Space Jam: A New Legacy

Space Jam: A New Legacy ½

The World is Hell: Hopeless Cinema

[more to come...writing something large-ish but I'm feeling worse the longer I think about this and need to go to bed]

Update: More thoughts added

I have spent several hours now performing an exorcism on myself and I still only feel marginally better than I did when the lights came on and I emerged from the interminable hellscape that is this fucking movie. It is a million times more apocalyptically bleak than you could possibly imagine. It plunged me into a very dark place I have yet to recover from. Granted, it might have been a case of the perfect storm - a particular cocktail of troubled and anxious thoughts over the last few days - that meant I was in a state most susceptible to existential despair but these truly were, without hyperbole, 115 of the most angst-ridden minutes of my life.

I thought it at the very least it would be fun - after having been deprived of childhood exposure (thus, nostalgic attachment) to the original Space Jam, only to finally get around to it last year with friends and be quite fascinated, slightly repulsed but more or less charmed by it - to hit up the ol' group chat and ask if we were all down to catch an advance screening of this (discounted staff tickets make offers such as this more appealing). A last-minute suggestion but one met with near-unanimous acceptance. Now only met with regret.

Two don’t show up before the movie starts. I haven’t heard from them to let me know they’re running late. I leave their tickets at the counter to be picked up on their arrival and the three of us that are there head on in. In the end, the others don’t show up at all, and when I reach the realisation that they’re not going to come I am filled not with anger but with deep envy. One of my two friends that did show up decides to get progressively more drunk throughout the film and then finally gives up and bails out with around 20 minutes left. We don’t see him again afterwards (we did, however, unexpectedly bump into our two no-shows afterwards and it turns out they had got distracted and then caught up in a brawl in a pizza restaurant where one of the workers named Sal tried to fight some kids who were harassing him but dislocated his shoulder in the process so an ambulance was called and when the police arrived they asked my friends for witness statements – none of which had anything to do with them not coming to the film, however).

Hearing about that, and writing it out just now, has put some life back into me, but the fact remains that immediately after Space Jam: A New Legacy ended, my friend and I exited into the chilly night outside and hugged a sad sigh of a hug, the kind of hug you share after you have both experienced some unexplainable horror that leaves your desperate for any brief kind of close comfort. It seemed that during the purgatorial nightmare from which we had finally emerged, we had stared into an abyss and had it stare back.

It is frightening to encounter art without a soul. I’m not sure I’d ever truly experienced it before tonight. Even in the most egregious money-making exercises in the name of cinema – take Cruella, the last new release I saw in theatres – can be found glimmers of the human experience, even if only in the film’s failings. An item of wardrobe, an amusing line delivery, a moment of questionable ADR…all these can illuminate in some silly little way some insignificant element of personality, the tiniest of reminders that behind the sheen of corporate excess you see before you are thousands upon thousands of human beings with hopes and dreams and the urge to express themselves through their art (or you know, pay the bills). Of course all this work often gets lost in the machine that is moviemaking, but at least you can usually see where, and at worst, lament that it couldn’t make enough of an impact (or at best, celebrate that it could). Space Jam: A New Legacy is a work seemingly not borne of the human mind in any sense – not a single iota of it resembles anything close to “human”.

I don’t need to explain that it is dealing solely in iconography, in intellectual property, in empty shapes and sounds devoid of all idea and context. There is appropriation but no recontextualization of these things, because the landscape of this film is so desolate – it is like a vast graveyard where living, breathing works have been taken and left to rot, artlessly thrown into a congealed heap of endlessly regurgitated trash. To me there is no “fanservice” in these images because that would imply the images are serving something, but what is the takeaway here? What is there that could possibly be gained? Nothing. Throughout the film’s entire agonising back half is the half-hearted insertion – almost completely out of focus in the background – of various WB “characters”, their figures floating like spectres over the barren wasteland, designed to dimly catch your eye for a fleeting moment. By this point I was already pummelled into misery by everything that had come before; I was utterly broken somewhere around the point Ingrid Bergman tearfully asks to hear that song one more time and one of the most beloved African-American performances in Old Hollywood gets replaced by fucking Yosemite Sam. Nauseating.

And here’s the thing. Warner Bros. know exactly what horseshit this is. They know people will love it. And they are laughing all the way to the fucking bank. Let me state that of course I’m aware that this vacuous corporate shit has always been woke to itself – part of the reason it can be allowed to exist is because of its self-awareness, its playful winking, its “don’t take it all so seriously!” attitude. But I can’t take it anymore. This movie has the audacity to directly address what a shameless, empty exercise this all is, how unimaginative and uninspired it all is, and then brazenly relishes in it for another 90 minutes. There is not a single iota of effort put into making this literally anything other than regurgitated garbage, without even the courtesy of reheating it.

Todd Haynes’ Safe and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse are not two films I expected to be dwelling on during this – granted, I had seen them both this same week – but the immediate thoughts I had during and after those films kept haunting me here, conjured up by the darkness onscreen. We are all in the grip of fear and anxiety about the planet and the human race, and yet it is so difficult to break free from the self-imposed bubble in which we all live. The world feels as though it is rushing towards its end, and we are burrowing our heads into the sand, dumbly feasting on the toxic faeces of our forefathers while the earth burns around us. Much mainstream media has been defiantly ignoring the ramifications of such a situation, pacifying us with blinding shovels of shit. But the inverse also abounds; the impossibility of ignoring things now that everybody knows where we are headed. Instead of inspiration, hope and guidance, we are given doom. You are not doing enough. It’s your fault. When I see Space Jam: A New Legacy, I am filled with guilt and shame for my own place as another mindless consumer who just gorges and gorges and gives back nothing. I am also filled with a sense of helplessness, that nothing I could do could ever really matter. And it is the struggle between this feeling of helplessness and this guilt for not doing enough that plague so many people of my generation and others. When I see a film like this, I can’t help thinking, what is the place of art in a dying world? What is the place of “content”? If what we create is a reflection of our world, what does this film say about our world?

Even this review is nothing but my screaming into the void. I am part of the problem, indulging in the very doomsaying that may be killing us in the first place. And for that I am sorry. But this film offers nothing but despair, a vision of the future where there is no hope, no inspiration, just the decomposing corpses of everything that has come before, mulched into oblivion. With some distance, I feel more and more like I can expunge this film from my mind, but the thoughts it has brought about remain. Please don’t worry about me (after all, what good would it do?), I’m okay. But if you are still reading my whinging, take note that in this position, I feel like a seer in the face of some impending apocalyptic event, and I have no choice but to tell you, please avoid this film. Instead, go and plant a tree, donate what you can, spend time with someone you love, make music, make a fucking movie. Just do something – anything – that says, “We are still here. And there is hope.” All I can hope is that these things might help, and can maybe give me the belief that things can be better, as I try and prove this to myself.

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