The Space-Jamming of IP Cameos in Movies Is Getting Old

The Space-Jamming of IP Cameos in Movies Is Getting Old

Space Jam is a 1996 film directed by Joe Pytka, adapted from his 1992/1993 shoe commercials, which follows the Looney Tunes characters as they recruit basketballer Michael Jordan to help free themselves from the tyranny of nefarious space aliens. Space Jam: A New Legacy is a 2021 film by Roll Bounce and Girls Trip director Malcolm D. Lee, which follows the Looney Tunes characters as they help basketballer LeBron James free himself from the tyranny of a nefarious computer system. The sequel, coming 25 years after the original, owes its existence to audience nostalgia; despite not being particularly good, the original nevertheless enthralled a generation raised on Jordan’s celebrity, persisting as comfort viewing ever since. Nostalgia has always been big business, going back to 1973’s American Graffiti and even earlier, but the past decade has put it into overdrive. Aging films and franchises are resuscitated in the likes of Ghostbusters or Top Gun: Maverick. Shows like Stranger Things attempt to recreate the feeling of a bygone era, or at least of its pop culture. But the most interesting, uniquely late-capitalism category of nostalgia film is one championed by Warner Bros. – a category into which Space Jam 2, while also a sequel to a quarter-century-old movie, fits perfectly. Watch the cameo-laden trailer for Space Jam: A New Legacy below: [ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2021/04/03/space-jam-a-new-legacy-official-trailer] The philosophy behind this subgenre: Why stop at reviving one brand when the studio has a whole library of them at its disposal? In addition to the Looney Tunes characters, Space Jam: A New Legacy contains appearances by and references to (among others) The Iron Giant, King Kong, Batman, Robin, Superman, Mr. Freeze, The Joker, The Penguin, Gandalf, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Space Ghost, The Mask, and characters from The Matrix, Mad Max: Fury Road, Game of Thrones, It, The Wizard of Oz, The Conjuring, and maybe even Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Famously, predatory cartoon skunk Pepe Le Pew does not appear – but the rape-obsessed “droogs” from A Clockwork Orange do. What stands out here isn’t hypocrisy over which specific sex offenders Warners elected to include in a kids movie, or even the selection of characters at all. It’s Warner’s cynical approach to its intellectual property. Space Jam: A New Legacy isn’t the first Warners film to do this. It is, at the very least, the fifth. Three of its four Lego…
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