Monday, August 07, 2006

Why is there no Xena movie?

Next to the "I can I have your autograph" and the "I love you Lucy" emails I get, one of the most frequent inquiries I get is: How come there hasn't been a Xena feature film?

To be honest, I'm not for a movie. I could really care less if there is a movie. At one time, I was warming up to it, but the more I thought about it and the more I talked to people, I just don't see who they could logically do a movie that would (1) not alienate their fanbase and (2) not alienate people who have no idea as to who Xena is or what Xena is all about.

There are several issues at hand and have influence there not being a movie. None of which deal with the supposed "sexual" relationship between the title characters. You can sit there and harp on what Lucy Lawless (Xena, for those who may not know) has said in the last couple of years if it is a "geared interview" toward a specific group of people.

The fact is, Lucy Lawless will say anything to anyone depending on who she is talking to. If TV Guide were to interview Lucy, she'd say they played with it. Whereas if say "The Advocate" were to interview her, she say they're married. Lucy is like a certain politician, she votes for something before she votes against it. Doesn't make her a bad person, it just makes her an incredibly unreliable source of information. I take what she says with a grain of salt. But I do like it when she switches sides, because it proves my point.

Then you have the comments of "I was told that they were a couple" the fact is, and Steven Sears has said that at no time while he was associated with the series did they tell any writer that was the "relationship" of the characters was sexual.

Furthermore, R.J. Stewart has related to the fans on more than one instance that the studio had constantly requested and insisted on the toning down of the subtext. This is also confirmed by none other than Renee O'Connor who stated that both she and Lucy toned down the "subtext" in favor of nuturing the friendship.

So again, if you think the lesbian subtext is a reason why the movie hasn't been made, go bark up another tree. The studio knows where the "money" is, and if they have a say on which way the relationship goes, it'll be with the ambigious side.

With the subtext complaint nixed, let's tackle the genre and female action hero issues. Universal, like any other business, will inspect the profibility of a product and then decide what amount to spend on the development and eventual release of said product. Universal realized a couple of key things:

The first being that recent "sword and sandle" and "genre epics" have failed at the box office. Most recently Alexander, which did poorly in the US Domestic sales. So much so, that Oliver Stone had to go back recut the film to remove some of the homosexual content and add in more action scenes. With the grand failures of Kingdom of Heaven and King Arthur, it does stand to reason why Universal dragged their feet.

The second is the female action hero. Catwoman and Electra had their issues in terms of casting and storywise, however, with two top stars (Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner, respectively) the movies failed to capture an audience. Even the Kill Bills find themselves a quick return to the video release schedules. Unless the movie is about vampires, you can pretty much count on the movie failing. Everyone likes a good vampire movie. (Something about blood that excites us Amercians... must be our blood and guts culture we have.)

And lastly, we have a name recognition factor. If you go into a crowded theater of 300 people and you shout out "who hear as heard of Lucy Lawless", you're going to get blank stares and a "who's that?" from people. Yeah sure, you'll find people who've heard the name, but unlikely to capture a solid response. If Catwoman and Electra couldn't capture an audience with their star power, do you think the Xena movie would do any better? Never mind the fact that no actress has successfully opened a feature film. Ever.

Finding the funding for the movie has proved very difficult for Rob Tapert. And the reason being, all things stated above. Lack of star talent, female action hero, and the genre. It's awfully hard to find someone willing to fork over tens of millions of dollars to you on a simple story pitch. Rob can't guarantee the success of the movie. He knows that it's a crap shoot. He also knows he can't make it for the fans, he has to make it make money and in order to do that, he's going to have sacrifice a lot of things.

But, Rob is also busy getting several movies into production and post-production. The XWP movie is more like a hobby to him right now. If it happens, it happens. If not, oh well. I do think he's pretty much resigned to the fact that it's not going to happen.

Then we have the issue of the "baggage" a movie has to the potential to bring. All indications point to a post finale movie. That means, a small portion of the film will be spent catching the ol' say 99% of the audience who don't have a clue as to what happened (that's assuming, it's a sell out) in the finale. Can we say: boring?? You'll have to explain who Xena is, why she died and why is this blonde friend so despondant (which would be very out of character) over this person's death.

Brokeback Mountain and beyond. Okay. Time to take the gloves off. Brokeback Mountain was an incredibly boring movie. I sat through it going: it's gotta get better. It's just gotta get better. It never did. And the success of Brokeback has no affect (none, nadda, zip, zilch) on whether or not there'll be a movie. Whoever thought of that idea should be tarred and feathered for ever mentioning the notion that it could help the XWP movie. Two completely different animals, not to mention movies, genre, story, actors, setting, and so on and so forth.

The fact of the matter is, Universal kicked the movie to Focus who in turn kicked to Rogue who was remotely interested and told Rob, "show us the money and we'll talk." No money, no movie. Plain and simple.

If I had about $25 million to splurge, I would give it to Rob, but I'd want to be involved with the story process from top to bottom, start to finish. Which would basically mean a total overhaul of the movie Kicking out any reference to post-FIN and drop the story at the beginning or drop it somewhere in the middle of the series. Dropping any "sexual inneundo" and focus more on the story and on the relationship, which in the end could be read a million different ways. In the end, all would be happy.

In closing, the main reason why there hasn't been a movie, is because there simply isn't a willing financial partner who is willing to foot the most of the budget for something that is only projected to earn no more than $25 million domestically. It is the sad reality of the film business.

Perhaps, you should do your parts and go and see the genre epics and female action driven films. You might encourage the studio to think about making a film of that nature.


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