Every generation currently living that is not still in childhood has had this happen at some point: Something you know and love from your childhood is redone and repackaged by Hollywood in an attempt to make more money off of an old idea. This happened to a slew of old movies back in the 80s, The Thing and The Fly being notable examples.
For the most part, these older ones did things right: they usually wound up telling their own story, more updated, based on the original material.
These days, its time for the 80’s to make a comeback. The late 90’s and early millennium saw a number of 1970’s movies being remade (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes), but now, they are doing to more than just movies. Everything is fair game; movies, TV shows, and sadly even toys.
The reason for this is obvious: Money. If it were just a nostalgia explosion, the movies being made would reek of passion and drip with inside references and fond memories. Instead, what we have been getting are soulless rip-offs of things born in the 80s, glammed up and repackaged for people whose attention spans are so short they’ve barely noticed that the running time of most “half hour” TV shows drops every year.
The easiest example to cite is the Transformers movie. As an enthusiast of the toy line as a kid, I was more than a little excited when it was first rumored to be in production. The first trailer lived up to the term “Teaser” and left me chomping at the bit for the final product.
Back in the 80s, the Transformers line of toys was a success story the likes of which legends are made of. There was a cartoon, hundreds of toys, comic books and even a movie. There were different stories in each medium, but they were all surprisingly imaginative and complex since they existed almost entirely to push the toys in stores.
The first warning bell sounded when I found out that the movie would be directed by Michael Bay. His movies are typically the film version of a stereotypical cheerleader; kinda pretty, very loud, but with no substance or lasting appeal.
The movie exceeded my lowest expectations. I mean this in a bad way. Reading other reviews, people by and large seem to have liked it. They tend to mention things like “character development” and “plot” as passing things to be endured in between fights and shots of giant robots. This appears to be A. Why these things get made in the first place and B. Why Michael Bay continues to make money, therefore ensuring that we have to continually be reminded that he exists.
He should be making movies for IMAX theaters; the whole point of them is to show a bunch of pretty pictures on a huge screen and make people go WOW. They are blissfully short, so even though they are usually mindless, they are an hour or less long. Not 90 minutes, of robots and product placement.
But I digress on this specific case. A GI Joe movie is in production, being helmed by Stephen Sommers who brought us the first two Mummy movies and Van Helsing. Again, he is a directory that is less interested in the characters and plot and more interested with putting as much cool shit on the screen as humanly possible. With a cast of 20 something actors with odd, trendy names that sound more like adjectives, its most likely going to be as deplorable as Transformers was. I am waiting for Paul W. S. Anderson to get his no-talent hands on Battle Beasts or Strawberry Shortcake for that matter.
I would be happy to simply ignore these movies but for one thing: the subject matter has the potential to be good. They have established stories, often with some actual depth, but they almost always discard the established story in favor of something newer and “fresher”, which is usually as ridiculous as the original (lets face it, not much that came out of the 80s DIDN’T resemble a drug trip), but less imaginative and utterly lacking the passion of the creators.
I will most likely be accused of viewing the past through rose colored glasses; it’s not like most of these things were just attempts by soulless corporations to make money. Of course they were, but they were left to develop in the hands of people who had an actual interest in the subject matter. And if they didn’t, they did a damn good job of faking it.
I am left to wonder what is next; what product or popular item from my childhood ( I spent the bulk of my developing years in the 80s, being born in ’76) is going to be next on the chopping block. Garbage Pail Kids? Hostess Chocodile? Hulkamania? He-Man?
Some of these things already had their time in the Hollywood limelight, and they were awful then. Ridiculous CGI isn’t going to change the fact that some ideas work as toys or cards, and just weren’t meant for the big screen.