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This is an open letter to Hollywood movie producers, studios, directors and anyone else out to inadvertently ruin the cartoons, video games & toys that I grew up with by creating and releasing terrible films. Stop. Just stop it already. There are tons of talented screenwriters out there that have written some great original work. Give them a chance. You’ll spend less and you’ll no longer be destroying the building blocks of my childhood entertainment. I think I speak for most of my generation (somewhere between generation X and generation Y) in this regard.
Hollywood, I understand that you have optioned at some point a Thundercats CGI live-action movie. I first read the news a couple years ago, but now it seems that this movie is slated for 2010 and is currently on hold. I implore you, do not destroy this honorable franchise with some over the top action movie that makes no sense and loses the focus of the original cartoon. Lion-O deserves better than to be mangled on screen in some sort of twisting of the Thundercats struggle to be a family and fight the annoyingly cunning Mum-ra. I think you recently learned that lesson with the horrendous crap fest that was Speed Racer.
Let’s take a look at just a select few of the other piles that you, Hollywood, have released over the years that have played their part in figuratively burning the entertainment staples of my childhood into ash, in my opinion of course.
Who had the bright idea to actually keep Fred’s afghan? The film version was updated from the 1969 original series, but yet, Fred still was wearing an afghan. How did any of those kids make it out of primary school? In the cartoon, the stereotypes embodied by each of the four human characters was comical and endearing. On film, it was just lame. The jokes were dull and the animated Scooby may as well been drawn with crayon.
In my opinion, this movie helped to ruin the careers of all those involved, and send Freddie Prinze Jr. straight to DVD purgatory. It wasn’t all bad, the self deprecating jokes were appreciated, but should a film based on a classic cartoon really have to make fun of itself to be appealing? It was a success though, as the kids enjoyed it. The first film grabs a 28% rating on Rottentomatoes.com which shows that anyone old enough to use the internet didn’t really dig on it.
The animated Transformers movie was awesome. You know, the one released back in 1986. This film capped off one of the greatest cartoon series ever. While Optimus Prime and friends have seen many iterations over the years, none has been so over the top as the recent live action CGI feature films. Yes, at one point this year I did endorse leaving work early to go see Transformers 2 but that doesn’t mean I loved the films. Though #9 on that list still makes their existence worth it.
Hollywood knew they had to get these ones right otherwise risk the wrath of fanboys everywhere. While the transforming was awesome, the obnoxious over the top and destructive action sequences were a little much. Try counting how many innocent people were killed in the battle scenes on the city streets. Is that a requirement in a Michael Bay film? The gritty & sweaty filmography and commercialism for General Motors ruined these movies for me, and consequently by proxy, the cartoon itself. The first film gets a 56% rating on Rottentomatoes.com while the second gets a lousy 19% proving that in order to make a sequel, you don’t have to tack on an extra 30 minutes of nonsense and a Transformer with a cane.
Now as an adult I can look back on this disaster and appreciate it for it’s camp value similar to remembering the first time I got struck out in baseball. At the time, I was baffled, confused and wondering what just happened. But now, I see that there is an inherent lesson in all of it. A moment of clarity ensues. That is, if you are going to make a movie based on a classic video game – make sure it at least makes sense, a little bit. Instead we got some strange dark back lot production that turned Koopa into the creepy guy at the park and the Mario Bros. into slack jawed plumbers amazed that they can walk upright.
So much has been said about this waste of film over the years, that I really can’t say much more. It was the first movie made that was based on a video game and should have been the last. Most importantly, it was based on Mario Bros., which was THE video game of my youth and completely brought me into the fold of the gaming world. Even the actors (some of whom were praised for their performances) regretted being in the film. Says Bob Hoskins, who played Mario, “The worst thing I ever did? Super Mario Brothers.” Super Mario Bros. has an 11% rating on Rottentomatoes.com earning a solid spot on Time Magazines list of top 10 worst video game movies ever.
While the first movie was like someone scratching a record and a chalkboard simultaneously, it was still fun. The silliness of the cartoon was there, but the effects weren’t ready for that kind of film which caused it to become something of a farce. The second and third films were strictly overkill. Or should I say roadkill? While the second film was successful, the third bombed and seemed to have been written by scared and tired fourth graders.
These movies added realism to a cartoon that was no where near realism. The magic of the cartoon is you could have turtles that mutated and grew up to be ninjas, trained by a giant rat. Turning that into film, with the rubberized costumes just tore apart the illusion and fantasy with supposed realism. Only with the 2007 release of the animated TMNT film did Hollywood get it right. Keeping with the animation brought the franchise back to life properly and with respect. The first movie ranks at 46% on Rottentomatoes.com while the second and third come in at 36% and 32% respectively. The Turtles casual attitude towards violence and their campy idiotic behavior was easily overlooked in a cartoon, not so much when they became “real.”
Where Conan succeeded in portraying the exploits of a mostly naked large sword wielding barbarian fighting off supernatural bad guys, Masters of the Universe failed miserably. Frank Langella, clearly lost on his way to brunch, somehow ended up in the role of Skeletor. While the film did star a young Courtney Cox, it also starred the square jawed Chelsea Field as Teela, not wearing the traditional slave girl type outfit, but instead fully clothed and stomping on my prepubescent fantasies.
A whopping 17 million was the eventual take home, which paid the bill of 17 million to create the film. Really, filming in damp alleyways and creating a magical keyboard cost 17 million? Or was that just the cost of baby oil for Dolph Lundgrens’ chest? Masters of the Universe holds a 13% rating on Rottentomatoes.com and is possibly the most blatant destruction of a toy line from my youth.
I stand corrected. This movie is the most blatant destruction of a toy line from my youth. As a stand alone action film that has nothing to do with G.I. Joe, it might have been a tiny bit better and not open to such criticism from self righteous geeks such as myself. Of course it was a huge success at the box office, even though the previews themselves ensured I would not be forking over any cash to see this movie in theaters. The original G.I. Joe team did not need power suits. They completed the mission on skill and teamwork (thankfully one of the values that actually did make it into the film.)
The mix of slow-mo and outrageous action with unpredictable and incoherent flashbacks left me checking the time status to see how much was left in the film. This wasn’t G.I. Joe, this was “Tough Action Guys in Power Suits Against Bad Guys with Nanotechnology.” The look they gave Cobra Commander and the Baroness’ struggle with her inner demons was the icing on the crap cake. Oh, and if your top secret hideout is infiltrated by the enemy – why would you then return to your now not-so-top secret hideout? I know there will be a sequel, but Hollywood, I wouldn’t count on the same turnout. At least learn from Transformers 2. I know we have. Oh, and Channing Tatum is about as engaging as an actor as a can of beans. G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra garners a 36% rating on Rottentomatoes.com which would cause Sgt. Slaughter to break something, or someone. At least he got a small check.
Dishonorable mentions go to the recent Dragonball Z disaster (not exactly a cartoon I grew up with but terrible nonetheless,) the Flintstones movies which actually weren’t that bad because the cartoon itself was based on a television show, Underdog and the forgettable Garfield movies. Why was Odie a real dog but Garfield was animated? Weak.
I implore you Hollywood, learn from these examples. Cease trying to make new films based on staples of my youth. It tears a piece of my geek heart each time you take a beloved and enjoyed franchise and destroy it with your misguided attempts at reinventing it on film. I know you are trying to get a He-Man live-action remake made. Don’t bother. And while the CGI in a Voltron Movie would probably be pretty damn awesome, leave it alone. By the power of Greyskull, go back to making original films with well written screenplays instead of big budget flops based on classic cartoons and toys. I know, you’ve made some money off some of these films, but does it always have to be just about the bottom line? Entertain us, don’t bludgeon us with our childhood memories. Hollywood, I thank you for your time.
What were some of your favorite toy lines or cartoons that were destroyed by Hollywood? Or have you heard something I haven’t in regards to future films? Please let me know in the comments! — By Curtis Silver, wired.com