I was watching the behind the scenes of Super 8 a while back. This was a movie that I genuinely loved for its story and acting and likeable characters. However, something the concept artist (Ryan Church) said in the video rubbed me the wrong way.

JJ Abrams had wanted something new for their monster, something audiences hadn't already seen before. The two of them spent weeks sending sketches back and forth until they came up with a concept that they found to be strange and alien and shocking. And it worked. At least for the first 90 minutes. The first time I saw the movie, the monster was an absolute enigma. During its first couple of appearances, I had no idea what to make of it. Was it eating people? Absorbing them? How many limbs did I just see? Is it even solid, or is it like Robert Patrick in T2? The suspense built, the tension rose, the main characters had their plot-mandated falling out, and then, finally the monster stepped out of the shadows and was revealed to be...

Exactly the same as every other movie monster that year.

Don't get me wrong, there was some great design work here and the CGI was gorgeous, but the overall look of the monster was still the same hairless, slimy, flat-nosed, grey mess that had stalked the theaters for the last ten years or so. While it didn't necessarily lessen my enjoyment of the movie, I still left the theater feeling a little betrayed.

If we've heard it once, we've heard it a thousand times: movies aren't original anymore. This is not just a complaint about remakes, reboots, and rehashed plotlines. This an outcry against the generic visual styles that large budgeted films conform to. Whether it's a gritty action movie aping the desaturated blue tint of the Dark Knight, a big-budget smash fest borrowing the iconic lens flares, dirt, and camera shake of Transformers, or yet another CGI monster with the same flat face and slitted nostrils of the cave troll from the Fellowship of the Ring, designers are afraid of taking risks with the overall look of a film, opting instead to copy something that was already successful. This is by no means an unforgivable thing, as unoriginal design can still result in a good movie, it's just a little disappointing.

Which is why, when a movie does do something new, I start rooting for it.

In late 2013, the Keanu Reeves vehicle 47 Ronin hit theatres. The acting and storyline weren't anything to write home about, plus the tone was a little weird, as it tried to recapture the light-hearted spirit of Pirates of the Caribbean while adapting a legend that ends with the main characters committing ritual suicide. And sure, while it was refreshing to see a film that didn't treat Japanese customs as inherently barbaric or wrong (the mass suicide is actually the happy ending), this wasn't enough to save the film. However, I still left the theatre in high spirits.

I was excited because the creatures I saw on screen were original. While a couple of the minor bad guys looked pretty generic, most of the monstrous line-up was eye-catchingly bizarre. Where most films would paint their designs in beige or greyscale, Ronin's monsters were vibrant and colourful, taking direct influence from the strangely eclectic mythology of feudal Japan. Replacing the hordes of trolls, zombies and grey aliens that have saturated the silver screen in recent years are Bird-Demon-Monks, a robot Samurai (it doesn't make any more sense in context), a demonic fox, and by far the most interesting of the bunch - a frickin' Kirin (that weird dragon/deer/horse thing that's on that one beer label.) The rest of the film's design was gorgeous, with cool set design complementing mythical CGI landscapes, topped off with a vibrant colour scheme and beautiful lighting.

Which is why I was pretty disappointed when it flopped.

Granted, its failure was almost guaranteed given its inflated budget and lack of a target demographic (it was too Asian for the west and to western for Asia), but I was still holding out some hope that this would be the flick to end the onslaught of tired design. I had previously pinned the same hopes on John Carter (a much better movie but also a flop), and Jupiter Ascending (an infamously bad flop). It seems that every designer that attempts something new and interesting gets attached to a multi-million dollar Hindenburg that drags their original design down.

Things are getting a little better, though. A small number of successful films have gotten away with bright colours and new, interesting creature designs (Guardians of the Galaxy, Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, X-Men Days of Future Past, Fury Road), but other aspects of these pictures are still weighed down by the generic, tried and true filmmaking style of every other blockbuster. Even projects praised for their originality fall into this tired, grayscale groove. Stranger Things' slow-burning, terrifying atmosphere is undercut by the monster at the center of it all being only a mild variation on creature designs we've already seen before.

Back when M. Night Shyamalan was known for surprising audiences, he spent a whole movie building tension only to reveal that the aliens in Signs were just as grey and hairless as every other Hollywood monster. It's telling when the circumstances surrounding the antagonist are more interesting than the creature itself. And even Batman v. Superman, a film that has quickly become notorious for being completely insane, actually altered Doomsday's comic book design to make him look more like a generic Hollywood monster.

It doesn't completely destroy my enjoyment of a film, but I'm getting sick of tired design, and I'm not the only one. If I'm willing to sit through two hours and seven minutes of Keanu Reeves grimacing to see some cool monsters that I haven't already seen a million times before, maybe it's worth spending a little extra time making monster designs more original. Or at least less grey.

Keane Chan Hodges is a writer and independent filmmaker. You can watch his dumb videos at here or follow him on Twitter.