A few years ago I saw a movie called Oldboy. It’s a twisted South Korean film that is far too complicated to describe in one paragraph, but the gist of it is that someone goes to unbelievable lengths – considerable time, effort and expense over the course of several years – in order to exact revenge on his nemesis.
You’d have to really, really hate someone to want this kind of revenge.
Episode 1 type of hate.
And although it might seem hyperbolic, I feel like this is happening to Joss Whedon right now, at the hands of the Warner Brothers studio executives.
But I feel like WB is not just trying to torture Joss, but all faithful Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, myself included.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is being rebooted as a movie – and Warner Brothers wants us to hate it
I’m not sure what we, the faithful Buffy followers, did to deserve this form of horrible punishment?
We’re actually some of the most loyal and passionate fans in the world: we watched the show for seven years, we bought DVDs by the millions, we read the best-selling Season 8 comic (which is the top-selling comic in the world without a Marvel or DC logo on the cover)…I’m not sure what else we could do to show our unwavering love and affection for the Buffyverse?
But despite our best efforts, Warner Brothers seems to hate us.
Like millions of fans worldwide, I have been waiting for the revival of the Buffy franchise on either the small or the big screen. After all, vampires are back, right? Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries…why not resurrect the series that inspired them all? Surely the fans would be back, and with any luck there would be a new audience as well.
And WB, no doubt smelling green like a succubus smells blood, decided to do just that. They proudly announced that one of the most rabid fan-bases on the planet would be satiated, because finally, Buffy was back, and on the big screen no less!
Step #1 in bringing back the magic: tell Joss Whedon to fuck off!
It’s possible that there is no writer more intertwined with their pop-culture creation than Joss is with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Throughout seven seasons (and five seasons of the equally great Angel) we’ve enjoyed a sense of continuity and cohesive storytelling that is not only rare among long-running television series’ – it’s non-existent.
While creators are famous for dumping successful shows and moving on to the newest shiny object, leaving their story full of gaping holes and head-scratching plot turns (have you seen X-Files? Lost?) Joss stuck by Buffy with the same fervour as one of his die-hard fans.
When Warner Brothers immediately announced they wanted to elbow Joss out of the equation, they sent two very loud, very clear messages to Buffy fans: 1) this movie is not for you, and 2) we know absolutely nothing about what makes this franchise great.
Step #2: decide to completely re-cast!
If a reboot or a sequel comes years (or decades) after the original, no one is going to complain about some fresh faces on the screen. After all, no one wants to see a geriatric Sean Connery hobble through a fight scene as James Bond, or a 60-something Carrie Fisher dust off Jabba’s revealing slave-girl outfit.
But the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are all very young – hell, the show just ended in 2003! A quick Google search will reveal that every main character looks nearly identical after just 7 years, and stranger still, many have even expressed interest in participating in a movie.
Why further alienate fans by recasting? This seems like a combination of cost-cutting and pure ignorance.
The recent Sex & the City films were a huge financial success – could you imagine if just a few years after the series ended, the studio announced they were going to cast younger, sexier versions of Carrie Bradshaw and the girls? Or if the once-rumoured Friends movie went ahead with a completely different group of coffee-shop dwelling urbanites?
Step #3: hire a novice screenwriter!
Enter novice scribe Whit Anderson, who’s IMDB profile reveals three acting credits, and zero writing credits.
Yes, you read that correctly. Zero. None. Nada. If Anderson has written anything more prolific than a high school book report in her 29 years, it is not documented anywhere on the Interwebs as far as I could tell.
This decision, again, screams of cost-cutting – the WB feels like the Buffy name alone will bring in the fans, so why bother hiring an experienced writer?
Save some cash, throw a script together and no one will know the difference.
The numbers don’t lie – screw over the nerds and they’ll get their revenge
If one thing has been proven at the box office, it’s that a fanbase demands authenticity. The more rabid the fanbase, the more authentic the movie needs to be.
The success of Iron Man, Harry Potter, Kick-Ass and Lord of the Rings came far before their opening weekends – positive word of mouth spread like wildfire when the loyal fans got the sense that their franchise was being handled with care – taken seriously.
That the people helming these projects cared just as much as they did about making a true, meaningful transition from the page to the screen.
And we’ve seen the opposite – when Daredevil, The Punisher, Hulk, Catwoman and Aeon Flux hit the screen with absolutely no care or consideration for the source material, it resulted in poor performance, dismal reviews, and no hope to turn the series into a franchise.
And the ultimate disaster is when an extremely popular franchise gets mangled beyond repair due to ignorance and neglect: anyone remember Batman & Robin, a sequel that was so ridiculously bad it stopped a billion-dollar franchise in its tracks? (maybe not surprisingly, this was a Warner Bros. movie)
Or when George Lucas decided to launch the first Star Wars prequel with Darth Vader as a sassy toddler and a farting alien as a bumbling sidekick – a mistake that angered loyal fans to such a degree that many have left and never looked back?
The Buffy reboot is on track to be this type of disaster.
Blood is in the water, and Buffy fans can smell it. This entire project already reeks of its complete disregard for our loyalty, and casting rumors of Megan Fox and Heather Morris (the deadpan cheerleader on TV’s ‘Glee’) are simply a slap in the face.
In conclusion: Warner Brothers, don’t be idiots.
At this point you have to realize that advertising dollars don’t sell movies anymore – WE DO.
Look back at the massive failures of the past, and realize what a huge disaster this could become once you’ve pissed off legions of Buffy fans worldwide.
Better yet, rethink this process, and imagine the financial windfall if this project were treated with just a small modicum of care.
Apologize to Joss. Beg him to write and direct. Get the original cast back. All of them. Loosen the purse strings and give us a reasonable budget. And before you know it, you’ll have millions of fans working as your marketing team (for free, no less) trumpeting your project 24/7 with genuine enthusiasm.
And I will be leading the charge, stake in hand.
Love you guys,
PS: Comments are open – flame away.
PPS: Getting over a massive cold/fever/flu that has lasted way too long – with any luck I’ll be blogging far more regularly in 2011!
PPPS: Happy New Years!
PPPPS: In case you’re interested, here is what some of the cast thinks of the Buffy reboot:
Eliza Dushku (‘Faith’) was more blunt: “Joss [Whedon] made the Buffster [and without] him… I just don’t trust the girl. Or the world.”
Amber Benson (‘Tara’) jokes “Apparently, they’re rebooting ‘Buffy‘ [without] Joss Whedon: I told him that asking to play the title role would frighten the Studio Execs.”
Actress Emma Caulfield (‘Anya’) reacted to the news simply: “ahahahhaha..”
Anthony Stewart Head (‘Giles’) addressed the issue directly: “The bottom line is if a movie was ever to be made, it should be made with Joss Whedon, whether it’s a retrospective or not. But it would be madness to do it without him. [The Kazuis] have the rights to because they have the rights to the original movie, but it should be interesting to see. It may be a bit like watching a car wreck.”