Friday, April 23, 2010

Clash of my Childhood

Several weeks ago, my good friends CT, Rusty, and I went to see the new Clash of the Titans movie.  I tried to temper my expectations but I still ended up disappointed.  All the movies and TV shows that I grew up with are now old enough to be nostalgia.  They are being remade/sequelled/prequelled at a rapid pace to suck the dollars from the people who have fond memories and from their children.

Has Hollywood run out of stories?  Are there so few new ideas that we must steal from the past?  No, I don't think that is it.  I think it is just the lazy way.  It is easier to remake a past proven success than to take the gamble on something new and innovative.  And it is not always a bad thing - sometimes there is more story to tell, sometimes updates are needed to make the story relevant to today, and sometimes stories are ahead of their time.  Unfortunately, it seems that most the time it is just a way to capitalize on childhood memories and make a buck.

I know that it is impossible to please everyone...but I find it hard to believe that many of these movies/TV shows really please many people.  I'm sure it can be hard for a filmmaker to live up to the expectations that have built in people's minds over the past 20-30 years...but I think it can be done if A) you are respectful of the original material, and B) hire someone who likes and understands the material, and C) actually make a movie that makes sense.

So are they destroying or enhancing my childhood memories?  Let's check out the match ups.

Star Wars
Original Trilogy vs Prequel Trilogy

Winner - Original Trilogy

Obviously the original trilogy...I don't know anyone who would prefer the prequels.  Usually when the original creator and writer is involved you can expect good things.  Honestly, I don't think that George Lucas really understands what made Star Wars great in the first place.  I think he might have understood 30 years ago...but he has forgotten, became confused and thinks it is about special effects (AKA - the Michael Bay school of film making).  Not only did he make terrible new movies but he came damn near to ruining the whole franchise.  Please click here for the greatest movie review of Attack of the Clones ever made (with serial killer jokes and pizza rolls!)...warning it is in nine parts and nearly 90 minutes long but so worth the investment, much better than watching 90 minutes of the movie.  The Phantom Menace review is pretty good too.

Lord of the Rings
1970s movies vs Peter Jackson movies

Winner - Peter Jackson movies

The new LOTR trilogy is awesome.  Perfect?  No.  Definitively way better than I was expecting or hoping for.  Some things are changed, some things are omitted...but the tone, the feeling, the look was much like I had been imagining since fifth grade.  Lots of little details that could have been left out of the story but thanks to their inclusion really made these movies feel like the epic they should be.  Is it fair to compare multi-million dollar pictures to animated cartoon musicals?  No, probably not.  I must admit that I did miss the "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way" song.

Star Trek
1979 vs 2009

Winner - Star Trek 2009

I was never a huge fan of the Star Trek original series on TV.  Yes, I watched it...but I was much more of The Next Generation fan.  However, the movies were a different story...somehow the original cast movies usually ended up better than the TNG movies.  Movie one was slow but had an interesting story - very classic sci-fi, number two was really good, three was OK, four was funny, etc...  Nothing totally outstanding that I can watch over and over and most of them tend to drag a little from time to time...but decent sci-fi stories.  The new movie?  Really good.  Fast paced, pretty faithful to the original series, good action, and battle scenes.  I can see how the super hardcore fans might not like it but I thought it was a pretty good update to the series.  I was disappointed in the depiction of Kirk winning the Kobayashi Maru Scenario.  We all knew that Kirk had cheated from earlier movies.  I had always figured it was a subtle cheat which made it look like he won legitimately, very sly...I imagined it took lots of investigation by the instructors to figure out how he won this "No-Win" situation.  Instead it was an over the top computer hack that was obvious to everyone.  Nice green girl though.

Clash of the Titans
1981 vs 2010

Winner - 1981

This movie meant a lot to me as an 7 year old kid.  I saw it many, many times.  It helped fuel my Greek mythology phase in middle school.  Sure it seems a little campy now and the stop motion animation seems clunky but it was still an incredible experience.  I had high hopes for the remake.  I think my 7 year old self would still have loved the remake but not being 7 anymore, I hated it.  The special effects were really good...but everything else was bad.  Uninspired acting, huge plot holes, poorly edited action.  Did Perseus get eaten by scorpion?  I had hoped that if were taking the time to remake the movies they might actually read the script through more than once.  They didn't.

GI Joe
80's TV vs The Rise of Cobra 2009

Winner - 80's Cartoons

Animated vs Live Action.  I loved the cartoon and the action figures as a child.  My brothers and I had a huge GI Joe toy collection.  After the seeing the trailer for the live action movie, I was not expecting much.  Then I saw the new animated movie written by Warren Ellis, GI Joe Resolute; and my hopes were renewed.  Unfortunately, the live action movie didn't stand up to either cartoon.  All was lost once GI Joe was no longer a "Real American Hero" but instead a multi-national security force.  Bleh.

Indiana Jones
Original Trilogy vs Crystal Skull

Winner - Original Trilogy

Really George?  Again?  It isn't even about the fact that it is about aliens.  It is the fact that it is completely inconsistent.  I tried counting how many times the magnetic powers of the skull were irrational but it was a losing battle.  It can pull gun powder through the air from hundreds of feet but people can stand next to it with guns?  Magnetism is blocked by a wooden case?  Within 10 minutes I was just kind of pissed...but this kept going on throughout the entire movie.  And Shia LeBeouf?  He is such a douche...and terrible in this role.  And somehow he is friends with monkeys and can swing fast enough through the trees to catch up with a speeding car?  Nothing made sense in this movie...and the explanation always seemed to be "extraterrestrials."  I hated it so much.

1986 vs 2007/2009

Winner - 1986 Animated

Animated vs Live Action (kind of because it was mostly CGI) again.  I didn't think the first live action film was wasn't great but I could see how many people would like it.   The second live action movie was just terrible.  I've only watched it once because I really think that a repeat viewing would kill my brain.  Never have I seen so many explosions come off as so boring and I still have no idea what was going on with the plot.  They were not well done and really nothing of consequence really happened in either.  The 1986 animated movie was a completely different story.  Major characters were killed, the whole transformer universe was changed.  It was the most surprising movie for me since The Empire Strikes Back.  It had a really dark undertone...and it was GREAT!  The funny thing was that although I watched the TV show, I was never a huge fan until I saw this movie.

Battlestar Galatica
1978 vs 2003

Winner - 2003 Series

I am not sure why but, I was never a huge fan of the original series.  I liked the Cylons and the robo-dog but it just didn't hold much interest for me.  On the other hand, the new series was amazing.  Gripping, fast paced, great action, even better acting and characters, awesome plot twists, and lots of grit.  This series literally had it all.  It is what Star Wars should have been.  Even if you aren't a big sci-fi fan, the story and the characters could pull you in. I don't think I have been this intrigued by a TV show since the first couple seasons of 24.  Simply put - everything was done right.  The attention to details and all the small intricacies really show how much the creators thought about, understood, and respected the ideas.  I didn't think anything would ever make me look forward to seeing Edward James "Pocky" Olmos on a regular basis but there I was eagerly anticipating the next disc from Netflix (yes, thanks to a misunderstanding with the episode numbering I thought I missed a few episodes and never watched it live on TV).  Colonel Tigh - you are one of the best acted and most interesting characters on TV in a long time, I love you.

Many Others

There are more...lots - Bad News Bears (Winner - Original), Dukes of Hazzard (Winner - new movie), Dr Who (Winner - new Dr), etc...

Things to look forward to or dread

Tron - When first rumored years ago, I was thinking, "You shouldn't have come back Flynn."The original Tron was awesome, I still love it.  The Tron 2.0 video game was pretty great too...I had my doubts about the new movie before I played this game.  It proved that the Tron world could transfer very well to the current technological state of affairs.  Plus - The Dude, need I say more?  I am excited.

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Freddy looks like he is back to his original scary form.  No more lame jokes.  Scary = awesome.  Jackie Earle Haley did such a good job in Watchmen that I think this will be great.

A-Team - From the trailer it looks like they have a good mix of camp and updated action/story line.  Hopeful but trying not to have too high expectations.

Footloose - Didn't really need to be made in the first place but had a decent soundtrack...can't imagine the remake will be good.  How about someone do a movie about the freaking banned ice cream trucks in Des Moines?

The Karate Kid - Sure the original looks pretty "80s" now, but man the characters are so iconic.  I can't see Jackie Chan in the Mr Miyagi role.  I think I am going to pass.

Rock N Roll High School & Porkys - Rumor is that Howard Stern wants to remake both of these...I can't see how either would not be a disaster.


*Lesli* said...

They better not even THINK about messing with the original Footloose. I saw that in the theater when I was 9 and there is NO WAY anything could be better than the original. I'm not a fan of sci-fi stuff. I liked the new Star Trek though...kinda. and for serious....the original Dukes of Hazzard was so much better than that lame movie they made :)

Michael said...

I disagree on the Dukes...if you watch an episode now they don't hold up at all. The movie was campy fun that didn't take itself too serious. Which was a perfect fit for Dukes. Who knew that Johnny Knoxville would make a good redneck? :) Plus Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse = brilliant.

That is why Star Trek was so could appeal to fans and non-fans alike.

Lax Guy said...

Yes on Star Trek. Hell, my wife like it and that is saying something. Yes with Star Wars; I still want to strangle Jake Loyd and Hayden Christensen. Yes on Indiana Jones.
Agree that the 1980s Transformers movie beats the new ones. But the Bay films are fun and the robots look great. Do you really need a plot when you have have giants killer Transformers and a scantily dressed Megan Fox?
Agree on Shia being a douche. The "Wallstreet" sequel just pisses me off.
GI Joe was complete crap except for Ray Park as Snake Eyes. Chalk that up to the most brilliant casting ever. Too bad the costume was goofier than Cobra Commander's...
Agree on Dukes. I was a major Dukes fan growing up, but with Broken Lizard at the helm, Knoxville & Stiffler were killer as the Duke boys. The scene after the General Lee get freshly painted is freaking hilarious. Unknowingly driving around Atlanta with a giant Confederate flag on the roof was genius.
I stand corrected; Willie Nelson as Uncle Jessie trumps Ray Park as Snake Eyes.
The new Nightmare looks utterly fantastic. Hope it is more like the new Halloween than the new Friday...
You. Can NOT. Remake. Porky's.
Rock & Roll High School.. They did make a Corey Feldman sequel in 1991. It was alright. Had a fantastic drug test scene... "Hey this is not my pee!" Don't remember the original.

Anonymous said...

GREAT blog, Michael! I couldn't have said it better myself.


kelly said...

At least you can rest assured that surely no one will be foolish enough to tarnish our fond childhood memories of Megaforce, Condorman, and Under the Rainbow with hackneyed remakes. I think those gems are safe from molestation.

I do fear that some day someone will be dumb enough to try to redo the Dark Crystal. *shudder*

Michael said...

LG - I didn't mind the first Michael Bay Transformer movie. I thought it was decent, the second one however was terrible. I remember sitting in the theater about 3/4 of the way through and thinking "I really have no idea what is going on." The story just didn't make sense to me at all.
The original Rock N Roll High School was all about The Ramones. They are what made the movie. IIt was a terrible movie but campy fun with awesome music (think Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park but good) had forgotten about RnR HS really had nothing to do with the first one.

Kelly - oh yeah, I totally forgot about Under the Rainbow. So good. Damn, can't even get that on DVD!

Hate to tell you - they already made Megaforce sequels. CT and I realized this when he confused Megaforce with Delta Force. Watch the Delta Force trailers - motorcycles and dune buggies that shoot rockets and have machine guns? True the Chuck's hair isn't feathered quite as nice as Barry's though. But seriously, it is like Batman vs the Dark Knight...they just made Megaforce less campy and more bad ass.

Dark Crystal sequel is supposed to be out next year. I thought it was all going to be CGI crap, but the director evidently decided on CG and Puppets.

Six Pack is also being remade. I can't see how that will be good without Kenny. Wonder who they'll get as Breezy.