Settle down about new Buffy film
by Jason Mittell — Middlebury College
May 27, 2009 – 08:37
The internets have been blazing over the last two days about the reported feature film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that would not involve Joss Whedon. While I try to not to place this blog in the maelstrom of rumor mongering and fan panic, I’m inspired to take a break from grading to share this simple message:
First off, I’m willing to take zero-money wagers that this film never gets released. The reports suggest potential development deals, but in the world of the film industry, that’s quite far from actual filmmaking. Look at the principals involved: Roy Lee and Vertigo Entertainment is leading the development, but he has over 30 other titles listed in development at the moment. Lee is quite effective in getting his projects produced, mostly by remaking Asian genre pictures on the cheap, but only a small portion of the projects he starts moving will actually get made.
On the other side, Fran Rubel Kuzui and Kaz Kuzui, who own the rights to the original Buffy film, have pretty much done nothing notable in film and television since the 1992 film – they’ve happily cashed checks from the success of the TV series and its multi-media spin-offs. My faith in them actually ushering a new film through the development process is pretty low.
So looking at the track records of the people attached to this project suggests that the odds are low that the film gets made. And perhaps the reaction amongst Whedonites who’ve made the title appear like a bankable project will make Lee pause on pursuing the project too aggressively.
And even if it does get made, who cares? There’s a lot of mediocre material in the Buffy-verse, from the original film to weak tie-in games and books. The idea that a “Feature Film” is the pinnacle of a media franchise’s value has long since dissapated, in large part due to the successes of boxed set television like Buffy. If the film comes out, it will probably be a fairly low-profile genre release like most of Vertigo’s projects – Buffy fans often imagine that their favorite show is a lot higher profile than it actually is, so don’t expect a Batman level tentpole summer blockbuster.
Even though I’m skeptical that it will get made, I’m a bit curious to see how it turns out – it will certainly be different than Whedon’s version, probably by turning up the horror and lowering the snarky wit. Does the inherent concept allow for this genre jiggling? I’m doubtful, as I view the success of the show as less about the concept and more from the characters – and a 2-hour genre film can’t offer much characterization beyond shorthand stock characters and simple oppositions. The best we might hope for would be a standard entertaining vampire film whose heroine happens to be named Buffy, probably more inspired by Twilight than BtVS.
And for the Whedon die-hards, stop worrying about “tarnishing” the franchise – if the film is decent, it will reflect well on the original vision; if it sucks, it will affirm Joss’s authorial power. So relax, and focus on seeing if Dollhouse can take advantage of its second season to turn into the show whose promise was just starting to shine through.