Saturday, December 3, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Movie

Few days ago, I found out that there is "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the movie, which actually came out before the TV series. Overall, the movie received lots of negative comments, but I decided to watch it anyway; after the movie, like the majority of other people who have seen it, I felt like the movie was pretty awful in many ways (compared to the TV series and as a movie in general).

The general plot of the movie is this: Buffy is an extremely popular high school cheerleader, who is a stereotypical "dumb pretty blond girl." She is very superficial and judges people by their appearances. Being popular and dating a varsity basketball player (who is equally superficial) take up a significant portion of her life because she lacks the sensitivity and thoughts in general to care about what comes after high school, supposedly the prime years of her life. Her friends, the three other popular girls, reminded me of the plastics in the movie "Mean Girls": materialistic, shallow, and judgmental. Buffy's plastic world turns upside down when she meets the watcher Merrick and learns that she is the Chosen One, the Slayer. Because of her new status as the Slayer, Buffy becomes distant from her popular friends (and loses her popularity as well) while she falls in love with a guy named Pike, whose friend was bit by a vampire and who knows of Buffy's role as the Slayer. Buffy then faces the vampire king, known as Lothos, and when he and his minions crash her high school dance and kills Merrick, she fights the king and ends up killing him.

The movie was unconvincing because it lacked a sufficient explanation of how Buffy comes to accept her duty as the Slayer and how her personality changes completely--from a superficial cheerleader to the more sophisticated Slayer who genuinely cares for humanity. Buffy before and after she meets Merrick is so drastically different that it felt like the movie needed more explanations. How does a dumb blond cheerleader become the heroine who saves her entire town?

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV show devotes entire seven seasons of stories to demonstrate her growth as a person and as a heroine. The tale of a heroine is built up gradually, and through that long arc of the story, we learn that there is more to Buffy than supernatural strengths and agility that make her a heroine. We see how she matures as she becomes the head of the family after her mother's ailment and eventual death and as she experiences and gets hurt by love and relationships with Angel, Spike, etc. We also see her sense of responsibility building up as well as her respect for humanity and life as she sacrifices herself and saves the world. Throughout the show, we learn that a heroine is not just someone special who saves the world from the evil but is also someone who is courageous, witty, and loving, and is as much of a person as anyone else ordinary who wants to be loved and cared for. The fact that her progress as a heroine and as a person is intertwined well and is told slowly with details makes us accept and love Buffy as the Chosen One.

The seven seasons of time is not given to the movie to tell its story, however. The movie is only about two hours, and the challenge is that it still has to capture Buffy's growth as a heroine. The movie, however, abruptly jumped from "dumb" cheerleader Buffy to the caring and brave Slayer without letting the viewers catch up with her development. Buffy is agile all right, but she fails to convince me as an intelligent and philanthropic enough of a person to be the heroine that the TV show Buffy Summers is. At the end of the movie, she does save her town from being slaughtered by hungry vampires and kills the vampire king; however, that does not make her as admirable as her TV show equivalent because she is mainly portrayed as the strong one with a special duty to defeat the evils. In fact, the movie focuses on her physical training as the Slayer to show that Buffy has accepted her fate as the Chosen One and is getting ready to fulfill her destiny as the heroine. The viewers see lots of her boxing and kicking, which proves the point that she has grown stronger physically but not the point that she has matured emotionally.

Moreover, what makes the movie insipid is that it lacks "Giles" and "the Scoobies." Large part of the TV show is devoted to demonstrate this strong bond that Buffy and her friends (including Giles) form as they are very close part of her extraordinary life. The Scoobies cover for Buffy whenever she needs them, and Giles is the father figure in Buffy's life--giving her guidances not only in slaying vampires but also in life because she learns of the other virtues that the Chosen One must embrace (like self-sacrifice for common goods) from him and depends on him a lot in dealing with personal problems. For instance, when Joyce dies, the first person she calls is Giles. Buffy Summers, although very independent in character, confides in him to a great extent.

Merrick, the watcher in the movie, must be precious to Buffy, but yet, the bond he forms with Buffy is not quite at the level of Buffy-Giles relationship. He is certainly not a father figure to Buffy. He is portrayed more like her physical trainer. Although he dies helping Buffy, his role seemed pretty minor to me because I really didn't get to see him interact with Buffy in a way other than telling her that the danger is imminent and that she is the Chosen One. Also, Buffy in the movie does not have significant friendships with anyone. Her popular dumb friends refuse to understand her as she becomes a "loser," who is different from them, and they humiliate her at the school dance by setting up her boyfriend with one of them. Although Buffy does fall in love with Pike, who is the male equivalent of the traditional "damsel in distress," he is incomparable to the Scoobies, who become Buffy Summers's family and permanent allies (except when Willow becomes the main villain in season 6).

Overall, the movie lacked so many things the TV show had: from a full development of Buffy as a heroine to Giles and the Scoobies. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is definitely better told in a long arc because the story involves sophisticated progress and maturing of the Chosen One.

1 comment:

  1. After watching just the movie trailer of this version of Buffy (, I definitely agree with all the differences you've pointed out. The movie itself seems all fluff and no substance- we see various clips of Buffy kicking ass, but little insight as to what her personality is like. With cheesy music playing in the background, it almost seems like the movies is just a typical chick flick with vampires as a sub-theme just randomly thrown in. Two lines really irked me in the trailer- someone dancing with Buffy (I assume the love interest) states "Buffy, you're not like other girls." Then we see clips of Buffy fighting, but she responds "Yes I am." This movie makes it seem like Buffy really is just a normal girl- whereas Buffy the TV series paints Buffy as a true superheroine in her own right, one who comes to terms with her unique identity and accepts her responsibilities as the "one girl in all the world."


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