MYOPIC NOSTALGIA – OR ARE THEY TRYING TO RUIN MY CHILDHOOD?
Every time the rebooting of an iconic entertainment
franchise is announced, rabid fans of the original series turn their heads away
from repeatedly viewing authorized release or bootleg DVDs of the original
series to scream knee-jerk bloody murder.
“It can’t possibly as good as the original. Look what they
did to I Spy, The Wild Wild West, and The
Avengers – the real Avengers,
Steed and Emma, not those costumed jerks. These people are destroying my
How dare any actor step into the roles of their coveted
heroes as portrayed by the original actors? How dare any studio who owns the
rights mess up their childhood
memories by remaking their favorite shows for a new generation?
For my money, these curmudgeons are indulging in what I call
myopic nostalgia – an inability to see the flaws in the original shows and an
unwillingness to change anything at all in a reboot of the idea.
Unfortunately, these curmudgeons are also mostly right. I Spy, The Avengers (British spy version) and The Wild Wild West reboots were truly awful, and so were Starsky & Hutch, Mod Squad, 21 Jump Street, The
Honeymooners, Dark Shadows, and Bewitched. Even the goofy original Dukes of Hazzard television series looks
like classic literature when compared to the offensive, boneheaded, remake,
which had no understanding of the sweet, light, comedic touch that endeared the
original to so many. And the less said the better about that offense against
humanity referred to as The Green Hornet,
for which I will never forgive Seth Rogan…never. Talk about your myopic
While some of these examples, like the 21 Jump Street remakes, sold enough tickets at the box office to
bring about further films in the franchise, most lost millions and millions of
dollars while committing the double whammy of angering their built in fan base
while boring any potential new fans in the audience. Despite this, remakes and
reboots remain big business as Hollywood searches for the new golden franchise…
Favorite television series are not the only fodder Hollywood
victimizes for the ham-fisted remake/reboot treatment. They also cannibalize
their own revered and not so revered movie franchises:
“Let’s remake Ghostbusters,
but with an all-female cast.”
“We just can’t get Spider-man
quite right, so let’s make him Hispanic.”
“People will be lining up around the block for Police Academy: Next Generation.”
However, for every baker’s dozen of failed reboots,
something decent sneaks through. If we ignore the first misfire in the series
of remakes [SPOILER ALERT: Making
Jim Phelps a traitor was going way too far], Mission Impossible 2, 3,
and 4 were pretty good romps, and I
have high hopes for Mission Impossible 5
later this year.
Though it had little in common with the original series, and
certainly has its share of haters, I still enjoyed the recent remake of The Equalizer (with Denzel Washington
taking over the iconic role from the very English Edward Woodward). I found it
relatively entertaining – completely different, with little in common with the
original series, but relatively entertaining.
The various Star Trek
reboots have their share of fans and critics. I enjoyed the first of director J.
J. Abram’s outings and was disappointed by the second, but they both made huge
money despite what I think.
And money is apparently the point.
Recently, the first trailer was released for the latest reboot
to tread on hallowed ground. After many failed attempts, the venerable ‘60s spy
show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is
finally getting the big screen treatment. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are
taking over the roles of Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin from Robert Vaughn
and David McCallum, with Guy Ritchie scripting and directing.
The U.N.C.L.E. fan base is still surprisingly vibrant as the
original show struck a chord with many impressionable youth. I’ve written in
this column before about how U.N.C.L.E. shaped my own choice of career, and how
much of my youth was spent chasing THRUSH agents around the neighborhood while
brandishing the TV tie-in toy guns produced for the series.
As can be imagined, the doomsayers in the fan base had
already predicted the awfulness of the U.N.C.L.E. movie before the first scene
had ever been shot. Complaints about the casting, ranging from Armie Hammer
being so much taller than David McCallum, to Henry Cavill’s wooden performance
in the ghastly Man of Steel reboot of
the Superman franchise, were rife.
Before a note was put down on the score, complaints about the soundtrack and
speculation about the use of the original theme were heard from far and wide.
The fact the reboot will be an origin story of how Solo and
Kuryakin first met and how U.N.C.L.E. was formed – making the reboot a period
piece set in the ‘60s – has met with a certain amount of derision by some fans
who want a movie that picks up in full swing where the series left off. And
there is consternation neither Robert Vaughn nor David McCallum were offered
cameo appearances. And where, oh, where
is that familiar U.N.C.L.E. logo.
I own the full series of The
Man from U.N.C.L.E. on DVD in the cool briefcase carrier, the LP and CD
releases of the original soundtrack, know exactly where my U.N.C.L.E. ID card
and yellow triangular badge are safely kept, and I recently spent three days at
the Golden Anniversary Affair, a
convention celebrating 50 years of U.N.C.L.E.
I’m a fan. A big fan. A huge fan. And I for one am excited
for the new film.
Will it be everything I want it to be?
If it is a good solid spy film that is better than any of
the episodes from season three of the original U.N.C.L.E. show (when the series
lost its way in goofiness, before trying to patch things up in the 4th
and final season); if it’s better than any episode of your choice from The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (not hard); and
if it makes U.N.C.L.E. accessible to new fans, then it will hit the standard to
which I am measuring the success of the film.
The recently released trailer looks good – not perfect, but
certainly encouraging. Both actors appear to be enjoying themselves in their
respective roles and there is a certain cadence and light touch of class, which
was a big part of the original series’ success. I have enjoyed most of Guy
Ritchie’s movies, especially his Sherlock Holmes outings. I’m hoping he can
again capture lightening in a bottle with The
Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Another excellent sign is Warner Bros. moving the movie
release date from February – the traditional wasteland where many bad movies have
been sent to die – to August, a prime release month between wrapping up the big
summer blockbusters and the release of the Oscar bait films at the end of the
I don’t think The Man
from U.N.C.L.E. movie is necessarily going to win the reboot lottery, but
I’m betting it will get most of the numbers right. However, it better include
the original Jerry Goldsmith theme! You
hear me, Guy Ritchie? You better use the
original theme! Don’t change one single note! The theme is sacrosanct! You hear
me? You hear me? Don’t ruin my childhood!