25 years on from the original, Space Jam: A New Legacy dunks its way into mediocrity by being yet another unwanted sequel that no one asked for. The intention here is that the film’s existence is for Lebron James’ legacy to carry through to the heights of Michael Jordan as he gets to have his moment with the Looney Tunes characters.
While the premise for both Space Jam (1996) & Space Jam: A New Legacy are relatively the same – a popular sports athlete gets sucked into an unknown universe where they are tasked with winning a basketball game in order to save the world – however Space Jam: A New Legacy has a main theme which drives its story which is family. The element of family is explored through Lebron James and his son, Dom, where he wants Dom to put in the work for basketball so he can continue his legacy and not realising that Dom works best when he is being himself and doing what he enjoys. The element of family also translates to Bugs Bunny and how he feels empty without the Looney Tunes characters around him.
It has always been debated by basketball fans as to who is the greatest basketball player ever, is it Michael Jordan or Lebron James? Who knows, and that debate is guaranteed to continue in the years to come. One thing that is guaranteed is that Lebron James is the better actor of the two, now don’t take this as Lebron James being a great actor cause quite frankly, he isn’t. He still has a lot of room to grow if he wants to pursue a career in acting for his life after basketball but the major highlight of his performance is the comedic element he brings to this film much like he did during Trainwreck (2015). Space Jam: A New Legacy is at its best when the Looney Tunes characters are let off their leash and are able to have seriously wacky and bizzare scenes which is something Space Jam (1996) was sorely missing. There were some fantastic moments between the cartoon characters mainly throughout some of the basketball plays when they are given permission to be themselves which is being looney, Sliced in throughout the wackiness are some terrible, ‘roll your eyes’, cringe-worthy sequences where certain scenes are only included to garner cheap laughs for the children’s entertainment.
Space Jam: A New Legacy certainly takes a page from Ready Player One (2018) and Ralph Breaks the Internet by utilising the studios external properties. In what is deemed as the Warner Brother Serververse, we are introduced to many of the studio’s most iconic franchises such as Harry Potter, DC, Game of Thrones and so much more. There are so many references and easter eggs throughout Space Jam: A New Legacy where it got to the point of being overstuffed and the lighthearted fun eventually dissolved into resentment. Space Jam: A New Legacy is also basically a 115 minute advertisement for Nike as we see their branding everywhere including the Tune Squad jerseys, the filmmakers even went as far as having a character crash through into the ground where the hole they make is, you guessed it, the Nike logo. The film successfully portrays the basketball culture in a way that Space Jam (1996) couldn’t, by injecting well-known terminology, famous references, and NBA/WNBA players into the mix – these elements add to the entertainment value for any basketball fan.
Seeing a live-action character play basketball with an assortment of hand-drawn Looney Tunes characters was more than adequate to impress audiences in 1996 from a visual perspective; after all, the craft had reached near perfection just 8 years earlier in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). However, we live in a different world now, one where fantastical worlds can be slapped together for a modest studio budget, or where any creature imaginable can be rendered in a snap. Space Jam: A New Legacy needs to dress to impress, and impress, it most certainly does. Audiences are promptly launched into a digital realm of both cult and smash-hit characters from various Warner Bros properties – melding together countless visual styles to work in tandem. A New Legacy utilizes clean (and very expensive-looking) computer generated imagery to marry live-action with the classically drawn 2D animation that the Looney Tunes are synonymous with. This leads to a world that feels consistently digital, regardless of what form of animated character just so happens to be placed within the scene… with the exception of a CGI version of Don Cheadle. Sure, the visuals don’t quite reach galactic proportions, but what’s provided is a consistent looking image, rarely exhibiting the expected green screen effect and keeping a very busy film, looking surprisingly clean.
Hans Zimmer was initially announced to compose this film – which I honestly would have loved to see how that would turn out but Kris Bowers took on the composer helm for this. Bowers brings a certain arcade-like sound to the score but it is tough to gauge much of it as it is mostly inaudible as the heavy sound design elements play a larger role. The film’s soundtrack plays a more predominant role in setting the tone for the film which is largely a collection of contemporary Rap/Hip-Hop artists. The songs, for the most part, fit the tone of the film but struggle to elevate the material of the film or its entertainment value.
Space Jam: A New Legacy served its purpose of furthering the legacy of Lebron James while introducing the Looney Tunes to a new generation of viewers. Here is to hoping that when/if a Space Jam 3 is ever made, that the filmmakers decide to cut back on the human element of storytelling and instead go all in on what makes these films so great, which is the Looney Tunes.