As you might remember, I reviewed a little movie called Jem and the Holograms. My rating, like many other critics, was pretty low. This was a truly, truly outrageous disaster. And Universal’s nightmares have come true, as Jem has been dubbed one of the worst financial bombs in movie history. How did this exactly happen and what might this mean for the industry at large? Let’s examine the facts.
For a moment, let’s take a look at both Jem and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, which had the same budget and were produced by Jason Blum. Each were a risky venture going in: one was based on a much-loved property that Hasbro was desperate to dust off the shelf, while the other was directed by an individual viewed as recent box office poison. Many would believe that Jem would fare better, mostly due to its “tween friendly” plot line, while the other was more likely to bomb due to whom was involved. And as luck would have it, The Visit has made to date over $64 million domestically. Jem on the other hand? After two weeks, it has only grossed $2,184,640 million. And that kids is what we call a flop.
Because of its dismal box office returns, Universal has officially pulled Jem out of all 2,000 plus theaters across the United States. A theater chain must keep a new booking for a 2 week minimum, but most usually stay around for at least 3. Jem couldn’t even survive past that point.
So, what exactly went wrong here? As I have always said from day one, this movie was a terrible idea. Not involving creator Christy Marx in the writing process, plus giving people false hope that this movie would feature the Jem they know and love, left a bad taste in the mouth of its audience. When a small YouTube music video is more faithful than a $5 Million dollar film, then we have a problem here.
Let me bring up a scene that I have decided I don’t care about spoiling at this point: The Misfits are indeed in the movie. But where are they? All the way at the end, during an after-credits scene.
We open on a shot of the now-defeated Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis) who stumbles into a parking garage covered in neon colored graffiti. She calls around different names, looking for some girls. These said characters appear out of the dark, and we see Stormer, Jetta, and Roxy (who gets the most screen time, by the way.) Erica discusses how she needs the girls badly to reclaim her role as the music producing queen of this movie’s world. Then from out of the shadows, we see another familiar figure: Pizzaz, played to cheesy over the top perfection by K-Dollar-Ha (Ke$ha). Erica tells Pizzaz that Rio has gotten with Jem, and this sets Pizzaz on a revenge chase. We then see the group go into their van, which reads on the side “The Misfits”. Fade out.
This scene is the only moment, out of an entire film with an almost two hour running time, that felt like the animated series I had grown to love over my 25 years of existence. If the actual Jem movie had been made with just a shred of the ridiculousness that this part contained, I would have probably loved it for what it was. In fact, this small segment made me some what “optimistic” for what a sequel could be like, just to see the shenanigans of this modern take on the band whose “songs are better” – and also to see more of Hana Mae Lee as Roxy. Even though the casting of Shana was lackluster, the Roxy choice put a smile on my face.
But with the outcome of the box office results, that sequel is never going to happen. Some will say thank goodness to that, while I have a bit of a different view point.
Sure, I didn’t want the version of Jem that ended up on screen to do well. I wanted Jon M. Chu and his band of weirdo staff to learn their lesson and be put into the time out corner of the room. But at the same time, this failure is another nail in the coffin when it comes to female-centric nostalgic properties getting the big screen respect they deserve, along with female leads in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre in general.
We’ve advanced in the world to have heroines like Katniss Everdeen and Wonder Woman on film screens across the world, but neither of them are featured in stories that rest on the shoulders of an almost entirely female cast, especially one that is as diverse and unique as Jem should have been. Will we ever get a Sailor Moon movie now? What about She-Ra? The fate of these many other franchises seems very, very depressing as it stands.
So while the failure of this new Jem might please me in the revenge sort of way (much like Pizzaz gets pleasure from wrecking the Rockin’ Roadster), the overall results of this have me a bit scared. I want to live in a world where properties like Jem can be given the sort of treatment that at least matches Transformers. Despite its problems, they don’t disguise the general plot of the franchise or give it a slice-of-cake budget. Not that I want Michael Bay directing these movies, either.