For quite a few years, I’ve done my best to keep an open mind about remakes and re-imaginings of older movies, TV shows and songs. For example, the Brian DePalma version of “Scarface” is one of my all-time favorite films. I felt that “The Looney Tunes Show” was an underrated take on the classic Warner Brothers characters and served as a vast improvement for the character of Lola Bunny (voiced by Kristen Wiig). I loved Joan Jett And The Blackhearts’ version of “I Love Rock ‘N Roll”.
Sometimes, though, I see a preview of a remake or a re-imagining and I just don’t have enthusiasm for it. That was the case when I saw the trailer for the upcoming live-action version of “Jem And The Holograms”. I wanted to be enthusiastic for it, especially since Samantha Newark (Jem’s speaking voice and a former interview subject and current Facebook friend) will be making a legacy cameo in the film. Somehow, though, the tropes of feeling conflicted about your onstage identity and having conflicts with your friends from the beginning are all too familiar.
This leads me to wonder if I’ve become that guy I don’t want to be, the one who feels that remakes are unnecessary and changes aren’t good. I sincerely dread becoming that person. This is one of my biggest conflicts as a fan of retro pop culture, especially that of the 1980s. I want to believe that remakes and re-imaginings will lead younger audiences to enjoy the original material those visions are based on, but I’ve also seen examples of how the younger generation will not want to have anything to do with the original work.
For example, my 80s fandom was blossoming around the time Sean Combs and the artists of Bad Boy Entertainment were making music that didn’t do anything different with the songs they sampled. A group like the Beastie Boys would utilize multiple samples to create a fresh new soundscape. On the other hand, when Combs or one of his artists sampled a song, you knew exactly what was being sampled, and it just sounded unoriginal. It was my experience that people, both my age and older, were loving Combs’ sampling of 80s music but heartily detesting the original 80s music itself. Eventually, the original 80s music became popular again in the 00s, but now that 90s nostalgia is the big trend of the New Tens, I have this feeling that Combs’ music will eventually become popular again, and thus will once again displace the original material.
On a film-related note, I grew up with the movies of Disney, turning seven years old shortly after the release of “The Little Mermaid”, and seeing “Beauty And The Beast”, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” all in theaters. I loved these movies, and I viewed them as works of fantasy. In 2007, Disney released “Enchanted”, a movie that was loved by many Disney fans, but that struck me as a cynical shot at the first seven decades of Disney’s animated features. To me, it was basically Disney and its creative staff, both artists and acting, saying “We apologize for our movies and we apologize if we taught you things that weren’t right or true”. They shouldn’t have felt a need to apologize, because these were works of fantasy. Fantasy is an important thing. Obviously, there’s no such thing as love at first sight. Obviously, getting married after a short period of time isn’t a wise idea. Obviously, there’s no such thing as a purely good or a purely bad person. We go to the movies to forget about these realities, though, and just escape for a while.
Disney has continued to subvert these tropes in movies like “The Princess And The Frog”, “Tangled” and “Frozen”, and while these are all wonderful movies, they’ve caused younger audiences to look back at older Disney movies and say that they’re stupid and unrealistic. I wouldn’t say they’re stupid, but unrealistic is obviously the order of the day when you’re dealing with wooden puppets coming to life and fairy godmothers and dragons and anthropomorphic animals and mermaids and men transformed into animal-like creatures and genies who grant wishes. None of these are real, but isn’t that the point of cinema, to show us the unreal and the unusual?
Unreal and unusual are two words I would use positively to describe “Jem And The Holograms”, the 80s cartoon. Stretching what could be done with holograms and what the entertainment industry is like was fun to watch. The live-action movie, to me, looks like it’s based too much in reality, and while I’m sure the fantasy elements will be in the film, I think it would’ve been best to include those in the trailer as well. If Synergy will be in the movie and if there will be usage of hologram technology, they should’ve included both in the trailer. That way, I don’t think there would have been the conflicted feelings that so many people, including myself, are having about this movie. That way, there could’ve been more excitement and less acrimony about Jem’s trip to the big screen.
In my opinion, if you’re going to do a fantasy movie, give us some hints of what that fantasy will entail. Give us an idea of what worlds we can see, what technology we can witness, what fun there can be in exploring these uncharted territories. That way, even if it is a remake, you’ll have a more enthusiastic audience.
I don’t know…Maybe I am becoming that guy who complains about the modern day too much. I just believe in the transformative power of entertainment, be it movies, music or books. While we sometimes turn to entertainment to see who we are, more often than not, we turn to entertainment to see who we could be, where we could go, what we could do and how we could do it if we had the power, the technology or even the more human elements, like courage and strength, that so many of our entertainment heroes and even villains do.
That’s just my take, though.