The director of Pirates of the Caribbean is planning Second Life: The Movie. Too late! The lonely virtual world lost its buzz two years ago. Why is Hollywood always so behind the times?
The movie business has always been late to catch on to trends. But the swift shifts of technology make the studios' sluggishness all the more embarrassing.
Universal and Pirates director Gore Verbinski have acquired rights to make a movie from a Wall Street Journal article written in 2007 about a woman virtually widowed by her husband's Second Life addiction.
The problem: Ric Hoogestraat, the subject of the story, makes an unappealing leading man: He's a 53-year-old homebound diabetic. And Second Life, the virtual world in which Hoogestraat's hunky avatar, Dutch Hoorenbeek, "married" a user who was not his real-world wife, makes for a lousy villain. How do you make a movie about a place where nothing really happens? Once Verbinski gets to understand the boring porn-and-kink-filled universe of Second Life, I suspect he'll discard that whole angle. And he'll also drop the notion of an unattractive lunk as the hero. And then, if he doesn't drop the whole idea, he'll make a movie that really has nothing to do with Second Life at all.
We should have expected this, though. I asked Chris Null, the editor of FilmCritic.com, for suggestions on just some of the technological trends Hollywood has missed. Here's the list we came up with:
Movie: Hackers (1995)
Trend: Errr, hackers.
Why it was late: Hackers had been a known media phenomenon since 1971, when Esquire published a feature story on phone phreakers. By 1995, the Internet was making hacking tools so easy to distribute that amateurs known as "script kiddies" were taking over the scene. But hey, the movie had Angelina Jolie!
Movie: You've Got Mail (1998)
Why it was late: An AOL inbox was trendy around 1990. By 1998, most people worth knowing had bozofilters set on anything from an @aol.com address. And movies with Meg Ryan.
Movie: American Pie (1999)
Why it was late: The Internet-broadcast deflowering of the main character, Jim, relied on technology that was an Internet-culture phenomenon in 1996 (remember JenniCam)?
Movie: Chat Room (2002)
Trend: Chat rooms
Why it was late: The first text-based chat room dates back to 1974, but the notion of cybersex hookups was commonplace by 1998. The first example of deception in the course of a courtship is a few millennia before that. The first and last usage of the phrase "surfin' for cyber bootie" dates to 2002.
Movie: Cellular (2004)
Trend: Cell phones
Why it was late: The cell phone was invented in 1973, or 1944, depending on whom you ask. But the idea of cell phones as a means of rescue permeated society after September 11, 2001 — which is when this Kim Basinger kidnap thriller might have felt timely.
Movie: Firewall (2006)
Why it was late: Portable MP3 players had been widely identified as a security risk by 2004, making Harrison Ford's $100 million iPod heist implausible. Plus we'd moved on to Nanos by then.