Essays · Movies

Dear Hollywood: Please Make a ‘Boris the Bear’ Movie

The former Dark Horse Comics antihero deserves to finally hit the big screen.
By  · Published on August 10th, 2018

The former Dark Horse Comics antihero deserves to finally hit the big screen.

When Boris the Bear debuted on the pages of Dark Horse Comics in 1986, there was no way the character could have been adapted for the screen. He’s an anthropomorphic bear who murders all varieties of fictional pop culture entities, from superheroes to Transformers to Care Bears. Technically he could have been portrayed by a guy in a suit, a la Howard the Duck, or as a cartoon character in a live-action world, a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but neither idea would have suited the character’s edge.

Now we see all kinds of anthropomorphic bear movies where CG cubs interact realistically with a live-action world. If Paddington and Winnie the Pooh and certainly Ted can do it, why not Boris? The other reason Hollywood might have once thought Boris wasn’t movie material was his violent purpose and sharp satirical irreverence. Well, the time has come for such material. Basically, the character is Ted meets Deadpool. And was so long before either of them existed on page let alone screen.

In addition to thinking of Boris while watching other bears in movies recently, the new film that really sparked my desire to see the IP-slaughtering bear in his own franchise is Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. The PG-rated animated feature includes some surprisingly dark parody. During one memorable sequence (now available in full online), the Teen Titans travel through time disrupting DC superhero origin stories, even killing young Aquaman with pollution — and then, even more messed up, they go back and course correct, helping in the deaths of Superman and Batman’s parents to ensure these backstories exist again.

If Warner Bros. can do that in a kids’ movie, and as filmmaker Nimrod Antal pointed out a few years ago in discussing his own wish to make a Boris movie, if The Hunger Games can get away with being about kids killing kids and earn a PG-13 rating, there’s hope for a cuddly bear who puts annoying IPs out of their misery. The very first issue of “Boris the Bear” had the title character taking on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their copycats. The Teen Titans also just messed with the Ninja Turtles in their movie.

Do we really need more superhero parodies, though? As comic book movies have become more and more dominant on both big and small screen, parody movies have also flourished. Everything from the cheap lampooning antics of Superhero Movie to more meta spoofs like the Teen Titans Go! film and the Deadpool movies already exist. But as long as the real thing is popular, the parodies continue to be welcome. Hell, Boris would probably take on the characters who take on the superhero genre. Boris vs. Deadpool (the latter named Deathpool or Deadstroke or something like that) would be the ultimate idea.

And of course, Boris didn’t just murder superheroes. We need something that rips on all the comic book movies. Sure, even the likes of Scott Pilgrim, Harvey Pekar, and especially the Riverdale gang. But as a movie character, Boris wouldn’t need to limit himself to comic book IPs. He’d be the one to save us all from the madness of overdone franchises and nostalgic remakes and cinematic universes and all that needs parodying in Hollywood. He could slash through tired tropes and trends, avenge all the people wronged by antiquated industry practices, exterminate representatives of toxic fandom by the millions.

How could all this even fit into a movie? Wouldn’t it need to be an ongoing TV series where each property or problem is dealt with in its own episode? Unfortunately, television probably can’t handle the visual effects or the level of violence of a “Boris” adaptation just yet. If we need a model for how a Boris the Bear movie could work, we can look to Ready Player One, which is crowded with pop culture in a way that would also apply here. However, Boris would be sort of the anti-Ready Player One, critical of all it stands for.

The plot of a Boris the Bear movie would be rather simple and self-contained. The character would just go on a rampage of parody-infused killing for about an hour and a half, then he’d wind up in an existential conflict with himself, after discovering what he really is, and he’d probably have to kill himself as a result. Not that I wouldn’t like to see a whole series of Boris movies, but also that would just add to a meta-hypocrisy if the property became a huge franchise of its own.

All we need is for creator James Dean Smith to be game for selling out enough to get proper funding for the thing, and also the movie would require at least a big name behind the voice of Boris to give it appeal and clout — call on Jeremy Renner as a self-parodying figure fed up with his lack of franchise success in spite of his franchise prevalence. Honestly, I’d settle for Smith resurrecting Boris again as a webcomic that explores all the necessary directions he can go in now and maybe letting him gain fans on the way to driving up interest in an eventual movie.

But we can’t wait too long. Hollywood is eating itself. Boris needs to enter the picture and take a few big bites of his own while the material is still ripe. He’s the antihero we deserve and the antihero we need right now.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.