Warner Brothers to Slay Franchise

In 1992, 20th Century Fox released the much maligned film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Starring Kristy Swanson as the title character, the film made back what it cost to produce but was widely regarded as critical and commercial failure. Director Fran Rubel Kuzui misrepresented screenwriter Joss Whedeon’s work, rewriting large portions of his original script. She took out sections of the film that established tone and character development in favor of cheap humor and silly gags.

Then, in 1997, a show of same name premiered on the fledgling WB Network. Like its preceding film, The WB’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer was written by Whedon. But, this time Joss had full autonomy. For the next 5 years Buffy the Vampire Slayer would help The WB become destination television for viewers in TV’s key demographic (18-34). Series star, Sarah Michelle Gellar became a household name, eventually earning herself a Golden Globe nomination in 2001.

When Buffy moved to UPN in the fall of 2001, its quality and ratings began to diminish. This drop off not so coincidentally coincided with Whedon handing over showrunning duties to Marti Noxin. Two years later, on May 20th, 2003, Buffy the Vampire Slayer aired its final installment. Since then, Whedon and his lieutenants have continued the story in a series of comic books.

All of which brings us to today’s announcement that Fran Rubel Kuzui and her husband Kaz Kuzui have found a distributor and a screenwriter for their planned Buffy reboot. A screenwriter whose name isn’t Joss Whedon. When Kuzui, who technically owns the rights to the Buffy character, expressed interest in rebooting the franchise last May, I was among the many who paid little attention. I mean, what reputable studio would want to reboot a franchise that Joss was still writing, albeit in comic form?

Today, I got my answer when Warner Brothers, as in the same Warner Brothers who once owned the The WB, announced that they would be teaming with Kuzui and Atlas Entertainment to produce a reboot of the franchise. Shortly thereafter, the LA Times posted a profile of Whit Anderson, entitled “Joss who? Meet the writer of the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer film.” With an infuriating title like that, you can imagine how enthused I was to read the article.

Essentially, Anderson is a fan with no writing experience who thought she could put an interesting spin on the story. What does that sound like to you? Because, to me, it sounds a hell of a lot like Fan Fic. The only difference is that Anderson got Charles Roven, a producer of Batman Begins, to back her vision. And, to make matters worse she can’t include any of the show’s staples (ie Xander, Willow, Angel), besides Buffy, for copyright reasons

Based on the overwhelmingly negative fan reaction on Twitter today, I’m not the only one who thinks this reboot is a terrible idea. Drew McWeeny of HitFix echoes some of my sentiments in his piece, as does E! Online’s Kristen Dos Santos in her’s. Dos Santos was able to secure Whedon’s reaction to the news, in which he says “This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths—just because they can’t think of an original idea of their own.”

Honestly, Whedon’s right. Its clear that Warner Brothers is developing this movie because of the sudden vampire craze, and Anderson took the gig because she’s desperately in need of work. Both of which, make me even more leery of the product they’ll turn out.

I’ve read a few comments today from people who want to liken this reboot to the recent Star Trek and A Team films as well as Batman Begins, but none of the three are apt comparisons. Star Trek had the blessing of Leonard Nimoy, and a visionary director who didn’t feel shackled by the source material. A Team was produced by Steven J. Cannell, the man behind the original television series. And, Batman Begins was rebooting a much maligned string  of movies, which were themselves adaptations of a comic.

Ultimately, if Warner Brothers wanted to make a Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, they should have reached out to Joss. Even if he was only producing the film, I would feel more comfortable. I think James Poniewozik of Time Magazine put it best earlier tonight; “Masterstroke to relaunch BUFFY by 1st alienating every BUFFY fan. Because clearly there was a VAST pent-up demand by nonfans.”


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