Saturday, October 27, 2012

Franchises of Future Past: Tiny Monsters and Puppets Edition

If you've read either of my Unnecessary Retrospectives, you know that if there's one thing I love more than rambling on incessantly about shit nobody cares about, it's coming up with ways to expand on the mythology of said shit via even shittier fan fiction. Now all this talk about Critters and Puppet Masters has got me all imaginatin' again, and so I thought I'd use my new platform here at Stupid Blue Planet to talk about some other movies that didn't quite get the same chance to flourish and play out all of their various possibilities in sequel after sequel, and postulate a  hypothetical series (or rather a series of serieses), where none exist. First up, a movie I've mentioned before, one of my favorites by one of my favorite directors -


Okay, yes, technically Gremlins did have one sequel, which I would argue is one of the few out there better than the original, but I'm going by Unnecessary Retrospective rules here, where a franchise isn't a franchise unless it has at least a trilogy under its belt. And quite frankly, why the hell didn't these movies get another sequel? How is it that there are four Ghoulies movies, but only two Gremlins ones? It's a travesty of Ghostbusterly proportions! Anyway, what would the third in a Gremlins series look like? There are a few ways you could go with it. The obvious choice is to follow the trend set in Gremlins 2 of placing the creatures in a new and different location that is particularly conducive to their unique brand of mayhem. My first thought - Gremlins in the White House. Gremlins 3: Hail to the Creeps.

It starts with the annual tradition of a newly elected president having to choose a family pet, but a recent national rabies outbreak has made dogs and cats unworkable for security reasons. The auditions for new pets leads to the first kids falling in love with Gizmo, presented to them by a shady rare animal dealer after the original owners from the first film died in some horrible accident (I'm thinking auto-erotic asphyxiation to go along with Joe Dante's macabre sense of humor). Everything goes smoothly until a foreign dignitary presents the president with a vial of sacred water from the highest lakes of Machu Picchu, which of course gets spilled on Gizmo, creating a new band of evil Mogwai who proceed to pig out at the buffet of a late night diplomatic gala, turning them into Gremlins. You have a lot of potential for political satire as well as an element of action not seen as much in the earlier films with the secret service and maybe even the military getting involved, and it seems like something that would be right up Dante's alley.

My other thought along these lines was to play around with the mythology a little bit, specifically the rules for raising a Mogwai. One of the things I always thought was weird about the Gremlins is that they duplicate when exposed to water. The thing is, Mogwai appear to be mammals, and most mammals are basically water based lifeforms, right? Do Mogwai not have to drink like every other animal? Plus, does it have to be water in liquid form, or can ice or steam cause the birth cycle to start as well, and if that's the case, what about all the water in our atmosphere? If we must condemn M. Night for Signs, must we not also condemn Dante here? Anyway, this leads to my next pitch, Gremlins on a Cruise Ship, or Gremlins 3: High Seas Highjinks (yeah, not too proud of that one)

A wealthy woman on holiday to a tropical isle unknowingly stumbles upon the home of the Mogwai, and against the warnings of a local shaman adopts one as a pet, taking it home on the Cruise ship back to America. In transit, this new Mogwai eventually takes a swim in the pool on deck and duplicates and the cycle begins again. But here's the catch, now they're in a situation where they are surrounded by miles of water, so the Gremlins start diving overboard and duplicating on mass, creating thousands upon thousands of siblings, some of which crawl back aboard to wreak havoc, while the others swim in all directions towards the nearest continents, setting up an apocalyptic scenario for future films. The planet is 75% water, so the threat would be unstoppable.

My only other idea was to look back at the myth of real Gremlins, specifically the magical imps that would cause trouble on planes during war time. I could be wrong, but I always thought the Gremlin concept had a vaguely Germanic origin (maybe I'm just thinking of a Bugs Bunny cartoon). If this is the case, why not do a flashback and go all Puppet Master 3 up in this bitch? That's right, Gremlins vs. Nazis. Gremlins 3: Fight The Fuhrer - The Third Reich tries to use the Gremlins as living weapons, but they bite off more than they can chew and suddenly Berlin is under siege. Now the Gremlins are the heroes, but without actually becoming sympathetic like Toulon's puppets, just indiscriminately unleashing their carnage on people who happen to be bad guys, without losing their edge.  And of course it ends where Puppet Master 3 didn't have the balls to go, with an Evil Dead slapstick style torture of Adolf himself!

Next up, a movie that's only sort of about puppets, but more about puppeteers, puppet masters, and other puppety things that allow me to use the word puppet multiple times in a sentence. Puppet.

Being John Malkovich

At first blush, you might not consider this a movie that is ripe for sequelization, and truth be told, I don't really have one solid cohesive idea for how to do it, but at the same time, the universe of this movie is so rich and detailed that I want to find some way to revisit it. Obviously I wouldn't go the route of a direct sequel bringing back any of the characters from the first one, unless maybe there was a flashback to the pirate from the first movie and his adventures discovering the mechanism of portals and immortality in a rousing supernatural adventure subplot. Most likely you would have to go with an original story that expands the world more and takes the rules already established and deconstructs them.

I want to know who made these portals in the first place, and who decides where they lead and where they come out at. Are they naturally occurring, or is there some secret society or mystical being that directs it? Does the exit point always have to be the same for each portal (The New Jersey Turn Pike in the case of the original film), or can it be re-directed, essentially using the minds of people to teleport anywhere in the world? And what of the various secret groups searching for the next vessel? How do they find them, and the portals attached to them? How are these vessels chosen anyway?

You could take the story in so many directions, traveling through the history of increasing generations of vessels throughout time. It could also be an avenue to do more personal stories akin to the one in the first movie. A family is shocked when their father reveals that in fact he's been an immortal all this time, and has announced that it's time to go to the next life, and now they have to decide whether to follow him into another body. Or a vessel learns of what he is and has to decide how he feels about being able to grant immortality, but at the cost of his own personality. And the idea that multiple people can enter the same portal indefinitely brings up a whole host of questions that can be explored concerning shared intelligence, multiple personalities, and the nature of the mind. I'd also be curious to know if there were any historical figures still around in other peoples' heads. Is Genghis Khan still alive, inside the mind of an investment banker?

What happens when the use of these portals becomes common knowledge, and an accepted practice among the world at large? Whole families or large groups of people signing up to extend their lives through one person. What would the legal ramifications be? How would our society treat the vessels when they are found? Would they be chosen ones pampered until the day they are taken over, or slaves given no choice in their ultimate fate? Perhaps it is a method used to solve a future Earth's crisis of overpopulation, as thousands are condensed into hundreds, and so on, until we have two classes of people - those born with only one consciousness, and those with many, amalgamated into a psychically much different kind of human being. I envision this ending on an apocalyptic but still hopeful note, as a ship is leaving a dying Earth in the far flung future with only room for one person, and the rest of humanity crawls up inside of his noggin to make the trip, hoping one day to find a way back out and into new individual bodies.

That's all I got, but to be fair, it's better than your article about hypothetical sequels to Gremlins and Being John Malkovich. I think I'll do one of these for every two retrospectives I do, assume I still have enough sanity left to do another one of those things. See you soon America.

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