‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ First Look: It’s Basically ‘Ready Player One’ Meets ‘Space Jam’

Space Jam: A New Legacy First Look

Thanks to all the endless comparisons between basketball players Michael Jordan and LeBron James, audiences have been demanding to see a sequel to Space Jam featuring the latter NBA champion, especially since his big screen debut in Trainwreck. For better or worse, fans are getting their wish with Space Jam: A New Legacy coming to theaters and HBO Max this summer, and details on the film’s plot, beyond the expected basketball game involving the Looney Tunes, have finally been revealed along with some first look photos.

Space Jam: A New Legacy First Look

Entertainment Weekly has a full cover story on Space Jam: A New Legacy, where they finally reveal how LeBron James ends up entangled with the Looney Tunes for another epic game of basketball. As James puts it, “It’s one of the biggest games, if not the biggest game, I’ve ever played in.” But before we get to that, let’s break down the story.

In Space Jam: A New Legacy, LeBron James plays a heightened version of himself with a fictional family. There’s 16-year-old Cedric Joe as LeBron’s son Dom, Ceyair Wright as older son Darius, Harper Leigh Alexander as daughter Xosha, and Sonequa Martin-Green (Star Trek: Discovery) as his wife Kamiyah. The crux of the movie is LeBron having a hard time relating to Dom, who’s much more interested in creating games than playing them. Producer Ryan Coogler explained:

“The general idea was the examination of Black fatherhood and how fatherhood could be unique to LeBron James specifically. There are parents who want to push their kids to do certain things because this is what they do, but sometimes you have to look into a kid and be able to have an open mind and ear to help them become the thing they’ve dreamed of.”

That sounds like a promising emotional core to a story that has a professional athlete playing basketball with cartoons. But the story takes things in a truly weird direction.

Space Jam: A New Legacy First Look

Dom’s tech skills draw the attention of a CGI humanoid named Al G Rhythm, played by Don Cheadle. One thing leads to another, and LeBron and Dom somehow get sucked into the Warner 3000 entertainment “Server-verse,” which is chock full of Warner Bros. characters. It is said that the likes of Batman and King Kong can be spotted courtside when the big game unfolds, and there will be references to The Matrix, Wonder Woman, Mad Max, and Casablanca, just to name a few. Basically, it sounds a lot like a Ready Player One kind of environment, as you can see below with a furry, 3D-rendered Bugs Bunny.

Space Jam: A New Legacy First Look

Since the background is so blurry, it’s hard to make out many of the characters. But on the far right you can see the classic 1966 version of Penguin from the Batman TV series. And then up and to the left in the further background, it appears The Flintstones car has found a nice spot to watch the game from. We’ll likely get a better glimpse at the crowd whenever the first trailer debuts.

So what brings this basketball game about? Well, Al G Rhythm is keeping Dom in the Server-verse in order to steal some of LeBron’s followers on social media. And apparently the only way to get Dom back and stop this AI villain is with a game of basketball. In order to save his son and escape this intellectual property hell hole, LeBron James has to round up the Looney Tunes (including a banished Bugs Bunny) to defeat a new team of villains called The Goon Squad. We’re assuming the Looney Tunes will initially appear in their usual 2D animated form, and then transform upon entering the Server-verse, likely with a few quips about their new look.

Space Jam: A New Legacy First Look

Speaking as a kid who grew up loving the original Space Jam and still has a soft spot for it in the nostalgic part of his brain and heart, I must say that this doesn’t sound very promising. It feels like it’s trying way too hard to capitalize on established intellectual property for even more nostalgia. But that might work for some audiences who are hungry for big screen fun right now, even if it means watching it at home on HBO Max.

For his part, director Malcolm D. Lee says, “Space Jam: A New Legacy is a better movie than Space Jam.” Much like the debate about whether LeBron James or Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all, that’s an argument that could carry on for years to come.

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