If it's crap ... We'll tell you
With the release of Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon hot on our heels, I've really been thinking about how good or bad the movie will actually be. While I and several others were rather annoyed by Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen for a staggering amount of reasons, I won't forget how people were at the Midnight Screening of that film. The entire theater was packed beyond belief, and thoroughly entertained from start to finish. But it actually wasn't necessarily from the fights, it was more from the comedy. The idea of Shia LeBeouf's Mom eating pot brownies or the dialogue between Skids and Mudflap had people just rolling laughing. It was the crowd's enjoyment for the non-Transformers-affiliated things that had people loving it so much. The whole issue has me concerned with what makes a franchise-based movie unsettling with myself and Spilldos alike.
Think about what seems so appealing with this trailer. Yes, we're going to feel doubtful because of how Bay's adaptation has been so far...but what has felt the most off-putting about the series? I believe it comes from a simple, reoccurring issue of human characters being forced upon us within heavy franchises.
Now, I fully understand why these characters appear in the films. Some properties, like Alvin and the Chipmunks have a plot based around talking chipmunks living in the real world and how they react to people. And some franchises, like comic book movies, bank off the star power and acting potential of the actors involved. But what about the series that are beyond the need for humans in general? What makes a writer really stride for the need of a completely new, wedged-in human character within a movie about talking robots or animals other crazy things that come to mind? Well, this article is to take a peak of famous and bizarre examples of famous properties which garnered mixed reactions from their "normal" inclusions.
Since we are already on the subject of the series, we may as well dissect it to it's based history. Lots of people love the Transformers new and old, and probably have the longest consistency of fans from their loved cartoons back when they originated in the 80s to Today. Even the old, animated feature has a group of devoted fans for it's constant fights, tear-jerking moments, and cheese-tastic soundtrack. However, when people are asked about why they love Transformers? One thing you will never see a person say, is the series inclusion of humans. With the exception of the "Beast Wars" spinoff, there have been humans in every incarnation of the franchise. But what can human characters provide that the natural story cannot?
Okay, aside from sex-appeal you can look at for free on the internet. Usually, humans in this show have been used as a plot device and nothing more. Hell, that's what Sam Witwicky is for the most part, just a glorified mcguffin. Even with his history (according to wikipedia) within the comics and shows, no one cares. People have even stated that humans are a detriment to later versions of the series.
Now, with the emphasis of the military in the 3rd film, I can say the importance of human characters can be justifiable. From recent commercials, it looks like the humans will actually fight with the Decepticons face-to-face. It can even be forgiven that Michael Bay admitted the script was a complete rush job and not up to par. However, the biggest crux to the 2nd film, and partially the 1st film was turning the robots into sidekicks to people like Shia LeBeouf and John Turturro. If the movie series wishes to win more praise and higher sales, then it's crucial to focus on the mistakes made in the first place, and have the series be about giant, destruction-reeking robot-aliens and not humping dogs.
2. He-Man and The Masters of the Universe
If you've listened to the Green Lantern Audio Review, Co-Host points out an interesting trend in fantasy movies where a lot of the film's central focus is based on Earth or it's people. Korey referred to this as "He-Man Syndrome" since the titular character hardly spent any time on his world of Eternia. Ryan Reynolds' even makes a reference to He-Man within the movie! What's very peculiar about this movie, is that it actually had a live-action adaptation in the same decade it was created, yet it doesn't have any respect or love from He-Man fans because of how hard this movie tanked. As Leon said, you know you have a problem when the highest paid/first person mentioned in your opening credits, is the midget actor Billy Barty.
As Star Wars-ish and cheesy fun as this trailer looks, the film is not looked with a lot of love. The plot of the film says that after Skeletor has captured Castle Grayskull, He-Man and his pals get accidentally sent to Earth after using a new invention from Gwildor (Billy Barty's character), and Skeletor must track him down to Earth in order to fully crush all of Eternia's Forces. But unfortunately for many fans of the series, most of the film takes place on earth, where we watch the struggle of two average high school students and how they get involved with the oddities of inter-galatic muscle men.
While much of the shift in setting can be attributed to the cheap production and budget (22 Million sounds like enough), the film in general just lacked from it's plot, dialogue, acting and mood to keep fans entertained. Nor did it attract general audiences, which is why the film in general under-performed. While this movie can be reflected with a sense of nostalgia and has the benefits of a modern, enjoyable series, it does make you wonder if these events could echo again. Could Green Lantern be the end of superhero films as people are willing to judge? Only history can tell.
3. Looney Tunes
I definitely would say that this is the biggest current culprit of this trend of having "human" elements. Let's face it, all of us love Looney Tunes. The snappy one-liners, the memorable characters, the iconic attitude and interaction kept this award-winning, spin-off heavy franchise alive for more than 70 years. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are like Mickey Mouse, an American Institution of creative force. In recent years though, it's easy to say that Warner Bros. has been milking the every loving hell out of the Looney Tunes, in every form video games to TV series to films.
Now, I know what you must be thinking why Space Jam isn't the clip. Yes, I enjoyed the movie as a kid, but that's because it had a lot of the things I loved about the time of the 90s, with cartoons and Basketball stars and absurdly catchy music. The fact that Korey Coleman drew a shadow in the movies gives it extra value! It's a bad movie, but a memorable one because of it's brilliant marketing.
...Does anyone even remember anything about Looney Tunes: Back in Action? This movie really just seem to come-and-go compared other things, especially for a Live-Action CGI movie. It's odd that out of all of the properties that took this route, Looney Tunes was one of the ones that was completely forgotten. It didn't even get a sequel compared to Garfield or Alvin and the Chipmunks. Perhaps it was because of the plot used the typical spy-schtick, which is one of those surprisingly common occurrences in PG to Kids Films. Just reading the synopsis feels so bizarre, because this isn't really what made those Looney Tunes shorts great. But no, it doesn't end there.
It's kind of hard to not mention the New Looney Tunes Show. (I won't even get into the cringe inducing Loonatics Unleashed) Some of these cartoons were even fun spinoffs like the Duck Dodgers Cartoon or Taz-Mania! However, reaction to this new cartoon has been really iffy. And for why? Well, it created a sense of a structure around the Looney Tunes that feels...unnatural. They never really had this, and in general, it made these lovable icons just seem like sitcom archetypes. It feels like the creators wanted to go into a new direction with the Looney Tunes, but it isn't really showing success or longevity like the newer remakes of say, My Little Pony or Scooby Doo which really have a love for the older material.
4. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
Now, all of these cartoons have a key difference between an integration of humans or using no people at all. However, there's always that hanging level of execution. This movie is probably what created the big trend of all of these old series coming back for a new generation. Hell, the most recent one in memory was Yogi Bear, a movie the Spill Crew was pleasantly surprised with, but many critics bashed. But what separates these two really famous examples of old cartoons brought back in movie form?
Yogi Bear had a budget of 80 million, and earned 200 million worldwide. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a very famous box office bomb, and it was even released in the Summer, around Independence Day. How could it have gone so awry? I even remember when it came out, there was lots of advertisement. This movie I believe was one of those rare exceptions where the audience was really not interested in the property. Even though Rocky and Bullwinkle interact with humans and the original short actually had several story-arcs within, it just doesn't appeal to today's people. The show is general is very dated with it's mindset and actions, even more so than Hanna-Barbera cartoons. But you also can't ignore the bloated amount of actors in the movie, which is probably what may have turned people off and raised it's budget.
I think Rocky's face here in the video speaks for itself.
5. The Smurfs
You all knew this one was going to come up. It's probably the biggest example this season to cause horrendous amounts of nerd-rage, especially to you John Rubio fans. The Smurfs was popular for quite a long time, and especially with it's cartoon for the 80s. It lasted throughout the whole freaking decade. And what's the movie filled with? A bloated amount of celebrities, for doing voice and live acting in New York City. While the teaser trailer infuriated all of us, I see a grand missed opportunity within the trailer.
Remember how we joked about Avatar being nothing but Smurfs in Trees? Well, since this movie is in 3D and they clearly have an idea on how Smurf Village should look, why not just make a trippy, pure CGI film? I don't think Hank Azaria is a bad choice as Gargamel, since it was an evil sorcerer who was the Smurfs' villain. At the most, the series was a cute, harmless set of personalities that was charming for kids. But with this movie...it's unsettling for all movie-goers
It just feels incredibly strange and off-putting to pull this kind of move. Really, where do you go from putting Smurfs in New York City with two random adults? The franchise is also a bit of an odd choice, because The Smurfs never had a big merchandising push or close fanbase compared to some of the other series. It might be too much in the vein of parody as well, with the comparisons or jokes based on Avatar and how we know that "Smurf" is just a replacement for any naughty word. I even feel odd knowing that Fred Armisen is voicing Brainy Smurf, when I still hear the original voice actor of the character on Robot Chicken. I think the best-case scenario for this movie, is something like Beverly Hills Chihuahua, where it looks like it'll be the most terrible thing ever, but the full movie is not so bad. (Ironically enough, same director)
This is just a handful of nostalgic creations that have been brought to the silver screen. And who knows, maybe they will be reincarnated once in again in a more loving form. Kids who even love these movies or shows now can discover the older series that we or your parents used to love. It's just one of those things that really makes you wonder what goes on in the heads of Hollywood. In our new age of technology and Youtube where it takes seconds to do research, will our franchises be as good as some of the reimaginings today?
We'll just have to find out. And who knows? After all, a campy superhero about a man in a bat suit is going to live on as a gritty, Academy Award winning crime drama thanks to a certain group of people.