Six to seven years ago we reported on news that Warner Bros. was in talks with J. Michael Straczynski about bringing back one of his most notable creations, Babylon 5, in the form of a "big budget" feature film. We haven't talked about it since and even back then, we didn't know how big the budget estimate actually was. Nothing happened and the project was seemingly dead.
Straczynski however, is reviving hope once again for a return of the franchise - or better yet, a fresh beginning. At Comic-Con last month, according to TVWise, the writer and creator of Babylon 5, Jeremiah and the upcoming Netflix series Sense8 (which Straczynski co-created with the Wachowskis), revealed that he's working on a screenplay for a Babylon 5 feature film and aiming to have it completed in 2015 for a 2016 production start.
The news went mostly under the radar until last week. There is no official greenlight or production schedule yet, but J. Michael Straczynski's hope is that Warner Bros. - which produced the successful 1994-1998 TV series - will jump on it then. The good news for fans is that even if Warner Bros. passes on it, Straczynski has a nice deal still in place from the '90s that gives him the Babylon 5 rights; meaning that he will produce the film under his own company Studio JMS, a production house he formed in 2012 to help make TV series, movies and comics.
Straczynski is no stranger to feature film work, having previously written early script drafts for Ninja Assassin, Thor and World War Z, and he plans to let the original Babylon 5 story stand on its own. The new Babylon 5 will be a reboot, taking the original concepts and telling a new story. He would like to see some familiar faces return in new roles; specifically, he's said that he'd "love to see Bruce [Boxleitner] as the President of the Earth Alliance."
Previous attempts at bringing a Babylon 5 feature to the big screen failed from the late '90s to the mid-2000s, but all of those were based on continuing stories with existing characters from the series (and were unable to get financing). With his own studio, and a truly new idea to potentially launch a new Babylon 5 universe, this project might finally get some real traction.
For those unaware, Babylon 5 tells a 5-year story about the happenings surrounding the fifth in a series of massive space stations designed to unite key alien species, with the previous ones having either failed to be completed or... having vanished mysteriously. Wrapped in this story are several epic wars, alliances and grand plot twists that play from the beginning of the series to the very end, its multiple TV movies included.
The timing might be right as well for a $80-100 million feature if it can appeal to wider audiences, given the record-breaking success of Marvel's first space opera Guardians of the Galaxy this month and the incoming relaunch of the Star Wars film franchise, which is expected to see bi-annual releases of the core episode installments (and spinoff films in the years between). There's also of course a new Star Trek coming in 2016, and even Christopher Nolan is heading into deep space later this year with the highly anticipated Interstellar.
What's next? Official word on a Battlestar Galactica movie getting made? And when will one of these franchises come back to TV?
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.
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