07/15/2010 09:55 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Didn't I Just See That ...?

I dreamed the other night that I was the only one who could stop a plot that involved someone wanting to take over the world by unleashing an army of the dead.

Oh wait, no -- that's the Tea Party movement.

To be truthful, I just saw that whole "army of the dead" in a movie. Well, actually, a couple of movies. If you want a demonstration of the studios' imagination deficit problem, just screen-hop at your local multiplex.

Let's see -- in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, that angry redhead vampire played by Bryce Dallas Howard is turning as many new people as possible into vampires, building an army of the undead (or newly dead, depending on whether you're a glass-half-empty kind of person) with which to attack, um, the crucially strategic town of Forks, Wash.

Which may or may not steal the thunder of Morgana La Fay, the evil sorceress played by Alice Krige in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. She, too, is eager to create an army of the dead to, apparently, take over New York. (Too late; tourist season is already upon us.)

Wait, how about this? People from opposing cultures -- Air, Water, Earth -- must team up against a rogue element, Fire, in The Last Airbender. Almost as unlikely as the team-up of vampires and werewolves against that army of newborn vampires in Eclipse.

A story about a young apprentice learning mystical powers at the foot of an aging master? That would be The Last Airbender -- unless it's The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Characters who can whip their hands around in circles in front of their chests, martial-arts style, and create bolts of energy? Last Airbender again -- and Sorcerer's Apprentice-- and even a little Predators.

Are there really so few plots to choose from? Is there really such a shortage of action and fantasy tropes?

Maybe it's just that Airbender and Eclipse and Sorcerer's Apprentice caught something in the zeitgeist, but that seems doubtful (although I frequently wish for the ability to fire plasma bolts -- or any other kind of bolts -- out of my fingertips).

But having seen the four films mentioned in the space of about 10 days, I have to stop and truly consider which film I'm talking about when I try to describe them because they are so similar. Sorting them is like untangling yarn in an elaborate knitting project.

And don't get me started about zombies. I'll never stop.

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