As I started to read the script, I was keenly aware of why previous attempts to make live-action versions of cartoons tended to fail. The characters are both literally and figuratively cartoons. Their behavior and reactions are ridiculous and they get away with it by being animated. Gags that work beautifully in animation often fail miserably in live-action format. When the world is drawn, we can accept things that don't work in reality because the whole format is a fantasy. The script's opening scenes did little to make that thought go away as a number of standard gags from the series were replayed. Watching George Jetson get launched from his bed, straight into the shower and having a mechanical hand jab a toothbrush in his unsuspecting mouth is pure silliness and it plays nicely in cartoon form. With a real person it just seemed unrealistic and cruel.
But as I got past the first few pages I was surprised to watch the characters establish themselves and move away from being cartoons and at least approach being real people. Even more surprising was watching the plot suddenly veer wildly away from the typical Jetsons style story and it a fairly dark direction. I'd say it had been inspired by The Matrix if it didn't pre-date that film by three years. The plot follows a price war between the companies Spacely Sprockets and Cogswell Cogs. Their respective products are identified here for the first time as sources of energy. In a desperate bid to win this war, Spacely takes production of his sprockets off planet to Pluto, where they are assembled by weird little aliens with questionable build quality. Offered below the lowest price that Cogswell can manage, they sell like hotcakes and soon virtually every machine on the planet is running them. The little powerplants quickly start to malfunction, causing mass chaos as machines start to break down and/or misbehave. Pretty soon the world is suffering a massive robot revolt, led by George's robot therapist Bob Brain.
George Jetson was basically a spineless jellyfish in the series and for the first half of this film, that doesn't change. George departs from this about midway through the script when he realizes that his weakness has led to a lot of the insanity. From that point on we get a new George, one who makes smart decisions and never worries about his image. It's not the best developed character arc we'll ever see but for a character born of a cartoon, it's nothing short of amazing. While the other characters don't grow as much as George, the script does a nice job of weaving in their individual personalities. Nothing in this script is ever discarded, it all comes back into play later on.
On the down side, the script has a rather heavy handed anti-technology theme to it. George frets constantly that technology has insinuated itself into our society so heavily that it isolates us from each other. This worry is magnified massively when suddenly they can't rely on their army of robots any longer. The theme is hammered home relentlessly and could definitely stand to be softened. Another flaw of the script is a reliance on jokes that are heavily dated. Considering that the story takes place well in the future, there's really no excuse for jokes that sound old a mere seven years later. I suspect that in the distant future even Jay Leno will have given up the Clinton jokes.
The project has been a long time denizen of development hell and I would expect it to stay there. While I liked this script, it has one problem that will keep it out of theaters. Cost. There isn't a scene in the script that doesn't require some degree of special effects, many of the spectacular kind. The script has a nice visual sense that uses the cartoon as a jumping off point, making it the inspiration for the story but not allowing it to become constricting. As a film it could be quite beautiful. CGI has improved radically since the script was written, which would make every shot possible, but the sheer number of the shots has to price this script out of virtually every studio's budget. I'd guess that it would probably cost $120-150 million to make. I don't blame Warner Bros. for not taking that plunge. When you add in the marketing costs required to launch a film costing this much money, it's hard not to get cold feet. It's too bad really as this would have been the film that all other such adaptations would be measured by.
(Reviewed submitted by John Shea.)