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

43_MartianManhunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1351348-superman31_mbailey

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

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

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

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

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

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

batman_origins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Midnight Luck

    Whenever someone starts talking about “formula” and especially if they refer to it as a basis for “how to” kinds of discussions, I gag and then I’m out of there.

    I think “formula” is at the center of nearly every problem in Hollywood right now, especially when it comes to blockbusters and spandex. Everything MUST follow a known formula so people will know what they are watching. Society today is so non-creative, everyone needing to be hand held and spoon fed.

    Formula bores me to tears, and formula does NOT make a good script or movie.

    ….secondly, there is so much spandex flying around anymore, it’s beginning to look like a Victoria’s Secret party gone wild (on acid)(“oh, look at all the pretty colors”)…..And has even less depth.

    • ChadStuart

      But if you work in any type of linear storytelling you’re adhering to the Aristotelian formula of a beginning, middle and end. Aristotle surmised that all stories adhere to that basic story form probably because our lives all have the same three acts.

      From there other philosophers and writers identified formulas that work best, most notably to this discussion, the hero’s journey. Formulas work precisely because they play on our expectations as an audience. We’re comforted by the form and that allows us to extract the deeper meaning of the piece since our minds aren’t bothered with trying to put the story together.

      Therefore, the important thing to remember is that even if you adhere to formulas, that doesn’t mean you can’t surprise, challenge and subvert your audience – even in a superhero setting. The skill of the storyteller is very much put to use in a formula.

      Superhero stories have a long, glorious literary tradition that includes Greek Mythology. Within those stories we encode our collective morals and ethics. Since the audience continually refreshes itself as children are born, it’s important to cement our cultural beliefs in those children to perpetuate our society.

      Intellecutals often like to dismiss these stories as childish, but they are only childish if they pander to children. But many superhero stories deal with complex themes such as the dangers of power, idolatry, and questioning authority/status-quo. There are many adults who need these themes reinforced in their lives.

      There are varying degrees of quality within any formula, but don’t outright dismiss a story because of the formula. We as humans tend to gravitate towards them, and the reasons why are worthy of studying if we wish to understand the society we live in.

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

        THEME! And I agree – complaining about formula is like complaining about a 1-4-5 chord progression in music. The formula isn’t the problem – it’s the person using it.

  • Lucid Walk

    I REALLY want a copy of this script, but can’t find one.

    Please send to sde91@hotmail.com

  • Citizen M

    To make character set-ups less boring, try to introduce them involved in some action…

    FADE IN:

    INT. CAVE MOUTH – NIGHT

    We can just make out by starlight as SUPERMAN alights to examine something gleaming on the cave floor.

    SUPERMAN
    (to no one in particular)
    I can’t see what it is.

    GREEN LANTERN alights. By his light they examine the gleaming object.

    GREEN LANTERN
    What is it? Hit it with a rock.

    Rock-man MARTIAN MANHUNTER arrives and stomps on the object. It bursts into flame.

    MARTIAN MANHUNTER
    Help! We need water.

    AQUAMAN arrives and puts the fire out. The cave is now a muddy, charred mess.

    AQUAMAN
    Someone should clean up this mess.

    WONDER WOMAN arrives.

    Okay, the last sentence is to piss off the feminists, but I think this is the sort of thing he means in his ‘what I learned’.

    Personally, I never had access to superhero comics growing up, so the idea of superheroes doesn’t give me a hard-on. I enjoy watching the entertaining ones with a reasonable story and excellent special effects. Don’t ask me which superhero belongs in which universe or meets which arch-villain, however.

  • S.C.

    From the Mulrooney’s JUSTICE LEAGUE script:

    WONDER WOMAN is HIT FROM BEHIND. An annihilating BLOW. It smashes her FACE FIRST into a wall. Sinks her to her knees. She turns back to to (sic.) see…

    SUPERMAN. Transformed. Utterly. His face twisted, DARK. Eyes filled with RAGE.

    BATMAN
    Clark…? What are you doing…?

    http://www.fteam.org/EDLB/wp-content/uploads/superman_punch_wonder_woman.jpg

    Didn’t you know, Bruce? Superman’s a dick!

  • Thomas Anderson

    There’s a few scripts that I think are worth mentioning when talking about a movie version of Justice League.

    1. Justice League: Origins – Chad Handley (A fan script that is too long and has some silly moments but is filled with some great action scenes, a ton of references, and does a great job of balancing all of the characters).

    2. Batman v Superman – ? (alleged leaked script that was proved to be fake. Has a very anti-climactic ending and a lot of unnecessary characters and sub-plots, but does a great job of introducing and establishing Superman and Batman and pitting the two characters against each other in a realistic way.

    3. Man of Tomorrow – Jeremy Slater (By far the best of the 3 and just all round a fantastic script. The script takes the idea of Batman and Superman and completely turns them on their heads by changing the character’s names, origins, and characteristics, and setting the story in 1950’s Chicago). You don’t need to be a comic-book fan to appreciate or love Man of Tomorrow. It’s just a damn great story.

    If anyone would like any of the scripts mentioned above, let me know.

    • romer6

      I´d appreciate it, Thomas. romer at gmail dot com, please! Man of Tomorrow sounds amazing. Actually, those “alternate story lines” are great. My favorite all time Batman story is one where he is a catholic priest, pretty damn good stuff there.

      There is also another one, very short and with no dialog at all, where Thor comes to Earth thousands of years after human extinction, a sad but beautiful tale. Those who take chances are probably the ones most likely to be remembered in such a cluttered market. Maybe the same applies to movies?

    • 3waystopsign

      I’d love a copy of Man of Tomorrow. 3waystopsign at gmail. Thank you very much!

    • Jarman Alexander

      Sounds like there’s something in all of them for me. I really appreciate this offer.
      J.Jarman.Alexander at gmail dot com

    • Mike.H

      Thomas, YES, all three PDF’s please! may1msg at gmail dot com. Thanks!

  • Magga

    I just read the “what I learned” part before writing this, but am I the only one who loves set-ups? They have to be good set-ups for sure, but the introductions of characters and themes are almost always the high-point of a movie for me. Third acts in Hollywood movies usually get me very impatient, because you’ve gotten to the point of no return, your characters have to “diffuse the bomb”, which they invariably do, and it’s like checking boxes on a form. I always start wondering how long they’re going to spend on it, especially in big action movies where I’m about to watch yet another city get destroyed. The second act is almost always when the filmmakers let their beard down and play with the concept, and for a last act to work, it almost has to be something like Seven, where there’s a twist that makes me unsure where they’re headed. The last confrontation between hero and villain is almost always a let-down. Even in masterpieces like Taxi Driver and my all-time favorite movie, Goodfellas, the last parts are less interesting than when we just get to live with the characters and see their mind at work through their actions. If you’re able to make me genuinely believe it could go either way, like the recent Mad Men finale, I’m down (and boy did they pull a rabbit out of the hat there), but especially in a franchise, where you know they’re going to make another movie, isn’t it boring to just watch people fighting? Shawshank is one of the few times where the ending has been the absolute high-point for me, and the trick, it seems, is pay-off, pay-off, pay-off and more pay-off. And watching them set those things up, if they can unexpectedly pay them off, is part of the fun, and I don’t in any way mind seeing that that’s what they’re doing

    • brenkilco

      Love the way Carson talks about exposition. It eats up and destroys the entertainment value of the script but it’s part of the story. No way to cut it out. Um, maybe we should try chemotherapy.

      But it got me wondering. What are some examples of great expository scenes where a writer or the actors or the director managed to deliver great gobs of info and somehow preserve audience involvement and fascination? Surely there must be some. And why did they work?

      • romer6

        What about the scene in Matrix where Morpheus explains to Neo how the matrix works? It is all exposition but incredibly entertaining at the same time.

        • Magga

          Yup, and it’s brilliant because it’s spent the first part of the movie asking “what is The Matrix?”, so when we finally get to see it, we want ALL the information. Just show it to me, tell it to me, this is what I’m here for. When they start ruminating about how different people taste chicken differently and so on, it’s not that compelling because it’s just stuff the writers want to talk about, and not organic, but most of that movie is set-up, even visiting the Oracle late in the game. They even made the third act exciting to me, by making us believe either Neo or Morpheus would die. But I have to admit, the whole “she only told you what you needed to hear to find yourself”-bit pissed me off

        • Scott Strybos

          And then they wrote this, the worst exposition scene of all time:

          • S.C.

      • Citizen M

        In Real Steel there’s a scene where the two protags search a huge junkyard in the rain for robot parts. From Shawn Levy’s director’s commentary:

        “This scene is one hundred percent exposition. Hugh Jackman is doing a monologue about the history of robot boxing and how it evolved. What we did is, I filled it with props and business. When your actor has to give expositional information, you want him to be as busy as possible with physical activity to distract him and the audience from how informational the content is.”

      • S.C.

        Jon Amiel was going to cut the flaming peach bit, but it turned out so well, he kept it in.

        Great performances too. See how each character has a different POV.

      • Magga

        Late in Goodfellas, they’re all sent to prison, and the entire story is narration about how they ate, prepared their food, bribed the guards, snuck in drugs and so on, and it’s pure exposition without pay-off. I love it! Much better than if they got into fights with the other inmates and someone died or got injured. Same with the sequence where they take over the bar. “This is what we do, how it works”, and it’s fantastic because I’m there for a mob story, and I’m seeing how they operate. Details, man, give me the details! If they ever make a football (or soccer) movie for U.S. audiences, explaining off-side rules and red and yellow cards could easily be one of the most entertaining things about the movie. I just want to get as much detail about that world as possible, with good characters and memorable moments.

      • charliesb

        I couldn’t find the clip, but I’ve always liked the one in the first MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, where Ethan puts together that Voight’s character is actually the bad guy.

        He is sitting across from Voight at the restaurant telling him what happened or more accurately what he wants to hear (that Ethan is not on to him), but the action shows us (the viewer) what actually happened which is that Voight was responsible for everything.

        It sums up the plot and the twist nicely without being one of those “villain explains evil plot to hero” scenes.

      • Michael

        My go to example for this has always been Kyle Reese bringing Sarah Connor up to speed in The Terminator. He’s just rescued her in TechNoir and they are in a car case from the police and the Terminator. Reese delivers rapid fire exposition. It’s straightforward and on-the-nose, but because the scene is so beautifully set up, that is exactly how we want the exposition at that moment.

        Cameron set that scene up to perfection. Sarah first perceives Reese as a stalker and a threat. Perceptions flip when he saves her from the Terminator, but is he saving her or kidnapping her? She’s confused and so are we. She wants answers and so do we. And that’s when we get them, at the height of a car chase, when lives are on the line. Reese lays it out for Sarah (and us) in nauseating detail, but in one third the time because every second counts.

        Two things are going on. First and most important, the need and desire for the exposition is established before the scene. Most amateurs feel the need to explain action before it happens for fear the audience will be lost. Hugh mistake. Create the mystery and yearning to know, it heightens the drama. Action before explanations.

        Second, a spoonful of action makes the exposition go down. Deliver exposition painlessly and quickly. The roller-coaster ride we are on doesn’t let us get bored by the exposition and it’s over before we know it’s happening.

        That scene nails it.

        • brenkilco

          Exposition delivered on the run is always desirable. As in Terminator. But exposition that delivers answers to questions the audience desperately wants answered, as in The Matrix, is by definition interesting and not really the kind of stuff I was thinking of. The kind of scene that provides info necessary to make sense of what follows, not one that solves a mystery. Those are the toughest kind. And if it’s only one or two characters talking it’s really tough. I guess the best way is somehow to layer the info into a scene with underlying tension or conflict. The opening of The Godfather or the meeting between the husband and Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo(Is this guy nuts?) At it’s simplest it’s the ritual scenes between Bond and Q with the quips designed to get the inventor’s goat.

          My vote for the great exposition scene that has no reason to be great and should actually be terrible: Donald Sutherland’s Mister X monologue in JFK. It goes on and on and on. Oodles of barely connected, half explained, conspiratorial bullshit. Yet somehow Sutherland makes it riveting. The sort of great acting that rarely gets acknowledged. The kind that doesn’t win awards but keeps movies from falling apart.

      • klmn

        Sexposition. Have something sexy going on in the background while your characters prattle on.

        I haven’t watched much Game Of Thrones, but they use the technique. Also present in cop movies, where the favored place for talk is a titty bar.

      • Scott Strybos

        Worst exposition scene of all time:

      • Scott Strybos

        Best exposition scene of all time:

    • Gregory Mandarano

      There was that point where I seriously thought Draper might kill himself. It was intense. Then when he hugged the guy in group, it was just so emotionally powerful.

      • Magga

        And then that last cut had me falling over laughing, and realizing that the central thesis of reviewers’ take on the show, that this was history seen from the point of view of people losing their relevance, was completely wrong, because of course all the scary new thoughts of the sixties would eventually be boiled down to “buy a coke”. The show was the apex of screenwriting

    • Randy Williams

      Like this comment. As a non-super hero movie fan for the most part, (I walked into a comic book store a few weeks ago, eyes immediately went to the Jonny Quest, Scooby Doo team-up) set-ups involving a super hero’s “down time” are what grab me the most, especially if they convey a sense that the super hero is comforted by running away from those heroic expectations he or she is burdened with by society. That’s something everyone struggles with. Something I can identify with.
      Of course, I like them kicking ass, but when they get a call, a call any one of us would answer in our own way.

  • ripleyy

    Im thinking it could work if the superheroes are each doing their own mini-goal which all converge at some point, but you’re right that it’s quite a feat. Oh, and the casting for this is not so much absurd but insane.

    • Magga

      Magnolia, but with superheroes :)

  • LostAndConfused

    As a guy that is enjoying the golden age of this spandex wearing era and will probably never get tired of superhero films, that logline turned me away. It’s a Justice League movie with Batman as the central protagonist, or that’s what it almost leads you to believe. If I’d want to see a mass gathering of superheroes that included Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and The Flash, I don’t want to see them with their powers taken away with frikkin’ Batman saving the day.

  • Scott Strybos

    Somehow the idea of superheroes losing their powers is an idea that is both amazing and terrible at the same time. Characters who have lived as Gods, reduced to mere mortals, having to solve the story’s super-problems without powers—there is something interesting there. But on the flip you have a superhero movie where its heroes aren’t doing anything super. You don’t want to see superman have to hail a taxicab to get to the film’s climax.

  • klmn

    Why all the interest in superheros? In most cases they have done nothing to earn their powers. Batman is an exception – he’s come by his abilities through his own efforts. Most of the others have their abilities just handed to them.

    Superman – his home planet blows up, so his father stuffs him into a rocket and shoots him off to earth. When he gets here, he has superpowers. Why?

    Spiderman – Get bit by a radioactive spider, get superpowers.

    Green Lantern – Someone gives you a goddamn ring. How convenient.

    In screenwriting, shouldn’t the hero solve his problems by his own actions?

    How do superheros fit into any screenwriting paradigm. The hero’s journey?

    • Scott Strybos

      I think the superhero appeal comes from a few sources.

      Superheroes are usually outcasts, loners. Solitary souls with angst and pain. I think people find this cathartic. Makes their own misery seem deep and noble.

      And superheroes may not earn their powers but there is usually sacrifice. And sacrifice always endears a character.

      Lastly, wish fulfilment. Not only being the person who saves the day but also having this secret. A secret life no one knows about. That makes you special. That makes you interesting. That makes you important.

    • S.C.

      As I see it, a superhero – for example, Sherlock Holmes or James Bond – has skills that are far beyond the scope of most characters, at least in certain areas. And yet they have personal problems.

      Sherlock Holmes can solve any case put before him, but he’s a junkie.

      James Bond has extraordinary espionage skills, and yet he’s a weakness for women, can be too quick to kill.

      Brian Mills is super-duper awesome, but his family is his weakness.

      So if you want to explore certain aspects of a character, making them a superhero – really, really good at one thing, but not so good at others – is a good choice.

      I’ll leave the comic-book superheroes for others to talk about today!

    • walker

      I agree that the puerile concept of superheroes is almost antithetical to drama. Another question that occurs to me reading Carson’s review is: Why on earth would a successful and well-regarded director such as George Miller be required to remind everyone “that, yes, he does still know how to make awesome movies”? Who are these people that forgot that? Are they supposedly capable businessmen who work in the film industry? Have any of his directorial projects ever lost money?

  • S.C.
  • wrymartini

    “Flash has sex with his wife by vibrating at a really high frequency and then invading her body.”

    That’s hot.

  • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

    Maxwell Lord: I’ve depowered the planet’s greatest superheroes because earth is my property!

    Superman: Quick, everyone in the Batmobile. Batman, you must ride us to the Fortress of Solitude for safety.

    Batman: Oh, what a lovely day!

  • Felip Serra

    SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)…

    remains the gold standard for this. There’s an energy and efficiency to the film’s execution that still holds up after 60 years…

    And if there’s a “how” to how Kurosawa accomplished this I believe it was in his turning his PEOPLE into CHARACTERS, and not the other way around…

    And I think that’s a solid lesson for any writer of any discipline: If you START from character, or an archetype, or an idea than you’re already working with a handicap. How can there be any freshness, any spontaneity, any real spark of life to a character if his “role” as already been assigned to him?

    Flip it around: Take a PERSON — all his contradictions, desires, fears — and put that into a movie situation. Watch them squirm, watch them struggle, watch them overcome their fears, and (maybe) we’ll see them triumph (after all, why are we watching it in the first place?)

    I know this is rote to all of us but I just mention it to compound my point. Watch “Seven Samurai”. Watch Kyuzo’s (the “stoic” swordsman) introduction. Watch the sheer effortlessness of it, and all under 3 minutes: Two swordsman in a field, having a practice bout with the village watching. It’s over in a flash. Opponent says he won; Kyuzo says Wrong, if these were real swords I would have killed you. Kyuzo starts to walk away. Opponent challenges him with a real sword. A second fight. Opponent is cut down with one swift and merciless stroke…

    Though the action is clear enough it is highlighted by Kambei, who is watching in the crowd. During the second fight he watches the Opponent, then Kyuzo… All he says “It’s so obvious…” THAT is a character introduction. AND its done six more times…

    But that’s the beautiful part of it: We know these people… And now they must work together as a group towards their goal. They don’t LOSE their individuality, they TRANSCEND it. That, to me, is the very definition of a “hero”… We feel their risks, their fears, but also they become stronger and more than what they could ever be as just one person… And though not all of them survive they remains heroes for this very reason.

    • brenkilco

      While S S is amazing, one reason western audiences can keep track of the actors probably unknown to them is that while they are individuals, they are also clearly types: the wise elder, the warm hearted joker, the stoic warrior, the insecure upstart, the naïve kid. Subtle character differences wouldn’t have worked in this context.