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My Google Alert recently picked up a lot of chatter on the Internet about a rumored Dilbert movie in the works. The rumor is ahead of the reality, as the project hasn't been funded, and there isn't yet a director, writer, or actor signed on. But I was fascinated by the reactions of the many movie web sites that weighed in with their opinions on whether it was a good idea to create a Dilbert movie.

What?

Evaluating whether an idea is good enough for a movie is a bit like an automobile expert saying a certain brand of car doesn't taste good. It's absurd. You can only hold the opinion that a particular movie concept is a good or bad idea if you don't understand what a movie is or what an idea is.

For example, here's the world's worst idea for a movie: Titanic. It did okay at the box office.

Movies are good or bad because of execution, not concept. Even outside of the movie realm, ideas generally have no economic value whatsoever, except in rare cases such as when a patent is issued. And even in those cases it's the patent law that creates the value, not the ideas.

The self-appointed movie critics went on to point out that Office Space was already a movie, so there was no room left in the universe for a Dilbert movie. That's a bit like saying there's no point in creating a romantic comedy because someone already did that one. It's a fundamental misunderstanding of what a movie is.

I've long been fascinated by the common human illusion that ideas can be sorted into good and bad, when all experience shows this not to be the case. We could play the game all day long where I describe a simply terrible idea and then tell you about the people who got rich implementing it just right. Let's try a few...

How about a comic strip that is literally a bunch of stick figures? It will be called XKCD and have no discernable characters. Done! It's the most viewed comic on the Internet.

How about a movie about two gay cowboys? Done! Academy Award!

How about a comedic TV show about a Nazi concentration camp? Done! It was called Hogan's Heroes and was a hit in its time.

How about a Broadway musical about a bunch of frickin' cats? Done!

You'd be hard pressed to come up with an idea so bad that it couldn't succeed with the right execution. And it would be even harder to imagine a great idea that couldn't fail if the execution were left to morons.

Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.

 
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-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 5, 2010
Execution?

Here is an idea that would not work ANYWHERE: A comedy about dueling Proctologists.

Sadly, it would not work out in the end...
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 5, 2010
Scott was – probably unintentionally – right that POWs were held in “Concentration” Camps. Strictly speaking their purpose was to bring people together in one place or “concentrate” them – the intention being to release them at some more opportune time.
The German Jews and other minorities were sent to “Extermination” Camps – the intention being to murder them in the most efficient way possible.
Both POW and Extermination Camps were run by the German State and were thus “Nazi”.
 
 
Jun 5, 2010
All I know is that I hated the TV show even though I read Dilbert religiously. What I found was that the extended Dilbert format was too much of real life. Same for "The Office." I realize that many people like "The Office," but one wonders how many of them "live" in a cube?
 
 
Jun 5, 2010
How about a comedy movie about 9/11.

The posters have a picture of Mohamed and all terrorists have Mohamed as their first name.
Not so subtle message of the movie is that everyone gets what they deserve.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
So true. As an editor, I am constantly hearing from authors "How can I stop someone from stealing my ideas?" You can't. Why bother? I can't even get rich stealing from Shakespeare. It's all in the work that comes after those ideas, which are generally the fun part. Plato said there are no new ideas, but he probably stole that.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
So you believe there is an execution which would make Marmaduke the movie a worthy idea?

 
 
Jun 4, 2010
I think that people are reacting not so much to the concept of a Dilbert movie as much as they are transferring their impression of the Dilbert cartoon show on TV to the silver screen and saying "it sucked on TV so it must suck on the big screen." And it did suck on TV. And in all probability it would suck in movie format. A lot. Mucho sucko. Especially if they use the same voice for Dilbert. El floppa mucho mio predicta.

The big problem with trying to move from cartoon to video. The voices just do not work. Wally and Dilbert just don't sound right. And they can't because everyone hears them different in their minds. They just don't sound as clever. I don't know why. Maybe with extented casting work they would. Maybe focus groups.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. (stolen catchphrase).
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
"Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything."

That's a bit too much of a blanket statement for me to agree with. I'd say ideas have worth only inasmuch as the results of attempting to execute on the idea are predictable. An idea that's easier to execute successfully is "better" than an idea that's difficult to execute.

Furthermore, isn't good or bad execution the result of several smaller ideas? If I have a task to do and have an idea to have a few drinks at lunch and then do a half-assed job that screws up the execution, is that a bad idea, or bad execution. Perhaps this goes to your point that people don't understand what an "idea" is, but I would have a hard time distinguishing all the thinking I do during daily life from the thinking that constitutes "having an idea."

With that said, I certainly agree that at such an early stage for a movie, there's no way to tell if an idea is good or bad. But that doesn't keep people from trying, even if that's a bad idea.

Anyway, now I'm going to go hallucinate that you said it's a bad idea to try to categorize ideas as good or bad. And now I'm going to quietly laugh at how stupid you are.
 
 
+21 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
Hate to nitpick, but Hogan's Heroes was a German POW camp, not a Nazi concentration camp. I'm only clarifying this point because my upcoming TV comedy "Auschwitz, It's a Gas!" is currently in pre-production.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
It's sad to hear Scott promoting the very propaganda spread by the pointy-haired bosses to justify keeping scientists' salaries low!

Ideas can be hard to monetize, but that's not the same as being worthless.

And, there are LOTS of movie ideas that are obviously bad ideas from the start. Every single frickin' movie based on a videogame, for example.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
"Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything."

...just ask Texas.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
I was a bit skeptical when initially reading this post, but several of the examples proved a fair point. Its also delightful that I am wearing my XKCD shirt today.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
I love dilbert, i love the comics, i love the books. I wanted to watch the tv show, but it sucked, mainly it was the actors voices which were unusual and irritating. Fix that and make it faster paced and it could be worth watching. Office space is a great movie. The office is a great tv show. "Cubefarm" will be a great movie if its done properly
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
How about a sitcom about some black guys who fly around in a lowrider/semi car in the 23rd century?

Yeah, it was called Homeboys in Outer Space.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
I think that instead of a movie Dilbert should be brought back to TV it was an awesome show and I know about 71,000 people that would watch it if they brought it back (don't believe look up dilbert cartoon on Youtube has 71,000 plus views)
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
I think that instead of a movie Dilbert should be brought back to TV it was an awesome show and I know about 71,000 people that would watch it if they brought it back (don't believe look up dilbert cartoon on Youtube has 71,000 plus views)
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
What if you crossed Dilbert with Animal Farm using Pixar expertise and filmed in IMAX 3D? I'd see that...
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
While I agree that ideas are usually a poor indicator how successful a final product (and especially a film) will be, it doesn't mean that we can't criticize ideas as standalone items.

I can think of more than a few times where I can look at a failed movie/product/business and correctly speculate that the idea wasn't exactly a fertile breeding ground for success. Google "The Human Centipede" for a particularly good example of this.

And wow, I can't imagine what your Inbox must look like if you've got a Google Alert on Dilbert.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 4, 2010
Shhhhh...
I think you may have just given a tremendous amount of fodder for pointy-haired bosses to claim their their idiotic idea only failed because of poor worker implementation.
 
 
Jun 4, 2010
"I've long been fascinated by the common human illusion that ideas can be sorted into good and bad, when all experience shows this not to be the case. "

Thank you! I have never understood the need of folks to create a black and white set of opposites, or to create a "best" label. Or even a "favorite" label.

It is all relative to situation, which is another way of saying "execution". What is my favorite comic strip? Well that depends on my mood, or the theme of the strip, or the whatever. And even then, the lines are blurred by daily execution and my own perceptions.

We want life to be so easy to understand and so we look for clear labels. In the end we create limitations on our understanding. And we create limits on what is possible.
 
 
 
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