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From TV to the big screen (joss whedon mention)

Mumtaj Begum

Saturday 23 September 2006, by Webmaster

Television has always shared ideas, stars and sometimes even actual series with the silver screen. Very often, TV series land up at the movies just so fans get to see their favourite stars up on the big screen.

A noteworthy example of this is The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998) in which TV-land’s most popular FBI Agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) contrived to fight the government on a bigger scale (with huge names like Martin Landau lending a hand) while getting no closer to the truth, even though it’s always been out there. The film never really took off - some fans felt the movie version had no new information and novice viewers couldn’t see what the big deal was with the whole conspiracy theory. The film, however, did pretty decently at the box office, taking in US$83mil (RM307mil) in the United States, not bad considering the budget was US$66mil (RM244mil).

Colin Farrell (left) as Sonny Crocket and Jamie Foxx as Ricardo Tubbs in the new movie, Miami Vice. Did this deter other TV shows from making their big screen debuts? It certainly seemed like it because for a long while, only animated series such as South Park, Beavis and Butthead, SpongeBob SquarePants and Rugrats seemed to be brave enough to test the moviedom waters.

But things have changed. Hit TV show 24 is scheduled for a movie version with the rather adventurous working title of 24: The Movie. How they are going to cram 24 hours in two hours is already a mind-boggling prospect, since the series’ biggest selling point is that an entire season (24 episodes) takes place in a day. Guess Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) will just have to settle for the worst two hours of his life instead.

According to Darkhorizons.com, the production will take flight after reviewing the sixth season’s ratings and will be shot sometime in early 2007. However, word on the Internet grapevine is that the show is not going to be clocking on real time after all. Instead, it takes place outside of Los Angeles and is not based so much on the TV show. You know, so that the non-fans can get into it.

Another piece of juicy gossip doing the rounds is that J.J. Abrams might be making a movie version of Lost. He is planning to end the final season of the series with a movie. Whether this is true or not, we will just have to wait and see.

The biggest cult TV series that managed to get its own series of films hence far is the Star Trek franchise (both the original starring William Shatner and its later version starring Patrick Stewart got a series of films to their names).

It could work the other way too. When a TV series is rudely yanked off the air and the fans want closure, the creator has the option of revisiting it in a movie format. A case in point is the excellent series Firefly which got cancelled midway through Season One. Creator Joss Whedon turned the series into a film titled Serenity which gave fans a chance to say goodbye to the much-loved characters. Here’s hoping Whedon has two more movies left with the crew of Firefly.

Ironically, Whedon, who has the writing credits to the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer, got a chance to resurrect that turkey by turning it into a cult TV series five years after the film was released. Sarah Michelle Gellar successfully elevated the character first played by Kristy Swanson.

But Buffy wasn’t the first to pull this trick off well. Three years after the film Stargate landed in the cinemas, it got a new lease of life with TV series titled Stargate SG-1, which had its own spin-off, Stargate: Atlantis. Way before these, were M*A*S*H and Alien Nation.

David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone (1983) starring Christopher Walken came out of its coma to lead a new life as a hit TV show in 2002 starring Anthony Michael Hall. It has just been renewed for its sixth season, slated for next year.

In June this year, everyone’s favourite Day Walker got his own TV show. Wesley Snipes first played Blade in 1998 in the film Blade and he reprised that role in two sequels. In the TV series - also titled Blade - the half-vampire, half-mortal is played by former rapper Sticky Fingaz.

On the local front, we have movies like Gol & Gincu, Sembilu and XX Ray that are riding the wave of the films’ success with TV shows.

Then, there is another trend that allows television and movies to become interconnected: old hit TV shows getting revived for the present and newer audience. While the foundation is usually similar to the original TV shows - that is, characters’ names and other props are left alone - the two might have very little to do with each other.

Who knew good films boasting big names like The Untouchables (1987, starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery), The Fugitive (1993, Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones), Maverick (1994, Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster) and The Saint (1997, Val Kilmer) were once TV shows? Maybe those who saw these TV shows in the 1960s? With the exception of The Wild Wild West and Lost In Space (which unwisely chose to be more over the top than their originals), film-based series from that era have had a successful run at the box-office. Connery even won an Oscar for his role in The Untouchables.

This trend has picked up an even faster pace these days, with other series such as Mission: Impossible, S.W.A.T, The Avengers, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, Dragnet, Aeon Flux, Bewitched, Blues Brothers, The Mod Squad and most recently, Miami Vice (which opened in Malaysia yesterday).

Next year, there’s going to be a series of films that originated from TV including, CHiPs, Dallas, The Simpsons Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Transformers. In 2008, get ready for the talking car known as K.I.T.T. in a film titled Knight Rider, as well as I Dream of Jeannie and It Takes A Thief.

But is this an easy way out for filmmakers? After all, there is already an existing fan base.

But it’s not always a walk in the park. The filmmaker has the arduous task of making the characters appear relevant and still interesting, as well as deal with the immediacy of film - everything has to be resolved in two hours and there are no cliffhangers to meddle around with. So far, however, the TV-turned-movies have fared quite well. In the hands of filmmakers - who usually are fans of the originals - it’s been a grand walk down memory lane.

Erm, okay, maybe they did a bad job with Bewitched although casting Nicole Kidman remains a brilliant move. Also, the second Charlie’s Angels film became a little too kitschy so it was a bit hard to swallow. And come to think of it, S.W.A.T. and The Avengers were beyond intolerable.

Oh well ... can’t win them all. Now, what time is Miami Vice on tonight again?