Lost in Translation has looked at Jem and the Holograms before. The original cartoon was based on Hasbro’s line of dolls developed to challenge Mattel’s Barbie. The cartoon was popular but failed in its primary mission, selling the doll line. The 2015 film revival faltered at the box office because fans were expecting the cartoon. IDW picked up the Jem license for an ongoing series of comics beginning in 2014, leaning heavily on the cartoon as a base but going its own direction.
Lost in Translation has also looked at fan works before. Fan works can be variable in quality, but the common theme is that they’re made by fans. Fans will get into the minutiae about what they’re fanatical about, and may know the work possibly better than the creators. With the cost of recording technology coming down far enough to let anyone with a mind to creating a video do so, fan works are getting more common.
The video takes the form of a live-action version of the 80s cartoon, including a bumper halfway through where a commercial break would be, but mixes in some of the ideas from the IDW comic. The characters’ appearances are based on the cartoon, with an eye to the wigs and costumes seen there. Almost every major character from the cartoon makes an appearance, including the Limp Lizards. It’s obvious that Feldman was and is a fan of the series.
The plot would fit in after the series if slightly overblown. Jem and the Holograms are still big in the music world, garnering attention for their latest efforts to raise funds for the Starlight Foundation. Eric Raymond, though, has hit rock bottom. His schemes have failed. The Misfits are in prison. There’s nowhere for them to go. In a nod to IDW’s continuity, Stormer really misses Kimber and isn’t doing well in prison. But Kevin, who is totally an American, really, has information that will help Eric and the Misfits turn their fortunes around.
It’s not just the attention to detail in the characters, though. “Truly Outrageous!” includes several songs that reflect not just the plot but how the characters are feeling. There’s also the required morale of the story, the bits needed in the 80s to qualify what would be thirty minute toy ads as educational programming. The morale is a little heavy-handed, but that appeared in the original cartoon, too. The film is well aware of what it is, and even winks at the fourth wall to let the audience in on the fun.
The result is a video that pays homage to the original cartoon, taking the ideas shown there and expanding on them. “Truly Outrageous!” is definitely Jem.
Last week, I looked at the mess that was Super Mario Bros. That adaptation, along with those for Double Dragon and Street Fighter, cemented the idea that movies based on video games will suck. Mortal Kombat, released in 1995, did reduce the stigma of the video game movie by being both entertaining and a decent adaptation of the Mortal Kombat video game, but quality is still not guarenteed. Still, licensing for movies still happens, even if the concept of the game isn’t easily adapted.
With the march of technology, what once cost thousands to millions to make can now be done at home on a computer with inexpensive or even open source software. Digital cameras are now standard on cell phones, smart or otherwise. Editing software allows budding film makers to create their blockbuster. Sure, they may not have the budget for extensive sets and A-list actors, but creativity can get the film makers around those problems. Today’s technology allows anyone to try to make a film. Even Spielberg and Lucas had to start somewhere and, today, it’s far easier to get started.
This week’s focus is on The Four Players by PolarisGo, a group that creates short films based on video games. With The Four Players, they went for a gritty background for four iconic characters. Each part is short, no more than five minutes each, and is available on PolarisGo’s YouTube channel. Go take a look, then come back.
Without names being dropped during each video, it’s easy to tell which Mario character is the focus. The videos use the iconic colours for Mario and Luigi, even if they’re not wearing the traditional coveralls at first. Mario is still a plumber and still Italian-American. He still wears the cheesy mustache. Luigi is tall and lanky. The Princess is still in distress. Toad is still a mushroom. In fact, Toad being a mushroom puts his video ahead of the official adaptation, even with Mojo Nixon doing what he can with what he was given.
The cast and crew have put their own spin on the video game. At the same time, the videos do fit into the world of Mario. Mario punches a block made of bricks, something not seen in the movie. Likewise, the Chain Chomps that threaten the Princess and the power-up mushrooms Mario and Luigi use appear in the videos but not Super Mario Bros. Toad gets a bag full of Bob-ombs. Guarding and menacing the Princess are recognizable Koopa Troopas, which were called Goombas in the movie.
At this point, it is obvious that PolarisGo put more effort into keeping to the spirit of the Super Mario Bros. video game in four short videos that the creators of the movie had. Steve said it best when he pointed out the movie “went out of its way to be wrong.” Meanwhile, a low budget fan production managed to portray Mario as seen in the game while still putting a dark twist on it and still giving the audience a ray of hope. The Four Players channels the essence of Mario and builds on top instead of replacing.
The videos do show why now is a great time to be a geek. A creative group willing to put time and effort can put together a video based on a favorite work and be seen by other fans. The gear needed to film and the software to edit is within reach of most groups. Game peripherals can easily be adapted for filming; a steering wheel controller can be turned into a steady-cam for far less than the cost of the steady-cam. Getting the final product out for the world to see just requires a webpage and a YouTube channel. We’re long past the 500-channel future of the 80s and 90s.
Next week, the June round-up of remake news.