Universal recently announced it’s moving forward with a film reboot of Battlestar Galactica, in a clear bid to get a slice of that lucrative space-franchise pie.
The movie has been brewing for awhile now, and originally had Bryan Singer attached. At that time, he gave clear signs he would be going off the 1978 material and ignoring the superior improvements of the 2004 remake. With a new crew in talks, it’s not yet clear if this will hold true. Rumored director Francis Lawrence has a shorter, but more interesting resume than Singer, and may well take it in a different direction.
It may be that studio execs are eyeing the “70s+space+reboot=sweet cash” success of Star Wars and Star Trek, but we think they’d be crazy not to take some cues from Ronald D. Moore’s excellent reimagining and push further in that direction. Here’s what we need to see to be convinced:
One of the first things Moore got right was to gender-bend a number of the main roles, thus granting us the great gift of Katee Sackhoff as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace. The original Starbuck actor was notoriously offended by this change, but he sounds like a bitter old blowhard.
Diverse casting is a strength and Hollywood may be slow to admit this, but it’s the future. Moore’s series did well with gender, but we’d love to see some more talented actors of color during the next stage.
The television remake succeeded in a large part due to its timing. Significantly darker and more political than the original, it hit us hard in our post-9/11 conscious. We are still living in that world, and if anything, the apocalyptic threat of Battlestar Galactica hits closer than ever. The reboot film needs be bold in this regard, and reflect our state of crisis. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine Universal taking that risk, but they should. Campy-fun space action and straight-fun space action have already been taken.
But tone down the religious imagery a little
Glen Larson’s original series was heavily influenced by Mormon theology. The remake also included a lot of Biblical references and images. This can and should still play a part, but taken down a notch or two. There were moments it felt necessary, but Jesus Baltar got a little out of hand.
Establish more inter-human conflicts
This goes hand in hand with the first two pieces. It will be interesting to see how a film manages to break off a cohesive piece of the narrative, which in both serial versions spans the long journey from the destroyed colonies to Earth, the lost thirteenth colony. So much of the drama and conflict emerges from the length of the journey, and the stresses it puts on the survivors as individuals and as a society.
If the film chooses to tackle the whole arc in a film, they will need to ratchet up the political and social tension among the survivors in a shorter timeline. It is not a big leap to imagine that the Colonies were already suffering from a refugee crisis and accompanying racial tensions during the prolonged Cylon attacks. Realistic, and provides instant conflict, diversity, and immediacy. You’re welcome.
Keep Cylons human
Maybe the real Cylons were the friends we made along the way. Another vital factor that allowed the 2004 series to do so much more was the introduction of Cylons disguised as humans (many of them not even self-aware). The idea that our enemies are among us, that they look like our friends and neighbors, has always been one that most terrifies us. Battlestar Galactica went further, with those who did not know their Cylon nature, struggling with the fundamental scifi question of what it is to be human. In the current cultural moment, both with the state of politics and terrorism today as well as advancing technology, these questions only grow more relevant.
But update the Cylon centurions
The Cylons that do look like, well, Cylons, need a redesign. It must respect the original, but reflect the current state of robotic technology and AI. A redesign will also serve to help the film differentiate itself.
Keep Baltar ambiguous
One blockbuster factor that Battlestar Galactica lacks is a clear Big Bad. Baltar was a more straightforward villain in the original series, but Gaius’s wild character arc from villain to hapless dope and back again was one of the great joys of the remake. If the film is looking for a more traditional bad guy, they should consider one of the Cylons, or even a new character.
Respect this first film
As we’ve said, it’s pretty transparent that Universal is hoping for sequel and spin-off potential, but creators need to take this first film seriously if it’s to be successful. Unlike Star Wars and Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica has had a recent remake that was better and more successful than the first. If this film is treated as just more explosions in space, it will be Battlestar Galactica in name only.
The film is still in early stages of development. We will keep you posted as we learn more.