Maybe They'll Start to Appreciate the Original BUFFY Movie

That’s the only thought that occurred to me when I read more about the planned movie reboot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is going ahead without any involvement from Joss Whedon. (You know those two people named “Kuzui” who got producer credits on every episode of Buffy and its spin-off? They were the ones who made the original movie — their second and last big film project after 1988’s Tokyo Pop — and they, not Whedon, have the right to greenlight a new version of the franchise.) There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, followed either by a discovery that the movie is a) as bad as we all expect or b) less bad than we expected. Either way, it will not be considered canonical by Buffy fans.

I would like to hope that if there is a new movie, it will take some of the pressure off the original film and get fans looking on it a little more kindly. The movie has plenty of flaws: Fran Kuzui didn’t see the project the same way Whedon did, and the result is a bit of a tonal mess as well as an early argument for why writers with very strong personalities were better off in television. (As in, if you want to do the story your way, you need to make a television series where you’re in control. In a feature film, the director tends to be in control.) It also doesn’t have much of the “high school as metaphor” idea that we associate with the franchise, because that was something the TV series added. And it alternates good scenes with mis-handled or poorly acted scenes. But is it a bad movie? Not as far as I’m concerned.

The reason the TV show got made at all was that the movie had an afterlife on home video, and that came about because viewers responded to the many good lines, the unusual if crude tonal mix — it doesn’t whiplash between serious and silly as adroitly as the series, but it is more serious than the marketing would lead you to expect, and the idea of playing an absurd idea sort of straight was a key part of the whole idea — and the satirical alternate approach to the clichés of horror movies and teen movies. Also, “Kill him a lot!” is one of the best lines in the entire franchise. I’d still take it over many episodes from the last two seasons of the series, and I’d like to think that the new movie will at least remind people that there can be something a lot worse than a movie that doesn’t turn out quite the way Joss Whedon wanted it.


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