Jem and the Holograms is a precious memory from my childhood. I’ve loved the show since it was a segment on Super Sunday, and had mix tapes of the songs that I recorded off the TV. I took news of it becoming a movie with a grain of salt. Like so many other fans, I wasn’t fond of the recent Hollywood remakes and live action adaptations of 80s properties that had been coming out lately. And I trusted even less what Hollywood would do with a girl-centric series, with all the news coming out about how little respect women in the industry and as an audience got.
After seeing the official trailer, I was sad to see my fears seemed to be born out. Nothing in the trailer seemed to suggest it had anything to do with the original series other than the names of the characters and the title. It seemed to be more of a coming of age story of a teen girl being taken in by stardom at the cost of her group, and learning the importance of family. As a fan of Jem and the Holograms I was disappointed that they went with some generic “teen girl” story rather than the excitement and over the top adventure of the animated series. I also didn’t like the costume and makeup they came up with. What is with the pink paint that covers over half of Aubrey Peeple’s face? Outrageous might be one way to describe the costumes, but not in the way it was used in the cartoon.
Now, the movies has come out, and so have the reviews, which have been less than favorable. It’s got a 25% at Rotten Tomatoes after the first weekend, and only make 1.35M of the 5M it was given to make. I won’t get into how absolutely pathetic that budget is for a movies nowadays. I’ll bet The Asylum, the makers of Sharknado and other mockbusters, probably get more for their low-budget movies. Most reviews have panned the movie for having almost none of the elements from the cartoon series, but some have tried to defend it as a decent coming of age music movie.
Here is where I have a problem with the movie. I don’t want a decent coming of age music movie. I want a Jem and the Holograms movie. This reminds me of Godzilla 1998, the American attempt to make a Godzilla movie. It made for a decent monster movie, but it wasn’t a Godzilla movie. It disappointed fans and ultimately flopped, and became an object of ridicule in subsequent Japanese Godzilla productions. It seems the same is going to be said of Jem and the Holograms.
This isn’t to say that a reboot of the series isn’t possible. The IDW comic rebooted the original series by making changes that made sense in the context of the story while still paying homage to the original. And to prove that the concept can work, the comic has been selling really well. Old and new fans love the story and artwork. I was skeptical about it at first, but the first issue just wowed me. So it’s not like old and new fans can’t agree on a new take on the story, but creators have to give them something to enjoy. The Jem and the Holograms movie is not it.
We didn’t need an “origin” story as John Chu, director and producer put it. The concept was just fine as it was, with the same elements of the importance of family already in there. Jerrica is a young woman, not a teenager, and teen girls, the intended audience I guess, would just as easily related to her as they would a teen protagonist. What we needed was 2 hours of action, adventure, fashion and fame. The cartoon was able to do it, why couldn’t Chu?