The ‘POP’-ular View: The 80s Strike Back, Plus Tim Burton

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    380pxaliceinwonderland

    The Hollywood system should be firmly placed in one of those specially marked receptacles for recycling – seriously.

    I thought it was a phase, but the truth is today’s entertainment seems fueled by the same stuff as Dr. Emmett Brown’s Mr. Fusion: recycled material. Soda cans, banana peels, refuse and whatever else you can think of; whatever fits.

    But just as the Doc’s time machine can’t run solely on the stuff he tosses into Mr. Fusion, so too, Hollywood can’t continue to cannibalize old properties and expect viewers to buy it.

    Or maybe we will…

    As a child of the 80s I have felt consternation, puzzlement and sometimes exhilaration at the recent updating of those cartoons and movies I grew up with. Granted, when news broke of a “Transformers” live action movie my first response was, “That should be cool.” Then I saw the trailer. Then I saw the movie. Then I rented the movie and didn’t watch it because it felt wrong; a faded copy of a copy worn by age.

    True, nostalgia polishes, condenses and refortifies the relics of our memories. Kids remember “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” as having better dialogue and acting than they actually had.

    Those folks 20 and under see “Star Wars” and the prequels as one complete saga and for good reason: they’re not carrying the same baggage as those of us who grew up with the original trilogy.

    I remember being so creeped out by the half human, half alien baby being delivered on “V.” A couple of weeks ago, the SyFy channel played the original series and when that scene finally came, it was sort of laughable.

    That’s because I remembered with the eyes of a child, and things are much scarier and more true and beautiful when viewing them from the distance of years.

    So what’s on the agenda?

    There’s the new “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Tron Legacy,” “Dune,” “Robotech,” “Thunder Cats,” “Clash of the Titans,” and many, many others.

    I get the need for updating and reimagining (I prefer the term “regurgitating”) really good stories. There is also the larger goal of spawning a new generation of fans from a beloved property, a la “Star Wars.”

     

    This, of course, is the cinematic perspective, but parents have been reading (and telling) stories to their children to pass on to their children for generations; it is cyclical, human nature, inevitable. I’m sure Gen Xers were thrilled to take their children to see “Transformers.” While that’s a good idea in theory, it does illustrate the sad truth that Hollywood is obsessed with looking backward.

    Think about it: most of the “new” movies being released are taken from previously released material, vis-à-vis your video game console and graphic novels. The “original screenplay,” while not entirely extinct, is becoming rarer as it relates to the summer blockbuster. “Avatar” though overly praised in my opinion, is at least an original work by Cameron and an example of fine movie making. And even great filmmakers, like Tim Burton, are signing on to do remakes.

    Burton takes another stab at the remake (let’s forget “Planet of the Apes”) with “Alice In Wonderland.” The stills and clips are visually stunning. Many have criticized Burton for being big on visuals but weak on story. “Alice” is exactly the sort of material that Burton does best — nonlinear, nonconformist entertainment that is not only imaginatively singular, but just wonderful on the eyes. One of those cinematic thrill-rides critics love to throw superlatives at with endless exclamation marks.

    “Alice in Wonderland” and “Clash of the Titans” will vie for moviegoer’s hard-earned cash. “Alice” seems destined for blockbuster status. “Clash of the Titans,” even with its thirty-something built-in audience, may struggle to find its place, and will hopefully not slip down the proverbial rabbit hole.

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