Last week, we took a look back at the first Gremlins movie. This week, it’s on to Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
Although I had not watched the movie in nearly two decades, there were a few things I remembered about the sequel before sitting down to rewatch. For starters, as a kid, it was a more fun movie than the original film. “The new batch” had powers. When you’re a kid, powers are all the rage. I remembered that at least one Gremlin could talk perfect English, while another darted around the screen like it had the powers of Electro (an Amazing Spider-Man villain from Marvel Comics). I also recalled the story taking place in New York and Gizmo wearing a red bandana – though I couldn’t for the life of me remember why Gizmo would be wearing gang colors.
Gremlins 2 begins similar to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Like most sequels, it goes for a broad, sweeping opener to show off the gloss of a bigger budget. Instead of a small town, you got an aerial view of New York City and a mini orchestral number. Right away, you begin to think that this movie feels a little too polished to be a sequel to the Gremlins, but that’s exactly what the producers wanted – something that stood out from the past movie. We’ve seen Gizmo multiply before, and the subsequent gremlin metamorphosis – so now what?
If you remembered the end of the first film, Mr. Wing (Keye Luke) took Gizmo away from the Peltzer family because they were not ready for the responsibility of taking care of a Mogwai. Not to mention, Mr. Peltzer basically stole Gizmo. Gremlins 2 once again starts off with Mr. Wing. The story revisits the “big business threat” theme that was introduced in Gremlins. In the first film, Mrs. Deagle was trying to buy up property to redevelop the area. Unfortunately, her character arc was tossed aside as soon as it was introduced. Gremlins 2 introduces us to Clamp industries, a corporation that is buying up Chinatown so that it can remake Chinatown into a corporate tourist spot. You can tell that the producers still wanted to speak out against big corporations.
Forster (Robert Picardo) stops by Mr. Wing’s shop on behalf of his boss Daniel Clamp (John Glover). He plays a VHS tape from Mr. Clamp, which shows the CEO requesting Mr. Wing to sell his shop. Before I go on, I have to let you know that I was stumped when I saw Daniel Clamp for the first time. The face was so familiar, but I couldn’t recall where I saw him from. Then it hit me about halfway through the movie, when Daniel started to walk around his office and his eyes pop open. Daniel is Lionel Luthor from Smallville. Instantly, I loved the character. Glover was one of the actors that made Smallville so great. More so than Clark (Tom Welling) vs Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum), the Lionel-Lex conflict is what really made the series. Unfortunately, when they turned Lionel into a pseudo-good guy he lost his spark.
Now, back to the movie.
“A man can always agree with others, it is more difficult to agree with oneself,” – Mr. Wing
Mr. Wing once again hits us with his Confucius philosophy. It’s a remnant from the 80s Karate Kid era, where everyone thought that over 50 and Asian meant Mr. Miyagi.
Coincidentally, Forster calls out the stereotype, replying, “Very charming, confuscious or bruce lee?”
In this moment, we start to see that Gremlins 2 is trying to set itself apart from the original film in another way. It uses self-referencing humor to nail the gags.
During the scene we also see Gizmo watching Rambo on TV and of course I re-discover why Gizmo was wearing the bandana later on. He wasn’t gang influenced, but rather Sylvester Stallone influenced.
When Mr. Wing dies we see just how far the Animatronics have come in the six years since the first film. Gizmo starts to run around New York City, when bulldozers go to demolish his home. The film as a whole shows a lot more Gizmo action as well as Gremlin movement. Unfortunately, that movement lands Gizmo into a lot of trouble. A genetic scientist grabs Gizmo and takes him back to the lab.
The Clamp headquarters has just about every business under the sun inside of it, including concession stands and a mad scientist laboratory. Billy (Zach Galligan) hears a delivery person whistling a familiar tune and realizes instantly that Gizmo is in the building. There are a few odd connections that Billy makes throughout the film. If the whistling happened in his neighborhood that would be one thing, but he was in an office building in New York. Yet, Billy didn’t even second guess the thought that Gizmo was near by.
In Gremlins 2, Gizmo is to blame for multiplying. Billy put Gizmo in his desk drawer so that Kate (Phoebe Cates) would pick him up later. Sure, that’s cruelty to Mogwais, but Gizmo gravitates towards water and leaves the confines of the drawer. Later that night, a janitor tries to use a water fountain that is broken. The water splashes everywhere. Instead of running away completely, Gizmo just goes into the corner to watch. Needless to say, the water eventually gets him and he multiplies.
The random genetics research facility comes back into play once the Gremlins eat after midnight. They head to the lab and start drinking every serum imaginable to get a few new powers. One mutates into a spider, while another turns into bat. The latter gremlin actually flies through the wall of the building and leaves a Bat signal in its wake – a shout out to the Tim Burton Batman movie that came out from Warner Bros and DC Comics the year before. The most important two mutations come from the gremlins which drink the brain and electricity serums.
The meta jokes start to take shape once the Gremlins are loose in the Clamp building. A movie reviewer is reviewing Gremlins on VHS, giving it a low score. But then the gremlins attack him.
Later on, the movie actually gets cut and we’re led to believe that the gremlins have tampered with the movie. The film cuts to a theater that is showing Gremlins 2.
One woman complains about Gremlins 2, stating that it is worse than the first one. The theater owner replies, “We just show these films, we don’t make them.”
Later, Hulk Hogan pops up in the theater and threatens the Gremlins. “Do you think the gremsters can stand up to the hulkster? If I were you, I’d run the rest of Gremlins 2 right now!”
This has got to be one of the most bizarre scenes in B-movie history. It was somewhat funny, but it made me feel as though the creative team were ashamed of their own work. So to save face, they began mocking themselves before viewers could mock them.
The gremlin that drank the brain serum is probably the most memorable gremlin in the movie. Similar to Stripe, this gremlin randomly has a revolver and starts shooting other gremlins. He also sings.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch doesn’t have quite the same charm as the first film. This sequel definitely goes for more laughs. However, the meta jokes could have been tossed aside. I would have appreciated the movie more had they just fully invested themselves in delivering a great horror-comedy.