Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Jem and Adaption Decay

I'm a bit late to the whole Jem party. The trailer for the new movie came out two weeks ago now, and everyone has been falling over themselves to make "It's truly outrageous" comments about how outraged they are, hilariously parroting the catchphrase of the original cartoon. I mean yes, it is outrageous. It's... well, take a look at the trailer if you're one of the few people not to have seen it yet (and then head to Youtube and downvote it along with the rest of the internet).

My experience of Jem is limited mainly to having to sit through the cartoon intro on every Sunbow video (they'd run through them all, it was pretty awesome actually) and having watched one episode (an incredibly racist one where the writer seemed to be convinced that England was still run along feudal lines like a medieval society). Even so, I was actually outraged at the trailer.

Yes, it's not for me. I get that. I'm a 30ish year old male, and this is a film aimed at tweens. It's unreasonable to expect that sort of film to cater for me (and probably a bit worrying if it did). But this seems to exemplify the complete and utter lack of respect towards audiences in the spirit of money-grabbing that's more and more prevalent nowadays.

The original Jem was about an 80's rockstar with a secret identity. She had a supercomputer and holographic earrings and had adventures fighting crime and travelling in time and all that sort of stuff. It was very glam. Very 80's. It was a small child's idea of what a rock'n'roll lifestyle was like, where fame and excess was measured via robots and dinosaurs rather than sex and drugs.

The new film is about a girl who becomes Youtube-famous and lands a recording contract, where the evil music company make her take on the new identity of 'Jem' and abandon her friends and it's all about being who you are yadda yadda.

At this point I want to say that obviously that's just what I've gleaned from the trailer and it might be some enormous troll. I'd be happy to eat my words at that point. It's possible that it's a perfectly good film with a decent moral and there's nothing wrong with it at all.

Only someone's gone and slapped the Jem IP onto it. They're both... musicians, I guess? That's enough, isn't it? Sure, it looks like the moral of the film is going to be a 'Don't let others tell you who to be, you must be yourself' which I guess means Jem is a Bad Thing rather than the empowered superheroic alter ego, spectacularly missing the point of the original. And indeed, missing anything at all from the original apart from pink hair and a guitar.

I'd be willing to bet actual money that this was a completely original script which then got hooked with a property name people remember in order to get funding. Much like how the Will Smith 'I, Robot' film was an adaption of 'I, Robot' in that it had robots in it (never mind that the plot was the exact opposite in ethos to the Asimov story). The film industry is terrified of originality, everything needs to be based off something else or attached to an existing property because apparently people are so stupid they won't want to see something new.

Jem is probably the most bizarre case I've ever seen of this, which is why I actually bothered to sit down and write about it in the first case. It is baffling why anyone even bothered to make it. Who is the film aimed at? What benefit does making it a Jem film actually give? Films like this generally have two audiences:
  • New: This film is aimed at the tween audience. None of them would have ever heard of Jem. None would even be aware of it as a thing, and if they were, 80's glam is hardly a cool thing with the kids of today. There's no benefit to simply using the Jem name (as opposed to, say, using the IP to make a proper adaption of the ideas) because there's literally no resonance. I'd understand if Jem was a 00's or even 90's property, but the 80's is just too long ago.
  • Old: People who are familiar with the original will want to see the new version. This is such an obvious 'we slapped some familiar names on a completely unrelated script' that anyone familiar enough with Jem to care to see a film would definately want to steer far away.

I genuinely don't see any benefit at all, only drawbacks. Nothing about using the IP helps the film in any way, and the only additional publicity is people who remember the original moaning about how betrayed they feel. But hey, new stuff is scary so randomly claim it's somehow an adaption of an existing property. That's what shows the real disrespect to audiences, basically trying to trick people into watching an unrelated film by claiming it's something they know or love, and it's something that's happening more and more as studios decide they want to take less risks. Every popular thing started from nothing at some point, apparently that's not good enough any more.
I want a job in Hollywood. Here are my pitches for films of beloved 80's properties:

He-Man: Adam is the school nerd, but he's secretly getting in shape for a bodybuilding contest. But so is his nemesis, a malnourished kid that everyone calls 'Skeletor'.

My Little Pony: The exciting life of a farmhand.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors: Jayce is a college kid with the coolest band on campus, The Lightning League. But can he beat The Monster Minds in a battle of the bands?

Ulysses 31: Ulysses is on holiday in Greece and loses his son, with hilarious consequences!

Visionaries: The heroic Leoric must battle the evil Darkstorm... at the school spelling bee! Can they and their teams spell the really hard words given to them by Headmaster Merklynn?

Transformers: Truck driver Dave 'Optimus' Prime has to deliver a shipment of electronic Transformers across the country, but Sheriff Megan Tron is on his tail!

She-Ra: Adora is a nerdy girl with an oppressive mother who forces her to enter beauty pagents as 'She-Ra'. Can Adora be convinced to be herself and leave behind the harmful 'She-Ra' persona?

1 comment: