Another A-Team adventure finally blazes its away across a silver screen (a cinematic one, this time, as opposed to the television jewel that last gave grace to the motley team of adventurers), and while the child in me is wondering what the hell took so long, the adult in me is asking: At what point does the death of childhood begin? Does it happen in slow, seductive waves, like an ocean current that swooshes us away before we even realize we are caught in its wet, seductively benign sweep? Or is it more like an IED, a random Coke can lying by the side of the road that we kick out of boredom only to discover a blunt-force blast that lifts us out of ourselves and into another, larger world, where the sky is gray, not blue, and the gentle touch of grace on our shoulders is ash, not snow.
For what is one to make of a TV series that captivated the weeknights of one's prepubescent youth and now returns, twenty-five years later, to attempt another awkward grope, this time as an adult (albeit a cinematic one), graying and cranky, almost barren, yet still trying to cop a lusty feel at whatever the cost. Is it the media-equivalent of a child molester who comes back haunt his former victims?
As a youth, I adored much, and The A-Team was at the top of my hand-written list of fictional idols that occupied their own Olympus in my skull. The Marvel comic books adaptation of the show, check; handheld action figures, check; larger-than-handheld size Mr.T figure, check; the team van, check. I can see that cover of the first A-Team comic-book even as I write these words, and I can remember a wintry night returning from a neighbour's house with another copy of the comic book in my hands. They were tough and funny and bizarre and resolute, these dudes were; they found a way to help the helpless and smear the corrupt. (Even if it involved a contraption that shot cabbages like cannonballs.) There was a simple joy in their audacity, perfect for an eight-year old mind that craves a bold new solution to life's problems that will be clever enough to find fulfillment in it sixty-minute doses (plus commercials). Eventually, I left the show behind (much as I would leave behind The Dukes of Hazzard and C*H*I*P*S* and The Fall Guy and Knight Rider), soon after the team itself abandoned their role as outlaws-on-the-perpetual-run and, instead, found themselves in the unlikely position of working for the United States government itself. (Such confusing defections are enough to torment a young, unforgiving mind.)
And now here they plunge once again into the pool of our collective, nostalgic memories of all things creased, folded, dropped and shredded. For surely this is a show that one has put behind oneself, no? Looking back, objectively (if such an act is even possible when examining one's own youth), the show was, I am certain, terrible. I have not seen it in a quarter-century, but rarely do the joys of one's childhood captivate the grown-up being we all, reluctantly, become. That is neither here nor there, however -- this evaluation of The A-Team's aesthetic worth. For a good portion of those years when my bed-wetting days were still not a distant memory, this was a part of the universe that invigorated my psyche. It allowed me to dream. It humored me. These are not benedictions that one should casually throw aside like 7-11 receipts. Much of life, perhaps most of life, is horrendously dull and vacant, and so to betray that which once filled you up with a primitive sort of joy is almost obscene in its reckless arrogance.
So, no. It is not The A-Team itself that I am dreading, but these new characters, these present charlatans, filled with actors looking for a quick paycheck funded by a studio desperate for a short-term hit. All valid rules for living. Life is what it is. (And was the original series made for any less bottom-line motives?)
But my heart tells me that nobody making this movie had any particular love for the original series, and it seems all too clear that when love is absent, other, less noble qualities will inevitably emerge (like the Creature from the Black Lagoon) from the muck of life. It could very well be an entertaining rush, this movie. It might even bring back fond memories, psychic mementoes that will take me back to another time. Such small thrills are possible.
Yet again I ask: at what point does childhood die? When can we let it all go? If our past keeps belching itself up at twenty-year intervals in increasingly louder, more plastic mutations, can we ever put the old comics away, switch the black-and-white TV off for good, and find something new, something present, to simulate those old feelings we once felt so much? Or is it all just a simulation in the end?