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October 6, 2015

'Buffy' Without Joss Whedon Is Not 'Buffy' At All: Why the Movie Reboot Needs to be Staked

by Laura Prudom, posted Nov 23rd 2010 11:50AM
Buffy the Vampire SlayerIt seems like you can't swing a vampire in Hollywood without hitting a reboot or "re-imagining" of a fan-favorite franchise these days, from 'The A-Team' and 'Spider-Man' all the way down to 'V'.

Rumors of a proposed 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' movie reboot have been gaining momentum for months, but confirmation finally came Monday morning when Warner Bros. announced that the project is indeed going ahead.

But here's the kicker: It'll be without the involvement of 'Buffy' mastermind Joss Whedon, the man who wrote the screenplay to the original 1992 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' film and helmed the iconic TV series of the same name.

Instead, the project is being penned by Whit Anderson, an actress turned writer (with no previous screenwriting credits, according to IMDB) whose interview with the L.A. Times' Hero Complex sent fans -- including yours truly -- into an apoplectic, foaming fit of outrage yesterday. Just another Monday on the internet ...

But why has this announcement gotten fans so worked up, you ask? The answer: You have much to learn, grasshopper, but we'll try and lay down some of our concerns for you here.

While it's inarguable that some cult classics deserve a dusting off and a sprucing up for a new millennium -- one just has to look to J.J. Abrams' 'Star Trek' for an example of a reboot that stayed true to the spirit of the original while making the story accessible for a new audience -- we're having a hard time seeing 'Buffy' as a candidate for a do-over.

Unlike the original series of 'Star Trek,' which ended its first run in 1969 (not counting cameos in other incarnations and the spin-off film series from 1979-1991), the 'Buffy' franchise is still (comparatively) in its infancy, with the show reaching its conclusion in 2003 with season 7. And the characters continued fighting the good fight in an ongoing, Whedon-sanctioned comic book version of season 8 that shows no sign of ending in the foreseeable future.

In short, to use a Buffy-esque analogy, the body is still warm, and if fans want their 'Buffy' fix, they only need pick up a copy of the comics to catch up with their favorite members of the Scooby gang.

Joss Whedon weighed in on the movie announcement via E!Online, with a typically sardonic response that only cemented our certainty that a 'Buffy' project without him would be 100 percent less awesome:

"I always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, AFTER. I don't love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I'm also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was. And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly. I can't wish people who are passionate about my little myth ill. I can, however, take this time to announce that I'm making a Batman movie. Because there's a franchise that truly needs updating. So look for The Dark Knight Rises Way Earlier Than That Other One And Also More Cheaply And In Toronto, rebooting into a theater near you."

We're with you, Joss.

There's an old adage that rings particularly true here: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The 'Buffy' TV series is widely hailed as one of the best shows ever, with Empire magazine ranking it as No. 2 on their all-time TV list (behind 'The Simpsons' and ahead of 'The Sopranos') while TV Guide ranked it third on their countdown of top 25 cult TV shows, coming in behind only 'Star Trek' and 'The X-Files'.

We're not saying that the show was perfect, by any means -- plenty of fans look back on the introduction of Buffy's "sister" Dawn as a surefire sign that the show had jumped the shark in season 5, and that was before Willow's magic addiction and the introduction of the slayer army -- but it was consistently one of the most witty, heartfelt and gripping series on television in the late '90s and early '00s, with a kickass female role model that empowered a generation of young women, and one of the strongest ensemble casts ever to grace our screens.

And another thing: it should go without saying at this point, but Sarah Michelle Gellar is Buffy Summers. Accept no imitations. The woman embodied Buffy for 144 episodes, and her likeness is still alive and staking in the comic books. Call us stubborn if you want, but we're not buying anyone but SMG beneath those awesome leather jackets and the killer heels that Buffy always managed to slay in.

Before Bella was pining over Edward or Sookie was whining about Bill, Buffy was having star-crossed romances with not one, but two hunky and tragic vampire boyfriends -- and she wasn't afraid to kick their asses when she needed to. Before 'Buffy,' vampires weren't cool, and they certainly weren't the stars of billion-dollar movie franchises or the objects of every teenage girl's bad-boy fantasy. Let's face it, without 'Buffy,' there would be no 'Vampire Diaries,' no 'True Blood,' no 'Twilight' (although many of us might've been relieved about that last one).

That cultural relevance and iconic status seems to be the rationale behind rebooting the franchise now, and certainly, we can see the theoretical sense in Warner Bros. wanting to capitalize on the cultural zeitgeist while audiences are still hopped up on 'Twilight' juice.

But how has this travesty of Hellmouth-sized proportions come to be, you ask? As Whedon pointed out in his snarktastic response to the news, he unfortunately has no legal grounds for stopping the new movie, since the original film's director, Fran Rubel Kuzui, and her husband Kaz Kuzui, held onto the rights after discovering Whedon's screenplay and financing the 1992 cheesefest. Because of this, Warner Bros. was free to option the rights from Kuzui for production, opting to go ahead with the project without the Jossmeister's blessing, and my first reaction is to wish a plague on all their houses, if we want to get Shakespearian about the whole thing. (Not that I'm bitter, no siree.)

Charles Roven, who will be co-producing the movie under his Atlas Entertainment banner, told the Times that he saw something "special" in Whit Anderson's script:

"Generally, I wouldn't have said, 'Let's revive this,' but Whit's take is pretty compelling and a lot of fun, and it's interesting to see all of this reimagined. This is a completely new reboot ... It needs to be relevant to today too, and that is what Whit has found a way to do." Do we buy it, gang? I'm not so sure -- as noted, 'Buffy' ended in 2003, so it's not as if we're talking about dragging 'Wonder Woman' back from the '70s and trying to give her a fresh spin; Buffy Summers was always tapped in to the millennial mindset.

Roven added, "There is an active fan base eagerly awaiting this character's return. ... While this is not your high-school Buffy, she'll be just as witty, tough and sexy as we all remember her to be."

The problem Roven doesn't seem to have taken into account, however, is that the show's "active fan base" fell in love with Joss Whedon's interpretation of the character for a reason, and any attempt to pursue a reboot without him is likely to be met with nothing short of horrified indignation -- one peek at Twitter on Monday afternoon was proof enough of that. Here's a small sample of the responses to the news that appeared on my feed:

MaryZaa: No Joss = No Buffy! This man made the show what it became - truly epic!

raelee514: Buffy without Joss is just... not Buffy.

SometimesTheAce: Things from the 90s that shouldn't be rehashed: union flag dresses, blonde curtain fringes and BUFFY!!

Harper47: I'm finding it hard to even articulate why I'm so angry. What gives [the writer] the chutzpah to think she can better this?

SharkGoddess: Just because the writer is a huge fan doesn't mean they're the heart, mind & soul of "Buffy". Is WB trying to save money by going with this writer & not with Joss Whedon? What is it they hope to achieve?

katelinnea: Why I'm skeptical of the new Buffy: The #1 thing I love about the show is the writing.

Cynics may argue that Whedon was responsible for writing the 1992 'Buffy' movie, which ... kinda sucked, in all honesty, and bore little resemblance to what would eventually end up on our TV screens in 1997.

But I have a comeback for that, too, bloodsuckers! Though it's true that Whedon penned a script for the movie, and his name was sadly associated with the final product, the writer/director has since (wisely) tried to distance himself from the project, admitting that the finished film didn't quite turn out the way he'd envisioned it, and apparently underwent some changes after the script left his hands.

"That character had been brewing in me for many years. I finally sat down and had written it and somebody had made it into a movie, and I felt like -- well, that's not quite her. It's a start, but it's not quite the girl ... My original idea was a lot less silly. It had funny, but it was a much more serious action horror movie with the funny. Actually it was pretty gross, too. It wasn't just straight on comedy, but that's how the film came off," he told Dark Horse comics in 2001.

Equally disturbing was the news from producers that there were no plans for the new movie to use fan-favorite characters from Whedon's series (who had yet to be created in the 1992 film and are thus exempt from the movie deal), such as Willow, Xander, Giles, Cordelia, Angel or Spike -- just as well, since Alyson Hannigan has already stated that a Joss-less 'Buffy' is "a very big mistake" in her opinion.

Other 'Buffy' alums were getting in on the act through the magic of Twitter yesterday; Eliza Dushku (who played fan-favorite Faith in 'Buffy' and its spin-off, 'Angel') told her followers, "Joss made the "Buffster" & w/out him... I just don't trust the girl. Or the world," while Emma Caulfield (Anya) met the news with a derisive, "Buffy reboot? ahahahhaha ... such a joke."

Since the slayer was only as good as her Scoobies, we can't see how a reboot could work without them, especially if the new team hopes to trade on the fans' enthusiasm for the 'Buffy' they know and love.

I may be totally biased (okay, I am totally biased; this is from the girl who dressed up as Buffy for Halloween every year from ages 12-15) but to me, it seems kind of counterproductive to alienate an entire fanbase in the quest to cash in, especially when you're wholly relying on said fanbase to give you the cash you're courting.

Joss WhedonBut we can't castigate the producers too harshly; after all, Whedon
was apparently approached at some point to take part in the reboot, but -- perhaps due to his extremely busy schedule preparing for 'The Avengers,' or perhaps because he didn't see the point in remaking something that didn't need to be remade -- he turned the offer down.

"I believe [the producers] did ultimately reach out to my agent after the news broke," Whedon told
EW back in 2009. "I think that's something better left untouched by me. So, I wish them luck."

No one can deny that the caliber of those involved is pretty high (Roven was one of the producers of 'Batman Begins,' another lucrative re-imagining of an iconic hero -- though he did also produce Gellar's live-action 'Scooby Doo' movies and 'Rollerball') but if Warner Bros. want to find success with this character, they have some strong obstacles to overcome, not least of all the loyalty of an army of 'Buffy' zealots (this writer included) who would gladly see the movie fail just for daring to retread such sacred ground. An endorsement from Whedon might be the only way to see this project get out of the gate, and we're not holding our breath for that.

As far as we're concerned, stick a stake in this one, we're done.

Would you watch a 'Buffy' movie without Joss Whedon's involvement?
Yes - I love the character no matter who is behind the scenes.170 (9.9%)
No - there is no 'Buffy' without Joss for me!1542 (90.1%)

What do you think of the announcement of a 'Buffy' movie (or future TV series) without Joss Whedon? Do you still plan to watch it, or does the idea scare you more than a make-out session with The Master? Share your thoughts below!

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA.

Amendment: Giselle Loren voiced Buffy Summers in the spin-off video games, not Sarah Michelle Gellar as was previously written. And she clearly did a fabulous job, since she sure fooled me!

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Steven Meer

The only way that I would be very excited about a Buffy movie would be if it was done like how the Star Trek movies started out - to continue on from where the TV series ended, with all of the same characters played by the same actors. That, I would be very excited about. I have NO intrest in what is being planned.

November 30 2010 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a suggestion for all who disdain the very notion of this project:

Remember this word:B O Y C O T T!!

I say again: B O Y C O T T!!

Let your voice be heard through your wallets!!
If you love Joss Whedon like you all say you do,then go see 'The Avengers'.

I'd really like to see all you fans organize into a movement against this travesty,so remember the word,and spread the word around!

B O Y C O T T! B O Y C O T T! B O Y C O T T!

Who's with me on this?? I WANNA HEAR YOU VOICES...NOW!!

November 27 2010 at 9:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's time to be together against this stupid project! Joins the group "NO to the Warner's Buffy the vampire slayer movie!": http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_168899736464729

November 26 2010 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

really don't understand these execs. why would they forgo Joss Whedon who will do the franchise justice & a sure way to get fans onboard over some new writer??? No offence to Whit who might be a great writer, but as it is, she has no real credit to her name yet. where's the justification for that?

November 25 2010 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This whole situation sounds awfully familiar...

November 24 2010 at 11:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Absolutely, positively, definitely will NOT watch a Buffy movie without Joss and the original scooby gang. NO, NO , NO!!!!

November 24 2010 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Are they kidding?!? I'm sorry but this sucks!! They are gonna jack this up just like all the other great shows they have ruined. Just because your a fan does not mean you can write the show. I tried to read one of the "Buffy" books that they put out. Obviously not written by Joss or anyone affiliated with the show. Good story but it could have been Jane Doe down the street. Definatly NOT Buffy. This is gonna be the same. Maybe it's an good story but it is definatly NOT Buffy!!

November 24 2010 at 6:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

no joss = fail
no scoobies = fail
no SMG = fail

this idea reeks of super fail. will not watch or even acknowlege

November 24 2010 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dances With Wolves with blue people, Karate Kid with no karate (and in China), now Buffy without Joss...when will the blasphemies end! And I'm not even going to mention the remade, colorized James West (Will Smith puhleez!)

November 24 2010 at 10:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm a hardcore Whedonite and always will be, and lord knows I love me some Scoobies, but it needs to be said: It's not just that Buffy without Joss is a horrible idea - Buffy without BUFFY would be a horrible idea. Say what you will about Sarah Michelle Gellar, that girl played the HELL out of that role, and anyone else trying it just can't possibly measure up.

November 24 2010 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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November 24 2010 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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