Thursday, June 14, 2007

’80s nostalgia grips Hollywood, storms theaters

Either I’m imagining things, or Hollywood is in the grip of nostalgia for the decade of President Reagan and hair bands.

On July 3, “Transformers” opens in theaters across North America. This big-budget sci-fi/action movie from executive producer Steven Spielberg and director Michael Bay is one of this summer’s most anticipated films — and not because everyone suddenly thinks Bay has learned how to direct.

No, it’s because “Transformers” has a built-in audience of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings who grew up playing with Transformers toys, reading Transformers comic books and watching Transformers cartoons during the mid-1980s.

But the Transformers franchise is only the first ’80s pop-culture touchstone Hollywood has decided to resurrect in hopes of cashing in on Generation X nostalgia.

Warner Bros. has two projects in the pipeline. The first is a live-action movie based on “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” with Joel Silver (“Lethal Weapon,” “The Matrix”) producing. The second is a computer-animated revival of “Thundercats,” with a script (for now) by newcomer Paul Sopocy.

Silver is already producing another nostalgia piece, “Speed Racer,” based on the 1960s Japanese cartoon, and he’ll be the second producer to take a stab at a live-action “He-Man” movie. The first attempt, starring Dolph Lundgren, staggered into theaters in 1987 and stumbled out about a week later.

Why the upcoming “Thundercats” movie rates only animation instead of live action is a mystery to me. There are at least as many aging “Thundercats” fans as there are “He-Man” fans. I guess it’ll save the actors from suffering through the hours of makeup needed to transform them into cat people. But it’ll also deprive me of seeing a suitable actress, say, Rebecca Romijn, made up as a cat person.

I’d pay good money to see that, and so would a lot of other guys my age, whether or not they’ll admit to thinking Cheetara was hot in the ’80s “Thundercats” cartoon series.

Don’t look so shocked. Teenage boys know sexually attractive cartoon characters when they see them. And according to at least one female friend of mine who had a thing for He-Man, girls are no different. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s one reason why Hollywood is pitching revamped versions of ’80s children’s shows to people who are now adults.

Speaking of sexy cartoon characters, my favorite, the Baroness, is set to appear in a live-action movie based on yet another 1980s property, “G.I. Joe.” Paramount has picked up the rights to the toy/cartoon/comic-book franchise about an elite, top-secret military unit and its fight against Cobra, the ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world.

Of course, since the Baroness is a member of Cobra, this is one instance when I’m on the side of the terrorists. Sorry, but I can’t resist a woman in leather.

Assuming there are no delays, however, the “G.I. Joe” movie may not be out until at least 2010, the date currently listed online at the Internet Movie Database.

Even then, it may be called something other than “G.I. Joe,” at least overseas. According to one early report, the film’s producer doesn’t think foreign audiences will flock to a movie named “G.I. Joe.” Apparently this has something to do with President Bush having ruined America’s reputation abroad, where U.S. action movies typically make a hefty portion of their earnings.

Funny. Back in the ’80s, foreign audiences had no trouble with the “Rambo” movies. I guess some things really do change.

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