December 3, 2010
Perhaps now more than ever, Hollywood is entranced with the idea of reusing old ideas and trying to make them hip and gritty. This is nothing new. They tried it years ago with Super Mario Brothers and to a spectacular failure. Sequels are old hat. Remakes are nothing new. Re-imaginings are a newer concept.
But there’s a reason some work and some don’t and now Hollywood is after my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
We know of no cast and no story details other than it is a re-imagining of the original concept and will not feature any of the television show cast, mythology, and Joss Whedon will not have any part in it.
Before I get to the obligatory nerd rage over this, let’s go over a few other remakes and re-imaginings and why they worked.
This one got the ol’ nerd rage going. How could anyone, ANYONE, think he or she could recreate the campy cheesiness of the original series? How could you out-Shatner Shatner? Whatever its faults, Star Trek had decades of history on the pop radar. Even people who’ve never seen it knew about Klingons, knew the phrase “Beam me up, Scotty,” and could pick out a Star Trek parody a mile away.
It’s part of American pop culture, so why did the 2009 re-imagining work so well?
If you ever get the chance to see the original, the pilots for Star trek, “The Cage” and “Where No man Has Gone Before,” you’ll notice something absent from later incarnations of the story. People die. People and human emotion drive the stories. There is ZERO technobabble.
The new Star Trek got back to the roots of the original series. Cowboys in space, unapologetic, brash, and full of humanity. Yes, even Spock. J. J. Abrahams brought us back to a time when men were men, women wore miniskirts, and no one routed SHIT through the deflector. The greatest Star Trek episodes of all time, whatever the series, deal with people first and use the technology to advance the story, not the other way around. The moment characters become secondary to science, you have hard SF, and Star Trek has enough holes in its plots to preclude any possibility the science will get it right. Hell, they can’t even get basic continuity right. Do you really expect them to respect relativity, core engineering principles, and quantum mechanics?
Can we erase Batman and Robin from our collective memories? The movie is barely tolerable with Rifftrax and did more damage to Batman than the Adam West series. Yes, I loved the old live-action series, but let’s face it. Given the tone of the old comics, the darkness and noir roots of the original, it’s a bit like trying to adapt Sam Spade into a Broadway musical staring The Situation.
Chris Nolan actually did something similar to J. J. Abrahams. He made the characters human again and gave us real darkness, not some emo-crap. It wasn’t about the cool toys as much as it was about the people. Batman Begins was dark, and The Dark Knight brought it to an epic crescendo with a real-world, creepy-as-hell interpretation of the Joker.
Because these characters were people, we cared for them. The Joker became a menacing, mesmerizing villain not simply because of his nihilistic genius, but because we saw Bruce Wayne grow up and slowly become Batman. We watched Harvey Dent knowing he would become one of Batman’s greatest foes.
And we cared. We really cared.
When I first heard Ronald Moore was going to remake Battlestar Galactica, I had one question.
“Wait, the guy from Star Trek is going to redo the show with the walking toasters?”
I like being proven wrong.
While the original Battlestar Galactica has a camp value of its own, it was an attempt to cash in on the Star Wars craze of the late 70s. Let’s face it, though, there’s plenty of appeal for cheese, and BSG built up a loyal fanbase. Even if it was never as popular as other franchises, people knew about it and it remained relevant.
Moore, however, again did the smart thing and made people the focus of the new show. The BSG Writer’s Bible even made it a commandment. No aliens, no gee-whiz tech, nothing like that.
Thou shalt be real…
What Does it Mean?!
Notice the pattern. Most of these remakes were based on properties that had faltered or became the subject of ridicule. As much as I hate to admit it, Nolan’s Batman, Star Trek, and BSG all benefited from being based on ideas and series that, quite frankly were considered jokes. When the bar is that low, it’s easy to impress, but even ignoring that, the final products built new mythologies and drew new audiences in.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2011)
The original movie, as Joss Whedon has said many times, was a distortion of his original script and vision and the show staring Sarah Michelle Gellar. It was more than just a cute blond fighting demons. It had story. It managed to use rounded characters, ongoing story-arcs, and used horror, science fiction, and fantasy as metaphors. Despite some shortcomings, it was as close to a perfect show.
So what exactly are we going to add?
No Angel or Spike.
It’s not set in high-school or college.
Joss Whedon’s signature dialogue will not be making an appearance.
The tongue-in-cheek references to horror and fantasy, critical to the success of the show, will likely be gone or turned into self-referential humor.
We are left, ladies and gentlemen, with an athletic girl fighting monsters with medieval weaponry in a modern setting.
So…. Pretty much any half-assed anime.
Pretty much the only reason to make a sequel or remake something is because the original fell short somewhere. This is worse than remaking foreign movies. Most people in the United States have probably never seen the original foreign versions. This will be a show based on a show based on a movie. And the show was closer to the original script of the movie, so if they’re basing this on the movie, it’s the twice-removed bastard child of Buffy.
No links today. Classes are winding down, but the work is increasing. it’s like we’re nearing the academic singularity.