“Hey! Let’s make a Batman movie but instead of fighting crime in Gotham, he’s a lawyer in Fiji!”. “I’ve got it, how about an Archie movie but instead of Betty and Veronica, he’s in love with a girl named Jane Smith?”. “Even better, let’s make a Transformers movies but here’s the twist: they don’t transform into ANYTHING!”
If the trailer is to be believed, this seems to be equivalent to the thought process behind the big screen adaptation of Jem and The Holograms. There’s so many of us out there, the fan boys and girls who still live for the original 80s cartoon, a show that defied logic by being part action-adventure, part soap opera, part music video, part fashion show, part so much more. Somehow all the parts fit together to create a completely unique series that has never been duplicated. It was ahead of its time. It still is.
Do I sound like I’m being too reverent? Hold the phone. Because I wasn’t asking for much.
When news broke that Jon M. Chu would be directing the movie version of Jem and the Holograms my brain exploded. I was thrilled but there was a mixed bag of emotions: my girls were coming back! But as with so many Hollywood adaptations I was nervous. Would they get it right? Would my standards be too high? Would this new iteration of Jem come even close to the revolutionary, girl-powered, kick-ass, glam fest from days of yore? Still, I took to social media and posted the crap out of the headline because JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS!
“A modern take” they said. “For the fans” they said. “Truly outrageous” they said.
Before the trailer, before the photos, I thought about what it would take for me to get behind this film. I understand that sometimes changes need to be made to a story when adapting it from one media to another, and especially when moving it from the 80s to the 2010s. But there we’re a handful of crucial details. Jem’s true identity would have to be Jerrica. She’d have a sister named Kimber with bandmates Shana and Aja (maybe throw in late arrival Raya if you want). Jem would have a super computer/synthesizer called Synergy that creates holograms that Jem could control through red-star earings. Rio would be in love with both Jerrica and her secret identity Jem, and Jerrica would be conflicted about this. The Misfits, those nasty, amazing, punk rock bitches, would be The Holograms’ arch rivals. There would be perils, races against time, romance, magic, and wild fashions.
That’s it. Those were my only stipulations.
I didn’t insist that the Holograms rise to fame at a Battle of the Bands, during which they would win Starlight Music, Starlight House, and a movie contract. It wasn’t crucial that they also run an orphanage, ride that fancy town car, or that Synergy be a gargantuan machine hidden at the drive-in, or that Synergy’s “human” form be that of Jerrica and Kimber’s late mother. Go ahead, tweak the origin story, but you have got to keep the essentials.
No Misfits. No holographic powers. No Synergy. (for the record, Jem does say “showtime Synergy” at one point in the trailer but I have my doubts she’s speaking to the famed special effects super computer of the same name.)
You don’t make Wolverine without claws. You don’t have Scooby Doo without shaggy. You don’t have Doctor Who without the T.A.R.D.I.S.
Jem becomes a star through a viral video. Fine. Very much in keeping with the times. The music and fashions have been updated. Naturally, you still want to market to the young and hip crowd. Aja and Shana are the foster daughters of Jerrica and Kimber’s Aunt. Bringing the foster system back into it, nice touch. I don’t even care that Eric Raymond is a woman or that Rio’s hair isn’t purple (although COME ON, why isn’t it purple?!). What’s got me and a lot of other people pissed off is they’ve taken everything that made the original series fun and exciting and unique and washed it down with a Hannah Montana story line with no new life or energy. It’s just a girl band. They get famous. They learn the price of fame. They’re friends forever.
Admittedly, this is all based on the trailer. Will there be a second trailer that reveals all the things that would have made this a Jem movie worth watching? I remain pessimistic.
There’s no magic. No adventure. And the worst, and most unforgiveable, there are no Misfits.
There’s no point in Wonder Woman if she doesn’t have powers. There’s no Autobots without Decepticons.