By: Liam Rutledge
Emotional. Grounded. Gritty. All words that have described many great blockbusters. But when they’re describing JJ Abrams upcoming Hot Wheels movie, it causes many movie fans to question the direction that studios are going in.
This summer, Mattel struck gold with its production of Barbie, a story and movie that worked because of its great director, writers, and actors.
It worked to the tune of $1.38 billion.
But can Abrams’ Hot Wheels really recapture the magic of Greta Gerwig’s hit film Barbie? Or is it going to set a dangerous precedent for the future of the film industry?
Abrams announced last year that he was in the process of writing a Hot Wheels movie for Mattel. Many did not know what to feel upon hearing this news. On the one hand, studios have proven in the past that they can take limited concepts and turn them into amazingly well written movies. Movies like The Lego Movie, Zootopia, and even Barbie are relatively basic in concept but they were taken in interesting thematic directions.
On the other hand, these movies started from the themes and emotions and story, and the concept was built around that. In the case of Hot Wheels, Mattel is taking a product and attempting to form a movie around it.
Hot Wheels isn’t the only movie on Mattel’s upcoming release schedule that might leave people confused. Along with the gritty cars thriller, movies like Barney, a movie produced by Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, and Magic 8 Ball, a horror comedy, have been announced after the success of Barbie. Kaluuya’s Barney has been described as “leaning into the millennial angst of the property." A script for Magic 8 Ball is being written by Jimmy Warden, writer of Cocaine Bear. It is clear from the pitches that Mattel started with the idea to create a movie about the Magic 8 Ball or Barney, and is now trying to force a story onto it.
And these are just the movies they’ve been able to come up with ideas for. In fact, Mattel has announced a total of 14 new movies based around products. These include American Girl Doll, Christmas Balloon, Major Matt Mason, Masters of the Universe, Matchbox, Polly Pocket, Rock Em Sock Em Robots, Thomas the Tank Engine, Uno, View Master, and Wishbone.
Looking at that list, there are some you probably recognize and some you do not. Some that have an established story, and some that are simply a card game with no story. But they all have something in common: they are all products.
In theory this is not an issue. Movies previously mentioned like The Lego Movie and Barbie were both great movies made from products. But they were made by a group of people who set out to make a great movie. The concern with these announcements is that these new movies are being made not out of passion, but solely for profit. Their mindset being “Barbie made money, so these should, too.”
Mattel believes that it can replicate the financial success of Barbie by simply making more movies based around toys people like, without putting in the passion and care that Barbie had.
To prove this mindset wrong, movie fans need to voice their opinions on these movies and only support the ones made from passion and not profit. And if we do that, we can get more Barbies and less Hot Wheels.