Jem the Movie wasn’t an anticipated movie. In fact, there were a lot of hesitation about how it would be cast, knowing how Hollywood tends to bungle reboots and live action versions of much beloved cartoon series. Yet despite all the warnings against the movie, the producers still went ahead and produced a film that did atrociously at the box office to no ones surprise. Yet why did this movie perform so poorly compared to an equally atrocious handling of GI Joe and Transformers?
First, of all, Jem was really more of a mental and emotional period piece more so than GI Joe and the Transformers. With GI Joe, there’s always a taste of warmongering in Americans’ blood so the attraction to special effects becomes an instant draw no matter how bad of an idea the script maybe. You could say something similar with the Transformers even with Michael Bay doing his best effort to destroy most 80’s children’s love for the series in the most hideous manners possible.
But Jem doesn’t have that same sparkle because it wasn’t about war nor something cool like robots turning into vehicles. Instead, Jem was a mentality for young girls who wanted to become something bigger than they were. It appealed to children who were orphans, lacked parents, were bullied and wanted to achieve their wildest dreams with fame, fashion and music. It’s essentially he glamor of the 80s without the casualties (unless you count Jerrica and Kimber’s parents).
In the current period, a similar film cannot be made just because of how there has been a mental shift in so many ways that moved people from the naive hedonistic 80s, to a more sober reality of the current times. We live in a world of the internet where brute truth and the voices of everyone can drown out people and the dreams of becoming a star are much more difficult because everyone is an entitled person, especially those growing up in the new education system.
Jem tries to modernize the original flavor of the cartoon in connecting the characters to the internet and social media. At that point, the semblance between both cartoon and movie halt as it ends up dealing with the internal turmoil of fame and being grounded. That theme really wasn’t a part of the original cartoon and simply made hardcore fans of the cartoon perceive the movie as just a generic coming of internet fame age story with another brand blasphemously slapped on.
A movie like that could only appeal to a very small audience that recognized the original cartoon. Most people probably have forgotten it outside of a few catchy sound bytes they might’ve heard while watching cartoons on the weekends or after school. So for the remaining group that truly wanted to see a live action version, they could only feel let down as the image of what they had in mind never came close to reality.
So how could an anachronistic movie like this have ever worked? Could it even work?
The bottom line is that anything can work with a well written script, excellent cast and a good director. Specifically, in this case, the way I see the movie is that it should have been shot as a period piece throwback to the 80s then moving forward to the current as a multipart movie. The characters in Jem needed to be true to the origins mostly with regards to the flavor of the time. For that, it needed to be a strong nostalgia piece which called attention to people’s favorite brands and the culture of the 80s. That’s how a story like that needs to reconnect people like myself back into that zone. For younger generations, it would be seen as a curiosity of what their parents (and maybe in some cases grandparents) went through leading to the 90s.
The ending would for the first movie would fast forward to the present and show the characters as late 30’s/early 40’s types who have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Most of Jem was about the adventures of dealing with the entertainment industry that people fantasize about. Instead, what it should show is the aftermath of the decadence of the 80s. There’s many groups that serve as models for this like a Vixen, Heart, Motley Crue, etc.
Personally, I would make the movie less comedic and more dramatic, leaning on tragedy. Part of me wanted to know what happened to Jem and the Holograms post 80s. Did they continue to make records? Did they go on to produce? Did things blow up for them when their vices caught up? Would we see them working at the local grocer with a few people spotting them and thinking they seem familiar?
The cartoon didn’t really have a sense of closure. It ended on a high note but we never really saw an evolution of the characters. A movie with any ambitious would take these two elements and put them together.