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When Malcolm D. Lee boarded Space Jam: A New Legacy in the summer of 2019, the Girls Trip director had the herculean task of crafting a sequel to one of the most beloved sports movies of all time. He couldn't do a straight-up rehash of the 1996 original with Michael Jordan.
Not only did Lee have a new NBA All-Star, LeBron James, in the central role, but he also had to contend with the fact that the world was a vastly different place when compared to the 1990s.
Instead of sending James to an alternate Looney Tunes dimension in the center of the Earth, A New Legacy embraces 21st century filmmaking tools and the omnipresence of the internet for the sake of a wholly new story set within a digital realm inhabited by 3D renditions of the entire Warner Bros. entertainment library. Based on the trailers, the sequel seems to have more in common with The Matrix and Ready Player One than it does with Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
"For me, it was like, 'Let’s have as much of a technical and fun video game experience,'" Lee recently explained to Slam magazine. "I wanted to make it a very immersive experience, you know, as if we were all at the game as audience members."
Concocting a premise that reflected the modern day was only one element of bringing Space Jam to contemporary audiences almost 30 years after the first movie took to the live-action/animated court.
"We tried to be as up to date with the sneakers, the fashion, how the game is played, trying to find great angles and really have the authenticity of basketball,” the filmmaker continued. “That was certainly something I was concerned about, like, you know, Space Jam, I don’t know if I want to do that because we’re going to break too many rules for basketball. But I think that the hoopers will feel good about the movie and I think that we’ve got some things that will be indelible for the culture and that will last long after the movie is gone out of the theaters."
Space Jam: A New Legacy hits theaters and HBO Max this Friday, July 16.