Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Okay, I'm working on the script. And my Friday Fiasco is now under control: I had one of those days where you end up on hold for most of the day, so that you can speak to a series of folks who can't help you, so that you can climb the ladder to the person in charge, so that they can fix your problem... actually, the problem *they* created through some dumb mistake, that has pretty much ruined your day. But now, it's mostly over. I can get back to writing...

- Bill


Yesterday’s Dinner: Pork Fried Rice at City Wok.

Movies: JUMPER - You know, you can’t copyright an idea, only the execution of an idea (a screenplay) - so when people tell me that “Hollywood stole my idea”, but that’s al they had - an idea with nothing on paper, I don’t sympathize much. If they had a finished script, I’d say “That’s a pisser, but hopefully the film coming out is different enough than what you wrote that it still has a shot... and if not, change it.” But things like this happen to me all of the time - partially because I don’t just talk about writing screenplays, I actually do it. So, when I saw the trailers to JUMPER and VANTAGE POINT I became a little concerned. I have projects similar to each of those. In the case of VANTAGE POINT, I have an existing screenplay with a political assassination... and we see the assassination from a handful of different POVs, and each seems to show a different killer. In the case of JUMPER... well, I’m one of those morons who don’t have the finished script and is worried that Hollywood is stealing my idea (I am now wearing a tin foil hat, just in case).

I have a scribbled outline and a pile of notes for a script called SHORT CUTS about teleportation. And I’ve talked about it in my classes and on message boards - the concept of “space travel” - from one space to another. This was kind of an idea in search of a story, until I noticed a tattoo on my friend Steve’s arm... and the whole thing fell into place. At that point, I began generating a bunch of scene ideas and character ideas and roughed out an outline and put it on the big boards - I scheduled time to write the script later this year. (It was actually supposed to be last year, but things happened and it was postponed). So, when I saw the JUMPER trailer a few months ago, I was worried... Yes, I know it’s based on a novel, so it’s not like I’m the first one there... but I don’t want to scrap my work.

So we have a great basic concept - a guy who can teleport (Hayden Christensen - who can not act if his life depended on it) - and lots of beautiful scenery and amazing locations and some cool special effects (and cool teleportation ideas like anchors and a gizmo that keeps the wormhole open so that people can follow you, and lots of great ideas about teleoprtation) - plus Samuel L. Jackson as the villain and...

The movie squanders all of that. It just kills all of those great ideas with a rookie mistake.

The Hero... just wants to be left alone. He’s basically passive. He has this amazing teleportation gift, and he uses it to sight see and rob banks... leaving IOU notes behind. Nothing much happens in his life, and he has no real problems. Passive.

The Villain... just wants to stop the hero from teleporting. No real reason why (and here’s a major problem with the film - Jackson’s reason for spending every waking moment trying to stop people from teleporting is that only God should have that power... which makes him kind of silly). The villain’s plan is the most important element of any film, and Samuel L. Jackson’s plan here is.... Oh, he doesn’t have one. He just wants to stop our hero from teleporting. And for no good reason. Which means we also have a passive villain.

Passive hero. Passive villain. Um, that means the conflict makes no sense! How could such a basic story problem end up in a big budget Hollywood film? Okay, how could it end up in a low budget film? Okay, how could it end up *anywhere*? It’s screenwriting 101 - storytelling 101... cavemen knew better than to have a story where both hero and villain were passive.

And that’s the big problem with the movie - it’s a bunch of contrived teleportation. Movement without meaning. Hey - he’s in Egypt! Hey - he’s in Rome! Hey - he’s in his home town! But none of it means anything - he could have just sat around the house in New York and the same lack-of-plot could have happened.

The great Michael Rooker shows up in a subplot as his drunk and abusive father... but absolutely nothing is done with that! No scenes there! In the “prologue” Rooker gets to be drunk and abusive in one scene... but later he’s just *there*. No interaction between father and son at all! And they could have really done something with this! Rooker is a great actor - look at all of the different kinds of characters he has played - but they just waste him.

Diane Lane plays the hero’s missing mother, and she pops up in a couple of scenes where she rescues him for no apparent reason (except he needs rescued and she’s the picture in the photos of Mom)... and then we get a completely WTF twist ending that makes no sense - and actually makes the film so far make even less sense!

Rachel Bilson plays his high school sweetheart - a character created just to have someone in peril for no real reason. But even here they screw it all up - after a completely boring, plotless and pointless story - they give us a ticking clock. Bilson is on a plane, and Hayden has eight hours to rescue her before the plane lands and Jackson captures her. Hey, there might be some excitement in that scenario! But, they just *forget* the ticking clock aspect, and then have Hayden show up late - so the clock didn’t matter, then have Jackson *easily* capture her... so that we can have some sort of pointless and boring action ending.

The problem with watching a bad movie like this is that you can’t help but compare it to better movies... even if those movies aren’t very good. The Hayden - Jackson thing is kind of like HIGHLANDER - not a great movie by a long shot, but CITIZEN KANE compared to this piece of poop!

And there’s another teleporter character played by Jamie Bell (that’s a dude) who has no purpose in this film. Okay, I guess he’s someone for Hayden to have pointless conversations with... but you can’t help but wonder why this character wasn’t like the Train Ghost (Vincent Schiavelli) in GHOST who teaches our hero how to use the gift. That would have given the character some reason to be in the film. Instead, he’s just someone to talk to and a Ratzo Rizo sidekick. A pointless character in a pointless film.

And that’s another big issue with this film - no point, no theme, no character arc, no valuable lesson learned... nothing. Hayden robs banks and leaves IOUs, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything to make the money to pay them back. And doesn’t regret robbing the banks. And doesn’t care. And... well, there’s nothing worse than a bland actor in a bland and pointless role!

The movie ends with the set up for a sequel... that just isn’t going to happen. And if it does - well, it’s going to die some horrible death at the box office unless they can take this guy with super powers and give him something to do other than shopping and globe hopping. So *my* script? Well, I’m pushing it back a year - so that everyone forgets the *stench* of JUMPER when I finally go out with my script.

Oh... my script has an active villain and an active hero and one heck of a cool plot concerning what bad guys might do if they could teleport. Dodged that copycat bullet... but what about VANTAGE POINT?

Pages: I did zilch on Sunday, but 4 pages on Monday... still behind, but still able to make it up over the rest of this week.

- Bill


Emily Blake said...

Hayden Christenson was good in Shattered Glass, but that's probably because he had to play a whiney, conniving little weasel of a man.

ObiDonWan said...

Wasn't Hayden Christenson the kid in Star Wars? What a nothing presence indeed. He and the younger kid who played him in the first film--both lousy actors. What happened to the George Lucas touch with actors? (i.e., Han Solo) Lost it it the same time he lost the ability to write a decent script?
You persuded me not to waste time seeing JUMPER. Thanks.

Richard McNally said...

Is it any help if I point out typos in Script Secrets? Don't want to seem like a nitpicker. Giant frog I'll bet has a long tongue which he wraps around bikini-clad Hawaiian nymphs, yes? Kind of script that keeps you hopping, no?


Anonymous said...

watched 7 Men From Now last night and you were right... well done... thanks for mentioning it

Richard McNally said...

Today's SS--three-act structure is a hammer, good for hitting oneself in the forehead when every cell in one's body is saying, "You have nothing to say."

cassandra said...

"Today's SS--three-act structure is a hammer, good for hitting oneself in the forehead when every cell in one's body is saying, "You have nothing to say.""


Take that hammer and break a hole in the window and toss this keyboard through it.

I'm not going to do that...I'm just saying it could be good for doing such a thing.

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