Recently, one of my favorite content producers Charlotte Kuchinsky posted a review of the latest X-Files movie starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson and directed by X-Files creator Chris Carter. I commented on the review, here’s what I wrote:
“Though I haven’t seen it yet, the ads looked dismal & depressing. X-Files was never light & bouncy, however with a TV series you have dozens of episodes a season to wow fans. A feature film needs to be special – epic & engaging. Nothing about the campaign nor buzz made me feel any need to plunk down money at box office. Carter seems to have abandoned his “Truth is out there” tagline, in favor of a dour, almost horrific vibe. His short lived “Millennium” seems to be more at work here. The sheer limitless storytelling potential of alien contact or cosmic speculation was the core of X-Files. The darkness was always there, but in a TV show can be balanced. They should have taken a note out of the Alien Nation play book & kept these movies to TV scope & budget. For the price of the two features, fans could have gotten half a dozen TV movies. Carter could have had time to really tell an expanded story – instead of slapping together two lackluster movies.”
This got me to thinking about the state of feature films spun off from TV shows. It’s really a mixed bag. One of the best examples is the Star Trek series of motion pictures. Starting way back in 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, directed by Robert Wise and starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk, it was a true forerunner of TV shows becoming feature film franchises.
Today it’s taken for granted. The long running animated sitcom The Simpsons finally had their feature film debut and it was a huge hit. However, there are many TV shows turned movies that fail to generate either fan excitement or box office profit.
The long running science fiction series Stargate: SG1 on The Sci-Fi Channel seems to have made the best decision regarding the future of the show. Stargate SG1 was actually based on Roland Emmerich’s feature film Stargate starring Kurt Russell and James Spader. Two movies based on the series Stargate: Ark of Truth and Stargate:Continuum were both released direct to DVD and then broadcast on TV. The low budget of the two movies – compared to the much larger one needed for a theatrical release – has allowed for great looking production values to please fans. Also as I mentioned before, when the FOX show Alien Nation ended, there followed several great TV movie adventures.
As we continue to see the home video market mature and combine into the digital video on demand technology and the YouTube experience of the Internet, Hollywood needs to realize that TV shows blossom and gain fans for a reason. They take time to grow on audiences, have room to expand and find their groove. By just churning out one big bloated feature with little consideration for the television show that spawned it or the fans that supported it is a risky, if not wholly foolish venture.