Right now, there is a lot of buzz about about Buffy: The Vampire Slayer being remade without Joss Whedon. Read about it here. Okay, you’re back? Good. Despite Joss Whedon’s short but sweet response of “I hope it’s cool” (which could be seen as either well-wishing for the new series or sarcasm toward it), I think this is one of the worst decisions a production studio could make.
Why? The proposed Buffy film is going to be a complete reboot, possessing nothing but the title character from Whedon’s beloved series. No Willow. No Xander (this is the one really that gets to me). No Giles. No Spike. No episodes of “Hush” or “Once More With Feeling.” Nothing. Nada. No Angel. Wait, that last one doesn’t sound so bad. But you get my point. The series would be a complete do-over, and I don’t think that will fly. Why not? Because it is the ensemble cast which breathed life into the lifeless, original film. Buffy alone was not enough to carry the premise; it was those whom she interacted with that really made the show what it was. And with this reboot, Kuzui will remove all that, and in doing so, all the personality which was fought for over seven seasons will be lost. It will truly be tabula rasa, both in terms of narrative and fan-base. Vampire stories with delicate-on-the-surface heroines are a dime a dozen today; this is just another attempt to cash in on the two most recent flavors of the month: vampires and dark, gritty atmospheres. Thank you, Twilight (*spit*) and The Dark Knight. (For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Knight, but I believe that its success makes moviemakers think that people only want dark and gritty action movies with super-serious plots, which I think is a misunderstanding about what made TDK outstanding in the first place.)
It’s a direct insult to the cast and crew who made the television Buffy so popular. This reboot is like telling them that they’re not good enough. Fans have pushed for a new Buffy feature film for years, and when it is finally on the table, it’s not even the same franchise. How does that have to make the cast feel to have these new producers all but tell them that their work wasn’t good enough to deserve time on the big screen, that an all new, all better series would be more marketable instead of the one that actually has the following? A Buffy without the Scoobies is no Buffy at all.
I have also seen comments of people likening this to the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. I completely disagree. While Star Trek did reboot the franchise and set the course for additional sequels to exist in an alternate reality from any of the television series, the characters remain the same. Leonard Nimoy’s Spock even exists in this timeline. While some hardcore Trekkies feel this is a direct affront to the franchise and their loyalty over the years, the end result is that the film series will still consist of all-new stories with the same crew (and in Nimoy’s case, the same actor). Kirk fans will get to watch new Kirk adventures, Spock fans will get to see new Spock scenes, and damn it, Jim, McCoy is still a doctor! But in the proposed Buffy reboot, there will be none of that. No one but the title character will be the same, and even she will be a new actress with a new story. There will be no hilarious Xander quips, no adorable Willow moments, no protective Giles contemplation. There will only be an unrecognizable Buffy slaying generic vampires which will likely explode in a dazzling display of CGI instead of dusting.
The new Buffy The Vampire Slayer is not a reboot, but a rebranding in an attempt to sucker long-time fans into buying into a new franchise. Why develop a new dark, gritty vampire world to sell when there’s already one ripe for erasing? It is not the fact that is Whedonless that bothers me (though I feel the film will be the worse for it); it is that the characters that viewers came to know and care about will have never existed in the film’s world, and with a property as loved as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, that is unforgivable.
I wonder if, perhaps, I am overreacting to this announcement. I have only seen, after all, the first two seasons of the television series (along with specific episodes from later in the season such as “Hush” and “Once More With Feeling”), but I have plans to work through all seven over the next year or so. But even in my limited experience, I can see the promise this show has, and very little of that promise, I’m sorry to say, comes from Buffy Summers. I care about every one of her friends more than her (well, except for Angel). I have to say there is probably a bit of fanboyish nerdrage coming through here, but I feel that Buffy’s strength is in the ensemble and not the premise. To remove a series’ primary strength for the sake of marketing is a trespass to which avid fans will not react lightly. If the new Buffy The Vampire Slayer moves forward and into production, I certainly hope the production team is ready for the backlash and bad press they will be getting, not to mention the lost ticket sales from boycotting fans.