Space Jam 2’s new villain is actually based on terrifying and scary principles that audiences deal with daily, even if they are unaware of the fact.
Space Jam 2’s new villain, Al G. Rhythm, is actually terrifying, even if it didn’t quite work as well as the studio may have hoped it would. Don Cheadle stars as the antagonist, Al G. Rhythm, in Space Jam: A New Legacy alongside LeBron James and Bugs Bunny. Unfortunately, since its HBO Max and theatrical release on July 16, 2021, Space Jam 2 has received vastly negative reviews from critics and audiences alike. Though much of this criticism revolves around Warner Bros. excessive inclusion of various properties as they previously did in Ready Player One, Don Cheadle’s villain has also been described as a misfire.
Al G. Rhythm is, of course, a fun play on algorithm, which is exactly what the Space Jam villain is. To be even more specific, Al G. seems to be a highly advanced artificial intelligence algorithm. One similar to those which power Google and social media capable of generating high concept ideas for multimedia Warner Bros. projects. It’s after LeBron turns down one of these projects that Al G. traps LeBron and his son in Warner Bros.’ Serververse and forces LeBron James into a Space Jam style basketball game. Therefore, it’s mere ego that drives Al G. Rhythm.
Nonetheless, Al G. Rhythm is actually quite scary, even if it doesn’t necessarily work in this particular film. Al G. is terrifying because he’s incredibly relevant in today’s digital age as he encompasses the increasing fears of big tech and Big Brother. This villain personifies the evil algorithms lurking in the shadows of the internet that most don’t give a second thought to. However, instead of developing the full range of Al G.’s powers, Space Jam 2 reduces the character to a cheap gimmick. This is a recurring issue throughout the film as it constantly prioritizes spectacle over substance.
Al G. Rhythm had an opportunity to capitalize on the fears that permeate society today. After all, algorithms possess a firm grasp on most people’s lives. They track every search, every like, every post, and store that information to learn how to most effectively engage with each individual who is online. Everything a person sees online is because an algorithm presented it to them. Clearly, algorithms have an incredible amount of power and therefore are poised to be serious threats. Despite this distinct opportunity to exploit everyone’s fears of Big Brother, the film takes Al G. in a flashier and child-friendly direction, which is more in line with the Looney Tunes brand.
Still, Space Jam: A New Legacy does briefly explore the extent of Al G.’s power during one of the character’s rants in which he describes his ability to access any camera or microphone on the planet. Moreover, his powers are further demonstrated when he transports all of LeBron’s followers into the Serververse through their cell phones. Al G. is the embodiment of our gravest fears surrounding big tech. Obviously, we will not be teleported into a computer server by an evil algorithm, but we do live in a digital world governed by sophisticated algorithms. This is why tech-centric villains are capable of striking fear in audiences. They simply exploit the fears many already have surrounding the internet and social media.
All the ingredients were there to make an entirely relevant and scary Big Brother-inspired antagonist. Unfortunately, in the end, Space Jam: A New Legacy’s implementation of Al G. Rhythm simply doesn’t work because the character isn’t allowed to truly invoke a sense of fear. From his flashy suits to his silly robot companion, Al G.’s villainous potential is undermined. Space Jam: A New Legacy is a children’s film, but that shouldn’t prevent the film from having a truly terrifying villain. Nonetheless, Al G. Rhythm does have his sinister moments and makes for an interesting entry in Don Cheadle’s filmography.
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