Jem and the Holograms: An Adaptation

I’ve been thinking about the uproar over the upcoming Gem and the Holograms movie. I recently watched a few episodes so I feel I have a little more insight into the issue at hand. I realize that a few episodes do not make me an expert. I also realize that I don’t really have a dog in this fight as I claim no ownership since the show was absent from my childhood. If you page through my blog you may notice that I have discussed the top of adaptations before. My philosophy concerning adaptations is that as long as it’s a good movie then I can chalk any differences to a multiverse explanation. It’s an easy mental note to make and I find multiverse theories fun and exciting.

The other night I was thinking about live action adaptations of popular cartoons. I realized I have seen quite a few of them. They are a strange animal and they are a weird choice for a studio to make. I think it’s especially the case since reintroducing these shows again as cartoons has been very successful. My Little Pony, Transformers, GI Joe, Pound Puppies and probably even more have produced successful cartoon shows in the present day. Still, studios really want to make live-action adaptations. Why? It makes a lot of money by utilizing the combined might of nostalgia and star power usually.

I don’t know how Jem and the Holograms is going to work out but there is hope. Let’s look at two examples from the past.

Scooby Doo

I watched the hell out of Scooby Doo when I was a kid even though all of the episodes were made before I was born. The show was hokey, cheaply made and it heavily relied on a formula that they always followed. Even the longest episode wasn’t longer than an hour. The characters always returned to the status quo at the beginning of each episode as the teenagers rattled along in their van from mystery to mystery. The show never really changed but it remained popular. I’m ignoring Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby Doo because everybody else seems to be ignoring it.

When the live action movie was released, they approached it in a curious way. They kept the archetypes that they had created but they also allowed the characters to grow. Instead of seeing the characters as they were on the show, we saw them at a later point in their life after some personal growth. It actually freed them up to not follow the formula exactly which was a more interesting choice. They also made the supernatural threats real instead of fake like they had been before. I thought it was a very entertaining movie although part of that was the good actors they chose. It was kind of like being told about a unicorn and going to look for it but at the same time expecting a cat with a horn glued to its head. Instead, you find a horse with a horn glued to its head. At first your disappointed but then you remember unicorns aren’t real.

Josie and the Pussycats

This movie is a much more relevant example as it was also a show about a band comprised of female characters. However, like Scooby Doo, they also solved mysteries as they travelled from gig to gig. They used the same cheap animation tricks but had the benefit of catchy music and Archie-like characters. The theme song remains a major ear worm for me and I held kind of a soft spot in my heart for Josie and the Pussycats.

The live action movie took an even more radical approach to the source material than Scooby Doo had. They updated the band to a nineties attitude and updated the music to reflect that. They cast popular young starlets (including the excellent Rosario Dawson) and set about making a movie very different from the show. The movie ended up being suprisingly good as it used a lot more satire and parody than the Scooby Doo movie. There is a lot of commentary on the recording industry and fame in general that makes a lot of sense. The movie ends up being smarter than it looks and is definitely worth a watch. It may not hold up as well as I think because I haven’t seen it in over a decade now.
So, will Jem and the Holograms be any good when it comes out? I’d actually held off watching the trailer until right now. Hold on for a sec while I watch it.

Wow, really? The movie looks fairly mediocre really. It has very little to do with the show, that’s for sure. I can understand the hate from fans now. The movie looks different enough that they could have called it anything but decided to bank on the Jem and the Holograms name. Again, I’m not really outraged because I was never a fan. Still, I’m very confused. The show had sci-fi elements to it and they had noble reasons for seeking fame and fortune and none of that is in the trailer. It’s definitely not a movie I’m going to see. I’ll be interested to see how it does in the box office though as they may have made a miscalculation or maybe not. There are enough young people who never saw the show who will love this movie. At least, that’s what I think.

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