular culture, why are our screens filled with remnants of the past? As the entire industry is in flux, it seems that filmmakers and television showrunners are scrambling to find pre-existing material to work from.
Two of the biggest films to be released this month, Tomb Raider and Ready Player One, are both examples of this. Tomb Raider is a reboot of the character that was initially bought to life by Angelina Jolie, but the new filmmakers have promised a film that is appropriate in the age of Times Up and the Me Too movement. The first look at the film was accompanied by a haunting, acoustic version of ‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child which showcased the strength of Lara Croft as opposed to just sexualising her.
Similarly, Ready Player One was debuted with a cover version of Gene Wilder’s ‘Pure Imagination’ (ironically taken from the original 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack). Both songs, while encapsulating the general theme of their respective films, followed the trend of using covers of pop songs in the trailers of commercial films (also highlighted in Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time).
Yet it’s not just movies that fall victim to this. Just take a look at the Netflix smash hit, Stranger Things. It’s a love letter to the 80s like no other. The Duffer brothers use an 80s soundtrack to embellish their series at every turn. The pinnacle of season 2, the finale, even uses a well-known hit, ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police, to hint at what may be coming in season 3.
However, there is some suggestion that reboots and remakes may not be the answer to Hollywood’s problems. Reboots such as Will and Grace and Baywatch have struggled to capture the hearts of contemporary audiences as the ideas they portray are not representative of this time. It is new, ground-breaking content that entrances and invites audience and you don’t need to look any further than the success of Black Panther to see that.
As a film, Black Panther has smashed records, broken barriers and woven together a story so poignant and necessary that audiences worldwide have been swept away. Another winning aspect is its brilliant soundtrack by the inimitable Kendrick Lamar. The soundtrack’s beat resonates throughout the film, echoing the sounds of a people and a history that has never been told before. It mixes hip-hop with traditional African beats to create a contemporary and individual piece of work unlike any other. Each character, each place, each action sequence is elevated by Kendrick’s excellent work, which captures director Ryan Coogler’s vision so perfectly. The soundtrack’s success is almost parallel to that of the film and it is not hard to see why.
A film like Black Panther has never existed before now, so it wouldn’t have been possible to use a pre-existing song that can capture the film’s intricacies and complexities in the way its original soundtrack has. Every film has its own identity that is emphasised by the music that makes up its soundtrack. At this time in our society we are promoting change, diversity, equality and acceptance of all identities and the music of our films should reflect this.
Our films are so ingrained into the fabric of our society and, as the heartbeat of a film, the soundtrack should reflect the times we live in as opposed to the times we used to live in. Films like Ready Player One (and even Sucide Squad) which borrow its music from earlier films, run the risk of losing their individuality by relying on tried-and-tested methods from the past.
Instead, let’s aim to look to the future with artists like Coogler and Lamar who acknowledge and are inspired by the past in order to create a new future. Their work has shown us that we should be inspired by the diverse influences that we have in order to create a new and vibrant sound for the films that are made for a global audience.