Episode 682: If Warner Bros. Is God, Which I Think They Think They Are

On the podcast, we tackle “Space Jam: A New Legacy” starring LeBron James as LeBron James.

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Peter Fenzel and Matthew Wrather are not satisfied with your glib reading of Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring LeBron James as a character named LeBron James but who is not LeBron James. They overthink the surprising contradictions of the film, which yokes fundamentally incompatible missions together in the same (cyber)space basketball game.

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7 Comments on “Episode 682: If Warner Bros. Is God, Which I Think They Think They Are”

  1. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    You guys, I can tell I’m going to have to comment on this podcast multiple times. This movie was fascinating and bizarre and I’m happy it exists.

    So for starters, I think anyone claiming that this movie is an unprecedentedly shameless IP mashup needs to check out Kingdom Hearts, which is almost EXACTLY the same premise of different worlds being joined into a joint universe. And that game is nearly 20 years old! I think the jarring and delightful part, for me, is that while the Disney stuff had some cohesion the WB stuff is all over the place. Like, a world in which the various Disney princesses interact isn’t much of a leap. A world in which Wile E Coyote spray paints his mouth silver to ride with the Fury Road War Boys is SO GODDAMNED WEIRD that I still can’t believe I saw it with my own eyes.

    It’s also weird because while the things in the Disney connected universe are very much produced by Disney top to bottom, the things in the WB verse are just things they happen to own. Like Wizard of Oz gets an entire planet, I believe. But Wizard of Oz is MGM, and WB only acquired the rights to it in the late 1990s.

    So I think they did a smart thing leaning into the commercial nature of it all with Don Cheadle’s focus on marketing. You can imagine a Disney universe connected by Disney magic. The only thing that connects The Matrix and Harry Potter is money, and the movie acknowledges that upfront and winks at it with the cringy sales pitch LeBron attends.


  2. Tawsif #

    One point that that sticks out to me when watching the movie: Don Cheadle himself is in multiple WB films. I suppose the Space-Jam-continuity version of WB didn’t make Oceans Eleven…


  3. Benjamin #

    Pete did a fine job of summarizing some of the NBA backstory/baggage that this film only marginally addresses, so I’ll mention some of the other aspects.

    To understand LeBron James and where he fits into the NBA culture, you have to really understand that people really, really liked Michael Jordan for a looooong time.

    How popular was Michael Jordan you ask? So popular that his shoes still today outsell LeBron’s by something like 100 million annually. So popular that Gatorade’s “If I Could be Like Mike” ditty could be released un-ironically at the height of the Gangsta Rap era and everyone of a certain age KNOWS EVERY WORD.

    Not only did Jordan make baldness cool, (read that part again) but he made dark-skinned baldness so sexy and desirable that he essentially made the bald and dark actor/model template for the late 90’s from Malik Yoba to Dimon Hinsou to Seal, to yes, that guy who sung Gotham City.

    The real reason there was a string of potential “next Jordans” from worthy challengers like LeBron and Kobe to…all those other guys like Jerry Stackhouse is so we could all keep right on talking about the greatness of Michael Jordan. And one of the things that defined LeBron and the late Mr. Bryant is they both misread the reasons people had affection for Jordan and the Bulls and instead tried to chase the ghost of his career.

    Kobe slavishly mimicked his moves and mentality, while LeBron wore #23, when he wasn’t wearing #6 (presumably for Jordan’s six championships) and REMADE SPACE JAM.

    This could’ve been an interesting meta-narrative about forming super-teams (as LeBron tries to do midway through the film) or about “learning to do me” as a self-affirmation. There’s crumbs of it there. Ultimately though, the producers of this travesty can’t really acknowledge that Lebron James is a bit of a Michael Jordan cover-band, so we get some vague work-hard and learn to accept others messaging and a truly bizarre Bugs Bunny finale.

    Compare that to the original Space Jam, which is kinda about Jerry Krause as an evil dictator, kinda about declaring the superiority of Six Flags theme parks to the Magic Kingdom, sorta about the sadness sports fans felt when Jordan left for baseball, and definitely a great big ol cashgrab.

    Anyways, those are just a few thoughts…


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      Great point about making baldness cool. As if I needed another reason to like him.

      Also let’s just all take a minute and watch the video of “Gotham City,” because it’s a city of justice, a city of love, a city of piece for every one of us. We all need it. Can’t live without it.



  4. John C Member #

    I think that I mentioned it last time that Space Jam came up, but Rachel Bloom crafted the best recap of the original movie, back in her stand-up days. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty07rKxRRpM

    I haven’t seen the movie, but the analogy I’d draw (and possible inspiration) is from one of Warner’s many subdivisions: Crisis on Infinite Earths, from DC Comics. If you weren’t reading comics in 1985 and haven’t watched the CW shows to extrapolate, DC’s editors looked at Marvel’s relative then-success and decided that they needed to reboot everything that wasn’t a top-seller. So, to get people to pay attention, they threw what was then the DC Multiverse (not to be confused with the current multiverse or any intervening multiverses) a kind of Viking funeral, wiping out all their alternate universes and–maybe more importantly–throwing at least a cameo appearance to every DC Comics character–originating at the company or acquired later–that the staff could think of during the year that the series ran, from Superman to Anthro the First Boy to Space Cabbie to (the swingin’est) Binky and His Buddies.

    At the end, to protect the rebooted universe, low-selling characters Supergirl and the Flash died, and the original (1938) Superman and Lois Lane, plus two new characters (one a stand-in for Superboy, so that the story wasn’t also a time paradox thing) needed to exile themselves into a pocket dimension, never to be seen aga…well, they actually eventually undid all of that, so never mind.

    Anyway, it wasn’t cross-media except for one small nod to the 1950s Superman TV series, and I wouldn’t say that I’d recommend reading the series, but it seems like Warner couldn’t cram a new Space Jam in during a brief respite between corporate upheavals, without DC deciding to burn down fifty years of history to establish an (almost) company-wide reboot.


  5. Stephen #

    I thought the Adam West Batman (and all of the rights to live action Batman TV) were owned by Disney. I thought a Batman 66 episode of WandaVision would be fun, but I don’t know if the rights extend to streaming.


    • John C Member #

      The oversimplified version is that the 1966 TV show has been jointly held by Fox (now Disney) and Warner, so neither party could use it unless they work together or the other one (eventually) sells off its stake; the reason that the DVDs took so long was that the would-be manufacturers needed to negotiate with both companies. However, the movie–meant as a theatrical pilot, even though it didn’t get released until after the first season–is wholly owned by Warner, even though Fox (based on the Wikipedia page) financed the whole thing. And Warner obviously owns the underlying copyrights and trademarks to Batman.

      The upshot is that Warner can usually get away with inserting an occasional Batman who looks like Adam West, on the basis that he’s “from the movie.” I haven’t looked at the comics or the animated movies to know if it slips in or features characters exclusively from the series to know if they’ve gone beyond that, though…


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