May 17, 2015

Trailing Off: "Jem and the Holograms" (2015)

Welcome to the weekly column Trailing Off in which I take a look at a trailer from the past week and analyze its potential. This will be done using an obnoxious amount of analyzing and personal thoughts on the cast and crew as well as expectations. Coming every Sunday (it's called Trailing Off for a reason), I will attempt to highlight films ranging from new blockbusters to lesser known indies and give them their due. Partially to spread awareness, I do believe that there is an art to the sell and will do my best to highlight why these trailers matter or don't with approval (trove) or disapproval (trash). So please stop by, recommend some trailers, and I will see you next time.

Trailer in Discussion

Directed By: Jon M. Chu
Written By: Ryan Landels
Starring: Juliette Lewis, Luis Guzman, Molly Ringwald

- Preamble -

It is the trailer that is lighting up the internet. Jem and the Holograms is a movie that has been baffling since it was announced sometime last year. I will confess up front that I know nothing about the franchise going into this trailer. In fact, I don't even recall there being an audience for the film. Nobody in my various interactions online has so much as spoken about the cartoon series of which this movie is based on. While that isn't the end all point for dismissing a filmed version, it does leave me some wonder as to what the end game is of this all. What does Jem and the Holograms in 2015 really have to say about our times? I don't  know if I am curious enough to learn, but like most things, I am willing to at least try and understand. 
To put it bluntly, this is one of the trailers that I am going in arguably with the wrong mindset. I don't have high hopes for it. I know that the film hasn't had the greatest of reputations in the past week. My only hope is to give it a fair assessment and maybe come away with something stronger. After all, there's Josie and the Pussycats, which has been considered a cult favorite. It was also based on a cartoon and made into a live action film about a fictional band. Who knows. It might work.
I don't really have much else to say other than that I feel like we should be more accepting of a film's prospects beyond an initial trailer. Bad editing can really diminish the prospects of a good film. I am not thinking that this is one of them, but if the trailer is bad, there's a small chance that the film will be halfway decent. Only really bad films cannot escape the punishment of a bad trailer, but that's only because the footage itself is bad. Does that make sense? I am not exactly looking forward to Jem and the Holograms, especially since it is from the director of such films as G.I. Joe, but anything's possible, right? Fingers crossed.

- Dissection -

Without having that much of a context of the series, I cannot really find much to complain about with this trailer. At most, it looks like a conventional kiddie version of a band story. There's the making of the band, the collapse, and the inevitable rise. It plays out in its familiar structure. The only real complaint is that the trailer felt the need to give away all of these plot points, unless this is simply first act material that paves the way for something crazier and potentially more interesting. There isn't anything wrong with what I see. It is simply a trailer that follows the conventions of a 21st century pop band making it and crafting an image.
What exactly can we get out of this trailer? What constitutes its existence? Part of me is on the kick that it is a cross between contemporary fascination with 80's glamour culture and the rise of Lady GaGa. Of course, the latter makes more sense except that she has kind of come and gone. Even Lady GaGa isn't that weird anymore nor does she dress up in bawdy make-up as much. I guess it was just a phase. I am not even saying that the music sounds at all like hers, but the idea feels derivative of it. Otherwise, it is the issue of the lead singer taking all of the glory away from her band mates. That is a story that has already been done to death.
I don't dislike the trailer because of what it does to the source material. I would need to do additional research for that. In fact, I can argue that it is only the basis for an update that makes sense. I actually dislike the trailer because I am not in the target audience. As the trailer suggests with Never Say Never, this is for the Justin Bieber generation. Yes, it may seem like an affront to those that like Jem and the Holograms from way back when, but it makes sense considering that the trailer imitates his rise to fame through viral success and signing to record labels. If I don't like this trailer, it isn't because the film looks atrocious. It's because I just don't find interest in the kiddie pop band story that it wants to tell. I think that is what's important to take away from this particular entry.

- One Sentence Sell -

An update of an 80's cartoon that features girls starting a pop band with all of the familiar rise and fall elements.

- Trove or Trash -

Again, this is mostly because the story doesn't interest me. The trailer looks film, if a tad predictable otherwise. Maybe if I do get my hands on some Jem and the Holograms episodes my opinion will change. But for now, it is so-so in a way that makes me feel like everyone is overreacting to such a non-issue.

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