We Are The Misfits, Our Movie’s Better: Comics Alliance Pitches The Jem Movie
Last week, Hasbro announced that a movie based on Jem, the classic 1980s animated series about the glamour, glitter, fashion and fame of a rock star with a secret identity, was in development, helmed by G.I. Joe: Retaliation director Jon M. Chu. Since this is literally the most important thing that has ever happened, CA Senior Writer Chris Sims cleared his schedule to allow for that most fun pastime for writers on the internet: Rampant speculation about what we would do if we were in charge of bringing Jem and the Holograms to the big screen. Here's what he thinks a truly, truly, truly outrageous (whoa-oh-oh-oh) Jem movie should be.
The Core Concept
So here's the thing about Jem: It's completely insane and it makes no sense, and that is great.
I mean, all of the Hasbro shows do that, to some extent. The great thing about the G.I. Joe cartoon, for instance, isn't that it's a compelling, character based military adventure in the same way that Larry Hama's comics were, it's that Cobra was trying to take over the world with mind-control chewing gum and subliminal hair metal and nuclear fast food restaurants. But Jem? Jem takes it even further. It might just be because I'm used to seeing insanely over the top military adventure from comics and action movies and not so much from the land of glamourous pop music, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly because Jem is straight up bonkers.
I've talked about this before, but for me, the definitive episode of Jem isn't one about writing a new song or the love triangle between Jem, Jerrica and Rio, it's "Intrigue at the Indy 500," where Jem and Pizzazz end up competing in the Indy 500 against each other.
Keep in mind that the Holograms and the Misfits are the most popular bands in the world at this point. Imagine that Beyoncé decided to sponsor a racecar in the Indy 500, but the driver got hurt in a crash so she and her friends rebuilt the car, and then Beyoncé drove it herself in the Indy 500. This made Lady Gaga, in attendance with her manager, so mad that she jumped the rail, hijacked a car, caused a wreck that took everyone else out in a massive pile-up, and was then in a one-on-one race for the finish. Now add holograms and a subplot about gambling that involves the exchange of money via hot dog buns. That's Jem.
It's so goofy that I would legitimately like to see Crank's Neveldine & Taylor take a shot at it, but to be fair, Jon Chu was the man who brought us the RZA yelling "STORM SHADOW! PREPARE FOR BATTLE!" and a ninja fight on the side of a cliff, so I'm pretty stoked. Also, since we already got a Josie and the Pussycats movie that was a shockingly smart, self-aware look at the culture of manufactured celebrity and how it can be used to influence teens (and was also, no exaggeration, the best comic book movie of all time), Jem can just be straight up over-the-top fun. With explosions.
Lots of explosions.
One more thing that's worth noting: Jem and the Holograms are a pop band. It might be tempting to update things a little by making them rock a little harder or pushing them into punk, but I do think they need to be pure pop music to make it work. They are, after all, rooted in this bright, poppy optimism and high-energy romance. The Misfits, on the other hand, could stand to be pushed more in a punk direction -- although not so much that you forget their lead singer is actually a poor little rich girl and that their songwriter is a big-hearted softie.
As tempting as it would be to just drop right in with a musical adventure, it's been 26 years since the last episode of Jem aired on television, so you pretty much have to do the origin. The problem is Jem's origin is about as weird as the rest of the show, because of exactly one plot element: there is no satisfactory reason for Jem to have a secret identity. Seriously, it's just a weird complication in her life that has no reason to exist, other than, I suppose, to hide the existence of Synergy and the hologram technology, but even that's kind of a vague justification that's just there so they can make two dolls. If you're going to do the origin, you're really going to have to do better than that.
So, here we go: Scientist Emmet Benton, the founder of Starlight Media, has just made the breakthrough of his career: Synergy, a new miniaturized holographic projection system coupled (or synergized) with an adaptable artificial intelligence based on human brain patterns. With a library of images and information that it can retrieve from the Internet, Synergy can create dynamic, life-sized holograms that emanate from a projector no bigger than an earring. It's going to revolutionize entertainment, from music to movies and even education, but there's one problem: Emmet doesn't own it outright. In order to keep Starlight Media going while he sank millions into both his research and his work raising foster children (including his daughters), Benton sold half of the company to a young, ruthless, and utterly corrupt executive named Eric Raymond, who would use his controlling stake in the company to sell Synergy to the government for its obvious military applications.
Benton is just about to reclaim the company when he dies, and in order to keep Synergy out of Raymond's hands, he secretly leaves it to his oldest daughter, Jerrica. Jerrica, upon realizing what Synergy is capable of, is showing off with an elaborate hologram lightshow for her sister, Kimber, when Eric walks in and demands to know who this is and how she's doing it. Kimber, thinking quickly, explains that this is Starlight Music's newest acquisition: A singer named Jem whose contract includes utter secrecy over her equipment. And since she signed her contract with the Bentons, her success as a musician will give them the leverage they need to retake control of the company.
Incidentally, author Richelle Mead, of the Vampire Academy novels, once mentioned that she assumed Jerrica and Raymond's antipathy stemmed from an illicit affair that went sour while Emmet was still alive. I don't think that necessarily has to be in the movie -- particularly if they're planning on skewing young -- but adding it in with subtext could be really revealing and fill out the personal beats.
Raymond, thinking quickly, decides to block Jerrica, Kimber and Jem by crushing them with a group of rising stars called the Misfits, a glam-punk band with their own over-the-top stage show, led by the vicious and violent Pizzazz, backed up by belittled Stormer and illiterate Roxy. The two bands set off on competing cross-country tours, but as Jem and her new band, the Holograms (made up of her sisters, Kimber, Aja and Shana), rise in popularity, they sink to increasingly vicious, over-the-top tactics to stop them.
The cross-country trip culminates in a live battle of the bands in Los Angeles, but the Misfits steal a master recording and cut a new hit single, leaking it to the net and becoming a viral sensation right before the event, leaving Jem and the Holograms to regroup at the last moment to write a new song. Will they pull it off?! (Yes.)
Also I would probably make Roxy the Misfits' drummer. What the heck kind of punk band hires a saxophonist before they have a drummer?
While it might be tempting to re-create the flat but colorful look of the cartoon, a Jem movie really needs to be visually overwhelming. Like Speed Racer, the second-greatest comic book movie of all time, but more, and hot pink everything. Laser light shows, huge special effects coming to life right there thanks to Synergy's knack for getting Jem out of a jam.
For the characters themselves, I'd really like to see something along the lines of the redesigns that Ross Campbell did for fun a while back. I just love how big they are, with hair going everywhere in defiance of gravity, all in bright neon colors.
If they're really serious about casting the movie over Tumblr -- which is insane -- then I think I speak for everyone here at ComicsAlliance when I say that the best-case scenario is that our own Bethany Fong and her crew of friends are hired to play the Misfits. Seriously, I have heard her scream "ERIC, DOOOOO SOMETHING!" and I defy anyone on the face of this planet to do it with more vitriol.
If, however they're thinking of adding a little star power, I think Emma Stone would be a good fit for Jerrica. Keep in mind, however, that I'm mostly basing this on this gif:
I found that on Tumblr, so... she's probably elligible, right?
If they can only include one "classic" Jem song, then there's really no question what it should be: "Makin' Mischief," the theme of the Misfits:
Keep in mind that "mischief" is slightly underselling what they do, ie, leaving Kimber in an active volcano.
If they can put in two, then I'd really like to see the one Jem wrote for "The World Hunger Shindig," if only because "People who care / are people who share / people who give / so other people can live" is the single most amazingly dumb line in music history.