Ahnold, Transformers, Battleship, Smurfs, Tacky Horror Movies and Neon. Quickly, what do they have in common? If you answered the 80s, congratulations, you’re old enough to remember. But you might not realize just how many of us are in the same boat as you are. A good chunk of the people using the internet today, certainly quite a few of those using it to read blogs, grew up in the 80s and early 90s and remember all those things above. Now in their late twenties or thirties they are usually financially independent, employed and quite a few have families of their own.
Hollywood knows this, and it knows just how ‘big’ a lot of things were in the 80s. Master Chief or any other dime-a-dozen action hero can’t hold a candle to Mario and today’s over-the-top action stars can’t compete with the likes of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and company. This is because in the 80s, back before the advent of the Internet, things were a lot slower to catch on and had a good fifteen minutes of fame allotted to them rather than the meager seconds of today. They had time to grow and settle into our minds. Today, we look back at those things through rose-tinted glasses and there isn’t anything that movie makers seem to love more than a dose of nostalgia.
Come to think of it, this is why all of the above are getting remakes, reboots and a lot of screen time. Transformers, Battleship and the Smurfs all got motion pictures in the last decade, neon featured disproportionately in a lot of aughties movies like Drive, Hot Tub Time Machine or Tron and the trend seems to be accentuating. JJ Abrams’ Super 8 is the perfect example of the type of soft-focus, nostalgia-driven property that tries oh-so-hard to be exactly what you remember 80s movies to be. It is a perfect mash-up of Stand By Me, E.T., Close Encounters and other late 70s, early 80s gems that marked the childhood of the current adult generation – JJ Abrams included. Though the movie gets updated to current technology and up-to-speed cinematographic devices (see: lens flare), the love for its roots is ever-present, and it is by no means the only one.
80s-style horror is back, often with a tongue-in-cheek twist or as a remake. And The Governator himself is now making his return to the big screen to the sound of trumpets and gunfire. Nostalgia-driven movies and TV programming are becoming the norm rather than the exception and, like Super 8, even original properties are now firmly based in our collective pop heritage. A good example of the latter is Wreck-It Ralph, last year’s animated sensation that bridged generations through its videogame centric theme but 80s accoutrements. ParaNorman, another animated movie that draws heavily from the 80s takes a more original approach, exploiting nostalgia through its formulaic plot, but flipping it and exploring more grown-up themes, in tune with its now adult audience.
One thing is certain. Nostalgia sells and we are going to keep seeing our past exploited, rehashed and visually recycled. Hopefully, in the meanwhile we are going to see some good movies conjured out of our collective heritage.
Mara Fuchs is a big movie buff with a soft spot for the early 80s. She now lives abroad but still manages to catch up with her favourite series and movies thanks to streaming services like Charter Cable EPIX. Catch up with her on Google+ or Facebook.