Babylon 5 creator J Michael Straczynski has announced that he is bringing his groundbreaking television series to the big screen.
Speaking at the San Diego Comic Con on Saturday, Straczynski stated that he will begin writing the feature film adaptation next year.
But who will be producing the film is a slightly complicated affair.
Although the original series was produced through Warner Brothers’ television division, who still hold the rights, Straczynski has always held the film rights to the franchise. He stated that the project will be offered to Warner Brothers first, but if they pass, he will produce the film on his own through his Studio JMS production shingle. Straczynski noted that trying to take the project to other studios if Warners were to pass without having the television rights as well would be a bit of a non-starter.
If the film were to move forward solely under the Studio JMS banner, Straczunski stated that he would have production underway in 2016.
The new film will not be a continuation of the original series, but instead be a reboot of the franchise.
It would have to be a reboot because it’s been twenty-plus years since we started that show and some of the age ranges wouldn’t work with some of these characters so we’d need to move a few people around. But what I want to do is use the original cast one way or another but we’d have to move some things around. I’d love to see [series star] Bruce [Boxleitner] as the President of the Earth Alliance; it would be the perfect role for him.
Given that the original series told one sprawling story over its five year run, I really don’t see how Straczynski will be able to compress it down into one feature film, nor do I think he would want to. It sounds as if what he more has in mind is that this film will be the start of a series of films that would retell his self-described “novel for television.”
Of course, it remains to be seen if the film will retell the original series’ story, if Straczynski will go back and reincorporate some story elements he originally planned for the series but was unable to due to various circumstances or if it will be an entirely new story.
This is not the first time there has been rumblings of a possible Babylon 5 film. There was some discussions of a possible film spin-off while the show was still on the air and an attempt in 2005 saw its financing fall apart over concerns that the cast were not big enough box office draws.
Straczynski stated that the film’s possible budget could range between $100 million and $200 million, and for him to be able to shoulder that burden shows the amount of heft that Studio JMS already has in its short time of existence. Since he announced its formation in 2012, he has teamed with the Wychowski’s for the currently in-production Netflix series Sense8 and is set to go into production on the World War Two drama The Flickering Light next year. He has also been developing a few other feature films including an adaptation of the Valiant Comics title Shadowman and a project related to Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling for Universal.
(Thanks to Jan Schroeder, who worked on Straczynski’s Babylon 5 Cafe Press script book project from a few years ago, for the reportage.)