Gremlins 2: The New Batch may be the most self-aware film and also one of the biggest “screw you”‘s to a major film studio and I love it.
Now, if you’ve seen Gremlins 2, you’ll know that the semi-serious tone from the original Gremlins is completely abandoned. And, there was a reason for this: director, Joe Dante, wanted nothing to do with a sequel. Gremlins was a particularly hard film for him and he felt that the film properly ended, leaving no room for a sequel. Warner Brothers did not agree, as they saw a sequel as an opportunity to make more money. However, by the time they had convinced Joe Dante to direct a sequel, nearly 6 years had gone by since the original Gremlins, so there was no real guarantee of making money. And, it seriously cost them to have Joe Dante on board.
Dante, when negotiating his contract, had a couple demands. First, he asked for three times the budget of the original film. The estimated cost of Gremlins was $11,000,000. The estimated cost for Gremlins 2, after all was said and done, was $50,000,000. The other non-negotiable requirement Dante had was that he have complete creative control. The studio would not have final say or dictate anything about the film. Now, Warner Brothers was so desperate to put out a sequel, that they fully agreed to these terms. My question is, did they see the script before agreeing to this?
Gremlins 2: The New Batch was not only a satire of the original film and the late 80s/ early 90s, but it also openly mocked the film studio. The film opens with, what seems to be, the regular Warner Brothers/Bugs Bunny cartoon opening. It’s quickly taken over by Daffy Duck, and becomes chaotic, setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the film.
For those that haven’t seen the film or don’t remember the film, let me give you a brief summary: Mr. Wing, Gizmo’s owner, dies, and Gizmo is picked up by scientists who work at a genetics lab at Clamp Center in New York City. Daniel Clamp, we soon find out, is an eccentric billionaire who is all about creating the next technological advancement. Conveniently, Billy Peltzer and Kate Beringer (our two main characters from the first film) both work in the Clamp Center. Billy gets wind that Gizmo is in the genetics lab, cleverly named Splice of Life, and he proceeds to steal him. Billy then has to briefly leave Gizmo at the office, telling him to stay out of trouble. Don’t eat after midnight and don’t get wet. To Gizmo’s credit, he does try his best to not get wet, but is ultimately unsuccessful, resulting in more mogwai, this time each one being distinctly different. Chaos then ensues, all of it being absolutely ridiculous.
Everything from that era is parodied from the fascination of frozen yogurt to cable television to genetics. The film even seems to be a bit ahead of its time, with technology designed to make ones life easier, but it ultimately breaking down and being unreliable.
Towards the end of the film, Daniel Clamp asks what Gizmo is and proceeds to ask Billy if he ever thought of merchandising, a direct jab at Warner Brothers. In fact, the gremlins in this film are clearly made to each have an distinct individual look, so as to say to the studio “you want to merchandise? You have plenty of choices”.
I think my favorite thing about this story of a sequel that was forced to be was that Gremlins, having a budget of $11 million made a cumulative world gross of $153 million, making over it’s budget on opening weekend, alone. Gremlins 2: The New Batch had an estimated budget of $50 million, and made a cumulative world gross of $41 million, not even making back it’s budget.
My theory is that this experience led Warner Brothers to be reluctant to ever again sign away full creative control. So, in a way, Gremlins 2 is responsible for Suicide Squad and the like being bad.