Michael Jordan’s 1996 Space Jam will be remembered as one of the 90s’ most iconic films. Superstar athlete taking on acting? Check. A mix of live filming and animation? Check. A series of villains that were out of this world? Check.
The movie also introduced thousands to the sport of basketball. Not only was Jordan riding high off the 1992 Olympic win, but he was at the height of his career and fame with the Chicago Bulls. But today, basketball fans who wager on NBA betting odds have their mind on another superstar: LeBron James.
Accordingly, Warner Bros. spared no expense to create a reboot with LeBron usurping Jordan’s star role. Rather than outer space, the narrative revolves around cyberspace. Clearly, there was a winning formula at play… but does the reboot hold up?
From a budgetary standpoint, Space Jam: A New Legacy didn’t flop… nor did it exceed expectations. The film raked in $162 million worldwide in its opening weekend but saw a dramatic drop-off in the subsequent weeks.
But the standards for judgment aren’t quite the same. LeBron’s reboot faced a double-release, which was partly in theatres and partly via HBO Max. This makes it hard to gauge how well the film did in its opening weekend, as the circumstances surrounding each release are too different to be reconciled through the data.
Regardless of the numbers, there was a bigger factor at play: audiences left happy, while critics posted largely negative reviews.
One major critique tacked onto the film is the gratuitous usage of product placement. Clearly, Warner Bros. wanted to cash in on this project, which makes sense. The original was a hit for the emotional value it delivered to audiences; it was a creative feel-good movie fit for people of all ages.
Did viewers notice, or judge, the number of nods to other Warner Bros. intellectual properties, or the over-usage of pop culture references? It seems not. While critics wondered who the target audience was (millennials), fans seemed happy that such a classic film was remade so closely along the lines of the first.
In other words, the studio didn’t attempt to draw out a new storyline or theme, which would move too far from the first movie’s plot. Instead, they stuck to the course, threw in a ton of references at the cost of originality, and also managed to endear (some) to an HBO Max subscription.