5 July 2009

The Future of Nostalgia

You might've noticed, but I didn't think much of Michael Bay's Transformers movies. Putting aside the ever-more perplexing sources of material for Hollywood blockbusters including toys (What? ...WHAT?!), it also occurs to me that Transformers is fundamentally an 1980s property. The animated film, released in 1986, was chock-full of power ballads and was pretty 80s all round. Weren't there a few other 80s properties brought back in Hollywood recently?

To be fair, the ones listed above are the less depressingly awful of the sequels and remakes that have been spawned out of the recent rash of 80s nostalgia. Yes, LeBeouf shouldn't have been allowed near it, McClane should've swore more, and the 3D didn't add anything to it (in that order), but I'd sooner sit through any of these films again than the upcoming remakes of Fame, Flashdance or An American Werewolf in London.

If you're reading this, and this wave of nostalgia for a decade that ended a mere 20 years ago has gone unnoticed until now, you may be wondering why this is so prevalent. More cynical people would call it a deficit of originality in Hollywood. I'm more of an optimist, believe it or not, and I think it's only a problem that certain producers seem to have. As far as I can see, most 80s remakes/sequels are coming out of one or both of these two causes.

1. A producer/director/star who was big in the 80s decides to stick to what they know and take their old mega-bucks concept out of mothballs, usually claiming that they want to advance their characters, i.e. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Rocky Balboa. These films don't always disappoint, but they're never quite the same as their predecessors, especially when the word remake or reboot is involved.
2. A producer being utterly lazy and reading nostalgic articles in entertainment magazines and then playing Eeny Meeny Miney Mo until they find a franchise they can convince you you've been waiting for the return of since... well, 1989, i.e. Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and most other American horror films today. The trouble with this type of 80s nostalgia is partly that it usually involves a franchise that never really went away (Freddy vs. Jason came out in 2003, and the last Halloween sequel before the remake was out in 2002), but mostly that the driving forces behind the "reimagining" are fuckwits who have precious little to add to the original idea.

I can say that John Carpenter's Halloween was a cool movie for free and in about five seconds. Rob Zombie apparently needed to spend $20m and 109 minutes doing the same.

But this is not a rant. This is me being genuinely worried about the future of nostalgia, as it were. As the 00s draw to a close, I can only assume the 20s will have a lot of remakes of remakes of reboots, should they turn to nostalgia. But more pressingly, next year sees the beginning of the 10s. It logically follows therefore that the next decade will see a wave of 90s nostalgia. Fuck yeah!

No, I'm not talking about the mooted remake of The Bodyguard with Hugh Jackman and Miley Cyrus, or that sequel to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that Kevin Costner keeps mentioning. I'm talking about the revival of the good stuff the 1990s gave us. I honestly don't think animated TV shows were ever better than they were in the 90s (80s cartoons advertised toys, largely, and 00s shows have actually been dumbed down again) and so I'm actually looking forward to the awesome live-action movies based on them, however much it seems to signal the death of originality.

Below you will find my own pitches. They may vary in quality, but you have to speculate to accumulate, and I like to think that this blog entry will be a solid investment so that if any of these actually happen, I can claim creative doo-dah of some kind. Some legal mumbo-jumbo! And furthermore, I would obviously like to see original films. But if there's no other alternative, I'd like to see...


Um... what? As much as I've said animated shows became more adult in the 90s, most of Disney's output remained kind of childish, except for this show. A bunch of warrior creatures are turned to stone in the Middle Ages, only to be resurrected in present-day New York to fight evil and kick arse. Obviously it's not The Wire, but it was gritty for a Disney show.

And why would they make a film of that? The premise might not sound all that good, but the show was surprisingly well-written, from what I saw of it. And in any case, there are much more rounded characters than Transformers ever had, and a better backstory to boot.

How would they do it? CGI/motion capture is pretty big these days- you might've noticed. Animate the titular gargoyles in whichever way is best and make it largely live-action. Bring in some "name" actors and get a director with a good track record. Someone like Jon Favreau (but not, I want to see him doing more Marvel movies next decade). Market it as a summer blockbuster and reinvent the story for a new audience. Big fucking statue monsters flying around New York is something I'd happily see in the cinemas, but there would have to be something behind it story-wise too. I'd hate to see it just become another Transformers.

OK, I'm gonna go over there now... Fair enough, but I remain confident that a film based on this could work.

Um... what? No one seems to really remember this one. Or if they do, they won't talk about it in public. The theme song explains the premise of this one best, so I'll just embed the opening credits below...

And why would they make a film of that? Because I saw two superhero comedies made this decade- Hancock and My Super-Ex Girlfriend- and they both sucked. Mystery Men aside, it's a sub-genre that's not being explored all that much. Next year brings Seth Rogen's Green Hornet, but it'd be fun to see a film based on this at some point. Hancock and G-Girl were both uninspired, so why not revive a character who has worked before?

How would they do it? As I said, it'd have to be a comedy. There seems to be a swarm of comedians working in Judd Apatow's stable, so my first guess would be to say they should be involved in some capacity. On the other hand, Spielberg was executive producer on this show, as with most of WB's animated comedy output, so it'd be good to get him involved on some level. I dunno, I think this one is very much borne out of how much I liked the series.

OK, I'm gonna go over there now... Yeah, I'm losing faith in the idea myself. But I do want to watch Freakazoid! again now. Where's the UK DVD release?

"Get out!": DUCKTALES

Um... what? The title explains this one. They're tales about ducks, centring around Huey, Dewey and Louie and their uncle, Scrooge McDuck. McDuck is more or less my favourite fictional billionaire ever. He dives into a vault filled with gold and fucking SWIMS in his wealth. Crazy duck bastard. And also, as if you needed reminding, it has the single catchiest theme song ever.

And why would they make a film of that? Because if Disney aren't making films based on theme park rides, video games, their own back-catalogue or more pressingly, Gargoyles, they should really be looking at bringing this series back in some form or other. It was Indiana Jones with ducks. How the hell can you go wrong? And that THEME TUNE!

How would they do it? Well presumably, live-action with CGI ducks a la Alvin and the Chipmunks. Shit, that's not a good way to sell it. The content should obviously be first and foremost, rather than the nostalgia kick. Hm... maybe DuckTales doesn't have that much potential. But it does have that theme tune. Get Fall Out Boy to do a cover version for the soundtrack- it'd be number one for weeks.

OK, I'm gonna go over there now... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I realise now that the whole selling point of the film would be the theme song. Can we ask Patrick Stump to cover it anyway?

Alright, so Gargoyles is all I've got. And that seems unlikely. Dammit.

I don't wish to appear ignorant of the really great original films that Hollywood does turn out every once in a while, or of the genuinely interesting and engaging approaches to pre-existing sources, like JJ Abrams' Star Trek or Chris Nolan's Batman films. But you have to wonder that with so few entirely original blockbusters appearing in the multiplex now, how bad are things going to be in 2029? Hollywood needs to start moving forwards rather than looking backwards, just for a change. Please?

There'll probably be a follow-up post to this one coming in the next few weeks about unlikely sequels. Depends on a number of factors related to my planned revamp of this blog.

That's right, the next Reel Deal update won't actually be Reel Deal-y at all. I'm rebranding. More on that when it comes, but the next update is likely to cover two slightly historically-challenged films, Ice Age 3 and Year One. I'm also excited about the prospect of finally getting to see Is Anybody There? this week at a cinema out of town, so there'll be a quick review of that in a future update too.

Until next time, just try to get the DuckTales theme tune out of your head,

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