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Buffy Movie Without Joss Whedon? No Thanks.

Updated on November 28, 2010

Many fans of Joss Whedon and his character Buffy the Vampire Slayer have registered their opinions of a newly green-lighted Buffy movie, and the response appears to be an overwhelming collective horror. Warner Brothers has proclaimed it will be going ahead with an entirely new version of the slayer story for the big screen, without input from Joss (the character's creator) or from any of the team that brought forth the beloved seven-season television series. While this move can be seen as a testament to the archetypal nature of the Buffy-verse, the durability of these characters and their world that transcends generations, one cannot help but also suspect Hollywood of conducting its usual strip-mining of previously successful material.

The studio has released few specific details about the new project, but they assure the public that while it will not revisit Buffy's high school days in Sunnydale, they intend for the character to embody the same qualities that appealed to fans a decade ago. However, most devoted followers of the series argue that the aspects of the Buffy story that continue to attract new fans even now are all the ingredients conspicuously missing from the proposed reboot: Joss Whedon's vision, writers like Jane Espenson and Marti Noxon, and the specific actors who embodied those characters so thoroughly as to raise this series far above the usual teen coming-of-age stories ubiquitous on TV networks. Those writers and actors have successfully continued their careers in other roles after the series ended, but none has ever shaken his or her identity as a member of the Buffy team. Most of them, in fact, still interact personally with the legions of fans who loved their work on the show. It is perhaps safe to say that Joss Whedon enjoys one of the most loyal fan bases in the entertainment field. In this sense, a Buffy movie without Joss or his team seems like a White House dinner without the president.

Whedon's Buffy

Joss Whedon has said that he walked around for many years with an idea for a young woman who has been chosen to save the world from evil while still struggling with the normal problems and anxieties of growing up. He wrote a screenplay for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which made its way to the screen in 1992 starring Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. While the film met with moderate success, it did not live up to Whedon's vision for this character. He set about writing a television pilot as a sequel to the film, and in this incarnation, with Sarah Michelle Gellar cast as Buffy, his idea blossomed into a cult phenomenon that still commands a devoted and growing viewership. The series begins in a light vein with iconic "monster of the week" villains for Buffy and her friends to pursue. Then, as the audience gets to know these characters more deeply, as the pressures of their lives begin to affect them more dramatically, and as the intensity of the world's evil forces begin to take an ever more prominent role, the series takes a darker trajectory. That the writing maintains its wit and humor through the saddest and darkest story lines is one of the many facets of Joss' Buffy that has endeared the show to so many.

Buffy Season 8 Comic, Issue #1
Buffy Season 8 Comic, Issue #1

The True Buffy Lives... In Dark Horse Comics

Few Buffy fans endured the show's conclusion without grief and remorse that there would be no new episodes to watch. By the time the credits rolled on the final shot, viewers had taken a beautiful and arduous journey with all of the Buffy characters, some of whom did not live to see the end and all of whom were forever changed by the story's events. That evolution is a benefit of episodic storytelling, a luxury of character arc not so easily available to a two-hour feature film. Spending repeated hours in Sunnydale renders one an honorary resident, with a vested interest in the community. Combined with characters so lovingly brought to life, that interest quickly becomes a more interactive experience than television naysayers would have one believe. The events that transpire in the characters' lives also affect the viewer, especially if that viewer has grown to identify with one or more of the story's protagonists. Joss Whedon enjoys such a devoted fan base because he is able to elicit that brand of emotional attachment through his storytelling. Fans simply must tune in to see what happens next. The new film project presents none of these touchstones; only a facsimile, a band of impostors in Buffy costumes.

The good news is that no one needs to settle for the re-imaginings of the story from someone wholly unassociated with the original Buffyverse. Joss Whedon has indeed continued the tale in episodic comic book form for Dark Horse Comics. Picking up where the series ended, Season 8 follows the gang out of the smoldering Hellmouth and on to their next adventure. Dark Horse and Whedon have been teaming-up to tell the Buffy story for many years, and have also offered a futuristic post-Buffy comic written by Whedon called Fray. One of the advantages of continuing the story in comic book form is the freedom to take the characters in directions that may not have been allowed on network television. As with most comic series, one can purchase each issue as it comes out, or wait to buy collections. In addition to the comics, Dark Horse offers many other licensed products, fromĀ  pint glasses to Buffy action figures, much to the delight of fans. The artwork on both the comics and the merchandise is outstanding, and many people buy more than one copy to obtain the work of all the artists. Showing that they know the source of the series' appeal, the comic versions of the characters resemble the actors who portrayed them on the show.

Original Buffy Cast on the Show's Conclusion

Misguided Homage?

With the rich depth of story and the wide appeal of Buffy, who could blame Warner Brothers for wanting to mine this field repeatedly? It will certainly not be the first time a beloved franchise has been brought back to life, (and even Joss Whedon himself is currently working on Avengers, a Marvel Comics superhero story he did not create.) Still, he is as much a part of the Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse worlds as the characters he brought to life. It is as difficult to picture an outside entity bringing forth works involving his universe without his input as it would be to see a Harry Potter novel written by someone other than J.K. Rowling. While Whit Anderson (the writer who pitched the new project to Warner Brothers) attests to her longstanding Buffy fan status, and may produce a fine script that embodies all that Whedon ever dreamed for his heroine, many Buffy devotees will abstain. Why bother with a substitute when the original storyteller is still telling the tale?


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