Buffythe Vampire Slayer is best known for it’s seven year run television under the creative direction of creator Joss Whedon. However prior to that in 1992 it was originally a film script and a moderately successful movie for Fox Studios. Whedon felt that the final product did not do justice to the concept or the script and was eventually able to resurrect the franchise on television in 1996. The show garnered much more acclaim than the film and still maintains a cult following. There have been rumblings of the property being brought back at various times in various ways. Initially there were rumors of made for TV movies featuring the vampire character Spike, then there was word of a possible spin off staring Anthony Stewart Head as the character Giles. However none of these ideas panned out and it seemed like the franchise might not return to the screen, either small or big.
Now however there is movement on a whole new chapter for the Buffy property. Warner Bros has issued a press release making clear their plans to reboot the franchise on film. Warner Bros has licensed the rights from producers Fran and Kaz Kuzui, who had previously been reported as planning their own reboot last year. For whatever reason the Kuzuis have opted to license the film rights and allow another studio to take the reigns on the project. Word on the previous project had the film moving forward with or without the input of Joss Whedon. Even though Whedon is the creator and oversaw the television show (as well as the spin off series Angel) he does not control the rights to the characters or the concept. While he is not involved at present it is not impossible that he may become involved at some point should the producers desire his input.
Warner Bros’ press release clearly labels the new project as a reboot and indicates that it will not have the high school setting that fans are most familiar with. Writer/actress Whit Anderson has been given the writing duties for the new project, and it may be the hope of the studio that a female writer will help to maintain the female empowerment themes so prevalent in the show. The film also has producers in place but with the project being just announced there is no director nor any actors attached to the film. Since it is a full reboot it is assumed that none of the actors from the television show will be used in any capacity.
The biggest question is whether the existing fans will even accept a version of Buffy that is not sprung from the mind of Joss Whedon. While it may be in the best interest of the production to at least attain the creator’s blessing in some fashion this seems to be a project that will move ahead regardless of his involvement or approval. Joss Whedon has released a response the announcement showing his own feelings which were a mix of sarcasm and realism. The impression given by the somewhat sarcastic statement was that while he was not thrilled with the idea he seemed to accept it as inevitable and just part of doing business in Hollywood.
Since it also seems that the high school setting will not be used it’s an open question as to how much of the concept will be carried over from Whedon’s original vision. Will there still be a Watcher guiding the Slayer? Will she have friends supporting her as before or will she be turned into a more independent character? Will fan favorite characters such as Angel and Spike appear in some fashion or will Buffy herself be the only character used from the original concept? None of these questions have clear answers at this point and they likely won’t be answered until a finished script is greenlit.
Given the length of time that the show has been off the air, seven years now, it seems like Warner Bros may be banking on the desperation of fans to see the character again in some live action form to help overcome any initial skepticism. At the same time the character as she existed on TV has lived on in comic book form under the guidance of Joss Whedon in Dark Horse Comics’ Buffy Season Eight series. Warner Bros will have to tread carefully. Though the property certainly has name recognition it is was always a show that lived on massive amounts of fan support, even in the face of studio rejection (the show changed networks between the fifth and sixth seasons in order to stay on the air.) If they’re not able to get the fans on board they may find themselves with a distinctly uphill struggle towards achieving box office success.