July 29, 2021

Warner and the corporate delusion: why the Looney Tunes are the least important of ‘Space Jam: New Legends’

Warner and the corporate delusion: why the Looney Tunes are the least important of 'Space Jam: New Legends'

In the late 1990s, Brad Bird and his team faced the last stages of the development of El Hierro Giant with a simple question in mind: what would happen if a pistol refused to fire? East high concept had a painful biographical root: a few months earlier Bird’s sister, Susan, had been shot and killed by her husband. The acclaimed animated film served to explore this recent trauma, through the misadventures of an alien robot designed to kill who, thanks to friendship, instead decides to be Superman and do good peacefully.

Almost two decades later this iron giant reappeared in Ready Player One, being used by its protagonists as a giant weapon that could favor their victory in the final battle. Was forced to destruction to the delight of mythomaniac fans, his personality being put aside for the benefit of fun. Along with countless Warner Bros. intellectual properties, El Hierro giant also appears in Space Jam: New Legends, that arrives this Friday to the cinemas. He is one of the assistants to the basketball game that forms the backbone of the plot, and can be seen in the public next to King Kong, the White Walkers of Game of Thrones and Pennywise. Yes, the killer clown of Item.

Space Jam: New Legends It is such a disconcerting film that it is almost possible to approach it without focusing on the characters that should be the center of attention. However, in Looney tunes headed by Bugs Bunny, and in the history behind them, there are several keys to understanding how we got to this. The creations of Chuck Jones, Frank Clampett and Frank Tashlin, among others, have always carried in their DNA a predisposition to jump between imaginaries, break the fourth wall and question their cartoon nature. Back in 1940, the same year Bugs Bunny was born, a short film entitled You should make movies.

In this piece by Friz Freleng, Daffy Duck persuaded Porky pig that animation was out of date, and that the most beneficial thing for his career was making his debut in Hollywood movies. As a result, we came across an early marriage between cartoons and live action, which allowed us to glimpse the Warner Bros studios in Burbank and some of its great executives. An intrinsic custom was inaugurated Looney tunes: that of looking at the camera and rebuking the viewer, who used so much from then on the Coyote or the aforementioned Bugs Bunny. The custom was maintained during a career of Warner Bros. parallel in many ways to that of Disney, its main competitor in the animated field, but far removed from the personalist regime that Walt represented.

Perhaps Warner’s corporate persona, more pragmatic and disinterested in safeguarding an imprint, was responsible for the early joy with which he trafficked his creatures. In 1988 he allowed Looney tunes will be part of Who cheated on roger rabbit? (produced by Amblin and Touchstone, a Disney affiliate), and two years later he gave Joe Dante complete freedom to laugh at the success of his Batman and include Lucas and Bugs at the beginning of Gremlins: The Next Generation, among other crazy things. The consolidation in the 90s of Warner Bros. Feature Animation, which aimed to produce feature films behind Disney’s animated Renaissance, failed to correct this position: in 1996 Joe Pytka directed Space jam, and achieved the first great success of this division.

Shortly before, Bugs Bunny and his friends had already reinforced their parodic fixation on the Warner brand – and Hollywood cinema in general – through several short films focused on parody, as exemplified the short Carrotblanca from White House with Tweety emulating (to the anguish of the staff) Peter Lorre. TO Space jamFor his part, he was not so interested in the plundering of IPs as in offering himself in its entirety as a large marketing campaign.

Anticipating the epic of documentary The last dance, Pytka’s film promoted a sentimental approach to the figure of Michael Jordan, with the Looney tunes meekly yielding its leading role. The latter was just what the aforementioned Joe Dante wanted to fix in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which at its premiere in 2003 was presented as “the anti-Space Jam” and ended with a failure at the box office that froze the possibility of more leaps to the cinema for these characters.

Back in action It was interesting, however, because of the way he picked up You should make movies Y Who cheated on roger rabbit? the idea that these characters belonged to the star system Hollywood, subjected to recognizable struggles of egos and job insecurities. In fact, it was articulated as a tribute / parody to the study system, and an inordinate amount of references to the Warner canon sneaked in without, in any case, the prominence of the Looney tunes suffered.

Seconded in 2006 by an experiment as revealing as Superman returns, Warner was beginning to master the manipulation of his iconographic memory, which in 2014 would end up exploding with the really essential film to understand this sequel to Space jam: The LEGO Movie. Contrary to previous rushes, here the parade of winks and cameos was largely content with exhibitionism: Warner’s nature as a Hollywood giant allowing the Phil Lord and Christopher Miller film to be a mixed bag. where Gandalf and Albus Dumbledore could interact.

The LEGO Movie led to a sequel and two spin-offs -one of them, Lego batman, featuring an entente of villains from various Warner franchises — so that soon after Ready Player One I would like to legitimize the maneuver by relying on outside material and having Steven Spielberg directing it. It didn’t end up going wrongAlthough Ernest Cline’s novel was mediocre enough that not even Spielberg could extract something transcendent from it, there was a deep concern towards a near future where brands and the nostalgia associated with them were the only escape route to a collapsed society. He exuded a perverse lucidity, but capable (willingly or not) of favoring uncomfortable discourses through the construction of a pop culture frivolous and exclusive.

But of course, there was also a DeLorean, and a T-Rex, and a playful recreation of The glow which Mike Flanagan would give continuity to through Sleep doctor in 2019, also for Warner. That we were aware of the desolation of the matter did not mean that we could enjoy it, and join a finally uncritical celebration. It is just the celebration you are looking for Space Jam: New Legends, unable to avoid the discomfort.

Warner’s tendency to conceive blockbusters as showcases of their possessions it is not characterized so much by the quantitative, as by the process of distortion that brands go through when going on stage. The case of El Hierro giant in Ready Player One Y Space Jam: New Legends is paradigmatic, but it also affects Looney tunes. The aforementioned distortion leads to the fact that, in its militant exhibitionism, the recovered characters and titles lose distinction, limiting themselves to being familiar faces that accumulate in the photo with a single fundamental characteristic: they belong to Warner. The Looney tunes belong to Warner and is possibly the only definite idea that those who see Space Jam: New Legends without prior knowledge of who they are.

For audiences that do know them, the experience offered by Malcolm D. Lee’s film is disconcerting. In the Space jam original the Looney tunes already appeared subject to the figure of Michael Jordan, but in Space jam 2 They are at every minimum element of the proposal: as consumer goods that they are, they limit themselves to acting as troupes to varying degrees, either by entering into canonical properties of Warner Bros. –White House reappears as a classic factory insignia, but also Matrix, Mad Max: Fury Road and, in the only moment more or less aesthetically stimulating, a comic version of Wonder woman-, or getting confused on a stage packed with extras reminiscent of the Warner amusement park staff.

We are not only talking about a flagrant loss of prominence, but also of an internal change according to the needs of the story whose maximum expression is located in Bugs Bunny: someone who has lost all arrogance and mischief in order to convey the lazy pro-family discourse and pro-teamwork that, how could it be otherwise, yearns to give a patina of respectability to the artifact.

Following the impulse of Ready Player One to resonate in the present, Space Jam: New Legends spruces up his intimate monstrosity with contemporary echoes that take him away from the cinephile approaches of Roger Rabbit and Back in action. In the film they call it the Serviverse: a virtual reality that makes up the computers at Warner Bros. headquarters and emphasizes the condition of everything seen as something far from the audience. Something that does not belong to a material (or emotional) reality but to a cold jumble of bits, statistics and sales forecasts, where video games turn out to be the necessary trigger to grease the machinery. It is in this context that Malcolm D. Lee’s film wants to pose a quintessential drama of parents and children that converges in the sobadimo slogan of “be yourself”: aspiration that sounds quixotic within a dehumanized mess that has turned identities into merchandise .

In a true twisted way Space Jam: New Legends it is fascinating. A film so incapable of disguising its cynical impulse that it does not even manage to retain the seduction of the original film around sport and the elite player who represented it. Without the magical aura of Michael Jordan, without his conviction to dignify the sporting feat, LeBron James limits himself to releasing generic phrases about effort and overcoming that accentuate the dying spirit of a work as typical of our time as lazy and inane, which is not even He asks questions or leads the conversation out of anxiously apocalyptic channels. A film that proclaims that we are very close to living in the OASIS of Ready Player One. Like it or not, because there seems to be no other choice.


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