Premise: (from IMDB) – A man travels to other planets and dimensions in search of his reincarnated lover.
About: Add Ion to the ever-expanding list of Channing Tatum projects, whose clout is now such that he’s able to sign onto movies as an actor AND producer (as he is here). Scott Free Productions and Fox 2000 purchased this script a couple of weeks ago, I’m guessing as a directing vehicle for Ridley or Tony. While this is Will Dunn’s first sale, I seem to remember him having a couple of scripts on previous Black Lists so this isn’t his first time to the dance. Channing Tatum, for better or worse, has been chosen as Hollywood’s go-to young brooding hunk. Some think he can’t act. Others, particularly women, don’t care. I thought he was good in the little seen but highly recommended “A Guide To Recognizing Our Saints.” Overall, we’ll have to wait to find out if he’s the next Matt Damon or the next Josh Hartnett.
Writer: Will Dunn
Details: 116 pages – April 1, 2009 draft (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time of the film’s release. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).
I wasn’t so much interested in the quality of this early Will Dunn draft (I knew it wasn’t the draft that sold) as much as I was interested in what the movie was about. I have a baffling habit of forgetting that IMDB can actually tell me the premise of a script ahead of time, so I end up reading scripts that I don’t necessarily need to read. But that’s fine. I love sci-fi and whenever a sci-fi scripts sells, I crave the where, the what, the why, and the how.
I don’t have any info about the where the why and the how, but I can tell you about the what. Or at least, I can *try* to tell you about the what. See, the first thing you’ll realize about Ion is that it’s kind of….confusing. I don’t do any drugs but I felt like I was on drugs when I read it. This isn’t the easiest story to follow by any means, so I’ll try and do the heavy-lifting for you.
Ion, the main character, is a “Scout.” He lives on a planet, presumably a version of earth (though that’s just a guess), with a species of humans that don’t age. Because these humans never die, they eventually wear out their worlds and need new ones, kinda like underwear. Ion has a unique ability to find these alter-Earths, so they send him out into parallel dimensions to locate these planets. As soon as he finds them, he sends a signal, which acts as an intergalactic lighthouse, and the rest of the Immortal Humans fly in and set up shop.
However, after doing this for thousands, maybe even millions of years, Ion’s over it. He doesn’t want to see these reasonably untouched quasi-earths get ravaged and decimated over and over again. It’s not cool. On top of that, Ion is in love with a woman named Alice who lives on each of these planets. Or I should say a different version of Alice lives on each planet. Don’t worry, Ion’s not a player. He’s not collecting Alices or anything unscrupulous like that. It’s just that the damn leader of the Immortal Humans, Azrayl, keeps killing every Alice Ion falls in love with (I have to admit, I’m not sure why), forcing him to keep finding her over and over again.
Anyway, so our story begins when Ion destroys the current signal transmitter and crash-lands on our planet back in 1947. He’s captured by the military (and yes, it is the event you’re thinking of) and held prisoner for 60 years while they study him. In the meantime, Ion remote-views the planet (traveling across earth with your mind) to find Alice — or I should say, this earth’s version of Alice, who’s named “Amara,” — so he can be with her.
During the story, we’re also flashing back thousands if not millions of years ago, to, I believe, the first time Ion and Alice found each other. This is used to show how badly they’re in love, contrasted with the present day, where the new Alice doesn’t even know who Ion is.
It doesn’t take long to figure out what’s wrong here. There’s too many exceptional things going on at once. We’re traveling to other dimensions, we’re flashing back to another world millions of years ago, we’re jumping through multiple decades here on earth, we’re remote viewing other places on the planet, and we’re engaging in a relationship with a woman completely different from the one Ion is supposedly in love with.
Obviously, it’s hard to enjoy a story if you don’t know what’s going on, and most of the time I didn’t. I needed to remind myself that early drafts for complicated scripts like Ion are often an exercise in jumbleality, and that a lot of the confusion gets fixed in rewrites, but man this tested every fiber of concentration I had because there was nothing to ground any of the story. It was so all over the place.
It’s my guess — and a wild one at that –that this is Ridley Scott’s edgy answer to Cameron’s Avatar. And if you pressed me to come up with one of those Hollywood pitches, I’d probably describe it as – Are you ready for this? – “Avatar meets 2001.” As crazy as that sounds, I think it’s a pretty accurate representation of the material. Dunn has a wonderful talent for description, as well as an innate ability to evoke emotion. This script drips – and I mean you can feel the drops on your arms – with feelings of loss, emptiness, and fear. And I get the sense that that’s what Ridley latched onto, and why he gave this script a shot.
But you guys know me. I need my scripts to make sense. I need at least some aspect of the story to fit inside the confines of normalcy. Ion reads like a science fiction poem from someone losing their mind. While that may be its biggest strength, it’s also its biggest weakness, and that left me with more questions than answers. I can’t recommend something I don’t understand, so I have to say, with some sadness, that Ion falls short.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Think of the reader as a cup and every complicated thing you want that reader to remember is added to that cup. Traveling to other earths in different dimensions? That’s a few ounces. A subplot that evolves via a 1000-year flashback? That’s a few ounces as well. A female lead who changes depending on what planet she’s on? Another few ounces. At a certain point, the cup’s going to overflow. The reader isn’t going to be able to keep up. This is something you have to pay particular attention to when you write sci-fi, because there’s always a lot to explain in a sci-fi story. If the cup gets too full, the brain shuts down and you’ve lost your reader. That’s unfortunately what happens here. Now every story’s different and there’s no perfect way to measure what the audience will or won’t understand. But if you keep this rule in mind, that the cup, at some point, can overflow, then there’s a good chance you’ll stop before the top of the glass.