Shiny Shelf

Once More… Without Whedon.

By Mark Clapham on 23 November 2010

BuffyI’m finding it hard to get quite as worked up about the Joss-free ‘Buffy’ remake as many fans of the series are.

Admittedly, in some cases I could be wired on hard drugs, on fire and being subject to repeated electric shocks and I’d still seem more sedate than some of the Whedon fanbase today.  One of the first posters on that Deadline story wanted everyone involved in the reboot/remake dead. The next commenter along applauded the sentiment.

Now, you shouldn’t judge everyone on the basis of comments thread clownery, but it does indicate that response so far has been somewhat… heated.

To a certain extent this is understandable. The ‘Buffy’ TV show was great where the film wasn’t because of creator Joss Whedon’s guiding hand as showrunner, and in spite of the odd miss-step the seven seasons of the show provide a satisfying, self-contained story.

It’s entirely fair to be reticent about a version of ‘Buffy’ without Whedon’s involvement, and it’s very possible that this new film won’t be any good. Most films, especially those based on old TV shows, aren’t any good.

What it won’t be is some kind of crime against the TV series. By all accounts, the rights Warner Bros have picked up here are those to the Buffy character and concept as shown in the original film, so all though it’s possible this could be a ‘Buffy Returns’ pseudo-sequel in some hand-wavy, vague way, the new film can’t use any of the characters and concepts from the TV series.

No Sunnydale, Hellmouth, Giles, Willow, Angel, etc.

In fact, the new film’s producer Charles Roven acknowledges this up-front, describing the movie in an interview as a ‘completely new reboot’. He makes clear he was drawn to acquiring the rights because writer Whit Anderson pitched a new take on the character, and wouldn’t have been interested in a remake of the series per se.

So, not a continuation, so much as a completely new version of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, based on Whedon’s original idea of the blonde cheerleader who, instead of being killed by the monsters fights them head on.

And there is something in that original idea that’s worth running with. Seven years of TV evolved the concept into something different, leaving high school and teenage metaphors behind, turning a simple idea for a heroine (monster killer cheerleader) into a grown-up general/superhero/mother figure, one with a long back-story and complicated relationships.

Stripping away all those layers, there’s something quite timely about the ‘Buffy’ character, especially as an antidote to drippy Bella Swanson and her creepily submissive approach to her monster-lover.

The romantic, soul-restored vampires Buffy fell for (undoubtedly a catalyst for the boom in vampire romance novels like ‘Twilight’) are part of the TV series continuity, completely absent from the original movie. Take Angel and Spike back out of the equation and there’s the potential for the new ‘Buffy’ to be a smart, witty corrective to a trend the previous version was partially responsible for.

There’s potential there, especially with a recognised and respected brand name attached – and for every hardcore ‘Buffy’ fan insulted by the use of the title on a Whedon-less movie, there will be far more potential cinema-goers whose interest will be piqued by the title of a TV show they vaguely recall liking, or maybe just recognise as having been popular.

That ‘Buffy’ is getting another shot is an indication of its success – Whedon himself has said he hoped the
character would have an afterlife, albeit drolly adding that he hoped it wouldn’t happen until after his own death – and the speed with which ‘Hulk’ and ‘Punisher’ revisited cinemas after the previous versions flopped shows how tight the gap between revivals of a recognised property can be these days.

Arguing that it shouldn’t happen is as futile as raging against the weather – media rights holders wants the properties they own out there making money, and a movie is a far bigger earner than DVD box sets and a few comics.

Of course, it may not even happen. The ‘Scooby-Doo’ movie languished in development hell for years, and there’s a lot that needs to turn a script deal into an actual film.

If the project gets through all the required hoops and ends up in cinemas, a non-Joss ‘Buffy’ is hardly the end of the world. A lot of the same people decrying this film project on twitter were, often in adjacent tweets, celebrating the 47th birthday of ‘Doctor Who’, a series that’s passed through many different production teams over the decades and seems to have done alright for itself.

Thanks to Jonathan Morris for the title of this article, for further ‘Buffy’ and Whedon related articles please click on the tags below.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

2 Responses

  1. SK says:

    I think you’ll find the TV series was mainly better than the film because of David Greenwalt’s guiding hand as show-runner (Whedon’s record without Greenwalt’s help being… shall we say ‘patchy’?). And yet he never gets any credit.

  2. Jim Smith says:

    Interesting. SK’s David Greenwalt comment suggests that Whedon is about to hit the “ was all actually his collaborators’ work..” phase of criticism that Roddenberry, Serling, Lucas, JMS etc all went through.