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Weekend Roundtable: Exploiting Your Childhood

Did the world really need a prequel to ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that’s 74 years late? Did that film need a prequel at all? In honor of ‘Oz: The Great and Powerful’, this week’s Roundtable tackles other belated sequels, prequels, remakes and adaptations that attempt to exploit (and usually piss all over) movies, TV shows, books or other properties that we loved as children. At what point will Hollywood learn to just leave well enough alone?

Please note that the intent here is not just to call out any general sequel, prequel, remake or adaptation. We’re specifically looking for movies that cash-in on properties that appeal to kids, preferably those made years after the fact.

Shannon Nutt

Thanks primarily to the great work of Christopher Reeve in ‘Superman: The Movie’ and ‘Superman II’, I grew up a huge Superman fan. To this day, he remains my favorite superhero. Sure, the Reeve series ended with the turkey ‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’, but in the Summer of 2006, I was pretty excited to see Superman return to the big screen after almost 20 years. Directed by Bryan Singer, who had done such great work on the first couple of ‘X-Men’ films, here came a movie that we were assured would pay homage to Reeve’s original films, include the legendary John Williams score, and have unused footage featuring Marlon Brando. It even cast a lead in Brandon Routh, who bared a strong resemblance to Reeve himself. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it turns out… EVERYTHING. I could fill this page up with all the problems in ‘Superman Returns‘, but some of the primary ones include the decision to give Superman a son, a horrible casting of the Lois Lane character, a cartoonish over-the-top performance by Kevin Spacey, a lifeless performance by Routh, and a film where Superman doesn’t even do much. Singer turns the Man of Steel into both a wimp and a creepy voyeur (constantly snooping on Lois’ private life) during the course of the movie. Thankfully, Warner Bros. is giving the franchise one more shot this summer with another (this time unrelated to any prior film) reboot. I have no idea if it will work or not, but I know it can’t possibly be as bad as ‘Superman Returns’.

Daniel Hirshleifer

It may seem a bit strange to single out ‘The Hobbit‘, given that the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy was a massive success that won scores of Oscars. However, anyone who has read the original Tolkien books will tell you that the two properties, despite both taking place in Middle Earth and featuring many overlapping characters, couldn’t be more different. One is a fun children’s tale, while the other is an epic that attempted to create a new mythological framework.

Peter Jackson did a great job with ‘Lord of the Rings’, so it wasn’t unexpected that he’d try his hand at ‘The Hobbit’ as well. However, while it was natural for ‘Lord of the Rings’ to be split into three films, since it was also published as a trio of books, the decision to do the same for ‘The Hobbit’ is simply baffling. Yes, Jackson has said that he’s incorporating elements from outside the book to tie it in with the existing films, but at the moment, all we’ve got is one unsatisfying first film where a whole lot happens but not much actual progress is made. Why am I watching dwarves sing about doing dishes? Why am I watching them do dishes at all? Why is the Seventh Doctor running around with bird poop down his face? It’s possible that the next two films may be better, but that just begs the question of why the first film exists at all. Ultimately, while ‘The Hobbit’ was clearly lovingly crafted, it does a disservice to its source material.

Mike Attebery

I loved Spider-Man as a kid. Loved him. I read the comics in every free moment I could find. I grew up during the Alien Costume storyline, before that whole Eddie Brock/Venom thing. Venom was a good villain by the way, but there was a strange allure to that costume when Spidey was using it. The way it oozed out of the corners at night and took Peter Parker on somnambulant web-slinging journeys around Manhattan. Then came ‘Spider-Man 3‘.

The first couple of Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ films were OK, even with their blatant CGI videogame-style Spidey sequences. Then ‘Spider-Man 3′ came along. The posters had me excited for the Alien Costume story to finally play out on screen. Only… when it finally came out… the movie was an utter piece of shit! I mean, Raimi and his hack of a brother didn’t just piss on my childhood favorite, they shit all over it! I tried watching the movie again recently to see if I had been too worked up about it the first time, but no, it’s just as unwatchacble now as it was in 2007.

Brian Hoss

Due to the luxury of basic cable, I encountered the 1968 ‘Planet of the Apes’ films long ago and was amazed by the sardonic astronaut Taylor, who after escaping an unjust Earth, stumbles into an even more screwed up monkey planet. That film and its four sequels managed to elevate the simple concept of an intelligent ape society into something aspiring towards ‘Animal Farm’. Fast forward to 2001. 20th Century Fox, after rejecting years of compelling script and director combinations, wrangled in Tim Burton to make the crummy cash-in ‘Planet of the Apes‘ reboot. Burton, aware that the film had to be free of anything intelligent, elected to produce a dark tone by setting much of the film at night and of course focusing on Helena Bonham Carter wherever possible. While Burton apologists will stick up for much of his abysmal repertoire, few bother to clutch that particular failboat to their gothic-y chests.

Luke Hickman

As a product of the ’80s, I grew up frequently watching the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies with my family. We boys weren’t allowed to watch ‘Temple of Doom’ often because the violent content was deemed too dark for us, but we saw it enough that it remained a solid chapter of that great trilogy. The first time that I watched it as an adult, I realized that it’s really not all that great of a movie. But it’s still worlds better than that half-assed p.o.s. ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdome of the Crystal Skull‘.

Many people ask, “What the hell happened?” I’ll tell you: George Lucas had his hands in it. ‘Indiana Jones’ went all ‘Phantom Menace’ on us. While it didn’t weaken the previous three installments (it actually made ‘Temple of Doom’ look better), I wish that it hadn’t been included in the Blu-ray set. I said that I’d never own it, but Paramount made a liar of me.

Josh Zyber

‘The Phantom Menace’ is such as obvious choice for this category that I asked the staff to focus their attention elsewhere. Let’s just call that one a given.

Perhaps my picks are also easy targets, and will be predictable to anyone who’s read this blog for any time, but I can’t resist calling out opportunist producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura for desecrating my childhood memories with his one-two punch of the ‘Transformers‘ trilogy (especially the craptastic second movie) and ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra‘. Those two toy lines, and their corresponding comic books and cartoon series, were my childhood. I wasn’t a big superhero fan when I was a kid; I never cared much about the adventures of Superman, Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. The 1980s were all about G.I. Joe and the Transformers for me.

Unfortunately, the metallic monstrosities in Michael Bay’s live action ‘Transformers’ movies bore no resemblance at all to their iconic characters, and thinking about what Stephen Sommers did with that ‘G.I. Joe’ shitfest still makes me shudder with revulsion. You can read my reviews (linked a couple sentences ago) for my long-winded diatribes about both.

Strangely, I still look forward to this year’s ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ with some measure of hope. I must have a masochistic streak.

What movies have wrecked your childhood memories? Tell us in the Comments.

28 comments

  1. BambooLounge

    As much as I am tempted to jump on the “raped my childhood” bandwagon, the more I hear about the Michael Bay-produced TMNT movie, I think there is a larger, more interesting debate/roundtable idea here about the idea of nostalgia generally and just the state of children’s entertainment today generally.

    I mean, the G.I. Joe action figures I grew up playing with and enjoying were sure as hell not the G.I. Joe dolls my father owned as a kid. If Hasbro didn’t go back to the well in 1982 to a product line that had been dormant for 6 years, I would have missed out on some fun toys and childhood memories.

    I think the marketing world has struck on something that may not have existed before. More adults are willing to hold on to nostalgia for their youth than before. So, instead of coming up with a brand new franchise idea, companies are trying to cast a wider net. New younger audiences and nostalgic older audiences.

    The rape of one man’s childhood is another man’s link to a shared passion for a franchise with his child. Kid gets excited for new Star Trek film that rapes Trekkie father’s childhood, Trekkie father can use that link to say, “Well, if you liked that movie, let’s watch some other Star Trek stuff.”

    Whereas, I think in the “olden days,” childhood things were simply tossed aside permanently by more adults than they are today. I’m users involved in marketing or sociology can be more precise than I am being in this post, but I think the trend to “exploit” our childhoods is more a reflection of the fact that more adults hold on to their childhood than ever have before.

    • Chris G

      interesting thoughts. i think our “nostalgia” generation (those of us growing up in the 70s and 80s) is really just a generation of people who don’t really wanna grow up. People are age are getting married and having kids way later in life or not even having families. We’re like the lost boys or something, we just want to stay young with memories of childhood. And now with so much technology to remind us of our childhoods (like watching old toy commercials on YouTube for instance) we’ve become so selfish and protective of it, that any change, however big or small, is crippling to our psyches. We’ve all shared collective experiences and for someone else to exploit that is personally offensive. To equate it with rape, is obviously going a tad overboard in my opinion, but i think most of us need to chill out a bit. and like you mentioned, presenting a revamped property for a new generation may even invoke newbies to seek out its origin – the older and most times better version.

      • Whats wrong with not wanting to grow up when it comes to movies based on beloved (at least by us) franchises. Whats the point of making a Transformers movie and then turning characters that had distinct personalities into nameless stereotypes. Hell Scatman Crothers brought Jazz to life and imbued it with more personality than the entire Cast of all three Transformers flicks. When the character died in the first Movie I was actually relieved, at least i think it was jazz I really couldn’t tell them apart. Bumblebee one of the most chatterbox of the Autobots doesen’t even talk, WTF????

        I used to really enjoy Michael Bay movies since “”The “I”ll take pleasure in guttin you boy!” Rock. “”

        Now I hate the guy almost as much as George Lucas for not only ruining Star Wars but Indy as well. A world with new installments of Star Wars and Indy should have been a good thing now it Just makes me sad. Hell he almost ruined E.T. by convincing Spielberg to dgitally alter the guns out of it. Luckily he seems to have learned his lesson otherwise the recent release of Jaws on BluRay would have been full of CGI shark scenes and Roy scheider woulda said “sonofagun” at the end instead.

  2. I was just talking about the heartbreak Spiderman 3 caused me. I too was a big Spiderman fan, particularly of the symbiote era, and I was sooo excited for that movie. I dragged my girlfriend to see it opening night and hated every second of it. Spent the whole night and most of the next day bitching and moaning about it, to the point where I convinced myself (like you said) that maybe my expectations were too high, it couldn’t have been that bad, and I dragged her to see it AGAIN the very next night aaaaaannnnd hated it. I also bought it on release day aaaaaaaannnnd hated it. Never again Spiderman 3, never again.

  3. JM

    ‘Jurassic Park IV’ with claw slashes as the dino numerals is a 2014 exploitation I’m anticipating against all Crichtonesque logic. I don’t know which hole(s) it’s going to rape, but I’m beyond Stockholm on this one.

    Nintendo is the only registered sex offender that I’ve completely turned against.

    ‘Star Wars XIII-2′ I already feel the Lucasfilm tinglings in my secret loins…

    • David Weishahn

      He’s blaming Sam’s other brother, Ivan, who co-wrote the script to Spider-man 3.

    • Loved Return to Oz, amazingly dark take on the whole world that I grew up watching, I still watch this one, fun stuff :)

      Nothing has really “raped” my childhood, I really enjoyed Transformers and its sequels (well except #2 the more I see it) and even GI Joe was stupid fun, yeah it messed up a lot of stuff but I liked it. Most of these complaints I just cant see something like GI Joe turning that old outdated cartoon into something that would work on any more of a level than Sommers version did. All of this stuff has to be updated to fit our current times and situations with most of the 80s goodness we grew up loving not even close to being relevant any more.

      I dont get too upset about most of this stuff.

      As for The Hobbit, I absolutely LOVE that movie, I’ve seen it 4 times now and I plan to keep watching it, I really enjoy the extra time we get to spend with all the characters and certainly dont feel that its filler or too long, I anxiously await the Extended Cut coming this fall and of course the sequels, yeah the book probably shouldnt be this long but as movies they stand on their own while turning the Hobbit into a more mature story that ties into the Lord of the Rings, I dont see anything wrong with what Peter Jackson has done, its an epic to its truest form and it will probably be one of the best told and put together story lines ever done in cinema :)

  4. Scott Hunvald

    I was super excited to see spider man 3 due to venom being it, he is my favorite Spider-Man villain. My buddies and I went downtown to the only full size IMAX theater on opening night, waited two hours in line to get in and man I had never cringed more while watching a movie, especially during the scenes of emo spidey dancing down the street and the whole time in that piano bar. The rest of the movie suffered from too many characters. And lets not forget the mis casting of Eddie Brock, and Peter saying good bye to Harry, really. My buddies and I were so disappointed.

  5. wedwood

    There’s far too much ‘raped my childhood’ nonsense when it comes to sequels/prequels like KOTCS and TPM.

    Sure, they weren’t great, but they were what they were, popcorn flicks.

    Those of us old enough to remember the original cinematic releases of Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies will remember that they were really good family movies and in that regard, the new movies do their job.

    If you want arthouse, go to an Ang Lee movie, if you want a good popcorn flick, then Spielberg/Lucas.

    And dont tell me ghosts coming out a box is any less ridiculous than aliens, or some nonsense that ‘aliens dont fit’, or jumping out of a plane with a dinghy is less ridiculous than falling out of a fridge !!!

    • No No No, Don’t try to defend Lucas with that family friendly crap. Empire strikes back is one of the most awesome movies ever and it was just as family friendly in the 80′s. The problem is I cant see the original, well not legally, I have the De-Specialized versions that i obtained shall we say in a Scoundrel like fashion.

      Lucas didn’t just screw up the prequels he pulled some god awful crap on the originals. I dont mind new editions but we should be able to see the originals as they were in the 80′s. Claiming that they no longer exist is such a cop out and I am glad that he no longer has creative control. One thing i know is that JJ Abhrahms gets that era of story telling as Super 8 and Star Trek proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Maybe we will finally get a fun and intelligent Star Wars Sequel instead of what George turned them into.

  6. William Henley

    I spedread the topic, and was originally thinking “Scarlett”, but then saw that this is specifically for kids movies.

    How about the obligatory The Phantom Menace?

    Smurfs, Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks (especially Chipwreaked), Inspector Gadget.

    • Chris

      “Smurfs, Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks (especially Chipwreaked), Inspector Gadget.”
      Don’t forget underdog

      • I saw The Smurfs yesterday. I liked Hank Azaria! The movie wasn’t “EXCELLENT!!!!”, but it wasn’t childhood rape either. Had I been 10, I would have loved it.

  7. Chris

    GI Joe movie… The movie felt like they gave some kids some GI Joe figures and filmed them in a sand box then filmed it round that. For that reason alone it was perfect. Why do our nostalgic movies need to be dark and serious. I wend to see The Phantom Menace in 3d. When Jar jar entered the scene I wanted to cringe but the theater had a bunch of young kids and they were laughing their butts off. I love the the new batman movies but they are a bit too violent for young kids. So when The Phantom Menace came out and it was aimed for kids and adults we all piss and moan it was too silly. I have a feeling it the original Star Wars was released today it would be rated a 7/10 at best. We just place our expectation so high and expect the stories to be written just for us not for the younger audiences of today. For the record I’d watch The Phantom Menace any day over the twilight crap that fills theaters today.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I don’t disagree with you that a lot of movies that appeal to children today are too dark. However, it’s perfectly possible to make a good kids’ movie that isn’t mind-numbingly stupid. While the original Star Wars may not have been an intellectual art film, it wasn’t stupid. The Phantom Menace, on the other hand, is profoundly stupid.

      G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is brain-meltingly stupid. It should have featured a Surgeon General’s warning that children under 10 who watch it may suffer profound intellectual disabilities for the rest of their lives, with a significant chance of them lapsing straight into catatonia. The world became a significantly dumber place as a result of that movie existing.

      • You’re gonna hate me for saying this, but… I kinda enjoyed G.I. Joe, but then again, I was never into the toys and cartoons as a kid. I just thought the movie was a great fun roller-coaster ride. Daft, silly, but fun.

        I’m with Chris on The Phantom Menace. I’m a heeeuuuugggeee Star Wars fan, and I spent a long time being negative and disappointed with the prequel trilogy. Then two things happened. I met a friend’s daughter who was completely Star Wars obsessed, and I had the equivalent of Chris’ experience, seeing it through the kid’s eyes. It doesn’t blind you to the flaws, but it lets you see them for what they are and appreciate the movie for what it is. Secondly, Avatar came out, and everyone started praising it beyond all reason and saying it was better than Star Wars. I had a think about all the reasons that Star Wars slams Avatar into the ground without even noticing it, and realised that from a story and creative perspective, the prequel trilogy are extremely good. Sometimes miscast (Natalie I-can-be-out-acted-by-a-plank Portman), sometimes cringe-worthy (yes, Jar Jar) but they’re still enormous fun and miles above most science fiction movies.

        • William Henley

          I’m the same way – I enjoyed Rise of Cobra, but I was not a fan of the show or the toys as a kid. I found the movie a great adrenalin rush.

          I actually liked the Lost In Space movie until I saw the original series, years later, and realized why so many people hated the movie.

          I guess it all has to do with whether or not you were a fan of the source material. Then again, as you are selling to fans of the source material, you should probably try to stay true to it – even if you are rebooting the series. (I think Star Trek is a good example of a movie that did this well)

        • I actually was surprised how much i liked Rise of Cobra too. But dont blame the SW Prequls on the actors, with the exception of the kid who played Anakin in TPM all of the actors have proven that they have talent in other movies etc. No the Blame falls squarely on the Horrible directing of George “Once more with less feeling” Lucas.

          I find watching the Prequels as much fun as a Root Canal, and this is coming from some one who waited overnight in line for Tickets to the Phantom Menace. 24 Hours of my life i would gladly like to get back.