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The Laziest Job in Town

July 8, 2010

In 2005, the Discovery Channel’s surprise breakout hit The Deadliest Catch, which detailed crab fishing in the Arctic Circle, held the attention of a rapt nation suddenly privy to the goings-on behind the scenes of what is arguably the most dangerous profession in the country. The program was dramatic, exciting, and featured the types of rugged characters you might expect to find on a boat that alternately could signify quick riches or certain doom.

Two years later, the History Channel had caught on, beginning their own search for a similarly dangerous occupation to feature. Enter 2007’s debut of Ice Road Truckers, a balls-to-the-wall adrenaline rush featuring the men and women who forge semi-tractor trailers across frozen ice to deliver supplies to northern climes. The show has been a massive success for the History Channel, delivering their highest ratings in the network’s 12-year history.

Now, it seems, you’ll have the opportunity to see what ice road trucking looks like right up in your face, as Max Payne director John Moore tells Deadline Hollywood that his next project will be a giant-budget, 3-D extravaganza based on the Ice Road Truckers franchise. Because, of course, you’ve spent countless nights lying in bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking that someone should do that.

I’m not bashing Ice Road Truckers. Truly, there’s something thrilling about the type of people like season one’s Rick, who bounced maniacally in his bucket seat screaming “Yee-haw, motherfu*ker!” But Moore’s statement to Deadline, presumably with a straight face, was as follows: “We’ll turn it into a mission movie that harkens back to Towering Inferno, Jaws, or The Guns of Navarone.”

Nothing to see here.


What bothers me about this is that Towering Inferno, Jaws and Guns of Navarone were all original, interesting conceptual movies. Ice Road Truckers is yet another  television show pillaged for Hollywood entertainment. As we’ve cited here before, the motion picture industry just seems to be too lazy right now to come up with a singular conceptual idea. A brainstorming session at Paramount may as well just be a trip to Borders, looting the comic book, graphic novel and New York Times Best Seller list for whatever they can attach to a big name.

Not long ago, New York Magazine penned a piece citing that the industry was tired of retreads and sequels, and was putting out an all-call for original work. Instead, we’re getting Battleship: the Movie, more sequels, and more comic book adaptations. Look at today’s multiplex and you’ll find Twilight (a book), The Last Airbender (a cartoon), The Karate Kid (a remake), Prince of Persia (a video game), The A-Team (a remake), Predators (a remake). Still to come include Eat, Pray, Love (a book), Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (a graphic novel), Dinner for Schmucks (an American remake of a French film) and Pirahna 3-D (which appears to be a sequel and a remake).

Truly, a movie-industry executive’s job in 2010 seems to be as simple as turning on the television, checking the bookrack or thinking back to his childhood. Perhaps the problem, however, is that Hollywood seems reluctant to greenlight anything that they don’t know, up front, is going to be a success. Each new film is either based on a successful franchise already, focused around a book or topic which has a built-in, focus-grouped guarantee of success, or proven to be already successful at a big-league film festival (see: Cyrus, the acclaimed Jonah Hill/John C. Reilly which likely would never have reached your local theater unless it had performed well at Sundance).

Let’s be honest: We’re not going to remember The Last Airbender or The A-Team. We will never quote the 2010 Karate Kid as we will always quote the 1984 Karate Kid (“Sweep the leg”). Some of the greatest, most memorable films in history have been original ideas with which America fell in love.  Indiana Jones was a completely original character and series of adventures that held some new surprise around every corner. James Cameron’s Avatar was completely its own being (and, as a recent example, I think it was fairly successful). Studios took a chance on a wacky little idea called Star Wars in the 70’s and still make billions on it every year. It doesn’t just work for blockbusters, either — note Braveheart, American Beauty, Gladiator and Slumdog Millionaire as fantastic examples of how a good screenwriter still can — gasp — create something new and wonderful.

And yet, with all the raping of pop culture that Hollywood does, it by and large still gets a free pass from the paying movie-going public. While we tend to completely call out a musician imitating another more famous musician or point the finger at the latest Friends rip-off, as a general rule we absorb the movie industry’s latest retread without question.

It’s a shame, really. With special effects able to take us to phenomenal, mind-blowing new worlds and technology allowing us to do and show more amazing things with each new feature film, Hollywood rests on its laurels, counting its money. Case in point: 3-D technology is taking off, and what do we get? August’s upcoming Step Up sequel. Why? Because someone crunched the numbers, and another urban dancing movie will likely be a success.

Ice Road Truckers may be a huge hit. Who knows? It , likely, wouldn’t even be on Hollywood’s radar unless it’s been proven as a lucrative television hit first, which it has. But unless the film industry — which has more dollars and tricks to create insanely creative product than any other medium — decides to feed us something more than something we read in a book, saw on TV or loved as a kid, it’s never going to crest its next era. There are more interesting, innovative things happening on television in the past several years (The Sopranos, Lost, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, among many others) than have even been attempted on the silver screen over the past five years. And, until the film industry wakes up and realizes the unbelievable potential it has to make amazing pieces of art that will define new generations, perhaps it’s time to send Hollywood that signal by just staying home on the couch.

  1. spg permalink
    July 8, 2010 2:54 pm

    I haven’t seen the original series. And never likely would. It’s crazy to me that this is a success. But, weird as it sounds, I just saw an amazing trucking movie. Not Smokey and the Bandit. But a french film from the early 50’s set in some remote corner of South America. Four foreigners are hired to transport nitroglycerine across 400 miles of potholes without the proper equipment, to extinguish a blown well. It was pretty compelling. And a great critical reception. So, just maybe, ice truckers can be riveting. I doubt it. But I thought people might want to see a great french film from the 50’s.

    • March 25, 2014 10:05 am

      A large part of the controversy comes form the ponattiel costs and the question of what value we would receive in return for those costs.One of the proposed solutions to climate change is to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere to the levels of CO2 that existed prior to the industrial revolution.To reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere to the levels of several hundred years ago before the inductrial revolution would cost trillions of dollars in tax outlays and losses to the Global Economy.The question is would it really be worth it to spend that kind of money just to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

  2. July 8, 2010 7:54 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Tomlin.

    Please. Please, Hollywood. Give me an original story. I don’t care what happens at this point. It can suck, too. It can be a talkie about a couple of different kinds of average folks being outside, wishing they could maybe come back inside for a sec ’cause Jeff”s gotta PEE and *somebody’s* hungry, just like always. Whatever. Just, please. Please don’t let that McG-helmed Snorks reboot hit the Googolplex.

  3. July 9, 2010 8:30 am


    its been awhile that im on truckers

    job, it is true that stress is always there.
    i know its hard to deny the stress…
    but this really helps us to grow.
    thank you very much for the information.


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