By Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus
What do Point Break, Independence Day and Beauty and the Beast have in common? All are movies released in the 1990s and all have been remade, re-imagined or rebooted in recent years.
Brand happy Hollywood is in overdrive repurposing Saturday morning superhero cartoons, big screen hits and other touchstones of 90s pop culture and audiences have mostly lapped up the nostalgia from the Clinton years. Independence Day: Resurgence and Point Break tanked but Beauty and the Beast, to use a 90s term, was all that and a bag of chips box office wise.
Soon we’ll see a live action Lion King, a new Jumanji and even more Bad Boys. This weekend it’s morphin time once again as the Power Rangers are resurrected for the big screen.
Featuring familiar characters but an all new cast, Power Rangers sees the helmeted heroes rescue the world from a powerful witch, an army of stone golems called Putties and Goldar, a giant golden monster born on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.
It’s a blast from the past designed to draw in new fans while appealing to grown ups who came of age in the 1990s but is it possible to feel nostalgia for four actors in plastic helmets?
The dictionary tells us nostalgia is “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”
Science tells us more.
As a recent study showed when we get bad news or are feeling down nostalgic, misty memories of a simpler time almost automatically kick in. Call it protection. Call it wistfulness. Call it whatever you like; Hollywood calls it money and exploits it ruthlessly because movies are a natural nostalgic go to. It’s their very essence, that dreamlike quality that takes root in our subconscious, swirling around our brains to create happy memories. They are the stuff from which dreams are woven and the feelings associated with them can give us comfort when the going gets rough.
We now live in unsettled times so perhaps the neo Power Rangers will bring back recollections of carefree Saturday mornings spent watching the TV show. Or mom and dad buying candy at a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie matinee in 1995. Or a long ago Halloween costume inspired by Amy Jo Johnson (the popular Pink Ranger) but at the rate Hollywood is recycling ideas we’ll soon run out of things to get nostalgic about. Can you be nostalgic for nostalgia? We’ll find out in the years to come when another generation gets sentimental about the remake of the reboot of Power Rangers.
As I see it nostalgia is bad for the movies. It encourages lazy re-treads and reimaginings, not innovation and originality. If we demand new films to make memories with, to fall in love with, then Hollywood’s raiding of pop culture brands must stop. Romanian-American poet and novelist Andrei Codrescu says that in the grand collage that is art the “past and future are equally usable.” I’m just wishing Hollywood would look to the future more often.
To a degree all art is a combination of everything that came before, but interesting, original films like Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and Get Out give me hope that some filmmakers have their eyes facing forward and aren’t simply wallowing in nostalgia.