Genre: Dark Comedy
Premise: An obsessive type-A student vows to secure the valedictorian title before school ends by any means necessary, even murder.
About: This script finished number 22 on this year’s Black List! The writer is a newbie, with just a single completed short film to his credit (as both writer and director).
Writer: Cosmo Carlson
Details: 112 pages

Lilli Reinhart for Bridget?

It’s time to take a break from The Last Jedi, even if the narrative following the film is juicier than an internship at TMZ. I just heard today that only a tiny group of people actually dislike The Last Jedi. That those people are a “vocal minority.” And that, actually, the large majority of people love it. It is inconceivable, according to the sites reporting this – the same sites that get invited to Star Wars premieres and get exclusive interviews – that a lot of people would dislike this Star Wars film.

I’ve come to realize that we won’t know if this movie is good or not for another couple of months, once the box office numbers are in. For reference, The Force Awakens had a 40% drop from Weekend 1 to Weekend 2 at this exact same time two years ago. So how big the drop is with The Last Jedi will be our first indication of whether people like this film.

In the meantime, I did a first page SHOWDOWN between Black List scripts, Valedictorian and Where I End, to determine which script I’d be reviewing today. Simple rules. Whoever has the best first page wins. Funnily enough, both scripts, despite being completely different genres, start with a guy approaching a girl. However, Valedictorian blew Where I End out of the water.


There was much more at stake with the opening of Valedictorian. A guy walks up to a girl in a high school and asks her to prom. The scene is sudden, intense, and the vibe is unique enough to keep the reader intrigued. It’s not your typical prom proposal.

Meanwhile, Where I End begins with a guy approaching a girl at a party and the two start talking in abstracts. One of them points out that we’re all just matter and that we should be able to pass through each other. Or something. Uh oh. Faux deep dialogue alert! My experience when I see dialogue like that right off the bat is that the script ends up being a mess. But I’ll give Where I End another shot since it’s ranked so high on the list. Today, however, we’ll go with Valedictorian.

18 year old Larry Fikus wants one thing and one thing only – to be valedictorian, brother. A little known fact is that all the greatest presidents were either valedictorian or salutatorian (2nd place – just learned that in this script!). Unfortunately, as the end of his senior year is upon him, Larry isn’t either. He’s in third place. And third place doesn’t even have a name.

Above him are Omar Sadaar, a nerdy Pakistani kid who wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. And Bridget Greene. Bridget is currently in first place and she’s a perfect little blonde nightmare. She’s a shoe-in for valedictorian, and to make matters worse, her mother is the damn principal.

Larry’s only got a couple of weeks left of school to leapfrog these two, and he starts by teaming up with Omar. He promises Omar the number 1 spot if Omar helps him take down Bridget. We know, of course, that Larry’s only using Omar and once he dispatches of Bridget, poor Omar will be next. But Omar doesn’t know that yet.

And the truth is, Larry may never get to that point. Bridget is a worthy opponent, surviving Larry planting a pound of weed in her locker. Surviving him sabotaging her scores in math class. She’s even resistant to his bribes and blackmails of all the teachers at the high school.

The elephant in the room is that it doesn’t matter what Larry does as long as Bridget’s principal mother is in the picture. Any dent in her grade, she fixes. Any surge in his grade, she retracts. This is going to be impossible. Unless, that is, he could get rid of Bridget completely. You can’t win valedictorian… if you’re dead.

I loved this script!

Larry is hilarious. Everything he does to get ahead is hilarious. One of my favorite sequences is him trying to score a perfect score on an oral Spanish test. Larry is terrible at Spanish. Luckily for him, the real Spanish teacher is sick this week so a substitute is in. And the substitute is blind. So Larry comes up a plan to recruit a Mexican student who can’t speak a lick of English, and tell him to go into the class and pretend he’s him, Larry, before taking the test. However, before he goes, Larry fears that the student speaks Spanish a little too well. So he sits him down and attempts to teach him how to speak Spanish more like an American, erasing the heavy accent and the rolling R’s. It’s a funny scene and a great representation of the humor in the script.

But the script is clever as well. The biggest challenge with a script like this is justifying why an audience would root for this hero. This is a selfish asshole who’s burning everything to the ground Rian Johnson style to achieve his goal. So what Carlson does is he makes Larry’s competition even worse. Bridget is a girl who cheats even more than Larry does. And she’s got this principal mother covering for her ass every step of the way, even going so far as to threaten teachers who give Bridget subpar scores. Of COURSE we want to see her go down.

The script itself is Scriptshadow plotted. We got the goal – Valedictorian! We got the stakes. Larry believes he will be president if he wins. We got the urgency. He’s only got a couple of weeks to pull this off. This is the perfect time frame I tell you guys to use. 2 weeks is the ideal time setup for a movie. Enough time to get us into these characters’ lives. But short enough to keep things moving!

The script also reminded me how ideal the high school setting is for a screenplay. Screenwriting is structure. You’re looking for form, for containers that you can use to hold stories in. The more boundaries you can establish around your story, the more structured it will be. Day-to-day life is wild and messy and you’ve got home and work and everything in between. When you’ve got a high school, everything’s structured out for you. We understand the rules of high school. And it allows you to play with the form.

It made me wonder why we don’t write more scripts in this setting. And I’m not talking about cheesy 80s high school films. Or even films like this one, which admittedly owes a lot to Election. But what about using this setting for other genres? You’ve got a thousand characters bouncing and banging off each other – conflict at every turn – stuck inside these walls, a clear time frame every day – 8-9 periods. There’s so much you can do here.

Anyway, I’m rambling. But I liked this. It was fun. And a nice detour from Canto Bight.

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

What I learned: I’ve noticed that high school has been severely under-represented in film recently. Most high school ideas have moved to television. This tells me that there may be a high school genre revival. Stay tuned.

Guys, I’m more exhausted than a one-legged bantha in a pod race.

These last couple of weeks of the year are going to be a whirlwind for me. I’ve got a lot of stuff to do. So I’m letting you know right now, updates will be sporadic. I do plan to put a new Black List script review up Wednesday. But who knows after that. Maybe I can astral-project a post or two. Then again, I’d be risking death. I’ll have to think about that.

Speaking of thinking, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Last Jedi. Whether you liked it or hated it, I love that it’s inspiring general audience screenwriting debate. Regular people talking about plot! Regular people talking about storytelling! That’s awesome.

And what I dig about Rian Johnson is he doesn’t shy away from the tough questions. When you ask him why he made the choice in regards to Rey’s parents, he tells you. Hell, he goes into specific detail about it.

In listening to Johnson discuss his two most polarizing story choices in The Last Jedi – Rey’s parents and killing Snoke – I noticed that he mentioned a very specific screenwriting maxim in determining those choices. That maxim was: “What choice in this moment results in the the most dramatically interesting result?”

This is a storytelling tool that’s been around for years and something most screenwriters learn in the late intermediate and early advanced stages of their training. The idea is this: when you’re posed with a big choice in your story, you should ask, “What choice can I make here that will have the most dramatic impact on the story/character?”

As a basic example, let’s say your hero is trying to decide if he should shoot the bad guy. Before you write this scene, you ask the question, what choice is going to have the most dramatic impact? If the bad guy says, “Go to hell,” there’s nothing dramatic about that. It actually makes the hero’s decision easier. However, if a woman walks up and our hero realizes it’s the bad guy’s innocent wife, that makes things more dramatically interesting because pulling the trigger now requires more variables to be processed.

So Johnson’s whole thing with Rey’s parents was, “What’s the most dramatically interesting thing Rey could hear?” He noted that Rey hearing she was a Skywalker had zero dramatic implications. And I would agree with him. Same thing with being a Kenobi. Nothing dramatic about that. But, Johnson argued, what if a girl who was so sure that her parents were important and were coming back for her one day, found out that they were nobodies and had sold her off for a few space tokens? That’s a much more dramatically compelling dilemma, Johnson argued, for Rey to wrestle with. I would agree with him on that as well.

Moving over to the Snoke scene. Same deal. What’s the most dramatically compelling thing that could happen in this scene, Johnson asked. If Snoke tosses these two around just to let them know who’s boss, the scene ends, and Snoke continues to rule the galaxy, that’s not very dramatically compelling. If Rey gets turned to the Dark Side, that’s more dramatically compelling than the first option but Johnson still felt it wasn’t enough. If he killed Snoke, however, now everything was up for grabs. And that uncertainty of who would take the reigns and how the new order would be established was the most dramatically compelling option of them all. Which is why he went with it.

So why are so many people divided over these choices? Johnson is following sound screenwriting advice. And the bold choices technically achieve what he set out for them to do.

Well here’s where Johnson gets it wrong. He forgot that there are two sides to every screenwriting choice. There’s the character you’re making the choice for. And then there’s the audience you’re forcing the choice upon. Johnson was so consumed with what would have the most dramatic impact on Rey and the First Order, he forgot to consider whether the audience would actually like these choices. And sometimes the most dramatically potent choice and what the audience wants to happen don’t line up.

Let’s go back to my earlier example with the hero deciding whether to kill the bad guy. Let’s say, in that moment, the hero decides, “Actually, if I kill this dude, he doesn’t even suffer. But if I shoot his wife in front of him, he’ll be in pain for the rest of his life.” Technically, that’s a more dramatically interesting choice. But is it the choice the audience wants? I would argue no. It’s barbaric and makes my hero unlikable. So clearly these two maxims don’t always line up.

And I’m not indicting Johnson alone on this. This is a mistake writers make all the time. We get so caught up in the world we’ve created that we forget that we’re actually creating it for somebody else. If you’re not including the audience in the process, there’s no reason for your script to ever leave your computer.

I don’t think anybody believes that Rey’s parents being nobodies was the best choice for Rey’s story. I know some people were okay with it. But the BEST choice? No way. There’s an answer in that question that could’ve been both dramatically interesting, like Johnson wanted, and crowd-pleasing, like the audience wanted. But Johnson was so focused on how this answer impacted Rey, he forgot to ask whether the audience would be excited by it.

And don’t get me wrong, it can go the other way too! Attack of the Clones was the most audience-service Star Wars film ever made. Not a single choice was made in that script with dramatic consequence in mind. It was only about “What does the audience want to see?” And that film is probably the least liked of all the Star Wars movies. So you can O.D. on either.

Which is why I endorse both. Like Johnson says, make choices that have the most dramatically compelling impact on the character/story. But don’t forget to consider whether the audience wants them to happen. Ultimately, you’re there to serve them. You’re not there to serve yourself. You’re not there to serve your characters. You’re there to serve the audience. Keep them happy and they’ll stay off your Twitter feed.

Just for fun, can you come up with choices to the two big moments I listed above (Rey’s parents and the Snoke Scene) that you believe would both have a ton of dramatic impact and that the fans would love?

Disregard this post. Once again, having trouble posting…

Or you can go with my alternate post title: “Why Does Rian Johnson hate JJ Abrams and Luke Skywalker So Much?”

I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories. But the force is suspicious with this one. I have never seen a major movie release with this much critical praise receive this much audience hate. On Rotten Tomatoes, the critic score for Last Jedi is at a towering 93%. Yet somehow, the fan score is at 57%. The disparity is so high, you have to wonder if some sort of manipulation was at play on the professional critics side. Just for comparison, Thor Ragnarok received a 92% critic score and an 88% audience score. Or, the first film in this trilogy, The Force Awakens. 93% with critics. 88% with audiences. Or, let’s go with Rian Johnson’s last film, Looper. 93% to 82%.

But it gets even more eyebrow raising if you go to Rotten Tomatoes and read the audience reviews. Everyone giving the film a negative score goes into detail about why they felt that way. Here’s one of thousands of those reviews…

“So utterly disappointing. Looks nice, sounds nice and some interesting ideas, more so visually. The story and dialogue were shocking. Fails to capitalize on anything set up for it in the previous films and disrespectfully handles every character.

They tried to introduce new characters and planets but they were completely unnecessary, dragged the film out and detracted from story arcs that actually mattered. Seen it twice and that’s enough.

Not looking forward to Ep. IX at all and Johnsons new trilogy, if it still gets the green light after this diabolical hemorrhoid of a film, then that’ll get a miss too!!

So gutted right now.”

Meanwhile, for nearly every positive review, there is no detail or thought put into the review at all. Here’s a quick sampling of these reviews…

“It was a fun romp full of unexpected twists and turns.”


“Wonderful film! Some of the greatest moments you’ll see in any movie this year! Definitely in my top 3 Star Wars movies.”

Or this…

“The Last Jedi takes all your preconceived notions of what a Star Wars movie is, and flips them on its head, while being consistently entertaining and keeping tension high.”

Again, I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist, but even if you’re looking at this objectively, something stinks. It’s plausible that the audience hatred for this film so caught Disney off guard that they are scrambling in every possible way to mitigate the fallout. Even going so far as to write fake positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to offset the negative ones.

What’s fascinating about all this is that Disney has been in love with this film since the second Rian Johnson wrote “FADE IN.” Disney Head Bob Iger’s been leading the charge, gushing about not just the script and the film, but the experience of making a movie with director Rian Johnson. Kathleen Kennedy’s right behind him. When she’s not on set nodding her head after every take, she’s in her hotel room watching The Brothers Bloom on repeat. These guys have been ALL IN on this film, so much so that they greenlit another Rian Johnson trilogy without an idea! For them to be facing this unexpected backlash has them searching for answers about their own process for identifying what makes a good Star Wars director.

Enough with your conspiracies, Carson! Let us know what you thought of The Last Jedi! Oh, don’t worry. I have plenty of thoughts about The Last Jedi. They’re not all bad, believe it or not. But I do think this is a bad movie. And I do think Rian Johnson fundamentally doesn’t understand the franchises’s central character. Nor does he understand screenwriting. “But Looper!” everyone said. “Guys,” I tried to tell anyone who would listen, “Looper is the most narratively unfocused sci-fi movie of the past decade.” The reason that matters is because a good Star Wars movie requires lazer-sharp focus. It’s the one critique that even people who liked the film agree on. The big sprawling trip to Casino World was pointless. But I have some feelings about that too, some of which might surprise you. However, before I get into ALLLLL the problems with this movie, just to show you I’m not a total hater, I want to share with you the things I liked.


1) Rian Johnson took risks – Regardless of whether they hit or not, I always tell people here to take risks. And Rian Johnson took them.
2) Hamill was awesome – Mark Hamill did his best acting job ever.
3) Adam Driver is iconic – Adam Driver is the number one reason, and maybe the only reason left, to watch Star Wars. He’s impossible to look away from whenever he’s onscreen.
4) Porgs – I love Porgs. I want 20 of them for Christmas.
5) The Directing – This is the best directed Star Wars movie ever. By that I mean shot composition, the way sequences were crafted, the overall visual style of the film.
6) Leia Poppins – I seem to be in the minority on this. I thought it was badass seeing Leia use the force, and in such a unique way. The way it was shot was a little weird, which hurt the moment a bit. But I liked it.
7) Snoke’s Death – I loved the way Snoke’s death was shot. Seeing him fall over, split in half, via a blurry background, was really clever. But we’ll get back to Snoke later. Stay tuned.
8) Thank you Rian Johnson for killing Captain Phasma – One of the most worthless characters ever in Star Wars history. To this day I have no idea why everyone was trying to make her a thing. She was lame conceptually, had zero depth, and she couldn’t walk. I clapped when she died, to the annoyance of a couple of nearby audience members.
9) Leaving the Rebel Alliance with just 20 people for the next film is an interesting choice. We’ve never been given actual army numbers at any point in this mythology for either side. To have a clear understanding of how few people are left to fight the Empire in Ep 9 is cool.
10) Rey was better in this than she was in Force Awakens, especially in the scenes with Driver. I really wanted her and Kylo to make sweaty space love but alas, no happen.


Might need an encyclopedia for this one. Let’s start with the main plot. Johnson introduces a plot unlike any other in Star Wars lore. The last Rebel ship is trying to outrun a Star Destroyer, but running out of gas. Somehow, the ship is able to stay just far enough out of range that the Destroyer can’t do the one thing its name suggests it can do – destroy. The Rebels need to figure out a solution before they run out of gas. Cause once that happens, the Destroyer will catch up and kill them.

This plot thread didn’t bother me as much as it did others. But I do remember thinking, “Is the average audience member going to buy this?” It was an odd plot for a Star Wars movie – an intergalactic 15 mph car chase. If I’m a kid, I’m asking, “Why can’t the big ship shoot down the little ship?” A screenwriting lesson I preach is that your Pillar plot points – the ones that hold up the core story – need to be airtight. They can’t invite doubt because if people don’t believe that, nothing else you write will matter. Their suspension of disbelief is broken at the core level.

Another issue with a faulty central plot is it tends to lead to other bad plot threads. Which is exactly what happened in The Last Jedi. Everybody agrees the Finn-Rose detour to Canto Blight, the Casino Planet, in search of a Hacker who can help the Rebels escape the Star Destroyer didn’t work. Here’s the funny thing about this storyline. I know exactly why Rian Johnson included it. Star Wars movies are about adventure – jumping from planet to planet and seeing a bunch of new crazy stuff we’ve never seen before. The current plot of The Last Jedi didn’t have that. All they had was the slow car chase and Rey and Luke’s island. They needed something fun to cut to, an adventure. Which is why Johnson created this subplot.

This leads us to Rose Tico (Kelly-Marie Tran), a character Johnson desperately wanted us to fall in love with. He talked about her non-stop on the press tour. He didn’t get to introduce all the core characters like JJ did. So this was his chance to make an impact with a character of his own. And she was a dud. It’s weird because people are trying hard to make Rose Tico a “thing,” despite the fact that nothing about her character or her storyline worked. It almost feels like there’s a fear of SJW backlash (with Rose being both a woman and a minority) if you say Rose’s character blows. Which is stupid. A bad character is a bad character. It’s okay to call it out.

And the misses don’t stop there. Both Benicio Del Toro’s odd hacker character and Admiral Holdo’s (Laura Dern) captain character were borderline disastrous additions to the Star Wars lore. When the only three major characters you introduce into a film are terrible, that’s a red flag about you being the right person for the job. And these characters left collateral damage in their wake. Take Finn, for example. He was never the greatest character to begin with. But his dumb team-up with Rose sealed his fate. There isn’t a single person who’s seen this film who’s now saying, “I can’t wait to see Finn in Ep 9!” Now I know why John Boyega attempted to ditch the premiere.

This leads us to the only part of The Last Jedi’s story that worked – the core character group of Kylo, Snoke, Rey, and Luke. This could’ve been the film’s saving grace if it wasn’t undermined by Johnson’s baffling mismanagement of Luke Skywalker, the character Johnson said was his favorite growing up. How could this be your favorite character when you gave us this sad crabby unlikable version of everyone’s childhood hero and then kill him off in a benign pointless lazy manner??? Ugh, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the training storyline.

The training “sequences” were odd. Luke agrees to train Rey in the Jedi Arts with 3 lessons. Not only is that the most contradictory statement ever, but Luke’s one job in this movie is to teach those three lessons AND I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY WERE. Luke would show up each day, say something vague like, “the Force is what’s between the stuff you imagine,” and that, I guess, is what constituted a lesson. The only cool moment on the island came when Rey went into the dark hole at the bottom of the island and had her Endless Mirror moment. While I’m not sure what was going on in this scene, it was the one time in the film where I lost myself. If you’re going to defend Johnson as director in Star Wars court, this was one of the half a dozen scenes you could build an actual argument around. It was cool.

But the sad truth is that Training Island never reached its stride. And most of that was due to this lame incarnation of Luke’s character. Let me get this straight. Luke Skywalker, the embodiment of heroism, the greatest hero in all of cinema history, has been reduced to a crabby, annoying, cowardly, selfish weakling who’s given up the awesomest thing about himself – his ability to wield the Force unlike any other. And the people next to Johnson signed off on this?? While I can understand Johnson’s desire to turn Luke’s character on its head, there’s a difference between doing something unexpected with a known paradigm and destroying the very essence of what made a character so beloved. By destroying everything we loved in Luke, you essentially destroyed everything we loved about the franchise. It’s one thing to fuck up a Star Wars film. It’s another to retoractively fuck up a franchise. That’s actually really hard to do. And Johnson did it.

After her three lessons (wink wink), Rey heads off to a general meeting with Kylo and Supreme Leader Snoke, hoping to put all of that “sage advice” to work and attempt to pull Kylo to the Light. This sequence is arguably the best in the film, and the main reason for that is that Rey and Kylo have great chemistry. I was waiting for them to make out, man. Like get it on already. Not to mention you had no idea what was going to happen in this scene. And even with all the possibilities you went over in your head, Johnson still managed to surprise you by having Kylo kill Snoke.

At first glance, this was a gasp-out-loud moment for the Star Wars ages, right? But as the shock wears off, an unanswerable question begins to emerge. What now? You just killed your big baddie. You don’t have time left in the franchise to introduce a new big baddie. So what the hell’s the point of us showing up for Episode 9? People may speculate that Kylo Ren now becomes the big baddie, but Kylo Ren’s character isn’t built that way. He’s a petulant child. You’re not threatened by him. You’re not scared of him the way you’re scared of Darth Vader. So who’s the threat in the next film?

Searching your feelings, this wasn’t some grand ballsy twist like everyone’s making it out to be. It was Johnson getting rid of a character he hated. There was no grand plan here. Just spite for being given such a, in Johnson’s eyes, lame character to begin with. And by killing off Snoke, he’s left the future of the trilogy in tatters. I’ll take that one step further. Johnson killing Snoke got Colin Trevorrow fired. Trevorrow notoriously couldn’t come up with a script for Ep 9 that Disney liked. Now we now why. How the hell do you come up with a script after this?? Johnson combined the 2nd and 3rd movies in the trilogy into one, leaving whoever’s responsible for the next film to basically come up with a fourth movie in a trilogy. People give Johnson credit for being daring. This wasn’t daring at all. This was stupid. And not just that. It was cowardly. Since he knew someone else other than him would have to clean up the mess he made.

And here’s the irony of Johnson killing this character. The more Snoke spoke in this scene, the more interesting he got. He was actually starting to sound like a cool character. And right as that was happening, they kill him.

This scene also highlighted a major missed opportunity. There was a moment after Snoke died where you thought, for a brief moment, oh my god, what if Kylo and Rey team up?? What if they become Dark Twins out to rule the galaxy. That would be fucking awesome. Imagine the final climax on Crait. Kylo and Rey on one side. Luke on the other. Lightsaber battle. Jesus. That would’ve been the greatest Star Wars lightsaber fight ever. Or hell, keep Luke alive. Have Rey and Kylo rule into Episode 9, and then Luke, once again, has to pull these two people back to the light. Jesus, I should be writing these things that idea is so good. For all the credit Johnson is getting for these faux-bold choices he made, this was a choice that would’ve earned him a place in Star Wars lore. And he chose to avoid it.

Instead, we get a battle between Rey and Kylo and Snoke’s guards that everyone seems to be celebrating. Yet there was one problem. THERE WAS NO REASON FOR IT TO HAPPEN!!! As a guard, your duty is to defend your leader. The leader is dead! Why are you fighting Kylo and Rey, lol???? At that point you drop your stick and book a vacation to Endor.

If they weren’t going to team Kylo and Rey up, a much cooler reveal for the Prateorian Guards would’ve been to drop their helmets, walk up to Kylo and for us realize they were The Knights of Ren. Kylo planned this all along. And we’d finally get to meet the cool ass Knights of Ren, who are one of the only things I’m looking forward to seeing in Ep 9. But nope! We have to get this pointless battle between guards who are defending a dead leader.

Speaking of that battle, did anyone notice that there wasn’t a single lightsaber to lightsaber battle in a freaking main storyline Star Wars movie? I’m sorry. But that is a fireable offense. I’m not joking. That’s the one thing that every audience member going into a Star War movie wants. And Johnson said “fuck you” to them because all he cared about was subverting expectations, to the extent that he will literally steal your joy. Your Star Wars Ep 8 director, everyone!

Oh, I almost forgot – Rey’s big parental reveal! We learn, after 2 long years and lots of anticipation… that Rey’s parents were nobodies! Hip hip hooray!!! What an awesome revelation. Glad I waited for that! Look, I get that this is a “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” scenario. If Rey ends up being a Kenobi or Skywalker, it’s like, “Oh, I knew it. Borrrrinnnng.” However, here’s why that’s not an excuse. When you’re chosen to take over the reins of the biggest franchise in the world… one of the primary reasons you are being paid so much and given more money than God to make your movie, is to figure out satisfying answers to tough questions. You don’t get to say, “But it’s difficult.” The reason you got the job was because you’re the guy who figures out difficult. Or else what are we paying you for??

There’s a bigger issue at play here, though – the idea of prioritizing theme over story. The theme of Johnson’s movie is that anybody can be heroic. Star Wars, in his eyes, is no longer about a single hero. Which is why he chose the least likely hero, Rose Tico, to become a new character. It’s why he ends his movie on Broom Boy. And it’s why he kills Luke. The message being pushed is that we don’t need deities anymore. Cause we’re all heroes!

It’s why in this moment, when it’s finally time to reveal Rey’s parents, Johnson roots the answer in theme. Rey is a nobody. Which means anybody can have the Force. I tell any writer who will listen that this is a disastrous way to approach storytelling. A good choice for your story ALWAYS beats a lesser choice that fits thematically. And Johnson forgot that, a huge reason why so many people are feeling duped. We waited 2 years for this reveal, and you gave us an answer whose only value is that it will be celebrated in English classes.

Looking back at the movie now, it’s almost bizarre how aggressively Rian Johnson attacks everything JJ set up. People are saying Johnson subverted expectations with all his choices. But it looks to me more like an assassination. Think about it. JJ spends his entire movie building up Rey offering Luke Skywalker his lightsaber. The first thing we see Luke do in Ep 8 is toss the lightsaber away. JJ loved Snoke. Rian killed him before we got to know anything about the guy. JJ loved Phasma. Rian threw her into a pit of fire without so much as a punch. JJ loved the Knights of Ren. Rian doesn’t mention them. JJ built all this mystery around Rey’s parents. Rian said, “Her parents were nobodies.” JJ called our protagonists the “Resistance.” Rian, who could’ve left this alone and no one would’ve noticed, gave them back their old name, the “Rebels,” despite actively pushing a theme to move on from the past. JJ lovingly built this mask for Kylo. Rian literally smashes it to pieces. Then keeps smashing it and smashing it and smashing it. Think about this for a second. Snoke is a nobody in Rian’s interpretation of the character and is treated as such. Yet the one significant moment he gives Snoke is to tell Kylo to destroy the mask JJ made for him. That isn’t coincidence. That is hatred. There’s no other conclusion you can make after all these choices than that Rian hated JJ’s movie.

This leads us to the climax – the battle on Crait. After Rose Tico solidifies herself as the third worst character in this movie by knocking Finn out of the way just as he’s about to win the battle for them because she wants to kiss him, Luke shows up. And this is it, man. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. You see, the people telling Johnson he ruined their childhood hero would’ve forgiven him if he would’ve done the right thing in this moment. You have Luke Skywalker, the culmination of The Force. What is this motherfucker going to do after 30 extra years of growing and learning everything about The Force? He’s been acting like this annoying crabby little bitch the whole movie. But that doesn’t matter because we’re about to see Jedi shit we’ve never imagined before. I swear to God, I thought Luke was going to raise his hand and simply flick away those AT-ATs. And if that happened? Rian Johnson would’ve become my hero.

But no. Because, you know, theme.

Instead, we have a “battle” between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. What happens in this battle? Anyone care to guess? Well, for starters, they did what any great battle does – they don’t battle! Right? Cause subverting expectations is way more important than giving the audience what they want. Then, after a single swing of Kylo’s lightsaber, we find out that Luke isn’t there! He’s not on Crait. He’s back on his home planet astral-projecting himself!

This is supposed to be some giant amazing reveal. And yet I have never seen a choice land with a more confusing thud in a major motion picture before. Even if you wanted to do this stupid thing where Luke doesn’t actually fight Kylo, what the hell is the rationale of Luke not being there???? Why not show up? What’s different in this scenario if he’s there? You still beat Kylo. You still “give the rebels time” which is, according to Poe Dameeron, the reason Luke is doing this. I don’t understand, lol, what Luke gains by astral-projecting himself instead of being there! Is the lesson that Luke is lazy? It was such a stupid choice that it’s borderline laughable. And THEN! On top of that, Luke dies because, I guess, Astral Projection takes a lot of energy! Yet another reason Luke should’ve physically shown up. He wouldn’t have died!!

Here’s the scariest thing about this movie. After Crabby Lame Luke is offed by a director who clearly hates him. After one more shot is tacked onto this abomination of a film to hammer home this story-killing theme of “anybody can be special” – aka Broom Boy – you leave the theater realizing… we’re right back where we started. Rey hasn’t learned anything. Neither has Kylo. What was the point of the movie????

So here’s the big question. How did a Star Wars movie this bad escape Disney’s notoriously intense evaluation process? I have a theory about this. Bob Iger has been VERY PUBLIC about how much he likes this film. I have a feeling that from the beginning, from the second he read the script, he loved it. And what that did is it relieved anyone under him of blame. For the first time, Kathleen Kennedy didn’t have to micro-manage the production because it didn’t matter how the film turned out. If it’s bad, you blame Bob Iger. So she relaxed, let Rian do whatever he wanted, and created a work hierarchy reminiscent of George Lucas on the prequels, where everyone nodded and said, “Great idea!” I predict that this movie sinks fast once word of how bad it is gets out. And that in 3 months, we’ll hear that Rian’s new trilogy has been canceled. I mean, honestly, how could you endorse any new Johnson Star Wars movie after this one? The guy only had to introduce 3 new characters in The Last Jedi. THREE! And all of them were terrible. You’re now going to allow him to create hundreds of new Star Wars characters? Johnson also managed to do something that, before this film, you’d think was impossible. He destroyed the memory of the most beloved movie hero of all time. Mark Hamill tried to warn him. “I fundamentally disagree with everything you’ve done with this character” he famously told Johnson when he read his script. It turns out Hamill was the only one who stood up to Johnson.

I’ll end this review with a comment I read on another site which encapsulates why Johnson’s depiction of Luke was so wrong…

So you get Mark Hamill to reprise an iconic role 30 years later and keep him on an island the whole time and have his hologram tease a light saber fight… then have him die. That definitely was one way to go.

[ ] What the hell did I just watch?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission (only if you hate Luke Skywalker)
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Never EVER be a slave to your theme. If staying consistent with your theme is hurting your screenplay, ditch the theme or replace it with a better one. This is the most prominent example I’ve ever seen of how prioritizing theme over storytelling can kill a movie.

Save us JJ. You’re our only hope.

amateur offerings weekend

I have seen The Last Jedi! And you know what? Let’s just get into it. Starting with the Porgs. What’s the deal with… heh heh heh. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you? My Last Jedi review isn’t coming until Monday. And I’ll just say this. It may be my longest review ever.

In the meantime, let’s find ourselves another great amateur writer and launch their career! Here’s how to play: Read as much of each script as you can and submit your winning vote in the comments section. Votes will be counted through Sunday, 11:59pm Pacific Time. Winner gets a script review next Friday!

To Sumbit For Future Amateur Offerings: Send me a PDF of your script, along with the title, genre, logline, and why you think people should read it (your chance to really pitch your story). All submissions should be sent to

Note: Due to strange Uploading Problems, I can’t display first pages this weekend. :(

Title: Parallel
Genre: Sci-Fi / Adventure
Logline: Having survived a deadly plane crash, an expectant father to be awakens inside the mythical city of Atlantis in a parallel universe. In order to get back to his version of reality, he must play an active role in the planet’s civil war.
Why Should You Read: CHARACTERS! If a chef cooks without love, you will get served sad food. If a doctor checks out during a consultation, you will be misdiagnosed. If an escort had a bad morning.. well, you get the idea. Parallel is the only screenplay on the open market that has characters with personality in a high stakes battle to the death in an underwater city. If I’m wrong, I’ll wash your car.

Genre: Christmas Horror!
Logline: After receiving a mysterious Christmas present, an agoraphobic young woman must face her deepest fears when she finds herself trapped inside her apartment building with three ghoulish entities.
Why You Should Read: Believe it or not, horror fans really love Christmas! Sure, Halloween is our big day, but there’s just something liberating about the holiday season that nicely offsets our darker sensibilities. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many movies out there that successfully bring those disparate aspects of our personalities together. GREMLINS and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS are kind of the gold standard in this arena, but both of those are family films and don’t exactly qualify as horror. We need more good Christmas horror flicks that we can revisit each year, damn it! — ‘DO NOT OPEN’ started out as a short script. But, thanks to the November writing challenge that a few of us took part in, I’ve expanded that set-up into a modern day, horror re-imagining of a certain Dickens holiday classic. The result is basically ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ meets ‘IT’. — Thanks for taking a look. I can only hope that it’s as much fun to read as it was to write!

Title: The Writhing
Genre: Horror/Drama
Logline: When a vain actress ingests a dangerous parasite to help her lose weight for the Oscars, it’s up to her stay-at-home husband to save their family.
Why You Should Read: I’ve always wanted to take a B-movie premise and try to make it as realistic as possible. The idea of doing that with a parasitic, slug-like creature was too promising for me to resist. To find the heart of the story, I had to look, not only at the world around me, but deep down within myself. What could this creature be a metaphor for? What came out was vanity, pride and the poisoning effect of today’s self-image obsession. Hopefully, some kind souls on the site will give my script a shot and help me make it better!

Title: Octagon
Genre: Sports Drama
Logline: A humble MMA fighter descends to a state of self-destruction after rising fame and fortune, tense family dynamics, and strained relationships get the better of him.
Why You Should Read: Sports movies are an underrated aspect of the movie lineup each year. Every other month there seems to be a new boxing movie, a new football movie, a tennis movie. Sports are a huge part of cultures all across the globe, and at the moment, the UFC has risen rapidly over the past several years. Yet, the only notable MMA movie is “Warrior”. I’m looking to get ahead of the curve on MMA movies, and I believe Octagon can do the trick.

Title: The Sphinx
Genre: Historical Drama
Logline: In the Golden Age of Hollywood, the mysterious silent-actress GRETA GARBO determined to change the Status Quo, arises as myth in the midst of a war of Gods & Beasts.
Why You Should Read: My name is Elena Gallen, writer/director and art director working in film, fashion, art and culture for over 10 years. After reading my feature treatment, I was encouraged by Spanish writer/director Paco Cabezas (Penny Dreadful, Dirk Gently, Into The Badlands, Fear the Walking Dead) to develop this script. He has been very supportive and trusting on my artistic voice. I am now determined to find a way to get my story noticed to materialise ‘The Sphinx’ and/or the coral drama series ‘Dames’ that sprout from it as a side-project. But Hollywood is a sick endogamic bastard I trust you might be impelled to introduce me to. As an artist and an independent working woman in a men’s world, I have become the medium to a voice that shines a light on the historical questioning of gender-roles, who claims those avant-garde women that a century ago fought for achieving equality treatment within Hollywood, in spite of the repressingly patriarchal system reigning in the world at their time. It is a culturally, historically and aesthetically significant story — and today America’s socio-political context makes it profoundly current and relevant.