Jem And The Holograms Director On Adaptation Differences, Set, & Sequel

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This weekend marks the release of another film adapting a popular property, this time a cartoon, Jem and the Holograms.

One of the criticisms of the film from fans of the original who have yet to see the movie (because it isn't even in theaters until tomorrow) are the noticeable differences when compared to one another (this is the nearly impossible to please geek community we're talking about, after all).

Jon M. Chu, director of the Jem and the Holograms movie, has his reasoning for each of those changes. We had the chance to speak with Chu for an exclusive interview, in which we talked about Chu's story telling decisions, the set of the film, and more.

Check it out below!

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It's almost Friday, you must be getting excited for the release of Jem and the Holograms!

I'm really excited. I've been excited for a while for a little movie. I'm excited to see how people respond to it.

It looked like the set was a lot of fun. Watching Jem, it just looked like the cast was truly enjoying themselves while making this movie. What was the set like?

It was a blast. This is one of the most fun features I've ever had the pleasure of working on. There were people, like Alice Brookes who is our [director of photography] who I worked with in college but never on a big movie before, and Ryan Landels our writer who I also knew from school, we got to collaborate and do something we wanted to do. We've been talking about it for almost 10 years, now, trying to crack it. The girls, of course, are amazing. Before the movie, they had a bond, and who they were, it was really interesting to get together and just want to hang out with them. They're still really good friends. On top of that, we have a puppeted robot with us all the time and, on top of that, we have musical numbers. We had great songs which really got to us which was really fun.

Was the Synergy robot a real thing? Was it on set and making noises and what not?

Yeah! We built it. We only had one. We built this great little thing, I'm looking at it right now. It had rods in it and we were sort of puppeteering it in the scenes and we added different lights and stuff. She had some light but we added extra lights and stuff for expressions and it was really cool.

Jem and the Holograms has seen a big resurgence in popular with the movie coming but also with comics. Have you been keeping up with the Jem comics?

Yeah! I have all the comics. I've been following it. That's what's fun about different properties, whether it's Batman or Jem and the Holograms. There's different versions of it. I think that's really fun and it sort of exists in part of the tapestry of what the brand stands for and is. Especially the art, the covers, that part is really cool.

Adapting any property with a rich history, be it comics, old movies, or in this case, a cartoon, certain changes have to be made. What was your reasoning for some of the changes you made in the Jem and Holograms movie in comparison to the classic cartoon?

You know, doing something as a cartoon and doing something as live action, are two very different things. You get away with different things. One of things we wanted to do was to contribute to the world of Jem, not just do what the cartoon was. The cartoon exists, it's there, it's great, you can watch it, it's amazing. There was no point to do just that. The spirit of it, which I always loved, was it was good story telling at that time. Music videos and MTV was just coming out. It was told in a way that was of that generation. It was really current with the fashion and the hair and the make-up and all that stuff, as well, but it was also a little bit crazy, which is awesome. I loved that they did that.

For us, as much as we wanted to go this crazy, crazy route, at first we realized we would have to earn that and get permission to go there. Some of the questions that would come up were, "Well, who is Jem? Who is this girl that is transforming? How do holograms happen? How does it relate to this world? Do people know that they're sisters and their names? But they don't know who Jem is and that's a big mystery?" So, those are big real questions you ask. It's really hard to get over it so it gets us to a certain level where maybe we're making the wrong movie about a part of this. We have to start at the foundation and build to those crazy things so we understand what's going on, especially if we're going to be drawing a new audience. So, you went back to the drawing board and said, "This story has to be about character." Really, that's the story of Jem and the Holograms. It's more about the girl who becomes Jem and once you make that decision, which was scary no matter what, and once you understand that... If you're attached to the old one in some way, I hope you understand we're trying to create a story where you really care about the character in the real world and that you root for and that you cheer for and that you cry for an as the movie goes along it brings you into this crazier and crazier world before we end up with this very nutty world. But we needed that base to get there.

We didn't force it. We thought, "Well, it took us 10 years to come up with this version. Does the other version work, as well?" In those 10 years social media was born. That's how this whole secret identity thing is actually really relatable. Everyone has an identity that they put online. They all have this split personality of trying to figure out who they are in this coming of age story of that idea.

You mentioned to present the crazier elements from the cartoon, you have to "earn" them. If there is a sequel, will we see the holograms covering this band's faces in concert?

Yeah! I think that was always the intention. I thought of this as telling a bigger story, for sure. We knew that Synergy has bigger secrets and different forms than what we know now. We even plant some Easter Eggs, in case we get the chance to make a sequel. Now that we've established this real world girl we know, we can just crush her with [spoiler].

After Jem and the Holograms, you have Now You See Me 2 lined up. What can you say about that project?

We're in the middle of it, right now. We shot it, we're editing now. I'm really excited about it. It's really fun to work with the best cast out there. Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, all those people are back. We added Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan. Both of them just add so much energy to the movie. It's a lot of big, crazy magic. It was a blast. We had magicians on set like we have choreographers on set for every other movie I've done. We would just hang and they would hypnotize the extras. Show us how it's done. We would do card tricks, card street, spider pans, it was like a big giant magic party. Whether it's magicians, or dancers, or glitter, it's on my set!

How much time has passed from between the start of Now You See Me 2 and the end of Now You See Me?

It's about real time. The movie doesn't come out until June, so yeah, it's about real time.

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Jem and the Holograms hits theaters October 23, 2015.