Is it possible that a James Bond script could be worse than a Sharknado script? Read on because the answer may shock you. Then eat you.

Welcome to Weird Scripts Week! This week I’ll be reviewing odd scripts, odd ideas, and writing that’s just plain odd. It will all culminate Friday when I’ll be reviewing the strangest premise I’ve ever reviewed here on Scriptshadow. So buckle up, snort the nearest hallucinogen, and get ready to mutter “WTF” at least 182 times!

Genre: Action
Premise: When a plane goes down in the Bermuda Triangle, the United States and Britain enlist none other than James Bond to find out what happened.
About: This is an old discarded James Bond script from 1976 that was deemed too weird and “out there” by the studio. The fact that Sean Connery decided to pitch in on writing duties (a man who doesn’t have a single writing credit to his name in his 50 year career) probably didn’t help.
Writers: Len Deighton, Sean Connery, and Kevin McClory
Details: 150 pages (first draft – November 11, 1976)

bond_2312061b

I admit I’m not the biggest Bond aficionado. While I appreciate the character and understand why he’s so popular, I haven’t been a fan of the franchise’s direction as of late. My frustration boiled over while watching Quantum of Solace, a film that clearly had no script to speak of. That movie seemed to be more concerned with winning a Guiness record for most countries shot in than it did entertaining an audience.

I liked the films a lot more when I was younger. My favorite scenes were always the “cool gadgets” scenes, where a character would introduce a number of killer gadgets for Bond to use on his mission. Ever since Bond went dark, however, these scenes have been dropped, distancing me even further from the franchise. Strangely enough, franchises like Batman and Mission Impossible have thought these scenes good enough for their films, making Bond look even more out-of-touch.

Luckily, today, we get to go back to a time of Bond purity, a time when James didn’t take himself too seriously. The problem is, they may strayed too far off the reservation, as the feedback I’ve heard about this script makes Sharknado sound like a contender for the Palme D’or. Let’s find out palme d’more, shall we?

As if sensing that it would eventually be featured on Scriptshadow Weird Scripts Week, “James Bond of the Secret Service” goes cuckoo almost immediately. We start out on a seaplane that’s carrying the United Nations Secretary General. As the plane enters the Bermuda Triangle (we know this because the Secretary General says, “I’ll be okay once we get past the Bermuda Triangle”) a laser beam from an undisclosed location (Europe??) shoots the plane, killing its power, forcing it to land on the water.

Once in the water, a giant contraption rises up, “takes” the plane, and pulls it underwater, bringing it all the way to the sea floor, where we see, among other things, planes, boats, stacks of gold bars(??) and oh, AN UNDERWATER KINGDOM!!! It turns out the Bermuda Triangle has been the haunt of a city/kingdom called Arkos. Never mind the fact that to build an underwater city in the year 1976, it would’ve cost 30 trillion dollars.

Eventually, we meet the creator and president of this secret underwater society. His name is Blofeld and I kid you not, he has a white cat which he strokes throughout his conversations with everyone. Blofeld, believe it or not, actually has a very legitimate goal. He wants to rid the world’s seas of pollution. How sweet of him. And yet, it just makes things even more confusing (why does the bad guy have a noble goal??)

So he sends a wire to all the world’s leaders telling them that if they throw any trash in the ocean, even an empty potato chip bag, there’s going to be hell to pay. I’m not sure what that means, since his influence seems to be restricted to the Bermuda Triangle, but it’s enough of a threat to scare most of the leaders.

Now you may be asking, where’s James Bond in all of this? I’m glad you asked. In the first 67 pages of the screenplay, James Bond gets THREE SCENES! And two of those scenes consist of a girl applying sunscreen to his back. I’m not kidding. In a script titled, “James Bond of the Secret Service,” James Bond is onscreen for 12 of the first 67 minutes.

Eventually, the United States and Britain figure out where Arkos is and send James Bond to a nearby island to infiltrate it. Luckily, Bond has a cover-story. He’s actually a finalist in the international backgammon championships and is set to play Largo, Blofeld’s evil underling. Once there, he gets attacked by a shark, only to find out that the shark is actually a robot!! It turns out the whole of Arkos is protected by an army of robot-sharks.

Not only that, but Largo’s deranged head-scientist has found a fitting way to deliver his nukes to the offending nations. By using Hammerhead sharks! Apparently the wider eyes make it easier to rest the nukes on top of their body. A full two pages is dedicated to explaining this concept.

This all culminates when Largo decides enough is enough, and sends his army of sharks to Manhattan. His plan? To blow up the statue of liberty and then program his sharks to go into New York City sewers and attack the local population. Eventually, the city of Arkos itself uproots and heads to Manhattan, where city battles city. The End.

a2197ff34b830b5fa86170c774e06b95

Oh man.

Oh dear Jesus.

This started off weird but then just got bad. And I mean really really bad. Who gives their main character – the most iconic action hero in history no less – three scenes in 67 pages?????

And get a load of some of the writing here. I’ve hand-picked some gems for you:

“He has a large shark laboratory – for cancer research.”

Largo has faded the last sentence of his own dialogue. (what does that even mean???)

“Frankly, we don’t know what’s happening in this so-called Bermuda Triangle.”

“I’ve seen that man. He’s called Emilio Largo. Runs the Shark Island op. quite close to Shrublands. As a matter of fact, I’m playing him in the backgammon finals in Nassau.”

“You’re not Fatima.” “No. She was my twin sister – she’s dead.”

“So you see, even with the brain removed, the shark will continue its motion.”

Blood trickles down the cheek of the Statue of Liberty like a tear.

Is 1976 the year LSD was invented?

They couldn’t even get the sluglines right. At the end of every slugline, instead of putting “day” or “night,” they’d put the names of the people in the scene.

The script’s biggest faux-pas by far, though, was its inadequate use of Bond. The first half-dozen times we were with him (so, maybe, the first 85 pages of the script), he was either getting sun-screen applied, sleeping with a girl, listening to his bosses talk about Arkos, or being told what to do.

A main character is supposed to be ACTIVE. Preferably, you want your protagonist making decisions on his own, driving the story with those decisions. Now you can’t always do that because the story may dictate otherwise. With Bond, for instance, he works for people. Therefore, they need to give him orders before he can act.

However, the ideal scenario is to get those orders out of the way early, and then have your hero start creating his own storyline. If he has to check back in every 10 minutes to get a new order, then you have a hero who’s 100% reactive. And reactive characters aren’t nearly as compelling as active characters.

The reason Ripley, from Aliens, is considered one of the top 5 action heroes in history is because of how active she is in that movie. Outside of the opening act, she’s making all of her choices. She’s deciding what she and the others must do. We LOVE THAT as audience members. And while I’m by no means a Bond expert, I’m guessing that we see a much more active Bond in these recent movies.

I was hoping to read five scripts this week that were so weird, you’d all be able to read them and laugh with me. I can’t even recommend “Secret Service” for that, because I know you’ll be bored out of your mind by page 30. Let’s hope for something a little more fun tomorrow. But, if you’re into self-torture, download this script and give it a try.

Script link: James Bond of the Secret Service

[x] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Audiences want to follow your hero. It’s okay if you throw a teaser scene into your opening before you get to your protagonist, but preferably, you should start with your protagonist or get to him as soon as possible. The interest in your story will sink exponentially the longer your hero isn’t on screen.

What I learned (practice edition): It’s advisable that you avoid adverbs in screenwriting. They just sound clunky. So here we get a couple of lines: “Bond dismally enters the plane.” And: “Bond drags himself wearily into a waiting car…” How would you change these lines to eliminate the adverbs, yet still get the requisite feeling across? Show off your writing skills in the comments section below!

DarkHorseLogo

I was thinking, the comments go off-topic so much that why don’t we just put up a post that’s all about staying off-topic?! You can talk about anything and get it out of your system! Buuuuuuuut… I’d rather you pitch your loglines to others to get some peer feedback, talk about The Scriptshadow 250 Contest (only 54 days left!), discuss the awesome fact that none other than DARK HORSE contacted Adam yesterday about his script (I’ll update you when I know more), or guess what scripts will be reviewed next week during “Weird Scripts Week” (I still have one slot semi-open, so if you can think of a weird script you think I should review, let me know). I haven’t read the Friday script yet but I can assure you, from the premise alone, it’s going to be the craziest f&%*ing script ever, and a sure bet to end up on this year’s Black List.

A rare treat. An extremely solid amateur script! But will not owning the rights to the material doom the screenplay??

Next week is a SPECIAL WEEK here on Scriptshadow. It’s WEIRD SCRIPTS WEEK. I’ll be reviewing five really strange scripts, saving the weirdest and oddest for Friday. Your life will never be the same after you hear about that last script, I promise you. This means there will be no Amateur Offerings this weekend. So check out Damn Nation instead. It’s a good script!

Genre: Horror/Action-Thriller
Premise (from writer): Five years after a plague has overrun the United States, turning most of the nation into feral vampiric creatures, a Special Ops unit from the President’s current headquarters in London is sent back into the heart of the US in a desperate attempt to find a group of surviving scientists who claim to have found a cure for the disease… but not everyone wants to see America back on its feet.
Why You Should Read (from writer): I believe screenplays are evolving. With the advances of technology in the last couple of decades such as the internet, computers, ipads, smartphones, etc, screenplays can be more than words on paper, they can be visual and even interactive experiences. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last person to integrate artwork into my screenplay, but I think this approach, if done right, can add a lot of value to a project. Integrated artwork is just the tip of the iceberg though. I believe soon people will be adding a lot more elements, such as photo references, storyboards, video, sound effects, music, and other audio-visual components embedded into their scripts. The possibilities are endless. — However, I know that my view on things is going to be vastly unpopular right now. I think most people will have an old school attitude and believe that writers should write, leaving the fancy bells and whistles to someone else. — With that said, I do believe nothing is more important than the words themselves. Above all else, I hope my script is judged on the words, not the images. Everything else I’ve added is just a bonus.
Writer: Adam Wax (Based on the comic, “Damn Nation,” written by Andrew Cosby and illustrated by J. Alexander)
Details: 110 pages

item3172.1

I guess you could say today’s entry is a little controversial. We don’t usually review adaptations on Amateur Friday. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with writing one. I know some people get upset by it but as long as you give credit where credit is due, which Adam does, it’s fine.

As far as whether it’s legal to adapt something you don’t have the rights to – it’s perfectly legal. If you went and wrote your own Fifty Shades of Grey script tomorrow, nobody’s going to come knocking at your door. The only time it becomes illegal is if the studio buys it and turns it into a movie without obtaining the rights. And even then, it’s not you who gets sued, it’s them.

Wax has also decided to infuse artwork from the comic into his script. As I’ve stated before, I have no problem with this either. I think, under the right circumstances, art can enhance the read. I just wasn’t a particular fan of THIS art. I’d prefer art that actually gives me a clear idea of what’s going on. This art here is almost the opposite – as evidenced here.

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 12.31.20 PM

The setup for Damn Nation is pretty straight forward. Five years ago, a lost Russian tanker wanders into U.S. waters, full of dead bodies. When a group goes to inspect the ship, they find that these “dead” bodies aren’t as “dead” as they thought. We cut to five years later, where we learn that that event was the beginning of a fast-acting virus that took down the entire United States.

Back in Britain, where the remainder of the United States government now resides, they receive a signal from Buffalo, New York, with a simple message: “We have the cure.” The Americans and the Brits put together a team of about a dozen soldiers and send them off to Buffalo to see if there’s any truth to this message.

The team is led by the always cynical Captain John Cole. He’s joined by the non-shit-taking Lieutenant Emilia Riley, a Brit who’s not a huge fan of the American way. The two command a group of both Americans and Brits, and head into Buffalo where they immediately find our scientist with the cure.

Except that’s where shit starts going wrong. A sub-division of the team turns on them, killing everyone within sight. They try and kill Cole and Riley, who just barely escape with the doctor, a few other soldiers, and the cure. We eventually learn that the Brits, the Chinese, and the Russians, like this new world where the U.S. is no longer a player. And if there’s a cure, that puts the U.S. back in the mix.

Cole and Riley are thrust into a dangerous country where these… things lurk around every corner. They’ll need to come up with a plan not only to avoid them, but find a way to safety, and find someone who actually wants to use this cure to save the United States.

item3172.3

A page from the comic.

In the spirit of being completely honest, permission-less adaptations are usually the worst scripts I read. I’m not sure exactly why this is, but my guess is, these scripts tend to come from first-time screenwriters who fall in love with a property (movie, comic book, what have you) and want to write a movie in that universe. They do this before learning how to actually screen-write, which is why the scripts are often complete messes.

My advice to writers thinking about adapting a high-profile property you don’t have the rights to: don’t do it. I can guarantee that the rights to anything you’ve found are already owned by some producer working for some studio, which means you have approximately ONE BUYER for your script. If that one buyer doesn’t like what you’ve done, you’re shit out of luck.

There is a less cynical side to the approach, though. If you write ANYTHING that’s good, whether it sells to that single buyer or not, the town will take notice. And while you may not sell this specific script, you’ll get tagged as a good screenwriter and get some meetings out of it.

I don’t know where Adam Wax is in his screenwriting career, but he deserves some meetings after Damn Nation. This script is good. The first word that comes to mind is: polished. This isn’t something that was thrown together quickly, like so many amateur scripts we read here seem to be. Rather, there’s a clear structure to the story, and Wax moves it along quickly.

We start with that great teaser – A Russian boat that’s been lost for 15 years. Inspecting that boat to find 200 dead bodies that suddenly come to life. If that doesn’t grab you, you are incapable of being grabbed.

We don’t waste any time when we jump to five years later either. We immediately jump to the “cure” signal and within pages, our team is on their helicopters, heading to the U.S. Spec scripts HAVE TO MOVE FAST. And Damn Nation eschews the Prius approach in favor of the Lamborghini.

The first big twist is maybe a little predictable (the soldiers turning on their leaders), but Adam’s such a good writer, he makes it work. And it places our characters into a seriously terrifying situation – being alone in a country dominated by blood-sucking creatures with no one to come save them.

I often discuss on this site using ideas that DO THE WORK FOR YOU. This is the kind of idea that does the work for you. Putting your characters in this kind of peril ensures that you’ll have a bevy of terrifying scenes and sequences. Every moment counts. Every wrong choice could lead to death. There’s never a moment here where the audience can sit back and relax, which is a sign of a really good story.

Some of the character stuff is really good too. For example, Captain Cole isn’t just some tough-as-nails vanilla captain. He learns that the whole reason he was picked to lead this mission is because he’s been such a terrible captain (killed two platoons in Afghanistan). He was chosen for the specific purpose of ensuring failure. Cole is going to have to dig down deep and overcome all his demons and past failures in order to prove to others, but more importantly, himself, that he can lead.

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, or really any post-apocalypstic literature, I can guarantee you’re going to LOVE THIS. I could see this being a hit movie TOMORROW. But I don’t know who owns Damn Nation, and I don’t know if whoever has the rights plans on making the movie anytime soon. But they should. And they owe it to themselves to at least check out Adam Wax’s version.

Script link: Damn Nation

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: I’ll say it again, guys. A spec script NEEDS TO MOVE QUICKLY. The specs that never seem to slow down, that never allow the reader to sit back and relax – these scripts have a HUGE advantage over the slow-moving specs with stories that take forever to get going, and which spend too much time sitting around in that second act. If you can, I’m BEGGING YOU to infuse URGENCY into your spec idea. Urgency and specs go together like peanut butter and jelly.

The absolutely FREE Scriptshadow 250 Screenplay Contest deadline is just 56 days away! Make sure you’re preparing your entries!

WordBase

A lot of what we talk about here at Scriptshadow comes from a reactionary place. We assess someone’s work and then discuss how it either a) worked or b) didn’t. And if it didn’t, we discuss how it could’ve been fixed, or how it could’ve been done better. This is all well and good, and we certainly learn a lot from it. But it doesn’t address one of the hardest things about screenwriting: the blank page.

Staring at a blank page is a whole different ball of wax than trying to come up with a solution to a bad scene.

There are two types of “blank page” problems. There’s the “On the fly” blank page problem and there’s the “Outlined script” blank page problem.

The “On the fly” problem refers to writers who are writing their script on the fly. They didn’t start off with an outline. They had their idea and figured they’d jump straight into the script. This method is notorious for leading to a lot of blank page problems. Since you didn’t outline, you have no idea where your script is headed, and when you don’t know your destination, it’s hard to map out a route to get there.

For this reason, the writer eventually runs out of scenes (curiously, they almost always peter out around page 45), and subsequently start “grasping at straws.” They write to shock, they throw a twist or two at the reader, all to energize what they perceive to be a dying story, not realizing that it’s the lack of direction in the first place that’s the problem.

To these writers I say, “This is why you outline.” You outline to destroy the blank page. If you’ve already figured out your ending, and you’ve come up with a general idea for the majority of the scenes in your script, you’ll at least come into each scene with a plan. And plans mean less blank pages.

If outlining scares you, here’s another option. Make sure that every character in your screenplay HAS A GOAL. If you give every character a goal, then every time you cut to one of those characters, you’ll know what scene to write to push them closer to that goal.

If you know, for instance, that your 5th most important character, Tracy, is desperately trying to make enough money to pay for college tuition next year, then you know to put her in a few job interviews. And if she doesn’t get hired, and subsequently gets more desperate, you know she might start doing some unsavory things to get that money.

On the contrary, if all you know about Tracy is that she’s your main character’s sister, then when she comes around, you won’t know what to do with her, and the story will drift or come to a stop when she arrives.

To use a recent example, look at Mad Max: Fury Road. The goals were clear from the start. Furiosa wanted to get back to her hometown. And Max wanted freedom. The bad guy, of course, wanted to get his five wives back. Every scene was dictated by the desires of those three characters, which is a big reason why not a single scene in that movie felt wasted.

Now if you’re a seasoned screenwriter, outlining is a huge part of your process. And for the truly hardcore, you’ve likely outlined every scene in your script (scene 1 to scene 60!). To these writers, having no idea what to write next isn’t really the problem. The problem is HOW to write what you write next.

Let me give you a real world example. A couple of weeks ago, a writer came to me needing to write a scene that took care of two things – introducing his main character’s wife, and conveying the fact that the two were struggling financially.

Notice that we know what to write, but we don’t know how to write it. I mean sure, we could take the obvious route. Our main character comes home from work, and there his wife is, at the dining room table, bills spread about everywhere, looking dire. Does the job, right? Sure.

But is it a good SCENE?

No.

Any time you give us the same scene/solution that the average Joe on the street could’ve come up with, you’ve given us a boring scene. Even the best version of that scene gives us information (exposition) and nothing more. Which puts us right back at the blank page. So what the hell do we write?

I’m going to let you in on a big secret here – the key to writing a scene that destroys the blank page. Are you ready?

CONFLICT

You want to approach your scene with the goal of injecting some conflict into it. And by conflict, I mean an imbalance that needs to be resolved. Maybe one character is mad at the other and starts yelling at them. Maybe one character is mad at the other and is passive aggressive towards them. Maybe one character is hiding a secret from another character. Maybe the two characters are avoiding talking about something. Maybe the characters desperately want to be together but can’t for some reason. Maybe the characters are fighting off a common enemy.

Conflict comes in many forms. But the important thing is that once you include conflict in a scene, you move away from merely conveying information, and you instead add an element of entertainment. Telling us that these characters are in financial straights is boring. Having one of the characters fed up that they’re in financial straights and taking it out on their partner in a passive-aggressive manner, now you have a scene.

I can already see it. The wife doesn’t NEED to have these bills out for when her husband comes home. But she wants to make a point. She’s reminding him that he can’t keep ignoring their reality. They’re in financial straights and he’s got to do something about it. He shakes his head, storms by her, and all of a sudden we have tension in the air. We have conflict. We have a scene, even if it’s a mere quarter of a page long.

But let’s say that one of the things you ALSO want to convey in this scene is that our husband and wife characters love each other very much. Having them pissed off at each other may make for a juicier scene, but it conveys the exact opposite about their relationship than what you want. Okay, that’s fine. Just shift the conflict so that it’s external.

Maybe our husband gets home, and the neighbors are, once again, playing their music loudly. As our couple work out which bills they need to pay first to stay above water, the music only seems to get louder, until the husband can’t take it anymore. He storms over to the neighbors and tells them off.

Remember, the most boring scenes in any script are the scenes where nothing’s happening. And “nothing’s happening” is universal code for “No conflict.” So always look for an angle into the scene where some kind of conflict is taking place, even if it’s subtle. Assuming that you know what needs to happen next in your script, the right level of conflict could be the key to busting past that blank page.

Genre: Action (Superhero)
Premise: When superheroes start inexplicably losing their powers, Batman realizes that a secret project of his is the cause.
About: Before George Miller made Fury Road, he was going to make a Justice League movie back in 2008. That would’ve been right after Spiderman 3 and Superman Returns, but before any of the Marvel movies. The cast had someone named D.J. Cotrona playing Superman, Armie Hammer playing Batman, Adam Brody playing The Flash, and Common playing Green Lantern. Factors such as the writer’s strike and the studio being gun shy contributed to the project’s implosion, but there will be a documentary about the almost-film coming out next year.
Writers: Michele and Kieren Mulroney
Details: 127 pages – 2007 draft

43_MartianManhunter

Ever since George Miller reminded everyone that, yes, he does still know how to make awesome movies, everyone’s been talking about two things. The sequel to Fury Road and the aborted Justice League script Miller penned seven years ago.

Miller’s particular attention to detail (storyboard-fu!) tells us his Justice League would have looked amazing. But what about the script he was working from? Marvel still hadn’t hit the scene yet and superhero films, at the time, were on the decline. People weren’t sure how to make them anymore.

Did Miller’s writers infuse the genre with the same freshness he added to his post-apocalypse film? Let’s find out…

Justice League begins when someone named the Martian Manhunter(?) comes down with a bad case of being on fire. Since I’d never heard of the Martian Manhunter before, I didn’t know if this was a good thing (his superpower?) or a bad thing. I went with “bad thing” and hoped for the best.

Later we meet Aquaman, who’s all of a sudden afraid of water, and then Green Lantern, who’s temporarily gone blind. The world’s superheroes realize they’re being targeted, so the king of them all, Superman, suggests that they run off to his Fortress of Solitude where they’ll be safe.

Joining up with Wonder Woman and The Flash, the still-healthy heroes start trying to figure out what’s happened to their crime-fighting buddies. Little do they know that back in Gotham, Bruce Wayne is fiddling around with his secret pet project, a satellite called the “Brother Eye,” when he realizes that someone has gotten a hold of it and is using it for no good!

Here’s where things get a little confusing. Somehow, Brother Eye has sent down an army of nano-bots to earth and is using them to invade the orifices of superheroes so it can take away their powers. When Batman realizes this, he heads to the Fortress of Solitude to fess up about his experiment-gone-bad (hey, this is starting to sound a bit like that other superhero movie that came out earlier this summer).

Superman is pissed at Bats, but they don’t have time to argue. They must formulate a plan to stop this evil Satellite-Nano thingy from killing them off. They eventually tie the satellite malfunction to a pissed-off dude named Maxwell Lord, who’s seriously upset that when he was a little kid in need, none of the superheroes came to save him. Talk about holding a grudge.

Once the superheroes arrive, Lord enacts his final plan, which involves a biker gang infused with his nano-tech. Biker Nano Tech Unite become what sound like versions of that Spider-Man villain, Octopus, and start beating our superhero team’s asses. Our caped crusaders will have to draw on every last remaining power they have to defeat Mr. Lord. But with mind altering nano-tech coursing through their brains, they’re soon fighting against each other, leaving the future of super-humans, and earth itself, in doubt.

1351348-superman31_mbailey

In all fairness, to do this script justice, it really should be reviewed by a comic book geek. I like myself a good superhero movie, but the geekier and less realistic they get, the less I’m on board. This one had me scratching my head early on, and I never quite caught up with the premise. I felt a bit like a grandparent watching their grandson play with an Ipad for the first time. Like, “Whoa, what is that??”

To me, the best superhero films are the ones that have a clear and simple story (Iron Man). Where superhero films have run into trouble is when they try to do too much. This problem is magnified in these “Group Superhero” films. The movies seem to be less a natural unfolding of events and more writers desperately trying to wrangle together 20 different ideas.

As we all know, the most boring part of any movie-going experience is exposition. When the script stops for 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, to explain what’s going on, that’s 3, 5, 10 minutes where we’re not enjoying a story.

And if you have to set up 8 different superheroes, you’re going to have a lot of those moments. One of the reasons the Marvel movies have been able to thrive is because they’ve taken care of all that exposition in their standalone films, so that once the heroes come together, they can just get on with it.

At least with this version of Justice League, that’s not the case. And the Mulroneys do their best under the circumstances, but when you’re saddled with setting up a man who lives under the sea and rides on dolphins, that’s going to take some time. And then after that, you have to explain why a man looks like a rock-person from Mars. And then after that, who this Wonder Woman chick is.

But even when the script isn’t setting things up, it’s still struggling to move. The Mulroneys make the curious decision to have the superheroes run away to the Fortress of Solitude. Should superheroes really be running away from anything? That doesn’t sound very super-heroic like (although I guess Mad Max and Furiosa ran away the whole movie and that worked).

batman_origins

Even if you cut the script slack there, though, once they’re at the Fortress of Solitude, they stand around for an entire 25 pages(!) discussing what might be wrong with them. A 25-page talky scene with superheroes?? Shouldn’t superheroes be out there superheroing? Isn’t that what we’re expecting when we’re coming to a superhero all-star movie? From the man who brought us the longest chase scene in the history of cinema, you’d think he’d be on board with that.

In the writers’ defense, I don’t know many screenwriters who could have done better. These kinds of projects are screenwriter traps. They seem like they should deliver pure awesomeness. But the formula is working against the screenwriter almost from the get-go – having to set up tons of very unique people and build a non-cliché superhero “end of the world” storyline while it’s happening to boot.

It’s so much easier to build a story around a single superhero. This is what movies do best (work with a single protagonist) and any time you try to get cute with that formula, you can expect problems. Unfortunately, Justice League wasn’t able to avoid these problems and ended up being a lot of exposition, a lot of standing around, before a final climax that was big on action but short on originality.

For the geeks out there, I can pass along a few interesting tidbits. Flash has sex with his wife by vibrating at a really high frequency and then invading her body. Superman fights Wonder Woman as well as “Green Superman,” which comes from Green Lantern’s ring. And after Batman kills our bad guy, Superman becomes furious and says, “We never – NEVER! – take a human life. It’s unacceptable.” Oh, and one of the key superheroes dies, which results in all of our superheroes wearing their costumes in pure black.

I don’t think anyone’s cracked the code on how to do these films right yet. The closest anyone’s come is Avengers 1, and it’s only because they cheated by setting up their superheroes ahead of time. I predict we’ll see these same problems play out in Batman vs. Superman, although I hope I’m wrong!

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Just know that the more characters you add to your main cast, the more time you’re going to be spending setting those characters up, which delays us getting to your story. To make character set-ups less boring, try to introduce them involved in some action, or some problem they have to solve. These scenes play less like “set-ups” than, say, showing your character get ready for work with his family. In fact, if you do them well, you can trick your audience into not realizing you’re setting up a character at all.