Why it’s too early to write off the Battlestar Galactica movie

The planned cinematic take on Battlestar Galactica seems to be attracting a lot of flack. But is that entirely fair, we wonder?

Battlestar Galactica

Usually, each and every week, we report on at least one story that tends to get quite fired up reactions. The week before last, it was the announcement that the fifth Die Hard movie is to be called A Good Day To Die Hard, which generated a mixture of surprise, guffaws, WTFs and the occasional ‘I quite like it’. But guffaws, mainly.

Last week, though, it was the news that the proposed movie take on Battlestar Galactica appears to be firmly back on the radar. It’s resurfaced because director Bryan Singer, currently hard at work on Jack The Giant Killer, is no longer working on a planned remake of Excalibur. And that means that Battlestar Galactica, a project he’s been linked with for some time, has gone up his to-do list. At least we think it has: Singer hasn’t commented on it, but the fact that a screenwriter has now been recruited is quite a positive sign that things are moving.

However, lots of people are not impressed.

The key questions appears to be these: Battlestar has already been rebooted, so what other stories are there to tell? And second, is Bryan Singer the man for the job? So let’s go through them.

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First, it’s unclear at this stage just where the movie of Battlestar Galactica will take its inspiration from. Will it be the original television series, or will it be based around Ronald D Moore’s successful reboot? Or, might we suggest, might it take the base idea of Battlestar Galactica, and go in a slightly different direction again?

What was originally revealed was that it’d go back to the original TV show, but we can’t imagine it will take no influence at all from what’s happened since.

The core idea is that of humanity at war with the cybernetic Cylons, a war it’s blatantly not winning. With humanity’s survivors aboard a small collection of ships, including the Battlestar Galactica, the fight is on to both survive and to find Earth. That’s incredibly simplified, but it is the very basic guts of it.

A lot of objections seem to surround the fact that this story has already been told. But then, were that the new criteria, lots of other things would never have been made. Hadn’t the origin of Batman been told more than once? Hasn’t Star Trek being explored from lots of different angles? What is it about Battlestar Galactica that somehow rules out someone digging into another part of its universe and trying to tell a different story?

Until it’s clear just what the narrative thinking is behind a big screen Battlestar Galactica, we’d suggest it unwise to write it off.

Interestingly, some of the feedback we’ve seen suggests that a good chunk of people would be happy to see a distillation of the ideas from Ronald D Moore’s reboot, put onto the big screen with a bigger budget. Again, this isn’t the plan as we understand it, but we’ll just have to see how it pans out.

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After all, once the central thinking has been established, then there are so many characters, threats and threads running through the BSG universe, that finding a story for a two-hour movie is surely not going to be a problem.

And let’s not forget, too, that the BSG universe is already being further explored on the small screen. We’ve already had a prequel series of sorts, Caprica, which didn’t make it to a second season run. Then, there’s the more action-packed second prequel series on the way, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, which is going to be set during the first Cylon war.

Battlestar Galactica offers a big world to explore, in much the same way that Star Trek and Doctor Who does. Is it not right that it continues to be explored?

And so we come to the Bryan Singer factor. Singer has become a divisive director in recent times, mainly, we’d suggest, due to Superman Returns (a film that splits many of the writers at this site). Singer himself admits the problems that his overly-reverent Superman movie suffered from, and seemed all too ready to learn the lessons to take into the sequel. That was a sequel he never got to make, but he’s not suddenly become a bad director because of all of this.

The thing about Bryan Singer is that he learns from his missteps. Look at the difference between X-Men and X2. The latter, in particular, is a strong movie, and that tends to be overlooked when debate about Bryan Singer is raging. Furthermore, this is the man who brought us The Usual Suspects, who took a gamble with Apt Pupil, and who showed further glimpses of his range with Valkyrie. He can also knock together a terrific, effects-heavy action sequence, even if sometimes his films seem reluctant to include that many.

We’re not going to defend everything he’s done. But to class Singer as an inappropriate director for Battlestar does the man an injustice. Who wouldn’t have wanted his X-Men 3 over Brett Ratner’s, in the scheme of things? It’s the same Bryan Singer that we wanted back then, and we’re not sure we should be overlooking him now.

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The bigger complaint, and this is a hard one to defend, is the old remake argument. Because if you accept that Singer is a better director than he’s given credit for, isn’t it right that he tackles material that’s not been covered before, rather than a remake of something that’s already been remade particularly well? Remakes aren’t always failures, and some have found something new to say in the midst of a franchise where previously it seemed all decent stories had been told. But they also rarely see Hollywood at its most ambitious.

We still have suspicions, anyway, that the Battlestar Galactica movie will be a tough sell. Just because it’s got a writer now, and just because Bryan Singer is interested, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. And it’s a franchise that doesn’t have quite the broad appeal of something like Star Trek, which doesn’t help.

So, there’s certainly no guarantee that a big screen BSG will get off the ground. What we’d be wary of is deciding that it’s creatively doomed from the outset. Because the talent is definitely there to make it work.

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