Does Damon Lindelof’s infatuation with mystery boxes doom Tomorrowland?

Genre: Sci-fi/Adventure

Premise: A teenage girl finds a pin that allows her to visit a secret world of tomorrow.

About: Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), came out this weekend and finished the Memorial Holiday weekend with 40 million bucks, considered very low for what is, usually, one of the biggest movie-going weekends of the summer. Remember when 2015 was shaping up to be the biggest summer in movie history? Star Wars 7. Batman vs. Superman. Now we have films like Spy and Tomorrowland. What happened???

Writer: Damon Lindelof
Details: 130 minutes.

george-clooney-in-tomorrowland

Pssst.

Hey.

Hey you.

Do me favor.

Come a little closer.

I have a secret I need to tell you. But you have to keep it between us.

Promise?

Pardon my paranoia. I just don’t want anybody to hear.

Are you ready?

I’ve never been a fan of Brad Bird.

I actually thought The Iron Giant was extremely overrated.

And The Incredibles?

I felt that every choice in that movie could be seen from a mile away.

I’ve always been kind of confused as to the geek love he’s been given. He made two movies that were amazing if you were ten. But other than that? He felt about as exciting as a wooden roller coaster.

Then I read that book about Pixar, “Imagination Inc.”, and the author went on and on about how in awe all of the biggest minds at Pixar were about Bird. And I thought, maybe I need to give this guy another chance.

On the other end of the spectrum, while the world seems to have given up on Damon Lindelof, I remain firmly in his corner. The guy literally came out of nowhere to write an entirely new third act and save the shit out of World War Z, preventing it from becoming one of very zombies it was depicting.

But regardless of who wrote this and who directed it, one thing was for certain: I was desperate for it to be good. I don’t know if you knew this, but Tomorrowland is one of only three major Hollywood releases this summer that are original ideas. A failure with this film was one more reason for studios to never choose original scripts again.

So when I sat down, I sat down hoping for a movie miracle. Did I get it?

Not exactly.

The story follows teenager Casey, a genius who uses her unique skills to take down power plants that are harming the environment or something.

After going to jail for said plant attackage, Casey receives a strange pin that, when touched, transports her to a futuristic city.

The problem is that the pin has a battery life worse than an Apple laptop and eventually runs out of juice, forcing her to run to the internet to find out how to power it up again. This leads her on a strange adventure cross-country where she eventually crosses paths with Athena, a 12 year-old girl who’s actually a robot FROM this futuristic city (which we’ve now dubbed Tomorrowland).

Athena takes Casey to Frank, a cranky old former inventor who, like Casey, visited Tomorrowland when he was young, and actually fell in love with Athena. The three of them have been assembled to save humanity, which, according to calculations, is going the way of the dodo birdy in 60 days. Only through the secrets of Tomorrowland will they be able to stop the apocalypse.

158852movie4

Oh man.

Where do I begin here?

I don’t know if I’d call Tomorrowland “bad.” But holy shit is it flawed.

I’ll start off with the strange decision to make this a tri-protagonist story. If you come to the site often, you know how I feel about this. Any scenario where it’s unclear who your protagonist is, is a “playing with fire” scenario. I’m not saying you’ll for sure get burned, but it’s a bit like heading to Egypt without sunscreen. You’re probably going to regret it.

Lindelof makes things really hard on himself as he creates a storyline that’s way more complicated than it needs to be, as Frank, Casey, and Athena take a good 70 minutes just to get to the point where they’re on their mission.

This essentially makes the 70-page mark the end of the first act (the beginning of the second act is well known as the moment our main character heads out on their journey).

Now Lindelof would probably argue that Casey goes off on HER mission around the traditional 25-minute First Act marker. But since that mission is really just the beginning of setting up two more characters (completing our tri-protagonist trio), we don’t get to the TRUE beginning of the journey until we meet Frank and he prepares the trip to Tomorrowland.

If you’re doubting my page 70 First Act turn assessment, I’d ask you how you were feeling 45 minutes into the movie. Bored right? Like we were spinning our wheels? Like we were moving from scene to scene, but nothing was really happening.

THIS IS BECAUSE we were still in the first act. We hadn’t officially gone on our journey yet.

Now this is where Lindelof is going to get some heat and he probably should. One of the big knocks on Lindelof is his and JJ’s “mystery box.” Critics say that he and Abrams are more interested in posing questions than offering answers, creating a sort of cinematic blue-ball effect.

This has caused some online to announce the death of the mystery box, which is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard in my screenwriting life. It’s not mystery boxes that people don’t like. It’s badly executed mystery boxes.

It’s like that old screenwriting rule: never write a dialogue scene on the phone. Always have your characters talk in person instead. Well, yeah, that’s sort of true. But what audiences are really rebelling against are BADLY EXECUTED phone-call scenes. I don’t know anyone who had a problem with the Rod Tidwell phone scene in Jerry Maguire.

So anyway, I think Lindelof believed that his mystery boxes would keep us occupied inside those first 70 pages so that we wouldn’t notice he was writing the longest First Act in history.

There was only one problem. All the mystery boxes revolved around Tomorrowland, and we had already seen Tomorrowland twice. Once at the beginning with Frank and then once in the First Act with Casey. How do you create mystery around something we’re already familiar with?

There’s the whole “mysterious countdown” til earth blows up thing. But there’s a countdown in every Hollywood movie. You’re not going to keep us around with a standard countdown.

Your star mystery box was Tomorrowland and you blew that by throwing it into the very first scene. It was a baffling choice to say the least.

And as if to make things worse, when we finally get to Tomorrowland at the end, it’s a toned down lame version of Tomorrowland – the empty “unfun” version. So not only did you obliterate any curiosity about the place but when we finally see it, it doesn’t live up to our expectations.

The film’s message of “We can build a better tomorrow if we try” was given SO FREAKING MUCH ATTENTION that it appears Lindelof and Bird – two story-guys through and through – didn’t notice these flaws. Which is too bad. Because they really destroyed Tomorrowland. And made me happy I’m still back in Today.

[ ] what the hell did I just watch?

[x] wasn’t for me 

[ ] worth the price of admission 

[ ] impressive 

[ ] genius



What I learned: Tomorrowland is a great example of what can happen when you oversell your theme. When you’re repeating your message every two pages (“We’re ruining the planet!”), and characters are stopping the script for long monologues about the message of the film, the audience starts feeling manipulated. A great way to avoid this while still pushing your theme, is to move away from stating theme, and look for ways to show theme. So say your theme is about pushing forward in the face of adversity. You don’t want one of your characters to say, “We need to push forward in the face of adversity guys!” Which is essentially the tactic that Tomorrowland employs. Instead, show a bunch of situations where characters are faced with adversity. Show some stand up to it and the power they achieve through doing so. Then show others fail to stand up, along with the negative consequences their actions bring. This is much more effective.

  • leitskev

    I wouldn’t go see this movie if there was a free open bar and George Clooney was shaking the drinks. Predictable preaching by narcissistic Hollywood to compensate for personal shortcomings.

  • S.C.

    On theme: Advice from Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale – play out the theme through your subplot.

    Back to the Future – If you put your mind to it, you accomplish anything. We see that through George McFly’s “B” story rather more than Marty McFly’s “A” story.

    And, for no other reason that it’s awesome, here’s Tom Fletcher from the band McFly:

    • tyrabanksy

      You got this one, Scott?
      Also, that subplot note is great. I’ve never thought about it that way. Going to write it down and go back over my script.

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        (Script sent ;) )

        • tyrabanksy

          Thanks so much :D

    • carsonreeves1

      Good advice. :)

    • IgorWasTaken

      I get that the B story in “Back to the Future” focuses on the theme, but that theme is also played out in the A story.

      In a way, that theme is what sets the A-story into action – Doc has put his mind to inventing time travel, even though that means dealing with terrorists to do it.

      And once Marty has arrived in the past, and he has no power for the car, the solution for his problem seems impossible to achieve. So he has to put his mind to it.

      So is it more: The B story should (can) reinforce your theme?

      Or maybe even: If you want to be really clear to the audience about your theme, use the B story for that?

      • S.C.

        http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp29.Deep.Thoughts.html

        SUB-PLOT

        Here’s a clever technique that Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale used in BACK TO THE FUTURE: let the sub-plot state the theme. Marty McFly’s character issues find form in the movie through the sub-plot: the problems of his parents, who don’t have the confidence to risk taking the action that is in their hearts.

        Rather than load Marty down with a bunch of scenes to lay out the theme, Zemeckis and Gale covered that ground with Marty’s father. This allowed the theme to be bluntly stated (by Marty himself, teaching his own father what he himself needed to learn), yet, because it was couched in sub-plot, it didn’t land as too heavy-handed.

        • IgorWasTaken

          Rather than load Marty down with a bunch of scenes to lay out the theme, Zemeckis and Gale covered that ground with Marty’s father.

          The setup with the A and B stories in BTTF seems similar to the setup in Legally Blonde. The woman who does Elle’s nails does a condensed version of Elle’s story. In BTTF, Marty’s dad lacks confidence; in Legally Blonde, the nail woman lacks confidence. But in both films, the B stories play out, with the same themes, as do the A stories.

          Yes, that theme “ground” is covered by Marty’s father. But it is also covered by Marty throughout the film. Of course it’s clearer in the B story (because the B story is more condensed than the A story, and the B story doesn’t have its own secondary/B story).

          I’d state things this way: If theme is especially important to what you are trying to say, make the B story the dead horse that you beat.

  • S.C.

    OT:
    http://www.impawards.com/2015/posters/point_break.jpg

    I think this is smart, emphasizing the FAST & FURIOUS aspect of the reboot, rather than nostalgically trying to recreate the original 24 year-old poster.

    No trailer so far, but this is a TRAILER MOMENT if ever I saw one.

    Does your script have one?

    • kent

      Trailer sucks. Way to ruin a classic for the next generation. They do know that Point Break is a surfing term, right? Better to start over…

  • Thomas Anderson

    “The story follows teenager Casey, a genius who uses her unique skills to take down power plants that are harming the environment or something”

    Come on Carson, I love your reviews, but sometimes it seems like you don’t even pay attention to the films you review. Casey sneaks into a NASA launch site (where her father works) in an attempt to sabotage the machines that are dismantling the launch pad (thus possible putting him out of a job).

    And it’s not like this was vague in the film, they make it pretty damn obvious. Im only saying this cause if you get basic details like that wrong, people will start to doubt your review and question whether or not you really payed attention or cared or was interested etc…

    Also, Im not saying this in an attempt to defend the film or anything. I think the movie is kinda mediocre actually, and I say that as a huge fan of Brad Bird.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, I don’t remember NASA at all, I have to admit. But I wouldn’t be surprised if others missed it as well. They were in some backwoods middle-of-nowhere town with some ancient looking factory. I don’t know why I would presume it was NASA-related.

      • Andrew Parker

        Yeah, don’t know why Carson should presume that either.

        • IgorWasTaken

          Hey, my eyes are down here.

        • carsonreeves1

          lol. I thought that was just a hat she liked.

        • S_P_1

          I believe you won the Internet for today.

  • IgorWasTaken

    In the last 5 years or so, are there any action/adventure movies in which

    (a) the star is a teen or pre-teen, and

    (b) that star is a boy?

    Now in this film, of course, one star of is a teen boy, but he exists only back in the 1960s – which creates its own subtext.

    I think it’s great that films are being produced that star girls in these sorts of roles, but (as with colleges, in which females now outnumber males), is Hollywood now pushing “more girls” even as the pendulum has swung to the girls’ side? And if this has happened, I’m not necessarily objecting, but I am wondering if this is the case.

  • brenkilco

    “…more interested in posing questions than offering answers, creating a sort of cinematic blue-ball effect.”

    Hah. Like it. Course it’s ironic that the end result is blue balls when all these guys do is fuck with us.

    When you overstate your theme, or explicitly state it at all, it ceases to be a theme and becomes a thesis, and the movie starts to look like a lecture. Course I’m one of those who thinks that a grand theme, at least in a commercial movie, is a helluva lot less important than a decent plot.

    And I’ll make a confession. I’ve never sat through an animated feature of any kind at home or in a theatre when kids weren’t present. The Toy Story movies are masterpieces. Great. Don’t care. I’ll stick with live action adults. You still get juvenile cartoons half the time.

    • S.C.

      Try this one from Ralph Bakshi (no offence intended to anyone):

      • S.C.

        This one might be a little less offensive and a little more accessible.

        • brenkilco

          Have not watched Bakshi’s stuff either but know he belongs in his own category. Didn’t he once do a rotoscoped version of Lord of the Rings and try to cram in the whole story in something like an hour and a half?

  • LiberalSkewer_SCPatriot

    My Scriptshadow withdrawal is over – that was a long 3 days without any hot-off-the-presses, original SS content!

    • carsonreeves1

      Even I was getting sad. I kept refreshing the page. Where’s the next post??

  • Doug

    I thought the third act of World War Z was coma-inducing. The pacing was a complete letdown from the first and second acts which moved along at speed, despite being repetitive and tedious. My main problem with the third act was the dumb pop-medicine solution to the zombie problem. Wow, all you have to do is be sick and the zombies will just ignore you! Not exactly an inevitable heroic showdown, is it?

    Maybe Tomorrowland failed because a certain actor is past his use-by date. I think it’s time to add Clooney to the list of has-beens no-one wants to watch anymore, such as Johnny Depp, Eddie Murphy, Kevin Costner, Halle Berry, etc.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      I liked the first 20mns and after that, it was all downhill. Beyond coma-inducing, the third draft in particular was full of “Okay, he needs to leave the crowbar outside the room so let’s have him put it down and then use both hands to punch in the code”-total-WTF-moments o.O
      “You want third act problems? Call Lindeloser!”
      He even admits as much himself ^^

  • Scott Chamberlain

    So, let’s do the seven-point test
    1) Is your idea high concept? A girl finds a pin that leads to a sercet place cf tomorrow. I wouldn’t call that high concept.
    2) Are you writing in one of the six marketable genres (horror, thriller, sci-fi, comedy, action, adventure)? In theory, yes, but in practice, no. Environmental sermonising, while a known genre, isn’t that saleable except as documentary.
    3) Is your idea marketable? “I can’t think of any successful movies like this really so I’ll unfortunately have to say no.” (I’ve been lazy and just lifted the quote)
    4) Do you have a fascinating or extremely strong main character? No, because we have three main characters, none of them particularly strong or fascinating. Where is thDude when you ned him.
    5) Does it have a unique angle? Uh… The pin…? visiting the future, or a version of it, isn’t new.
    6) Is your script packed with conflict? Nope. Mystery boxes create curisosity, not conflict. And mystery boxes that aren’t mysteries crate boredom. And how much conflict can there be if Act 2 starts on page 70…?
    7) Does your idea contain irony? Ah… nope.

    No mystery about why it might not have been compelling.

    • carsonreeves1

      I think this is a pretty high concept idea. Trying to get to a futuristic city in another dimension? That’s high up there. And I’d categorize this in sci-fi, which passes the genre test.

      I think throwing up a futuristic mysterious city in your trailers is pretty market-friendly. Although with the low turn out, you may have a point.

      Definitely no strong characters, although the actress who played Athena was good.

      The angle? Hmm… very subjective with this film. But no, I don’t think there’s a hot angle here.

      There’s some conflict here, but it’s mainly brought by the over-the-top Frank.

      No irony here either.

      • Scott Chamberlain

        Yeah, I’m being facetious about the genre. It’s sci-fi.

        But, high concept?

        I realise the definition is fluid with a hint of The Elephant Test (I can’t describe an elephant, but I know one when I see it) but where’s the hook in this idea that makes it not dependent on execution? There’s a futuristic city on the poser, but I get no sense from that about the movie. The future and a different dimension is double mumbo-jumbo. Too much of the mazipan. Painting legs on the snake.

        Now, contrast it with the poster for Mad Max Fury Road… (mulesandmud, that’s your cue..)

        • S.C.

          Based on the poster, I thought at least 75% of the film would be set in Tomorrowland, e.g. they would go there thirty minutes in, like Dorothy going to Oz.

          Then things could go wrong. Maybe Tomorrowland needs to be repaired. Maybe its a repressive utopia like DEMOLITION MAN where free will is suppressed.

          I am aware that these are more straightforward, unimaginative interpretations of the Tomorrowland concept; however, I would argue, if you’re going to spend $200 million plus on a film and sell it as a summer blockbuster, that’s not the time to be experimenting with plot.

          On FURY ROAD, from what I’ve heard, people got what they were expecting – violent car-based action – and a few things they weren’t expecting. The ratio here appears too much unexpected and not enough expected.

  • Randy Williams

    “A failure with this film was one more reason for studios to never choose original scripts again.”

    How is this original? It’s based on an aged theme park ride that doesn’t even need a fast pass.

    That’s our admonition and we should stick to it.

  • S.C.

    Whenever I think of theme, I just can’t beat this film. It’s blunt

    but also subtle

    and all brilliant.

  • Buddy

    Love Brad Bird.
    The incredibles, Ratatouille, common guys we’re talking about MASTERPIECES !
    Even MI4 is the best movie of the franchise so far and the best blockbuster I’ve seen in years.
    But this one i don’t know about it. Feels too childish, too “disney”. Maybe that’s why it’s not doing well : i’m not sure who’s the audience here…

    • Scott Strybos

      Correction: MI3 is the best of the MI franchise. And should also be included on any top ten lists of best action films Hollywood has ever produced.

      • S.C.

        Opinion seems to be split between which is the best, 3 or 4. Don’t ask me – I liked the second one!

        Credit for Ghost Protocol should also go to Jeff Lynch, the Simpsons animation direction turned live-action second unit director who also worked with Sam Raimi on the Spider-Man films (he directed the train sequence in Spider-Man 2).

        • Scott Strybos

          Mission Impossible 2?!

          • S.C.

            Love that line!

            Love this music!

            Instrumental!

          • Buddy

            Guys guys guys

            MI4 IS the best one. Why ? because the has the most memorable scene (climbing the tower) and some action scenes i never saw before (the escape from the prison in music, the hologram scene, the chase in the sand storm, the finale in the auto-parking) and the whole plot makes fun about the franchise itself : the technology always fails.
            C’mon guys, this is just brilliant…

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydIPKkjBlMw

          • Scott Strybos

            I see your MI4 prison scene and raise you the MI3 bridge scene

          • S.C.

          • Bacon Statham

            For me it has to be climbing the tower in MI4. It’s one of those scenes that you wish you thought of first. Same with the intro to the quarry shootout in Jack Reacher. Tom Cruise reversing in a Mercedes-Benz, using the rear camera, whilst being shot at.

            Don’t know if anyone here has seen the Rogue Nation trailer, but that final shot… I showed my dad it, told him it was done for real and he said ”bullshit, how do they do that? That’s amazing!”.

          • S.C.

            MOONRAKER

            OCTOPUSSY

            THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS

            GOLDENEYE

            ERASER

        • carsonreeves1

          I’m old school. Nothing beats Tom Cruise dangling 2 inches from the white floor.

          • IgorWasTaken

            I’m old school. Nothing beats Tom Cruise dangling 2 inches from the white floor.

            IIRC, that’s a Jamie Foxx line about his dick. That his dick dangles just 2 inches from the floor.

            (Though, I don’t recall Jamie ever mentioning the color. Of the floor.)

          • carsonreeves1

            Well, those two did have a little bromance going for awhile.

      • brenkilco

        Funny I’ve never been able to sit through MI3. Made it through the others. Like one and four. Though I’ve always wished the series could be a little more clever and a little less set piece driven. But I lose the thread of 3 almost immediately and nod off. Go figure.

      • wlubake

        I’ll disagree with both of you. Give me Mission: Impossible any day. The 1996 original had killer set pieces and used fresh ideas that the sequels have beat to death. Plus it had supporting characters with punch. And it had great directing. I love the scene between Hunt and Kittridge in the aquarium restaurant. As the scene gets more intense, De Palma gets closer in on their faces, using unique angles, building the tension that much more. The below clip is a ways into the scene.

        This one focused on the importance of teamwork. Coordination. And it was fun, light and playful at times. You understood how Hunt could charm Max (versus the rather glum Hunt who has populated the films since).

        To me, they haven’t really even challenged the original yet.

        • Bacon Statham

          ”This one focused on the importance of teamwork. Coordination. And it was fun, light and playful at times. You understood how Hunt could charm Max (versus the rather glum Hunt who has populated the films since).”

          You don’t think MI4 did that? I think it’s the only one so far that did. It played up each team member’s skills, with maybe the exception of Paula Patton’s character.

          And to be honest, I think it was way more intense. The odds were stacked against Ethan and the team. Their organisation was pretty much disbanded, they were off the grid, had no support, none of their equipment worked properly. Ethan even says ”the only thing that worked in the end was this team”. It made the action scenes that much more exciting because you were wondering what could go wrong next.

          • wlubake

            I’ll readily admit that I only saw Ghost Protocol once, so it isn’t that fresh on my mind. I need to revisit it.

            I’ve seen Mission: Impossible dozens of times (its a favorite). But all the things you mention are applicable to MI1. He’s out. No contact to IMF. He’s working with disavowed former agents off the grid. The characters are great. We meet Luther in all his glory. Claire is conflicted (we think) in her feelings for Ethan given their illicit past and the recent death (we think) of her husband. Krieger is the shady guy we know we can’t trust, but have to.

            I see Ethan climbing the tower building in MI4 as Superman using his super powers. Much like swinging onto the building in MI3 or hanging onto an airplane in MI5. There was less of that in MI1. Just a smart guy with a plan and a team executing their roles.

            As to stakes, the NOC list was a great McGuffin. Huge stakes (all undercover agents risk getting killed within hours of the list getting out). Sure, it isn’t a rogue nuke, but how many times have we seen a rogue nuke?

            IMO, the franchise is a victim to MI1. They have to go bigger and bolder with the set pieces each time, but they’ll never match the intensity of the vault in Langley. MI3 and MI4 reinvigorated the franchise after a pretty limp and tone deaf MI2. But the magic of the original has been untouchable to me.

  • jw

    After watching this yesterday all I could think was “their hearts are in the right place, but their plot is out in left field.” Try watching this the day after you’ve seen Interstellar for the first time and holy dystopian future overload, Batman (damnit Nolan!)….

    What I learned: When writing a script about a future dystopian land that tells all of us how we fucked up and spells out whether or not we can fix it, FOCUS. Focus is the name of the game. On one hand, Nolan has identified the direction he wants to go and has done the research to get us there, but his plot is ALL OVER THE PLACE! The same with Tomorrowland, but it hasn’t really identified its focal point. Obviously, Interstellar is the superior picture here, but not necessarily because it’s more focused, it’s just more epic and thought-provoking.

    Find something that exists within your story and focus on that as the sun to your Earth. It will make the ride a lot more enjoyable for the audience and odds are they’ll retain much more that you give them in the process.

    • carsonreeves1

      It’s true. You can tell they really wanted to make something special. If only it were as easy as wanting. :(

      • jw

        It’s a conundrum nonetheless and one that I talk about quite often with other writers in relation to “statement” writing. Do you create a fictional world that has our problems, in order NOT for it to seem like you’re clubbing us in the head, or do you just cut to the chase and swing away, hoping you won’t lose us in the process? Do the analogous plot lines for The Hunger Games resonate with people about the issues we face today and does it spur action or simply allow us to enjoy viewing a “fictional” world without having to think that one day it could be us? If you’re out there attempting to spur action within society, what version of that story is likely to actually have an impact? And, I think while box office is a measure of “financial” success, I’d venture to say that if we asked Clooney, his measure of success would be, “if that film put in 1 person’s mind the idea that they could change the world, then mission accomplished.” Of course, the other side argues, the more people who see it, the higher the likelihood you find that one person…

        • carsonreeves1

          I did think that young families walked away from this with a healthy discussion about the power the kids can have over the future. But still, as Mel Gibson says, it doesn’t matter what you’re trying to do or say with your film. If you don’t entertain, it won’t matter.

          • jw

            WORD!

  • Poe_Serling

    Nice to see SS up and running again after the short holiday break. Hope Carson had some time to recharge his batteries.

    Tomorrowland…

    I’m far from being the target audience for this type of film, but I must’ve seen the commercial for it about 100+ times over a two week period.

    Bottomline for me: I never got a true sense of adventure from the ads or what the gist of the story was going to be.

  • Buddy

    “Now this is where Lindelof is going to get some heat and he probably should. One of the big knocks on Lindelof is his and JJ’s “mystery box.” Critics say that he and Abrams are more interested in posing questions than offering answers, creating a sort of cinematic blue-ball effect.”

    And this is the reason why I could never watched the last 2 seasons of LOST.
    And why i’ll never be a fan of JJ & Lindelof’s work. But Brad Bird, i’ll always support him ;-)

    • Bacon Statham

      I don’t mind Abrams, I like his Star Trek films and I think he made a decent action film with MI3, but I do prefer Brad Bird. I think he was a better choice for MI4, he made the series fun and light-hearted and really played up the whole team angle.

      • BSBurton

        He fumbled with “into darkness” but the first film is great. MI3 is solid, but like you said 4 was an improvement.

  • fragglewriter

    I read about the review of this movie yesterday, and was disappointed with the fact that studios prefer existing franchises instead of original content due to their profit margin. I understand that business are established to make a profit, but if you measure green lighting a movie based on high-concept and not content, you’re going to kill your brand sooner or later.

  • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

    So much for my erotic thriller mid-life crisis screenplay “Fear and Loathing in Epcot Center.”

    • carsonreeves1

      They made that film already – “Escape from Tomorrow.”

  • ChadStuart

    It’s not that “Mystery Box” storytelling is “dead”, it’s really that it’s a flawed premise to begin with.

    First, the idea of the mystery driving the story is nothing new. That’s just basic storytelling. Every story is a mystery, whether it’s about who killed who, or why does a character act the way he does. Mystery applies to just about any genre.

    But, specifically the theory that the christmas present should never be unwrapped because the excitement over the possibilities of what’s inside is stronger than any solution is simply wrong headed. That’s born from greed, honestly, that you’ll always desire something better than what you actually got. It works well in consumerism, but not storytelling. Eventually, for a story to be satisfying, the box simply has to be opened.

    And that’s when the “Mystery Box” theory runs into its problem. It forgets the basic storytelling device that the bigger the build-up, the bigger the payoff needs to be. Abrams and company love to work on the build-up, but then they get lazy with the payoff. And realistically the only thing limiting the payoff is their own imagination.

    A real world case study of this is the show “Lost”. If they would have spent as much time contemplating the payoff as they did working on the build-up, the ending wouldn’t have landed with such a cultural thud. They could have kept the ending they had, but then they needed to scale back the build-up because it sets expectations unfairly high. Conversely, having a huge payoff to a small build-up also jars the audience in the opposite direction.

    Build-up and payoff need to be in balance for a story to be satisfying. Having one weightier than the other is often what creates disapointing stories.

    • brenkilco

      And praising a writer for layering on intriguing, mystery elements that he never bothers to resolve or explain in a satisfactory manner is absurd. A mystery is a mystery. A mystery box is a lazy device for kicking the narrative can down the road and getting an undiscriminating audience to follow.

      • Bacon Statham

        The one thing I hate about Mission Impossible 3 is that we never found out what the Rabbit Foot was. It could’ve been a biological weapon, but it also could’ve been nanotechnology or the secret formula to Dr Pepper. That pissed me off. I was 15 when that film came out and I walked out of the cinema like I’d been fucking cheated. I still enjoyed it, but I was quite disappointed.

        And I never bothered with Lost after season two. I just didn’t care anymore. It stopped being interesting. I still bought the game though.

        • IgorWasTaken

          That’s called a MacGuffin.

          http://www.jmu.edu/english/MacGuffin/images/hitchcock.jpg

          And I love ‘em.

          • Bacon Statham

            No, I know what it is, I just follow the George Lucas train of thought. I like to know precisely what it is the characters are looking for. I kind of think it’s lazy if you don’t come up with an explanation, because you’re not really pushing yourself to be a better storyteller.

            ”The protagonist needs to find a briefcase”

            ”What’s in the briefcase?”

            ”Who cares?”

            Me! I care. I wanna know why that briefcase is so damn important. Even if the reason why it’s so important sucks, at least you made the effort to tell me. I’m not saying take the easy option and throw a bunch of secret files that detail a terrorist attack in there, go with sordid pictures of the President’s wife having sex with her bodyguard instead. Something that it is hinted at throughout the story, but confirmed when the briefcase is opened.

          • IgorWasTaken

            I kind of think it’s lazy if you don’t come up with an explanation,

            I think I see your point.

            OTOH, one could say it’s “lazy” if retrieving the briefcase, in effect, is the heart of the story. If by the end of the movie we really care about the characters, we won’t care (so much) about what is in the briefcase. And (one could say) that is more difficult to pull off than simply having us happy because the briefcase held a bomb and now NYC is safe.

            All that said, I think these are just two different sub-genres of movies.

          • Bacon Statham

            I see what you’re saying and I agree to an extent. If we care about the characters at the end, we won’t be bothered by not knowing what’s in the briefcase. I just think the audience deserves an explanation. They’ve sat through the film for two hours, they’ve been patient, they’ve eagerly anticipated the answer to the question that still hangs in the air ”what’s in the briefcase?”, the least the filmmakers can do is answer the question.

            I love a good mystery, because I can work it out alongside the characters and the rest of the audience, I just don’t like working hard to figure it out, only to then find out I’m never gonna know if I’m right.

          • S_P_1

            I sorta get ya. But you never saw what was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction other than a glowing light and the undeniable fact it belongs to Marcellus.

          • Bacon Statham

            Never was a fan of Pulp Fiction. Never been a fan of Tarantino (I feel like if I say that in Hollywood they’ll shoot me on sight). I did like Reservoir Dogs though.

          • IgorWasTaken

            Yeh, but they’ll film it, and then your heirs will get residuals.

          • brenkilco

            Good storytellers can distinguish between a McGuffin and essential story goals or information. If what’s in the case explains why A killed B, or why it was that a certain character could be blackmailed, or what the family secret was that explained everybody’s motivations then of course you have to see what’s inside. But if what’s inside is only a pretext to jump start the action, and what the story is actually about lies elsewhere, then there is no need to look inside the case because what’s inside is merely a McGuffin and might be anything.

            What are the Nazi’s hiding in the wine cellar in Notorious? Uranium to build a bomb. But as Hitchcock told the studio, If you don’t like uranium we’ll make it industrial diamonds. It doesn’t matter.

          • BSBurton

            Good point Bacon.

        • carsonreeves1

          Oh man. (Lost spoiler) When the shocking flash-forward comes at the end of Season 4 (“Kate, we need to go back to the island.”)? One of the best moments in television hands down.

          But yeah, I can see how a man yelling, “WALT!? WHERE’S WALT!!?? HAVE YOU SEEN WALT!!???” every episode for 40 straight episodes might drive some people to not only stop watching that show, but stop watching television period.

          Also, one of the most interesting things about Lost that’s relevant today, is that a lot of people thought there was no way a plane could just go missing like that. And then a couple of years ago we get the Malaysian Airlines flight.

          • Scott Strybos

            Below is the moment that blew my mind and will have me defending Lost, including the finale, until the day I die.

          • hickeyyy

            My absolute favorite moment in television history is that scene. I legitimately don’t think it gets better than that.

            EDIT: Please note I am a complete LOST fanboy as well and this is where it started, so I am bias. Shit, I have LOST tattoo on my leg. I just cannot be convinced anything is better.

          • BSBurton

            Never finished the pilot haha. Guess I’m saving the show as a treat for my retirement.

          • brock

            Absolutely, wholeheartedly agree, the entire season one was the best television had to offer up till that time. I’ve never been more devoted to a TV series prior to Lost and season one with moments like the above converted me. Although I would’ve preferred all the mysteries and unanswered questions and have my own theories and read fan theories to make up the answers rather than have the terrible, overtly religious, desperate, and total cop-out of a series finale ending. Season 1 and 2 were excellent TV and had great balance between the premise of the show and the characters. Season 3 went downhill quick until the last few episodes, Season 4 rose in quality and had the best episode of the entire series, “The Constant”, and then by the middle of Season 5 I gave up and saw Lost as a parody of its former glorious self. I still had hope for season 6 but was mostly a forgettable affair. Still, it’s one of the great achievements of TV, just to be able to pull off a TV show like this for such a long time.

          • hickeyyy

            SPOILERS ALL OVER: I hate to be nit-picky, but it was the end of Season 3. We also saw the death of Charlie at the end of Season 3. Season 4 is where we started regularly getting the flash-forward device, and the finale is where we see Locke is dead in the casket and Ben turns the snowy wheel.

            I think that is the best season finale/cliffhanger I’ve ever seen. That ending REALLY upped the amount of hype for LOST. It can be pretty much responsible for ChadStuart’s comment about the unfair expectations and ‘keeping your buildup and payoffs even’. Nothing on the show ever exceeded that episode.

            Except the ending of Walkabout, of course.

          • lesbiancannibal

            I read the Lost script Two for the Road just the other day, awesome. The one where Michael shoots Ana Lucia and Libby. Such a shock, especially as we’ve spent the whole episode flashing back in Ana Lucia with Jack’s dad at the airport.

        • wlubake

          First off – holy crap I’m getting old if someone on here was 15 when MI:3 came out.

          Second, it really doesn’t matter what the Rabbit’s Foot is. Not at all. For a few reasons:

          1.They actually set that up quite well in the film. Simon Pegg talks about this “Anti-God”. It doesn’t matter what it is – if bad guys will pay that much for it, it is going to be devastatingly terrible.

          • wlubake

            Whoops, hit post early:

            2. Ethan only mildly cares about the Rabbit’s Foot. PSH only mildly cares about the Rabbit’s Foot. Ethan wants his fiance back. PSH wants money. The Rabbit’s Foot is a means to reach those goals. You could substitute anything for the Rabbit’s Foot, and the character motivations don’t change.

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, you gotta let the audience open some presents during the movie. But I see Lindelof doing that quite a bit. He’s not just a mystery box maker. He knows that you have to satisfy the curiosity at a certain point or the audience turns on you.

      Lost answered a lot of questions over the course of its six seasons. It wasn’t all unopened mystery boxes.

      • ChadStuart

        Yeah, but even the solutions to some of those mysteries were similarly unsatisfying.

        Locke’s paralysis was a great one. I mean, we all wanted to know how he got into that chair. They really built that up, teasing at solutions along the way. Then they had him in a hospital bed, being conned by his own father for a kidney or something. That was an unexpected road to travel. If the operation was botched and he lost use of his legs because his “father” (I think he wasn’t really his father) conned him. But, no, they kept the mystery box going to wring some more mystery out of it until he’s pushed out a window – possibly the least interesting thing to paralyze him.

        The solutions on that show were very rarely equal to the build-up. You could hear the writer’s room giving up and saying, “let’s just shove him out a window, okay?”

        • filmklassik

          What I see you taking for granted right now is the idea that audiences care as much about the destination as they do the journey.

          And they don’t. I agree they ought to… they most certainly *ought* to… but they just don’t.

          In fact I remember one sincere and friendly soul on here offering advice to the effect of, “With serialized TV, you have to kind of assume that the solution to the puzzle is gonna be a major letdown, and you’ll enjoy the ride a lot more.”

          And I don’t know about you, but I think that’s kinda sad.

          • ChadStuart

            I think people like that are the exception, not the rule. If you remember when the “Lost” finale aired, there was a collective groan from the mass majority of viewers. Yes, there are people who will defend the finale, but collectively the viewers were disappointed.

            A lot of that was because the mystery was so intense – people wanted an answer to the puzzle. That’s primarily why they watched from week to week. You’d constantly hear viewers talk about wanting answers.

      • bluedenham

        I think the first season of Lost was terrific film-making (loose use of the term) and terrific writing. Cudos to the Lost team. However, on the first season finale I could tell they actually had no idea what the answers were or where the show was going. The first season finale really just floundered around. That was the last episode I watched.

      • BSBurton

        Like he did with Promethus?? come on. The guy is 50/50 at best when it comes to screenwriting

    • JakeBarnes12

      I would just like to make it clear that the secret of the island is not aliens and not religion.

      Six seasons later…

      Okay, it’s religion.

  • Shawn Davis

    This from Geek–

    Director Brad Bird and writer Damon Lindelof have concocted something mysterious in Tomorrowland, Disney’s new live action adventure movie starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, and Britt Robertson. The initial annoucement about the film included a mysterious box that Lindelof and Bird claimed to have unearthed from the Disney archives.

    The so-called “1952 box” was found inside the basement of the old animation building at Walt Disney Studio, and when Lindelof and Bird announced they’d be teaming up for a Tomorrowlandmovie at D23 Expo in 2013, they showed the box to attendees. Inside were blueprints for rides Disney built for the 1964 World’s Fair that would eventually be migrated to the Disneyland theme park along with the concept of a “Tomorrowland,” photographs of Walt Disney with the great minds of his time (and one doctored photo of Walt with Amelia Earhart), and some promotional material for what would eventually become the Tomorrowland section of the theme park.

    Tomorrowland is a movie about the promise of the contents of the 1952 Box versus the reality of the world we live in. It asks the question: what if everything Walt Disney kept in
    that box was the beginning of a whole other world?

    Shawn…..><

  • mulesandmud

    Okay folks, this is a long one. I’ve got some catching up to do from last week. And since Carson brings up theme…

    FURY ROAD – THE MECHANICS OF THEME

    We don’t talk about theme enough around here. That’s because it’s hard to talk about.

    That doesn’t make it optional, though.

    Like it or not, your story has a theme. More than one, probably. You can ignore theme if you want, but it doesn’t go away.

    Theme doesn’t have to be a moral statement or teach a lesson in a strict sense. Theme isn’t about proving a point; this is a screenplay, not a court case.

    Theme is, very simply, the expression of a worldview. When you sit down to write a story, the choices you make – what you write about and how you write about it – tell people what you think of the world.

    And here’s the thing hardly anyone ever talks about: theme is a story-building tool that can you make key decisions about your premise, your story, your characters, and your voice.

    A serious storyteller is using theme whether they admit it or not, whether they realize it or not. A great script takes time to organize its thematic thoughts, shaping its conflict in ways that place ideas in opposition, not just characters. Using its story to develop those ideas through imagery and action.

    Perhaps you believe that life is complicated, but that human beings are fundamentally good. So, without even realizing it, you always write stories about genuinely decent people who find themselves in unfair situations.

    Or maybe you think that life is pretty simple and people are fundamentally bad. So your stories tend to focus on liars or cheaters who get caught in the end.

    Your feelings about life inform your stories, even if your story ostensibly has nothing to do with real life.

    Which brings us to FURY ROAD.

    (Spoilers ahead.)

    This movie is overflowing with ideas, not just visually, but thematically (the latter is what makes the former possible). Themes are actively working on multiple layers. There’s social commentary (about fanaticism, about power politics, about wastefulness). There’s meta-commentary about action movies in general. There is blunt dialogue (annoying blunt, sometimes) about the need for hope versus the danger of it.

    I want to talk about the film’s most obvious theme, though – the empowerment of women – and about how that theme informs every other aspect of the film, from concept to story to characters to scenes to dialogue.

    First of all, the theme is built right into the premise. Mad Max teams up with a female road warrior, Furiosa, who is placed on an even footing with Max in every way, and embodies the same kind of girl power that we see in Ripley in ALIENS.

    That’s a great thought, but if that’s all there is to it, it’s not much of a theme. Girls are tough: the end. Luckily, the story also includes the Five Wives, whom Furiosa and Max rescue from Immortan Joe. These Wives allow for a real progression of ideas, in which the film gradually develops these women from objects into characters with agency.

    Let’s think about this progression.

    At first, we don’t even see the Wives, we only infer their existence when Joe realizes they are missing from the vault where he normally keeps them (read: you don’t keep people in vaults, you keep objects).

    At this point, they aren’t characters at all. They’re the MacGuffin, the thing that Furiosa took and that Joe wants back.

    Then Max meets Furiosa, we get our first glimpse of all the Wives together. What do we see? A row of hot chicks hosing themselves down in the desert. They may be people, but this introduction still objectifies them in the stereotypical way that action movies tend to treat women, as sex objects. There’s a purpose here, though; the movie is guiding us away from Joe’s perspective (“They’re my property.”) and toward Furiosa’s (“We are not things.”).

    When Joe catches up to our heroes and Splendid, the leader of the Wives, uses herself as a human shield to stop Joe from shooting Furiosa. Now we’re seeing a moment of agency – Splendid is a character, making an active decision that affects the story, confronting Joe. Theme articulated through conflict.

    Splendid dies, but the story continues. The other Wives start to take shape as characters. An important character to look at here is Cheedo – she’s the Wife who wants to give up and go back, hoping Joe will forgive them.

    Then our characters meet the Vuvalini (cp: vulva?), a group of women living out on their own, independent from men. In some ways these tough old women are aspirational characters, but in other ways they may have gone too far, avoiding men entirely and even setting traps for them, which is why our characters realize that to survive they’ll have to turn back.

    You maybe asking what any of this has to do with Max, our hero. Well, just like the Wives, Max is objectified at the beginning: the bad guys use him as a blood bag, and Max has to fight to reach human status. And after a life of failing to save people, Max finds a chance for redemption by allying himself with these women.

    At one point, Max washes blood off his face with breast milk. If you think this image is there by accident, you really aren’t paying attention.

    And because the thematic progression is complex, it resolves itself in ironic ways. Furiosa is an empowered woman, but can’t win without help. Max saves Furiosa’s life by becoming her blood bag. Cheedo proves her own agency by pretending to need rescue.

    No one in Hollywood will ever ask you to insert a theme into your story, but they can usually tell when it’s missing. The note that I’ve heard thrown around most in development meetings is “I’m just not sure what this story is about.” Even if they don’t realize it, the person who asks that question is talking about theme.

    I know that lots of seemingly mindless crap gets sold and produced in Hollywood, and even does well in theaters, but don’t use that as an excuse to make your story less good than it can be. Producers and executives will appreciate depth when they see it, especially when it’s tied to concept, character, and story.

    Theme can be your very first thought, the one that shapes your core concept. Or it can be something you try to draw out later, in rewrites. Or you can just cross your fingers and hope your subconscious does the work, though that sounds dangerously lazy.

    I don’t pretend to know when or how George Miller and his collaborators developed their themes during the development of FURY ROAD, but it’s clear that these ideas are fully intentional and aggressively well considered. Proof that really thinking about theme is worth your time.

    • carsonreeves1

      I have a feeling you’ll still be making Fury Road comments in December, Mules. :)

      • S.C.

        The subject of theme is good timing, though, given today’s review. And he was gentlemanly in not wanting to post at the weekend and steal Jai Brandon’s spotlight. Good on him!

    • Citizen M

      “Another theme running through both films [Mad Max and Tomorrowland] is the idea that girls can be what boys used to be, that it’s “their turn” to be masters-of-the-universe, that men are past their sell-by date and only exist to defile and humiliate females. That this message is really only a mendacious effort to rake in more money by enlarging the teen “audience share” for the reigning wishful fantasy du jour is surely lost on the culture commentators, who are so busy these days celebrating the triumph and wonder of transgender life.” — Jim Kunstler

      http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/yesterdays-tomorrowland/

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      THEME!

    • Paul Clarke

      For those too lazy to read it all, I think the key idea:

      “(story)… shaping its conflict in ways that place ideas in opposition, not just characters.”

      Brilliant. Of course you need a character to represent each opposing idea, they could be on the same team (buddy cop) or hero and villain.

      Great stuff Mules.

      • BSBurton

        Agreed. Glad i logged on today and read this.

    • charliesb

      “I know that lots of seemingly mindless crap gets sold and produced in Hollywood, and even does well in theaters, but don’t use that as an excuse to make your story less good than it can be. Producers and executives will appreciate depth when they see it, especially when it’s tied to concept, character, and story.”

      If I could vote even just this part up a million times I would. It should be at the top of every AOW.

    • BSBurton

      How long did this take you to write? It’s very well written and I enjoyed the analysis.

      • mulesandmud

        Thanks. Most of my posts take about 15-20 minutes to write. I started this one last week though, just never posted it, so all in it probably took twice or three times as long as usual.

        • BSBurton

          Well it was worth it. Thanks Mules !

  • Scott Strybos

    I was dumfounded when I read the producers of World War Z hired Lindelof in the eleventh hour, after most of the film had been shot, to rewrite the third act. I am a firm believer that if there are third act problems it is largely, but not necessarily completely, because there are first act problems. How do you rewrite act three without touching act one?

    • Bacon Statham

      As much as I like World War Z, I really wish they kept the original third act as it was. Brad Pitt fighting zombies in Moscow, instead of the whole cure thing. Now that they’re bringing out a sequel, I don’t know where they’re gonna go with it, now that the virus has been cured.

      • carsonreeves1

        Although nothing’s a given in Hollywood, I’m going to guess that they get the script right before shooting this time.

      • S.C.

        Second unit director/stunt co-coordinator Simon Crane, who shot the Moscow stuff, felt they weren’t being true to the character they had created, turning him instead into an action hero.

        I wish they’d thought of a better ending earlier, though, so it would integrate better into the final film.

        • Bacon Statham

          I do appreciate how they made quite an intelligent zombie film. There was a lot of little things I really liked about it. To name a few…

          Brad Pitt watches a man turn into a zombie and counts how long it takes. Then when he thinks he’s infected stands on the edge of a rooftop and counts to when the change comes.

          The US Army Rangers in South Korea using bicycles to get past a horde of zombies in the rain.

          I’ll be honest, I got chills when Pitt walked past a large group of zombies in the lab at the end and they didn’t even pay him any attention. I just didn’t like the overall happy ending where he’s reunited with his family. I think there was more they could’ve done. They could’ve turned it into a trilogy focusing on his character trying to find his family in the second one and then find a cure in the third one. I feel like the sequel is gonna disappoint.

      • S_P_1

        I heard from somebody that read the book series that the zombies are walking across the ocean floor. So the threat is still present.

        • Poe_Serling

          “… zombies are walking across the ocean floor.”

          That’s one of the real highlights from the cult B-movie Shock Waves starring the always watchable Peter Cushing.

          “Visitors to a remote island discover it is the final resting place for a group of Zombie soldiers.”

          On my personal rating scale: I’d give the pic a 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

          Mostly high marks to the film for creating a unsettling atmosphere and capturing the decaying decadence of the hotel setting.

          • Levres de Sang

            Thanks for the (kind of) recommendation because I’d never even heard of this one, but after seeing that it was a Blue Underground release and also “the best of the Nazi zombie movies” I just had to check-out the trailer!

            Makes me realise there’s still so much out there… I knew there was a thriving Naziploitation scene around ’76/’77, but wasn’t particularly aware of this zombie sub-genre.

            I guess these kind of films serve as a reminder that there’s just no excuse to be mundane with our screenplay ideas! :)

            Anyway, this guy rates it very highly:

          • Poe_Serling

            Yeah, that guy really digs the film. To be honest, I’m more of a casual fan of the whole zombie craze.

            So, my mild recommendation of Shock Waves would probably jump to a 3-star rating if I were a bit more passionate about this sub-genre of horror. ;-)

        • Calvin Miner

          So water pressure at the bottome of the ocean has no effect on a zombie’s body. Interesting.

  • S_P_1

    • S_P_1

      Does anyone else think David Lindelof could be Clarence Boddicker for the new Robocop 2?

      • S.C.

        OT: tip for endings – use lots of things you’ve already set up.

        * The factory setting.
        * The Cobra assault cannon.
        * The interface spike.

        They’re all used again for the climax.

        • S_P_1

          The interface spike was the most clever use of all his abilities.

          • S.C.

            Stating the obvious, but for those who don’t… setup something so that it works as a scene in its own right.

            At the beginning of SUPERMAN III, our hero has to stop a factory fire. What is of most concern are these jars of ordinary acid which, when heated, will melt through anything – steel, concrete, anything.

            https://stuartcantrill.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/beltric-acid_600.jpg

            Superman puts out the fire, saves Smallville.

            The audience doesn’t realize that something is being set-up, they think it’s just a one-off. Then the pay-off will be unexpected.

            Superman sneaks the acid past the supercomputer (which thinks it’s just ordinary acid) and uses it to destroy the computer.

        • S.C.

          **Spoiler** This also pays off something set up earlier.

    • gregthegreg

      This essay on the creation of LOST by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (one of the original writers of the show), gives some really good insight not only on the difficulty involved with creating a show (let alone a show like LOST), but also has some interesting things to say about Lindelof as a creator.

      http://okbjgm.weebly.com/lost

      Lately I feel like the guy gets bashed wayyyyy too much by fellow writers.

      • carsonreeves1

        He opens himself up to it too. He’s sooooo sensitive and has made it clear how desperate he is for the viewer’s appreciation. That’s like troll fuel right there. You might as well open a website called, “Tell Me How Bad I Am.”

        Screenwriting is really hard. It’s hard to come up with good ideas quickly and it’s hard to get those ideas in a script where the 10 other people you’re working with want something different. He needs to be more proud of how far he’s gotten and focus less on his detractors (advice for all of you who eventually become million dollar screenwriters!).

        • gregthegreg

          Eh. We’re writers. We’re all sensitive and desperate for appreciation.

          But agreed, he’s very accomplished and his career is something to aspire to.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Carson, you are being kind. “Tomorrowland” looks like one of the stupidest concepts ever, JUST by the T.V. trailers that are being shown. From what I saw in from the trailers for “Tomorrowland” LOTS of stupid pills need to be digested before going to see this moive, OR the stupid pill will hit you retroactively after this movie is over.

    HUGE fan of the girl, Brit Robertson. Back when she was a young teenager she put in one of the best performances I’ve seen by a young actress in “Dan in Real Life”, a rom-com from 2007 staring Steve Carell and Juilette Binoche.

    • Scott Strybos

      I thought the teaser trailer was great—had me hooked. Disappointed to hear the lukewarm reviews.

  • carsonreeves1

    Well, evidence is building against me. But I just remember a big factory. I guess I just went with assumption “factory” and tuned everything else out. This might also explain why I thought Frank was played by Steve Buschemi until I got home and checked IMDB.

  • carsonreeves1

    Sorry. Just keep commenting. Once you’ve established non-troll status after a couple of weeks, you get white-listed and your comments show up automatically.

  • S.C.

    “Inspired by” rather than “based on” might count as original these days, at least for blockbusters. At least it’s not a sequel or remake or superhero adaptatation, at least someone had to come up with a whole story for this one.

  • S.C.

    Excellent post! I’ve never been wholly onboard with “mystery boxes” – for me, it’s MacGuffins.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I like mystery boxes that are never opened – aka “MacGuffins”.

    • Kirk Diggler

      But have you ever tried the sausage and egg McGuffin? So good going down.

      • IgorWasTaken

        But that’s a trick answer. They come wrapped in paper.

  • carsonreeves1

    I don’t know if it’s amazing but I just never gelled with Bird’s voice. I realize I’m in the minority there but there are some filmmakers, just like there are some people, you don’t click with.

  • ChadStuart

    Precisely. And the real secret to writing any mystery is to, actually, write it backwards.

    For instance, if you’re writing a murder mystery, you start by writing the crime and working out all the details of the crime. Who killed who and why.Then you walk it back from there, figuring out all the morsels that will lead your detective to that solution.

    But the same really goes for any mystery. If your mystery is something like explaining what makes a guy tick – then you have to know that answer before you can have another character unravel that mystery.

    “Mystery Box” theory sets that aside because it often feels like the “murder” was not the first thing figured out. “Mystery Box” almost advocates starting at the beginning and working your way through the mystery until a solution is found. That’s not to say that the writers don’t know the answer to the mystery when they start, but by over-emphasizing the mystery over the solution, it feels that way to the audience. It, essentially, feels emptier.

    • brenkilco

      Right. A mystery writer must know from the beginning exactly what has happened and why.The mystery is created by the manner in which he chooses to impart information to the audience. In theory, it could be said that reading a mystery is easier than creating one. The audience has to put it together. The writer only has to take it apart. But a writer can’t skillfully manipulate the pieces unless he has a stranglehold on the entire picture.

  • ripleyy

    The only reason I would watch this is because of Britt. Not only is she of age (25! Score!) but she’s really, REALLY cute and I MIGHT have a crush on her. But that would be the only reason I would watch this movie.

    • carsonreeves1

      yeah, I was shocked to find out she was 25.

      • klmn

        She probably injects growth inhibitors, like the Russians do with their girl gymnasts.

    • Bacon Statham

      I was watching Under The Dome with a few mates last week and I said she was quite pretty. One of them said she’s in Tomorrowland which I only knew as the George Clooney Disney film and when he told me I was really surprised. I saw a photo for this film where she’s wearing a baseball cap and staring up at the camera, and I honestly thought she was 15. I had no idea it was her.

      • ripleyy

        Yeah, she looks like like a 16 year old which is surprising. She’s a really great actress though and I was hoping this would be “it” for her.

      • Midnight Luck

        I think she seems to be everywhere right now. In a Sparks movie, this movie, a TV show, I think a few other things I can’t remember off the top of my head right now. I feel like they are pushing her as a “next big deal thing” like Lawrence. J. Lawrence popped up in one low-key not great independent movie and then was EVERYWHERE suddenly. Don’t get me wrong I think Lawrence is a good actress but she went from zero to huge overnight. Britt might as well, though she doesn’t have as much tabloid power behind her, and the fact she seems so young might be hurting her (ironically) in the impossibly-forever-young Hollywood.

        • Dan B

          I think she got her guts ripped out in Scream 4

  • S_P_1

    No Escape from Tomorrow is a real movie shot in secret at Disney Land.

    • James

      I was making a joke about how Escape From Tomorrow was terrible and Itchy & Scratchy Land does everything that film does infinitely better.

  • carsonreeves1

    Well, in his defense. She was pretty bad in that movie.

    • B.S. Eliot

      True, but for someone in the biz to say that publicly… If you’re going to criticize someone’s talent you’d better be prepared to take it when it’s dished on you.

  • Ambrose*

    ‘Tomorrowland’ was 2 hours and 10 minutes of my life I want back.
    An incomprehensible mishmash of gobbledegook played out in pretty pictures.
    A CGI-fest in search of a coherent story.
    And the opening scene with George Clooney’s character talking directly to camera and then offscreen to Casey, the two of them bickering, and then we see the ticking clock, is one of the absolute worst, weakest, most pathetic opening scenes I’ve seen in a movie in years. Maybe decades.
    They should have just had Christopher Lloyd play Clooney’s character.
    And in the final scene, Tim McGraw’s character is dressed in a costume that’s right out of Flash Gordon. It’s so ridiculous looking, especially because he’s the only one dressed like that.

  • Buddy
  • Poe_Serling

    I’m pretty sure Carson won’t be reviewing the new Poltergeist film, so I was curious if anyone out there had the opportunity to see it this past weekend… Good? So-so? Bad?

    • carsonreeves1

      I’ll check it out on video, but it looked kind of desperate. The one thing they thought they brought to the table was the television scene which now had… shadow hands. I thought, “This is your big contribution?”

      But Sam Rockwell’s in it so I’ll for sure see it at some point.

      • Poe_Serling

        “The one thing they thought they brought to the table was the television scene which now had… shadow hands.”

        I think you missed the point, Carson… those ‘shadow hands’ are attached to shadow people – those often unnerving black shapes that you catch a glimpse of out of the corner of your eye and are usually found lurking in the gloomiest corners of a house/apt./etc. ;-)

        • klmn

          I think it was in Journey To Ixtlan that Don Juan explained to Carlos Castaneda what it was when you see one of them – that it’s your own death that follows you constantly and that at any moment he can reach out and tap you on the shoulder.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Of course in reality they are simply extra-dimensional entities, and not actual manifestations of death, which is just a concept and not a deity.

            And certainly not Shinigami!

            On a side note: Everyone should watch Death Note.

            In poltergeist – they’re just like – indian ghosts, right?

          • klmn

            I don’t know what reality is anymore. I find it increasingly hard to tell.

          • Gregory Mandarano

            Reality is… wait… I know this one.

          • klmn

            My family script just made the quarterfinals in Storypros. I hope that’s real.

          • Poe_Serling

            Congrats. Catchy title!

            @ ( ‘ . ‘ ) @

          • klmn

            Thanks. I hope it does well in the next round.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Shadow people lurking in dark corners??? Ok, I’m now living exclusively with the lights on. Every room, 24/365.

    • charliesb

      I watched it and hated it. All the heart, wonder, suspense and humour from the first one is gone. In what I’m assuming is an attempt to make these characters feel more contemporary they made them borderline unlikeable. Madison is almost as cute as Carol Anne, but she’s not really given much to work with. The bond that existed between Carol Anne and her mother is switched to her and her brother (interesting choice) but poorly executed.

      What I loved about the original, was that the film began with a rather normal family who began to experience some extraordinary things. They’re not frightened by it at first, they are curious. Diane even tries to convince Steven to open his mind and go with it, she’s excited and so we’re excited. They also hint at and set up things that all have payoffs later in the movie (Carol Anne’s clairvoyance, the cemetery next to the property development)

      They show us frightening images, but they also show us amazing things. It suggests that while there may be things out there that are malevolent, there are also things out there that scare us because we are unable to understand them. All the conflict in this movie is connected to the family, and all the solutions to this conflict is rooted in family as well.

      In the remake, they scrap all that in favour of weak jump scares. Characters do things that are not explained (where did the dad who is jobless and had to use three different credit cards in order to buy squirrel traps suddenly get a bunch of money to buy the family gifts), another character figures out that the bodies were not removed from the graveyard – just because – he doesn’t really explain how he knows, he just does.

      Remember that scene in the original where Dr. Lesh tries to explain “the other side” and the motives of the ghosts holding Carol Anne to Robbie?

      In the remake a character explains “the other side” by drawing a circle on two pieces of paper holding them together and then side by side. That’s her explanation of where Carol Anne is. “Here but not here.” I laughed out loud in the theatre. It was ridiculous.

      There is a mythology to the first one, that doesn’t exist here. Instead of feeling like a journey we went on with this family, it’s just a bunch of stuff that happened. And that might not matter if the movie was actually scary, or even creepy, but sadly it’s not. :(

      • Poe_Serling

        Thanks for your take on the film!

    • charliesb

      Also speaking of POLTERGIEST, lately I’ve been watching a lot of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and THE TWILIGHT ZONE on Netflix. There is an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE called LITTLE GIRL LOST that they spoofed once on THE SIMPSONS. And it’s got to be the inspiration for the original POLTERGEIST. The disembodied voice, the mother calling to her daughter to find a way out, really great stuff. :)

  • Gregory Mandarano

    On the subject of mystery boxes –

    My favorite is Trudy’s unopened Christmas Gift in MONK.

    • Scott Strybos

  • lesbiancannibal

    erm, yes but Arsenal do always try to walk it in. that’s an actual thing.

  • Casper Chris

    Give me Don McLean version any day.

  • Scott Chamberlain

    Like this review
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/01/wouldnt-it-be-nice-current-cinema-lane

    Like what he says about Lindelof – focuses on setups and not payoffs. Make sure your mystery box is not just a set up lacking a payoff

  • BSBurton

    “On the other end of the spectrum, while the world seems to have given up on Damon Lindelof, I remain firmly in his corner. The guy literally came out of nowhere to write an entirely new third act and save the shit out of World War Z, preventing it from becoming one of very zombies it was depicting.”

    OK, YOU MENTION THE ONE TIME HE CAME THROUGH. How about when he delivered the bomb that was Prometheus or how he turned a budding Star Trek Franchise into mush with “into Darkness.”

    Please, Carson. The guy is no winner. Barely ahead of David Goyer

  • BSBurton

    Interesting thoughts Davy, thanks for sharing.

  • BSBurton

    “The “Mystery Box” is just a fluffy term Abrams coined to pretend he was
    on to something, when in reality he had just learned what storytelling
    was.”

    GREATEST QUOTE EVER haha. thanks James.