Everyone knows that geeks share one vital trait in common, regardless of fandom flavor: we’re all very detail-oriented. Whether it’s getting the right color and texture of fabric for that steampunk cosplay, or reciting the correct episode order for the entire first season of Steven Universe, or memorizing Tony Stark’s autobiography…for us, the love is in the details, be it proof of our devotion or laboring tirelessly to ensure that perfection in all our fannish endeavors is achieved.
That said, it’s inevitable that when a remake, spinoff, or reimagining of a beloved media property comes along, there’s going to be naysayers. Some tiny detail just isn’t right, some little piece of the original is missing.
In the end, there are always dissenters…but then there’s the 2015 Jem and the Holograms movie being released by Universal Pictures later this year. The movie is based on the Hasbro toy line and Saturday morning cartoon of the same name, which centered around one Jerrica Benton, heiress to Starlight Music and the holographic supercomputer known as Synergy. With Synergy’s help, Jerrica moonlights as singing sensation, Jem, and her band the Holograms. Each week, the group takes on the antagonistic Misfits and survives various high risk situations to maintain Jem’s secret, meet their obligations as a group, and execute the charitable work Jerrica does in the form of fostering a group of troubled youth known as the Starlight Girls.
The new movie? Well…take a look and tell me how much of that you see here.
A spoiler warning: I’m fairly disgusted with this trailer. However, I will give credit where it’s due: the fan in the know will see that they did get at least a few details right. Too often, editorials and reviews will default to complete and remorseless defamation when something isn’t right, and geeks can be the most guilty of this given how hot our passion runs for the things we love, and how focused we can be on details. However, when something like this comes along, where so much is wrong and so many good things about a property that was ahead of its time are stripped away in the name of marketing to a new audience…it’s important to be fair and impartial and take note of the good things to weigh against the bad.
The relationships in the band appear to remain much the same: Jerrica has her little sister, Kimber, and best friends Aja & Shana, both of whom are the Benton girls’ foster sisters in the cartoon, and foster children to their aunt in the movie. Eric Raymond, the antagonistic record executive, has been genderswapped to become Erica Raymond, and Rico Pacheco is still the band’s manager and confidant. He may still even become a love interest to Jerrica, a fact the trailer makes unclear.
These aspects of the film, I will give credit to Universal for…because there’s nothing else about this trailer that I recognize as belonging to Jem & the Holograms.
While the movie’s producer, Jason Blum, and Stefanie Scott, the actress playing Kimber Benton, have gone on record encouraging fans to give the film a chance because the trailer holds back a lot, I have to respectfully disagree. In this trailer, I see a teenage nobody achieving overnight stardom, ditching her friends, and learning a lesson about being true to herself. In the cartoon, Jerrica Benton was a powerful and independent woman running her own company and commanding the stage as the beautiful and charismatic Jem. The use of sophisticated holographic microprojectors in her trademark earrings and the AI of Synergy lent a great science fiction bent to the show as well, and the exciting double life Jerrica led was never perfect. She struggled with her boyfriend fighting his feelings for Jem, never realizing she was Jerrica’s alter ego, and she did more than run around being chased by bad guys: she honored her father’s memory by continuing his philanthropic work. Just as he took in Aja and Shana, Jerrica takes care of her own wayward kids in the Starlight Girls, treating them as family.
Where do we see even a glimpse of that in this trailer? A ham-handed reference to Jerrica’s activation phrase for her microprojectors by having Jerrica play with her earring and declare “Showtime, Synergy?”
Where is the creativity? Where is the strong female character equaling her peers in a male-dominated industry? Where the hell is the woman with friends who overcame their past to enjoy a fruitful and prosperous future, aiding Jem in bettering young children who were just like them?
This is either a case of horribly deceptive marketing, or a film that’s no different than its predecessors, like Josie and the Pussycats. “Homegrown Girl Makes Good” is a story we’ve heard before, and the music in this trailer is an entirely different, equally disappointing story given that Jem and the Holograms were rock musicians. Either way, I truly hope that Scott and Blum are correct: that there’s more to see beyond the two minute trailer.
Because if there isn’t? Show’s over, Universal.
Poor Shana. Almost invisible in cartoon comparison. Say it won’t be so for the film.