And not, in fact, the bomb.
In fact, Jem and the Holograms’ $1.3 million box office was so low that it was actually a flop of historic proportions. Of course, the lesson Hollywood will take from Jem’s failure isn’t to be more faithful to the source material. Instead, Jem will be used as another example of why a female-led superhero franchise will never succeed; coincidentally on the same day Supergirl on CBS is poised to prove the opposite is true. And no, you did not read that wrong. Jem was — and is — a superhero property.
Even though some of us have tried to keep up hopes that the Jem film wouldn’t be that bad. Other NOCs — and Jem superfans — have been suspicious of the movie and its all-male production team from the jump. If you read the reviews and analysis that are out there, it seems that those fears were justified.
From Charlie Jane Anders’ review on io9:
The main characteristic of Jem and the Holograms is a terrible, soul-numbing blandness, that accurately replicates the feeling of watching a few dozen amateur YouTube videos. The “girl power” of the original has been replaced by a kind of denatured internet power, selfhood by consensus. You should drag your children to see this movie only if you wish them to come away understanding your contempt, not only for their intelligence, but for their very personhood.
Anders’ review is the best one I’ve read and is probably way more entertaining than the movie itself. The thing is, I don’t want to harp on how shitty the movie is or isn’t and talk more about the fallout of its failure.
Forbes’ Scott Mendelson has a lengthy piece about how damaging Jem’s box office tanking can be for future projects but also how the movie was set up for failure from the very beginning.I co-sign the whole thing, except for the uncalled for dig he makes against LEGO Friends. Because you know how much I love LEGO Friends.
While boy-centric properties like Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and G.I. Joe got $125 million+ budgets to work with, Jem and the Holograms, a girl-centric action/musical cartoon got a $5m budget and a feature film adaptation that went out of its way to basically discard the action/adventure/excitement elements from the original show. The film took a source material that is over-the-top colorful and over-the-top exciting, filled with larger-than-life characters and musically-charged action sequences where Jem and her friends had to both be kick-ass rock stars and kick-ass crime fighters at the same time, and made a toned-down, muted, and overly patronizing “young girl gets in over her head due to fame and artistic success and forgets what matters” fable that basically penalized its young heroes for wanting and achieving success and power.
Because unlike other 1980s nostalgia properties, Jem — more so even than other Hasbro properties like G.I. Joe or Transformers — was not given the kind of marketing or studio support to ensure success. For instance, the disaster that was G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra had a $175 million budget. According to most analysts, Rise of Cobra was a flop, but it still warranted a sequel — also directed by Jon Chu, though it had its budget cut by $45 million. Still, that’s $125 million more than Chu got to make Jem. Think about it, a sci-fi/fantasy property based on an animated series with a heavy ’80s nostalgia factor got little more than the TV movie being made on Project Greenlight.
To be fair, most of the franchises to rely on the nostalgia factor of the ’80s generation often ignore their source material. I think most people recognize that the first Joe movie — and the entire Transformers film franchise — have little to do with the toys of their youth. So it’s no wonder that the producers would nix the original inspiration. The thing is, if you wanted to reboot Jem and the Holograms for the 2010s, there’s another source you can crib from. IDW’s comic series not only successfully blends modern sensibilities with spirit of the original series, it also adds some body diversity to the original’s mix of ethnicities.
Apparently, Chu initially pitched a movie that would have been much closer to the cartoon, but was rejected by the studio. And though the movie sets up a sequel that might have been in the spirit of the original — complete with Ke$ha as lead Misfit Pizzazz (ugh) — we’ll probably never get that movie made now.
Guess that’s what Netflix is for.