Monday, 2 May 2016

Space Jam 2: Twice The Nope

Word is that a sequel to 1996’s Space Jam is becoming more likely, with Justin Lin directing what would be a LeBron James vehicle (Somewhere Kobe is banging his head on a wall).

I’m too old to have any nostalgia for the original, and nostalgia is what’s driving this. I think I might have seen it–or part of it–a long time ago, but was completely unentertained. My bias aside, I wonder if the environment dooms this from the beginning.

The original was made because of a Nike commercial that paired Jordan with Bugs Bunny. It’s important to understand the culture at the time: Nike commercials were all the rage. It wouldn’t be an overstatement that the work by Wieden and Kennedy (mostly by Jim Riswold) made it possible for professional athletes to become cultural superstars. You didn’t have to like sports, or Jordan in particular for that matter, to enjoy Nike commercials. It was because of them that pro athletes were soon being snatched up by marketers to a greater degree than ever before. And outside of games and press conferences, commercials were the only access to them.

That’s not the case today. The big budget Nike commercials and their cultural significance are gone. Pro athletes are (arguably) overexposed, with everyone on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And as great as LeBron is, he’s still not Jordan. As much as he played the pitchman, MJ’s dominance of the sport was at an all-time high. LeBron’s Cavs are good, but they’re not 2016’s version of the 90s Bulls–that would probably be the Golden State Warriors. I think there’s an argument that the cultural landscape, even adding in the nostalgia factor, is one that will make a sequel successful.

And then there’s Lin. His breakthrough movie, Better Luck Tommorrow, was great. He took the reins of the Fast and Furious franchise and turned it into must-see movies. But then he was handed control of the second season of HBO’s True Detective series, and the results were…meh. It wasn’t all his fault, it’s not like the storyline and scripts were anywhere near as good as the first season, but his results didn’t meet the challenge of following the first season.

His wheelhouse (pun!) is the action-oriented flick, which is why his upcoming takes on Star Trek and Bourne will probably be good and make a ton of money. A children’s movie with animated characters is not the kind of thing he does. But Hollywood is addicted to recycling ideas, and when a marketing goldmine like James is attached, this is a lock to be made.

It’ll suck, I might watch part of it by accident, and in another 20 years we can all look forward to Space Jam 3.