Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

Six years after the original smash hit and Dante comes along with this newish sequel. The intro to the film is an animated Looney Tunes segment with Bugs and Daffy which is meant to hint at the wackiness you were about to see, not good.

The plot this time is virtually the same deal as before but this time its set in New York and within a huge futuristic skyscraper, well for the time anyway. Of course the other reason for this sequel was mainly to do everything over again with much better effects and creature puppetry. Now I'm all for this no doubt but at least they could of gone for a fresher storyline.

There are many problems with this sequel which is a shame as the effects are indeed much better (although the original films were damn good). It starts off OK with good continuity seeing old Mr Wing again in his little shop with Gizmo. Unsure if the first film setting of this Chinatown location was in New York though, I always kinda thought it was San Francisco for some reason. Anyway it makes sense that the old man dies and Gizmo is left alone in the world, not too sure about the fact they bulldoze the little store before clearing it though.

Eventually the film sticks to its new location for the action within this skyscraper. I still find it funny that this huge building would have its own animal testing floor filled with various animals of all shapes and sizes. Also the fact it appears to have lots of shops and eating establishments along with filming studios and its own TV cable network! all this with office areas higher up where lots of desk jockeys work feverishly to look good for the big boss Clamp. Obviously its all just setups for the Gremlin action to come but it really seems quite odd that this building has everything in it as if it were a mall when its suppose to be a place of business and work.

I guess the main issues begin when the Gremlin mayhem kicks off. It all starts out fine and relatively sensible if lighter in tone, but it just gets ludicrous. The first thing that hits you straight in the face is the horrendous slapstick schlock that Dante gets the creatures to do, the first film had it but it was set within a dark tone, this film is virtually a cartoon (as laid out for you by Bugs n Daffy at the start). I really enjoyed the different ideas they used with the Gremlins...a bat hybrid, a spider, an electric poltergeist-like Gremlin, an intelligent Gremlin, a Gremlin made up of vegetables and naturally the obligatory female Gremlin. But the whole thing came off like 'The Muppet Show', albeit Muppets with a more sadistic crazy edge.

The female Gremlin was clearly a play or rip off from Miss Piggy if you ask me, right down to the awful little musical number where she/it appears in a very Muppet-esque/Piggy way from beneath a huge self portrait picture.

The other thing that irked me was the hideous self parodies/meta-references of the franchise and others. A cringeworthy self indulgent sequence where a movie critic is giving the original film a bad review and is then attacked by Gremlins, the bat hybrid Gremlin flies out of the building crashing through a wall leaving the famous Batman logo as a hole, some Gremlins where anti-Gizmo t-shirts and there is a Gremlin logo on the cable network when it goes down. And finally there's the sequence midway where the film actually stops as if Gremlins had invaded the cinema where you the audience were watching. We then get an embarrassing cameo with Hulk Hogan breaking the fourth wall, did it really have to go that far Dante?

The inclusion of Dick Miller's character and his wife felt very forced too, not only that but I'm pretty sure they were killed off in the first film. There was no reason for them to be in this film other than some visual recognition from the first, a simple link. The whole notion that those two characters were suppose to stay with Peltzer and Kate in their small apartment is so stupid, and why would they be visiting them anyway?? These people weren't that close in the first film, just neighbourhood folk.

Plus I noticed Dante literately cast everyone he has ever worked with in this film, even Rick Ducommun and Henry Gibson get some screen time here. Amazing cast of character actors and cameos in this film.

Gotta ask but why is it everytime Gizmo get wets and produces new Mogwai they always turn out evil? How come none ever turn out nice like Giz? you'd think they would genetically be like Gizmo. I didn't really like the new goofy Gremlins, it just felt like The Three Stooges and was just dumb, the various cartoon sound effects didn't help either. I know the film was suppose to be lighter but Jesus those new Gremlins were annoying, the two evil none insane Gremlins were nice and errr...evil, but again they didn't really look too different, the effects guys didn't wanna move away from the mohawk look did they sheesh!

All the Gremlins look fantastic in this new film I must say, the detail and animatronic puppet work is astoundingly good from the realistic skin colour and patterns to every small snarling facial movement. There are also some nice effects using stop motion and bluescreen which are obvious but do still hold up quite well, it all shows how well these effects can work. It might be most costly sure but I think everyone would agree its worth it in the end, the final result looks awesome especially with the vast numbers of Gremlins on display this time. Beats the f*ck outta CGI I can tell you.

I want to like this film but its hard. The idea is reasonable giving us a wider range of Gremlins with new designs and more havoc, which is what you wanted really, but they dumbed it down too much. A lighter version is not a problem but the self referential jokes and small nonsensical plotless sequences felt more like a collection of sketches from a TV show (the 'Phantom of the Opera' Gremlin sequence). It makes the whole film feel like a spoof when its not really meant to be, not to that degree anyway, and the fact that the female Gremlin survives simply makes a mockery of films finale, who cares.

I love the creature effects and there are still some really nice moments of Gremlin gore and horror which hint at what could of been. Unfortunately it just gets lost in a sea of zany childish wackiness that doesn't really appeal to adults, fans of the original or kids because its still a bit too scary for them, so really it has no decent target audience.