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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.