There seems to be a wave of nostalgia-based movies on the rise, but when you really think about it, there isn’t. Movies (as well as comics and “re-imagined” TV shows) based on such shows as Underdog, The A-Team, Miami Vice, Land of The Lost, Josie & The Pussycats, and most recently Jem all lack any real nostalgia. I call them Not-stalgia productions. They bare the name of something you grew up with but when you watch it you don’t see the reasons you spent time and/or money to watch or read this. Because the creators didn’t care about your show, just their story. So why does this keep happening and why is it our fault?
Yes, money is the obvious reason. We’ll stick with movies, although there have been comics like Dynamite’s Voltron up there that do this as well, because it’s easier that way and it’s the biggest culprit. So yes, money. the movie studios know people are nostalgic for shows they grew up with, since the home video market is full of old shows, TV Land has been joined by the likes of Retro TV, Antenna TV, and Cozi TV (I sense a pattern), and streaming services like Hulu and Netflix (as well as video sharing sites like YouTube, Dailymotion, and lesser-known sites, sometimes legally and sometimes not) have plenty of them. (Boomerang seems less interested in older cartoons than they used to be.) They all know people want to see shows they or their parents/grandparents grew up with out of curiosity or to make fun of. And Hollywood sees the obvious dollar signs.
What they don’t see are the reasons we like these old shows, not just because we grew up with them but some of them are still enjoyable when our tastes haven’t moved past them. I still enjoy some older programs because they fit my tastes, while few of today’s shows can stop being overly serious, show traditional families like the one I grew up with in a positive light (or sometimes any of my values or viewpoints–and in fact may go out of their way to tell me I’m unwanted for the crime of a different opinion), tend to be depressing or mildly perverted, or just aren’t fun. The shows I grew up with were fun to watch, even the serious shows. They were a part of my childhood and if I had kids I would like to share them, or a modern update with my kids.
Except we don’t get a modern update, we get a re-imagining like Battlestar Galactica (which was still good) or parodies like Land Of The Lost (which wasn’t). Or we get the latest failure, Jem, who is not only a terrible adaptation but is just using one of the generic rising music star plots every rising music star movie uses that seems to be trying to drive people out of the music industry. And it’s not like you can’t research these old shows nowadays. Like I said, these shows are available on home video or streaming services, or retro television networks, or you can look up fan sites on the internet. There is NO excuse not to look into a past property and see how it should be done, or at least find out why fans like it and remember this in your script. So why don’t they?
One reason is the same that hit the new licensed properties that came before it. Somebody had a script they were trying to push past b-movie level, saw they could alter it to match some popular IP that some studio wanted to make a movie of knowing full well that neither the writers nor the director knew or cared to know anything about what was being adapted beyond the series plot, and thus the movie was made. You have a script ready so you can hopefully get the movie made while the property is still popular. This is what happened with the Super Mario Brothers movie and I’m betting Masters Of The Universe as well.
Another possible reason is that the creators of the movie did take a look at the source material and decided they could “improve” on the original. Ron Moore got lucky with his version of Battlestar Galactica (proving that the re-imagining may not be bad but will still tick off fans of the original), in that people loved his vision. However, Glen Larson imagined an analog for a spiritual journey (based on his Mormon beliefs) while Moore wanted to focus more on the hunted refugee angle. You can decide which you prefer but either way it causes the same problem: the fans of the original will NEVER see a proper update of their old favorites. Even the characters show no connection to the originals. It’s like a whole new plot.
Do you think we’ll get a movie with Jem and the Holograms, their rivals the Misfits, or any of the proper mix of soap opera, drama, science fiction, music, and occasional bouts of insanity? Probably not. The aforementioned rival band was originally a big part of the Hologram’s origin story but from what I hear they only get a brief cameo at the end of the movie, while every other aspect is tossed aside. (By the way, wasn’t that movie at least in part crowdfunded? Fans of the show who bought into that must be royally honked off right now.) It will be years before the memories of Will Ferrell’s Land Of The Lost passes before someone can try to make something closer to the original show, or even the better update TV show from the 90s. Anyone who wasn’t nostalgic for either version of that show or didn’t watch the SyFy marathon in anticipation will only remember the original movie and may not risk seeing another attempt for whatever reason. So now that show and the others I’ve mentioned in this article will never get a proper update…considering the studio hired someone who actually did their homework this time around or were already fans instead of lying about it as so many of these directors do. They just see a chance to make something they wanted to make by ripping off names and throwing the occasional nod (like scraps to a dog) to the fans while making whatever the heck they wanted anyway. I’m looking at you, Michael Bay!
So how are WE part of the problem? Well, I should say you because I don’t have the money to go to these things and I’m smart enough to let other fans suffer first unless I want to do a review of it. These not-stalgia movies keep getting made because fans don’t learn their lesson. Ever. Fans of both Miami Vice and GI Joe with friends who liked The Transformers or Josie And The Pussycats? You should already know that any nostalgia movie produced recently is about as faithful as a video game movie (whether Uwe Boll is directing or not) and has been for years. And yet people paid into the Jem Kickstarter and sent in their YouTube videos talking about how much they loved the band not realizing what they were about to get involved with wasn’t in any form what they grew up with. And you shouldn’t be surprised by now but you still are, and you still going to it hoping to see an update of your childhood favorite only to be disappointed. And it’s your fault for falling for it yet again, and convincing the studios that this fake out will continue to make them money every time without any real work on their part.
It’s time to tell the studios to stop making not-stalgia and put the effort into making a proper nostalgia movie or just not bother and create something new instead. It’s going to end poorly and it’s as much your fault for convincing them that it’s okay to be lazy or push their “masterpiece” with the scraps of your nostalgia as it is the creators who raid our childhoods for a cheap buck. Stop supporting these until they stop screwing up. But you won’t and this will happen again and again and again because sometimes hope CAN be a bad thing when the evidence suggests otherwise.