Modern blockbuster filmmaking is built on two things. One, encasing audiences in a warm bath of nostalgia for a better version of the thing you’re about to watch. Two, lazy references to things you already know. Now that the first full trailer for Space Jam: A New Legacy is out, we know that the film is going to lean very heavily on both.
The trailer for the much-anticipated sequel/reboot/reimagining dropped on Saturday morning and it’s pretty much exactly what we figured it would be.
Just like in the original film with Michael Jordan, this Space Jam will follow LeBron James as he finds himself trapped in a virtual world thanks to a “rogue algorithm named Al-G Rhythm” played by Don Cheadle. In order to get himself and his son home, James must team up with the Looney Tunes (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Lola Bunny) to defeat a team of digital monsters in a basketball game.
While the bones of Space Jam: A New Legacy appear to be the same as the original version, this film takes things in a very modern pop culture direction by also cramming in more references and “hey I know that” moments than you can possibly keep track of. It’s as if the filmmakers saw Ready Player One and thought Space Jam needed to be more like that because the plot wasn’t convoluted enough.
Welcome to the Space Jam!! ???What in the matrix hell did I get myself into?!?! @TheSpringhillCo @spacejammovie #SpaceJamMovie pic.twitter.com/24fKHPlLNW
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 3, 2021
Among the properties and characters who get namechecked (or visually checked) is Game of Thrones, The Matrix, The Wizard of Oz, Thundercats, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, The Iron Giant, Scooby-Doo, some War Boys from Mad Max: Fury Road, The Mask, and, uh, Pennywise from IT…and, err, The Droogies from A Clockwork Orange?
Clockwork Orange guys in Space Jam 2 confirmed pic.twitter.com/ZBBFV5QSeh
— ben mekler (@benmekler) April 3, 2021
If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that children love A Clockwork Orange.
Space Jam bad guy team Lebron and Bugs Bunny have to play against
Center: John Huston in Chinatown
Power Forward: Waluigi
Small Forward: Paul Giamatti in Sideways
Shooting Guard: Max Headroom
Point Guard: Al Qaeda "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid
— Dan O'Sullivan (? Pro-Kong ?) (@Bro_Pair) April 3, 2021
The initial reaction has been, well, what we’ve come to expect. Space Jam “purists” are decrying the lack of 2-D animation from the original film while others are enamored with the many in-jokes and references they’ve found so far. One pain point for the generation that holds the original film dear is that when you visit spacejam.com, you no longer see the long-standing Geocities-esque website from 1996.
But don’t fret, that classic website remains there, you just have to go to spacejam.com/1996.
Along with James, the film also features NBA players Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Draymond Green, and Kyle Kuzma as well as WNBA players Diana Taurasi, Nneka Ogwumike, and Chiney Ogwumike in cameo roles.
Space Jam: A New Legacy is scheduled to be released on July 16, 2021, both in theaters and on HBO Max.