Ruined Childhoods

Its one of the most popular phrases used on the internet right now “————– is ruining my childhood.” (There are other versions of the phrase that I won’t dignify them by quoting them since they are only used by the worst the internet has to offer.)   But are Hollywood, producers like Michael Bay and remakes of our childhood favorites really ruining our childhoods?  I’m going to argue that they aren’t.

Recently the world has seen a resurgence of things from the 80’s and early 90’s.  So for people like me who are around 30 now, these properties are what we grew up on.  Michael Bay already has 4 “Transformers” movies made and released, also a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie.  There have been rumors for years about a “Voltron” (Lion Force) movie.  We also know that the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” are getting a movie reboot.  Everytime one of the projects gets announced the internet rises up and starts screaming about how Hollywood (and Bay in particular) are “ruining their childhoods.”

The simple fact is, NO THEY ARE NOT.  Is Hollywood exploiting your childhood, YES, ruining it, NO.  Nothing anyone does now that you have reached adulthood can go back in time and ruin your childhood.   Nothing Hollywood does can take away the good memories you have of watching the shows, playing with the toys, and pretending to be the characters with your friends.

Really think about it, does the new “TMNT” movie really change the good memories of that Halloween you dressed up as your favorite Turtle? Will the “Power Rangers” movie really change the memories of getting that new action figure or toy for your birthday?

While I don’t believe that what anyone does can “ruin your childhood” there are a couple of things Hollywood is doing.

First, what they are actually doing is exploiting your childhood.  Why are all of the things we liked as children coming back around now?  Because we are now in the prime demographic, we are the ones with purchasing power.  People our age want these things to be good so we could share them their children, or because we want to relive the pleasant memories attached to these properties from our childhood.

When the first Bay “Transformers” was released, who do you think made up the audience for the midnight release?  Children? Our Parents?  Of course not, it was a large group of people in their late-20’s & early-30’s that grew up with “Generation 1 Transformers” and wanted to Optimus Prime on the big screen again.

(Side note: if I have to see Prime die in a movie again I’ll probably need therapy.)

In a way this exploitation is also a compliment.  I don’t really remember things our parents grew up with making a return when I was growing up.  Of course they tried to adapt “The Flintstones” into a movie, and there was “The Brady Bunch Movie” but really the things our parents grew up with just live on in TV syndication.  While the things we grew up with keep trying to come back around.

While I don’t think Hollywood is ruining our childhoods, they are committing the biggest sin an adaptation can commit, it makes us wonder if the original was really that good to begin with.   Hollywood can call it a “reboot” a “reimagining” or anything else but basically what they are doing is making an adaptation from the original material, much like taking a book or stage production and turning it into a movie.

The challenges the projects face are similar to what I said the new “Star Wars” movies face. (Don’t feed the Hype Monster) We have great memories of these properties and we get excited to see a new version of them, but when they don’t meet expectations or they end up as bad movies it does seem to hurt just a little more.

There is a way we as fans can stop this from happening, instead of getting on the internet and bitching about the movie, STOP GOWING.  If you complain online but still go and help raise the box office numbers you are not making a difference.

The truth is Hollywood doesn’t care what you say in an internet chat room. However if these movies stop climbing to number 1 at the box office, only then will you have their attention.

Hollywood can’t “ruin your childhood” but they can and will exploit it.  Luckily we can fight back against them. This summer my friends and I boycotted both “Transformers: Age of Extinction” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” in protest of these bad movies.  If more of you had followed our lead these movies wouldn’t have won their opening weekends and maybe Hollywood would already be paying attention to our anger.

Mighty Morphin Reboot

So, the Hollywood reboot machine keeps running and now it’s going to work on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I didn’t know how to react to this news, part of me was excited, while another part was not impressed because of Lionsgate productions.  Lionsgate has made some good and fun movies, but when I look at their line-up I see a majority of movies I didn’t like or just not interested in.  Recently you would know them behind the improving “Hunger Games” films, the fun “Expendables” franchise, and the awful “Twilight” saga.  As a long time fan of Power Rangers, and cautious of Lionsgate, let’s take some time to talk about what has to be right in the movie.

The first thing the reboot must get correct is the Megazord.  Season one’s Meagzord was perfect, and many fans will tell you the original is still their favorite.  I know you have to change and update some of the design, but at its heart it has to be close.  Transformers might not be the best example to use, but look at the treatment Optimus Prime received, the voice was the same, the colors were right and they made a good effort to keep the design close.  This includes the CGI for the Megazord, if it looks as good as “Pacific Rim” it will be a hit, If it looks as bad as the Megazord from “Power Rangers: The Movie,” you might as well kill the project right now.

The second thing the reboot must get right is the Green Ranger.  Ask any old school Power Ranger fan who they liked the best and you will get one of two answers, the Green Ranger, or the White Ranger and those two are the same person. But for this article we will focus on the first version, the green ranger.

The reboot Green Ranger has to have the proper costume, and by costume I mean the shield.  The costumes for all the rangers are important, but more so for the green ranger, his is the iconic look for the first season of Power Rangers.  Just like the Megazord the new movie shouldn’t stray too far on costume design, I know you can’t just have a body suit like the show, but a more armored look similar to “Power Rangers: The Movie” would work, and still hold up for a gold-shielded Green Ranger.

Of course, this also raises the question on how to handle the green ranger as far as story goes.  Well in my opinion there are three ways you can go:

  1. Hold the Green Ranger back from the reboot, and hope you get a sequel to introduce him either as a new good guy or use the “Green With Evil” arc for the sequel.
  2. For the reboot rip the “Green With Evil” story arc straight from the show and make him one of the main villains.
  3. Change the origin story slightly and use the Green Ranger as the centerpiece.

The first idea would be the ultimate teaser and would be ripping a page out of Marvel’s playbook, drop an Easter egg or two into the movie or post credits scene to tease that he is coming.

The second idea is just as simple, establish the main bad guy, and have them use the green ranger as the villain, and then use the evil ranger’s attack as jumping off point for the formation of the Power Rangers.  This would allow one of two ending for the movie, one being him turning good and joining the team to set up the sequel, or save the turning good for a post credits scene, and work it into the plot of the sequel with him finally joining the team by the end of the sequel.

The third idea could lead to some interesting choices for casting and origin story.  For that, the green ranger is a lone wolf who was been fighting a growing evil for some time, maybe for years, until he can no longer keep up by himself leading to the forming of a full Power Rangers team.

The third idea would also allow the writers to address the elephant in the room, Jason David Frank.  He is by far the most popular ranger of them all and that story would allow him to be the pin that links this movie to the old fans.

Imagine the third story arc with Jason David Frank coming back as Tommy.  You have a familiar character carrying on his fight against evil, but being worn down, and a new group of rangers is brought in to help him.  This would allow a loose connection to the original show but allow you to create a new cast of characters, similar to how Leonard Nemoy was used in the “Star Trek” reboot. Also, think of the different stories this could lead to endings for the sequel, with Frank passing his powers on to a new Green Ranger, setting him up as a mentor character, or retiring the green ranger making way for a new white ranger.

Lionsgate, as you start writing and planning the production remember, you taking on a project with a dedicated fan base that has already had to sit through two disappointing movies.  This means every move you make will be analyzed by fans across the internet and just ask Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Michael Bay what happens when you make a fan base mad with early movie planning.

Finally, if anything sparkles, we riot.

Don’t feed the hype monster

In the spirit of May the 4th, it’s time to talk about “Star Wars,” the movie franchise that a director likes to change, and one fans want to just stay the same. Several (thousand) of these fans use the internet to share their love for the original trilogy, hate for the prequels, and beg for the director’s cut of the originals to just go away.  However, the internet and this collective gathering of fans has also become one of the franchise’s biggest problems.

Before you throw me off the internet, I’m not hating on “Star Wars” fans, but I’m coming to this discussion as a more “moderate” fan.  Yes, there are parts of the prequels that I like, and when I watch the originals I am willing to talk about their faults.  I have a collection of light sabers, but I don’t dress up as the characters and there are movies and other franchises that I put higher on my “favorites” list.  That’s why I think that hype is one of the biggest problems the Star Wars franchise has to overcome.

Hype can kill anything, because nothing ever lives up to it.  Among the many things wrong with the Star Wars prequels, hype hurt it the most. Fans were so excited for the new movies, lining up outside theaters for days to get tickets and see the first shows.  Each fan in line had their own expectations and when the films failed to meet those expectations people went home disappointed. All this happened at a time when the internet was just starting to grow up and the number of message boards and entertainment websites leaking every little detail was much smaller.

Just search the internet and it doesn’t take long to find people talking about what they want to see, coming up with fantasy cast lists, creating movie posters, and are ready to dress up and stand in line for tickets and midnight releases, even though principle photography hasn’t started.

Production companies love this hype because it sells tickets and drives up website traffic, but this much excitement and expectation only means one thing, an eventual sub-40% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Once the hype reaches certain levels, the movie is doomed to “failure” because the fan base walks away disappointed.

This is what the hype monster does, it feeds on someone’s expectations and excitement then lets you down, and no one is immune to it, eventually the monster eats everything, its caught up to dozens of movies with large fanbases, it happens to video games every year, and it rushes young adult novels into bad movie adaptations.  Nothing is immune to the monster either, not even Marvel, look at the excitement, the build up, then the reaction to “Iron Man 3.”

In fact, the monster is already eating away at this new set of Star Wars movies. The franchise has moved beyond just the movies into a number of expanded universe stories. The simple announcement that Disney was ready to make more “Star Wars” movies led fans to start talking about what E.U. stories they wanted to see on film.  Yet, the monster has already disappointed thousands when Disney said they are moving away from the E.U. and starting a new storyline and continuity for what happens to the galaxy after “Return of the Jedi.”

I know Star Wars fans want to forget the prequel movies and move on to something better and new stories, but Episode VII doesn’t have a title yet, or a release date.  This gives Bad Robot productions and Disney plenty of time to release a long string of information, youTube teasers, “script leaks,” and trailers to feed the monster. If you let yourself get carried away it will be very easy to walk away from Episode VII with the same feelings you did after “Phantom Menace.”

In the end it’s great to be a fan that loves a franchise so much you want to dress as characters, have tons of memorabilia, and learn as much as you can about upcoming projects, but you have to remember to not cross that very delicate line into over-excitement, that’s when you end up hurting the very thing you love by feeding the hype monster.

Arcade Dreams

As someone that has played a lot of video games over the years I find myself missing something that used to be easy to find, a real arcade. Yes, I know there are plenty of places that still have rooms filled with state of the art video games, but I just don’t get the same enjoyment out of them anymore.  It may just be nostalgia setting in but more and more I miss the classic idea of the arcade.

The only establishment near where I live that could even be considered an arcade is the video game section at a “Franky’s Fun Park.”  I do have fun when I go there, but I don’t go there to play games, normally I’m there with friends to play mini-golf or one of the outdoor activities, and when I do play the games what I’m really thinking about is how expensive they have gotten, or the game’s only point is to win tickets.

Tickets have been a staple of the arcade since the beginning and I’ll admit I enjoy winning a long string of them (and the basic prizes are still as bad as ever) but the best prizes places have to offer are stuff you can just go buy for probably cheaper, unless you are good at always hitting the ticket jackpot.

Also when looking at the games I realize that I have better games at home now between my computer and consoles the only difference is the fancy peripherals.  Believe it or not, there was a time when if you wanted to truly play the best video games, you had to fill your pocket with quarters (so you could change them to tokens in some places) then go wait by your favorite cabinet and place a quarter on the controls marking your place in line.

Again, maybe it’s just nostalgia glasses, or maybe because I’m actually spending my own money now at the arcade over my parents but I just miss the places I grew up with.

The best local arcade I had I never truly appreciated it because I was too young and it’s been closed for 20+ years now, and the mall it was in was torn down years ago.  The room was dark using game cabinets for most of the light, it always felt like there were way to many cabinets crammed into the small space and there was a great blend of game sounds and music. It was the stereotypical mid to late 80’s arcade.

The second arcade I had locally, well it was a place called “Showbiz Pizza.” It was exactly what it sounds like an early version of “Chuck. E Cheese’s.”  Full of cheep and probably bad pizza and bad animatronics, but you didn’t go for that we would go for the room full of games.  This is where I started to really understand games and what an arcade should be like.  The legend of shooting the dog in “Duck Hunt,” done it, the cabinet we had was just old enough to not have that feature taken out, I’ve actually seen the dog limp out on crutches more than once.  Spent a lot of money in that place, went to many birthday parties there, but it was still gone[i] well before I reached the age of 10.

The third place was the one I spent the most time and money in and is probably the one I miss the most.  “Putt-Putt Golf and Games,” it wasn’t the best place, but it was the closest to my small home town.  This was right around the time arcades reached their peak, the old-guard of games like “Galaga” and “Pac-Man” were still around and busy, but a new wave of games had arrived “X-Men,” “The Simpsons”, and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”  These games would go on to be some of the most popular to ever hit the arcades.  These cabinets could support 4 to 6 players, the music and sounds were stereo quality and had a level of quality home consoles just couldn’t match.  This was also the same time tournament fighters began to rise.  In my one little arcade within a span of just a few feet you had three games I’ve already mentioned plus “Mortal Kombat” and “Street Fighter II.”

“Putt-Putt” would be my go-to place for years, but eventually I grew up and the little place could no longer keep up.  The games we spent hours had finally given up and shut down, the little arcade couldn’t get top of the line stuff anymore, and the children that did visit weren’t impressed anymore and eventually the arcade closed it doors.

It’s not a coincidence that arcades started dying off right as the Playstation 2 and X-box reached the peak of their popularity.  Game companies had shifted their focus to home based games with 20+hours of game play, instead of two-hour side-scrollers.  Leaving arcades needing more than just games, leading to fun parks with batting cages, mini-golf and go-karts.

The next time you are in an arcade if you hear someone over 30 complain about missing old style arcades, we aren’t being old and grumpy, they truly aren’t the same anymore.  Arcades are not supposed to be about making a fast moving light stop in just the right place to win tickets.  Its about spending hours with your friends and a pile of quarters trying to prove you can make it to the last level.

If you need an example of what we are talking about just Google “Flynn’s Arcade.”

Oh, and if you happen to find an old arcade still hanging on out in the world with a working “Ninja Turtles,” put a quarter on the cabinet next to Raphael’s controller for me.  I have some unfinished business to take care of.

[i] “Showbiz Pizza Place” went through a corporate restructure and rebranding into “Chuck E Cheese’s” around 1990.  The place we used to go is actually still open in the original building, but once the rebranding began it wasn’t the same and we quit going.