A project that was long rumored, Warner Bros. finally gave Space Jam 2 the green light recently. The film is a sequel to the 1996 animation/live-action hybrid, which saw Bugs Bunny and the rest of the Looney Tunes team up with Michael Jordan to win a basketball game against a team of aliens looking to enslave them. For the followup, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James will be stepping into Jordan’s role, joining forces with the classic cartoon characters. Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin seems to be the one calling the shots.
As Hollywood further embraces nostalgia for old properties, it isn’t entirely surprising that WB is reviving Space Jam for the next generation. However, there are those who wish the studio would just let the first film be and not bother with a sequel. This group of detractors includes filmmaker Joe Pytka, the director of the original Space Jam. In fact, he believes that the upcoming film is “doomed” from the start.
As reported by THR, Pytka believes that the sequel shouldn’t happen because the current crop of NBA players that will make up the movie’s cast are not as strong and recognizable as some of the legends featured in the first film:
“When we did Space Jam, there was a perfect storm of players and ex-players available — Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing. They all had a persona that complemented the film. There are none around like that now.”
Pytka also stated that Space Jam worked so well because “Michael Jordan was the biggest star on the planet”, implying that that is no longer a title James holds. While there is some truth to that belief (Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry has won back-to-back MVP awards), Pytka is wrong in his assessment of the modern NBA landscape. The league’s talent pool is incredibly deep (here are our picks for the new Monstars) and it’s arguably never been as popular as it is now. Especially during the playoffs, basketball dominates social media on a nightly basis and has a global following. Even if the movie isn’t ready for release until late 2018, the NBA is still going to be a premiere form of entertainment and LeBron will still be one of the best players. Barring any catastrophes, those elements aren’t changing.
That said, Pytka could be correct in saying Space Jam 2 is “doomed,” just for a totally different reason. Oddly enough, it could be James’ animated co-stars that derail the film’s box office prospects. There’s an entire segment of the target audience that are largely unfamiliar with the Looney Tunes and what they’re all about. The 1990s kids who grew up with Space Jam will feel sentimental when marketing materials start rolling out, but today’s youngsters may not care about Bugs, Daffy Duck, and friends. If Space Jam 2 is to be a financial hit like its predecessor, illustrating why it can appeal to multiple demographics will be vital.
It’ll be interesting to see if that happens. Space Jam is a touchstone for movie fans of a certain age, but it’s not really something that got passed down to a new audience like Star Wars or Jurassic Park. Whether it’s a sustainable IP or not is a question that’s difficult to answer at this juncture. Seeing James and his NBA colleagues on the big screen will be a hook for sports fans, but there’s a chance this ship has sailed. Arriving more than two decades after its predecessor, Space Jam 2 runs the risk of being overshadowed by all of the massive franchises that currently dominate the release calendar. The onus is on Lin and company to craft a fun experience, and they might have their work cut out for them.
Space Jam 2 currently has no release date. We’ll keep you updated on its development.