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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

MYOPIC NOSTALGIA – OR ARE THEY TRYING TO RUIN MY CHILDHOOD?

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 childhood.”

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 nostalgia…

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.”

Yikes…

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.

Sigh…

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 year.

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!

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