Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Hollywood Babble On & On #1137: REBOOT REBOOT REBOOT!

Universal Pictures has put a feature film reboot of Battlestar Galactica on the development fast track, because it's considered way easier and safer than doing anything, you know, original.

Now I want you remember that this movie is a remake of a 2004-2009 TV series, which itself was a remake of a TV series that first premiered in 1978 before being cancelled.

So here we are, Universal's best idea is to do a remake of a remake that's still pretty fresh in everyone's minds. At this rate of rebooting by 2020 every major studio's summer release schedule will be three different versions of the same film.

Why are they doing this?

Greed and fear.

Greed in that they honestly think people will pay to see something they've already seen fairly recently because they believe people are stupid with the long term memories of goldfish.

Fear in that they're all terrified of losing their jobs. So they go for what they think will protect them. Chiefly picking a familiar franchise, running through some market research focus groups, and then say when it all goes to pot: "You can't fire me, I did everything I could to make sure we had a hit."

But did they?

First, let's look at the franchise itself, and the nature of that franchise and whether or not it's got real potential for a reboot.

The original Battlestar Galactica was a ratings hit when it first aired, but then rival CBS rescheduled their hit sitcoms All In The Family and Alice to directly compete, leaving Galactica with only 28% of the audience. 

Ironically, numbers that would be considered a mega-hit now was not enough for the ABC network to justify the expensive show.

Faced with an audience backlash ABC gave the green light to a cheaper new show called Galactica 1980. The premise of the pilot involved the Galactica and it's ragtag fleet of ships finding Earth in the year 1980, and Starbuck and Apollo having to use time travel to stop Baltar from rewriting Earth's history.

However ABC balked at the time travel premise, viewing it as too expensive and complicated. Also most of the cast of the original show was either not interested, or too busy doing other things to do this show. So they jumped ahead about 30 years, said most of the previous show's characters were either dead or missing, and sent 2 new characters and a bunch of annoying kids to live on Earth. Plus, changes in gravity and other things have given those annoying kids superpowers.

The new show didn't last, it had low ratings and was canned after 10 episodes.

The rejected fixing history premise was later revived by producers into a show called Quantum Leap.

Anyway, the Galactica franchise lay dormant for over 20 years before being re-imagined as the new Battlestar Galactica on what is now called the SyFy Channel. The show was a hit by basic cable standards, and racked up some critical acclaim and audience devotion.

It ended a four year run, with a finale that somewhat divided fans. Universal and SyFy didn't want to completely lose the franchise, but didn't want to pay for all those expensive CGI spaceships. They wanted something a little more planet-bound and that led to the creation of Caprica.

Caprica sought to tell the story of the creation of the Cylons and their eventual break from human society.

It was never as popular as Battlestar: Galactica, and it only lasted one season.

Universal/SyFy then tried another prequel pilot movie called Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome. The premise was following the adventures of Commander Adama, before he became Edward James Olmos and was just a cocky young fighter pilot. SyFy lost faith in the premise and released it first as "webisodes" before airing it as a TV movie.

Now they want to do Battlestar Galactica all over again, this time as a movie.

First, the franchise, as you can see, has a fairly spotty record, especially in the spin-off department, and I think I know why.

It's a story franchise, not a procedural franchise.

You see a procedural franchise is one where a hero or heroes face a series of villains and adventures in every instalment. There may be character development and story arcs between instalments, but they're not essential to know to enjoy them. A good example are James Bond films and superhero films which can generally be rebooted and rehashed into infinity. There are always new villains and adventures to face in every instalment and who cares who plays the hero as long as they do a good job.

Galactica is a story franchise. It's the story of Exodus set in outer space and peppered with Mormon theology. It's supposed to have a set beginning, a set middle, and a set end. All problems are variations of the main one, surviving until they find a new home on the planet Earth, and all threats are variations of the central villain, the Cylons.

Unlike a procedural franchise, every time you reboot it, you're just repeating one story, not introducing a new adventure.

I'm not sure if that's a recipe for success.

That's what I think, let me know what you think.


  1. Good stuff, Furious. If they're doing a movie about BSG now, what they can do that is original is have the fleet discover Earth in the present (like Galactica 1980 but unlike BSG 2004) and actually reveal themselves to us. This could then maybe set a sequel (or two) with the BSG fleet and a united Earth against the Cylon forces.

    Speaking of which, wonder if the Cylons will be the created robots from that extinct reptilian race, or humanity's own creations a la BSG 2004.

  2. This is one of the funniest things you've ever written:

    "So here we are, Universal's best idea is to do a remake of a remake that's still pretty fresh in everyone's minds. At this rate of rebooting by 2020 every major studio's summer release schedule will be three different versions of the same film."

  3. Rainforest Giant10/4/14 2:31 am

    My take is that it's not so much Exodus as Noah's ark. However, spun right they could revive the franchise. Done wrong and it's another orbit closer to the black hole event horizon.

    They've already established the look and feel of the tv series. Open it up more give it a brighter tone. The nihlism of the SyFy reboot could be dropped losing nothing. Maybe explain why with only a few thousand breeding females left you put them in harm's way. No scratch that, that would sexist. Of course the last of the human species would use their few remaining women more precious than anything left in the universe as warriors, meat-shields to the cylon juggernaut.

    Nah, we've come too far into Xena Warrior princess thinking to ever go back to reality.