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Genre: Action/Sci-fi
Premise: A young woman is forced into being a drug mule. But when the experimental drug she’s carrying inside her ruptures, she starts gaining super-human powers.
About: Taken and Transporter creator Luc Besson is back with his latest action flick, Lucy, an idea he’s had for over 10 years. He’d been looking for a way to mesh action with philosophy for awhile and Scarlett Johansson celebrating her inner badass allowed him to achieve it. Besson said that part of the reason it took him so long to write the script is that, unlike his heroine, he was only using 10% of his brain. The movie came out this weekend and went on to a huge 44 million dollar take, a surprising dominating performance when you consider she was going up against the ultimate testosterone machine, The Rock (in Hercules). Of course, that flick was directed by Brett Ratner, who I’m pretty sure only uses 2% of his brain.
Writer: Luc Besson
Details: 114 pages


I was sure this type of movie had gone out of style. As much as I love GSU, I’m growing tired of the overly simplistic action-thriller use of the model. “Taken” was fresh back when it came out, but after the clone-train hit and I read a million copycats of a) Hero tries to save someone or himself, b) the life of someone they care about or themselves is at stake, and c) they have 48 hours to achieve their mission, I couldn’t muster up enough enthusiasm for the flicks any more.

And the market seemed to agree. Besson’s own GSU film, Lockout, never did anything. The recent Kevin Costner flick, 3 Days to Kill, didn’t do well. All of Crank’s 24-hour man-on-a-mission cousins didn’t do well. And then of course there are all the scripts I’ve seen that no one at the studio level will touch anymore. “It’s Taken on a [insert noun here]” can kill a meeting if you read the room wrong. I was even thinking of writing an article about how the GSU model needed to evolve to survive this change.

And then Lucy shows up, the very embodiment of the simplistic GSU model, and kicks ass. A female mule has an experimental drug leaking into her system, making her smarter and smarter by the minute. She’s got 48 hours before it kills her so she’s got to get to a man who specializes in this sort of thing and transfer to him everything she’s learned before it’s too late.

This straight-forward GSU spec didn’t just do “well,” it fucking blew the competition away, collecting 44 million dollars on a summer weekend with a B-list female carrying the entire movie. That is NOT easy to do.

I don’t know what to make of this. Cause all I saw in the trailers was Scarlett Johansson running around with a gun. To play devil’s advocate, one might say they put a new spin on the action-thriller formula (Lucy becomes in tune with 100% of her brain’s capacity, allowing her to become a “realistic” super-hero). But I’ve seen a ton of that “We only use 10% of our brain” stuff in movies and scripts over the past decade. “Wanted” did it. “Limitless” did it. I thought it was old hat.

Maybe Lucy just lucked out and opened on the perfect weekend, when she had ZERO competition (note to Hollywood, if you want zero competition, find the weekend Brett Ratner’s movie opens). I mean if we’re speaking of ideas that feel played out, look no further than Hercules. Didn’t they just make a Hercules movie earlier this year? This isn’t the 50s.

I give it to Besson. He writes fun scripts. And when I say “fun,” I really mean it! “Lucy” was written in comic sans! That’s a first for a professional script. It also opened with this after its title page:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.52.53 AM

I don’t think you can get away with this if you’re an amateur. People would laugh at you for being presumptuous. But since Besson has a track record, it’s allowed. And I have to admit, it worked. I was using those films for reference while I was reading, so I could picture how this would look. It’s too bad amateurs can’t do this because being able to explain the style in which you hope your movie will be shot can be the difference between two totally different movies in the reader’s head.

As for the story itself, it’s typical Besson. Once we get to the action, we don’t stop. And with Lucy, we get to the action immediately. A sketchy guy convinces his one-night stand, Lucy, to go deliver a suitcase to someone named “Mr. Wang” for him. Why anyone would deliver a mysterious suitcase to a guy named “Mr. Wang” for someone they just met last night is beyond me. But Lucy does it.

That leads to her finding out some super-heroin-crack is in the suitcase. Mr. Wang makes her mule it to Los Angeles, but the packet inside her starts leaking, and whatever this stuff is, it starts unleashing a chemical that opens up your brain, turning you into an exponential Einstein.

At first Lucy just thinks clearer. But then she starts seeing the vibrations around people, which allows her to read their minds. She can use satellites to see through the internet bringing her into offices halfway around the world, using the vibrations of the matter in those offices to literally see what’s happening in them. Soon she’s manipulating matter, so she can “use the force,” picking objects up and putting them down without ever touching them.

It’s all pretty cool stuff. But this is the reason I thought these movies were dead. With so much centered around the action and the gimmickry, we don’t ever get to know anybody. Personally, I loved how they took their time in Taken. It’s one of the reasons I think that film is the standard for the straight-forward simplistic action-thriller. We actually got to know the dad and the daughter before she was captured, and therefore we CARED about him saving her.

I knew very little about Lucy when she was kidnapped and learned only slightly more over the course of the film. That’s why a film like this gets 57% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics go there and they see a film that feels fun, that feels visual and kinetic, exactly what a film is supposed to be. But because they don’t ever get to know any of the characters, they leave feeling empty, like what they just saw was a dream.

That’s exactly how I felt after reading this. I was like, “Hmm, this would be a fun movie to watch.” But halfway through this review and I was already forgetting what happened.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.55.25 AM
Comic Sans font! The future of screenwriting??

Ironically, Besson didn’t even nail the GSU model. I wasn’t sure what Lucy’s main goal was for most of the second act (it turned out to be getting to Professor Morgan Freeman to tell him about her discoveries before she died). That felt like a weak goal. Who cares if she gets this information to Red or not? What happens if she doesn’t? Nothing. That’s the very definition of no stakes.

I honestly didn’t expect this to make more than 30 million dollars in its entire run. But I learned something here. One of the most common pieces of advice screenwriters receive is to find a fresh “TWIST” on a tried-and-true genre. It’s the key to your script being “familiar but different.”

Here’s what nobody talks about though. Is how MUCH of a twist you need. Because if it’s not enough of a twist, then it feels exactly like the genre you’re trying to update. If it’s too much of a twist, it’s no longer within the genre’s target zone and feels eccentric. Nobody really knows where that twist range begins and where it ends.

I thought for sure the whole “10% of your brain” thing wasn’t enough of a twist. But I was wrong. It turns out Besson squeaked it in just past the minimum threshold. I wish I could tell you where that range is, but it’s one of those things that can’t be quantified. This is where craft is thrown out the window and artistry takes center stage. It’s up to you to decide how far you should go. If you nail it and fall right smack dab in the center of that range, you’re golden. If not, that’s probably why you’re not getting enough read requests.

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

What I learned: One way to mix up GSU is to start your script with a mystery or two. So instead of jumping into the goal immediately, use the first act to create a “mystery” storyline where the reader’s trying to figure out what’s going on. Then, at the end of the first act, institute the main goal that will drive the rest of the story. So here, we start with the mystery of “What’s in the suitcase?” This leads to a second mystery. Lucy is knocked out by the goons and wakes up with a surgical scar on her stomach. What’s happened to her? She finds out that she’s being used as a mule. Once this mystery is over, she has her goal. Find the other mules before their cargo is transferred, then get to the professor to give him the knowledge she’s gained before she dies. Like I said before, the goal that drives this story is pretty weak, but the use of mysteries at the outset was well done, and pulled us into the story right away.

  • bruckey

    Scar.Jo might be peeved at being called B-list

    • Scott Crawford

      You can argue over her Black Widow films, whether people were going to see her, but I don’t think people were seeing this for Morgan Freeman. Roll on the Black Widow solo movie.

      On Black Widow, I noticed it took me a while to find a Black Widow toy in the Avengers collection. Now there’s a lot more of them. Just an observation for people who collect toys and memorabilia – it’s difficult to find toys of the female characters.

  • lesbiancannibal

    b-b-b B-list female?

    • Guest

      b cup female.

  • Gary Henry

    Bessen has a lean, easy to read and digest writing style that makes this a fun
    read. I was digging the first half of the story. No real new ground was being
    plowed but it was fun. As her brain expansion increased exponentially, I could
    see how she could think faster and more complex than the average person. I
    could even buy into the fact that this would make her run faster, jump higher
    and have control over her pain threshold. And it looks like that’s where it’s
    going to go as she gets revenge on the people that did this to her and maybe
    find a way to undo it or live with it. But then the story shifted and when it
    did it jumped the shark for me. When she started to be able to manipulate time
    and matter and affect the quantum physics of the universe I lost interest. It
    seemed to large of a jump in powers and felt like a different movie to me.
    Carson’s correct that the goal of getting to the professor to what, “tell him
    about her great discoveries seemed a lessor goal than her life on line which
    what was at stake earlier on. If she was trying to get him to help her stop
    what was happening and reverse it then at least it would have added a threat
    that she was in danger as she grew in her powers and every time she used them
    they got stronger she was in more danger, I believe they do mention this
    briefly but quickly discard it for the philosophical implication that Bessen
    felt he wanted to graft onto the story. I know that Bessen said it took ten
    years to write the story and I assume he did it on his own without studio
    interference but it feels like a studio note that it’s not enough to have her
    just be faster and smarter than everyone else that we need more, that she has
    to transcend to god like powers. I just didn’t buy into that basic premise that
    expanding your brain gave you that kind of power. It seemed to be two movies
    grafted together and I like the first one better than I did the second

    • kenglo

      ” I know that Bessen said it took ten years to write the story and I assume he did it on his own without studio interference but it feels like a studio note…”

      Besson IS the studio….just sayin’….

    • G.S.

      “It seemed to be two movies grafted together and I like the first one better than I did the second”

      Based on Besson’s screenplay note, it was apparently THREE movies.

  • andyjaxfl

    For me, Luc Besson is a lot like Robert Rodriguez: huge early splash and nothing worth remembering for the last 15 years.

    Speaking of RR, did anyone hear his quote from Comic Con? He claims to have revolutionized cinema with the original Sin City movie.

    • Scott Crawford

      It looked like there were going to be a whole rash of “greenscreen” movies after Sin City, 300 and Immortals. And there have been a few. But ultimately moviegoers – and I – like reality, real locations, and so on.

      • kenglo

        Iron Man II had Monaco all green screened…..most of the stuff is green screened nowadays.

        • Scott Crawford

          You still see people running around London shooting Guardians of the Galaxy. Most films are still live action with a bit of of CGI in there There’s still the threat of endless “cartoons” – I remember thinking that when Van Helsing came out TEN years ago (feeling old?) – but it hasn’t quite happened yet.

      • ripleyy

        Immortals was memorable because of how gorgeous it looked. Seriously, that had to be one of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen.

    • charliesb

      Except Besson is still working, like a lot. He hasn’t had a huge hit like The Fifth Element again, but he writes and produces anything that even smells like an action film. Rodriguez has all but disappeared – Sin City 2 notwithstanding.

      • kenglo

        Don’t be dissin’ RR!! “Machete in Space” hasn’t been released yet!!

        • klmn

          If RR can make Machete for the Hispanic crowd, someone should make a movie for the rednecks. Call it Socket Wrench.

          • kenglo

            LMAO!! They already have DUCK DYNASTY and those GATOR shows!! It’s funny though, like RR is the only dude who can make hispanic films. Where’s Fluffy???

          • klmn

            Those are tv shows. We be talkin’ movies.

          • Hallorann’s Hope

            Socket and Wrench

            Socket is a sassy robot who loves guns and lightning storms. Wrench is his human buddy, an ex-bounty hunter with cybernetic implants and a love of moonshine and good BBQ. Together they soup up fancy hot rods and monster trucks in the post climate change South of 2057.

            It’s like Mad Max meets Larry the Cable Guy, plus it has some cool redneck robots.

          • Poe_Serling

            My ultimate redneck action film: GATOR.

            You got the Jeff Foxworthy of leading men in hunky Burt Reynolds (smack in his ’70s prime). His character is still selling ‘white lightning’ from his home deep in the Georgia swamps… and, of course, his dad and daughter are swatting mosquitoes with him back here for fun.

            Now throw in some local racketeering, crooked cops and politicians, government agents, and sexy Lauren Hutton…right there is a potent mix worthy of any moonshine-fueled pic.

            And the real cherry on top: the associate producer on the film was James Best. Yes, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from Dukes of Hazzard fame. According to his own website, he also helped to write and direct the film (all uncredited).

          • klmn

            My favorite redneck film is Moonrunners. Based on the autobiography of an actual moon runner, who did some of the stunt driving – not highly prepped Hollywood stunt work, but real world stuff – like sliding a car up a cut bank around a squad car.

            Featuring Jim Mitchum, who was a dead ringer for his father, Robert.

            Here’s the trailer.

          • Poe_Serling

            Have you ever seen the granddaddy of moonshine/car-chase films Thunder Road?


            Though it was a late ’50s film, it continued to play the drive-in circuit way into the late ’70s/early ’80s.

          • klmn

            Yeah. Fun pic, but for driving the golden age of movies has to be the seventies.

  • wrymartini

    Argh! Can we please retire the “people only use 10% of their brain” myth? It even has its own Wikipedia entry:

    Come on, people.

    On the plus side, the movie looks fun.

    • Scott Crawford

      Hey, screenwriters have got to use the “10% of their brain” schtick. It’s like a scorpion stinging a frog – it’s in our nature!

      • klmn

        Yes, but how much of his brain does the scorpion use?

        Or the frog?

    • IgorWasTaken

      wrymartini wrote: “Argh! Can we please retire the ‘people only use 10% of their brain’ myth?

      As with many movies, before you get to the premise, just prepend: “Imagine if…”

      Let me put it this way: The movie “2012” made tons of money and I’ve never seen (and am unlikely to ever see) a movie built on less-credible “stuff”. Now, I found that movie’s plot so absurd that I hated the whole thing. But, if I had a piece of it, I would have cashed the check.

      wrymartini wrote: “It even has its own Wikipedia entry:

      That’s your reason…?

      “Wikipedia” is a great tool, and I use it often (and have donated a few dollars). But saying something is a “myth” because its falsity “even has its own Wikipedia entry”… There is a substantial amount of BS posted at WIkipedia as fact, but because it’s low-profile stuff, no one has found it yet and/or taken the time to fix/debunk it.

      • Jarman Alexander

        Wiki is always right and wrong.

        One doc in med school said the thinking on this subject came about because roughly 90% of the brain is made of various glial cells that support functions of neurons (which are the 10% we “use”). So someone thought out loud “imagine if our brain was 100% neurons!!!” (which would completely take away the current function of the brain, but makes for a decent summer movie premise I guess)

  • carsonreeves1

    I know the whole “what makes an actor A-list” debate is imperfect, but the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that A-list means the actor can open a movie (25+ million opening weekend) as the lead. ScarJo’s never done that before this weekend.

    • Brainiac138

      We are living in the world of the post-alphabeticized list celebrity.

    • klmn

      Scarjo is one helluva moniker. Carson’s best writing to date.

      • vector

        Dude, every tabloid rag uses the term Scarjo.

        • klmn

          Maybe I should start reading the tabloids.


  • romer6

    I guess this was helped by the fact that the main character is a kick ass woman. Female leads in strong characters are still very rare (there was a hint that the new Star Wars was going this direction but I guess it was just misleading information). Would it be enough to attract women as much as men to the theater to see this action flick? I guess it was. Maybe that was the “original” twist in the whole 10% of the brain ‘genre’ (does anyone else remember The Lawnmower Man? It was the first one I can remember in this ‘genre’). I didn´t see the movie (it hasn´t opened here in my country yet) nor wanted to, the trailer seems totally generic, but now I´m actually willing to go. Maybe the first weekend gross will build momentum for the movie as well.

  • brenkilco

    Maybe it wasn’t the movie. Maybe it was the weekend. This summer the product really dried up after the fourth of July. What was this competing against? The Rock as Hercules, an animated kids film, and a sequel to a gimmicky slasher movie. The moviegoing audience has seen Apes and Transformers. Seems a lot of people wanted to go the movies last weekend. Where were they going to go? Maybe any old Besson produced,Jason Statham GSU cheesefest would have done as well. BTW is this script really Besson’s script? Does the guy even speak english?

  • carsonreeves1

    It would be the most epic article ever!

    • Scott Strybos

      DO IT!

      • Sebastian Cornet


        • Lennox Snow

          third? or double-second?

  • cjob3

    “I thought for sure the whole “10% of your brain” thing wasn’t enough of a twist. But I was wrong.” Is that really the twist? I think the twist is its a guy movie starring a woman. Still, agreed, I didn’t think either thing was enough to see it through.

    How do you write a whole script about being super intelligent in comic sans?? This film defied a lot of odds.

  • G.S.

    I saw Lucy this weekend. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
    I (mostly) enjoyed the first half of the movie, left the theater feeling a little empty, and in the time since, the more I think about it, the more I feel cheated. As my 17-year-old daughter said afterward, all of the good parts were in the trailer. It seems Besson was really in love with the shot of the unstoppable female protag in a hallway, which created one of the big problems for me about the movie. More on that later.

    I was all-in on the shady boyfriend, the mysterious package, the drug mule surgery, the non english-speaking gangsters. It had the type of intensity to it I would have expected, and Johansson played it perfectly. I was right with the script. And then it started to slip. Her physics-defying convulsions in response to the drug was a little too trippy. Was she ACTUALLY floating or was that how she felt? In either case, with that she immediately became an emotionless superbeing. That was the problem for me and it was two-fold.

    While her emotionally charged phone call to her mother was pretty excellent, there was no heart left in the movie thereafter. Lucy’s arc (if you want to call it that) was her transforming from a hard-partying college girl to a philosophical guru and repository of universal knowledge and it felt like it took all of three minutes of screen time. Whatever her flaw was, it was never shown for us to watch her overcome it. After her first time facing down a hallway full of cops where she waved them all to sleep in the trailer-bait scene, there is no time in the film where there is a credible obstacle. And the goal she was given was so weak that it probably wouldn’t have made much difference any way. Which leads me to the second part of my problem with Lucy.

    The weakness of the goal made me not care one iota. Yes, having access to “the mysteries of the universe” is cool, but there’s no personal connection whatsoever. The reason a good GSU movie involving saving someone (yourself or a loved one) is the typical model is because it has the capacity to resonate on a very visceral level with 99% of the audience. (Since we’re throwing around made up percentage stats, I felt the need…) As a dad, Taken hit me like a truck in that regard. You get the “what would I do?” question rolling through your head the whole time while you watch Liam Neeson do what you wish you could. Lucy didn’t even give us the benefit of the unresolved relationship to fix – a weaker, but still effective tool.

    Without feeling the danger of the gang as they closed in, and not caring if she completed her bio super computer thingy she was building all Akira-style, I was left with the writer/director’s big ideas about the universe and reality at the climax, which I found not the least bit engaging. Thus, my brain has taken to nit-picking the crap out of the rest of the movie. In hindsight, I’d rather not have paid theater prices to see it, so it’s not horrible. But it’s not exactly good either.

    The only plus I can think of, at this point, is that a successful movie with Johansson in the lead is basically going to guarantee a Black Widow movie.

  • charliesb

    Yes!! (though I agree)

  • klmn

    Someone ‘splain it to me. What’s the deal with Carson and Brett Rattner?

    • cjob3

      It’s not just him. Ratner is like the industry whipping boy for some reason.

      • Scott Crawford

        He was supposed to have made a film about Hugh Heffner, and instead made stuff like Hercules. Probably very enjoyable stuff, but at this stage of his career, like Michael Bay, he should be trying to push himself.

        He’s a much-liked guy – his answer phone message for some time was by Michael Jackson. The worst was when people criticized him for X-Men 3. Criticism of the movie aside, Ratner was a last minute replacement for Matthew Vaughn. I think he had about six weeks to get ready before they started shooting.

        Interesting screenwriting-related anecdote – this is a screenwriting-related website after all. When Ratner was doing Family Man he wanted Nic Cage to play the lead, so he rang up Nic’s friends (see how important it is to be well-liked) like Sean Penn and asked them what Nic’s favorite things were – Patek Phillpe watches, Ferraris, Gucci suits, whatever – and then put them in the screenplay. So Cage would want to do it.

        So if you want Scarlett Johannson in your screenplay, find out what she likes and maybe put some of that in your script.

      • Jim

        Back when he was prepping Red Dragon, he essentially let his ego rip saying something along the lines that he was going to do the film “right” or insinuated Michael Mann’s version, Manhunter, was a inferior. Those things tend to stick in people’s minds. Don’t know if that’s the case here, but it certainly left an impression on me.

        • Scott Crawford

          He DOES have an ENORMOUS ego – but then he’s a director. I’m a writer – when I’m not procrastinating – and I like what I write. It would be strange if I didn’t. Regards Red Dragon – which I preferred over Manhunter, but anyway – what was he supposed to say – “My version is not as good.” – “I wanted to do a worst version of the novel.”?

          Of course, there’s egotism and there’s being a dick and you could just about slip a playing card between the two, but I don’t think accusing a writer or a director or an actor of being an egotist is as much of an insult as it might be to, say, a politician.

        • klmn

          Here’s my prerelease poster for the film Manhunter, from when it was to be titled Red Dragon. The picture is hung straight – I just held the camera crooked.

          • klmn

            Trying again.

          • klmn

            Sorry for the double post.

          • Jim

            Any idea what prompted the title change?

          • Scott Crawford

            Producer Dino De Laurentis – a terrific but eccentric producer – had just lost money on Year of the Dragon, the Michael Cimino picture written by Oliver Stone. Dino evidently considered the word “Dragon” unlucky! At least, that’s the legend.

          • Scott Crawford

            A rare example of the character in the movie using the exact gun as described in the book.

  • kenglo

    The trailer made the movie, and Scar-Jo is just, I don’t know, hot, I guess….Women kicking ass always trumps guys kicking ass, contrary to studio belief(s). WANTED was all Jolie, SALT, TOMB RAIDER….I want to see EVERLY…..FIFTH ELEMENT, KILL BILL, RESIDENT EVIL, UNDERWORLD, all of them made money. Yet, I always read/hear, “write a film about a dude kicking ass”…..counterproductive if ya ask me. Most of my early scripts were about ladies kicking ass, until I read somewhere that studios want a male lead. Girls with guns or swords…..that’s the ticket! CROUCHING TIGER!!

    Been on vacation, refreshed and ready to roll!!!

    • IgorWasTaken

      kenglo wrote: “Women kicking ass always trumps guys kicking ass, contrary to studio belief(s).

      And yet in 1996, “The Long Kiss Goodnight”, which I liked, made only $9M opening weekend (OK, it did open in October), and made just $33.5M total domestic ($56M foreign).

      • Scott Crawford

        The exception that proves the rule that proves there are no rules. Nobody knows anything, as Bill Goldman once said (and which is usually taken out of context).

        Third quadrant – women over 25 – like movies with women, particularly those over 25, but women over 25 read and LISTEN TO critics. Mama Mia aside, they won’t go see a badly reviewed film. That being said, The Other Woman was an early, modest success this year because it just had a little less testosterone.

        • kenglo

          “The exception that proves the rule that proves there are no rules. Nobody knows anything……”


        • koicvjr

          And it’s the girls under 25 who don’t think, generally speaking.

      • kenglo

        I love that film, I still don’t understand why it never did well.

        • Scott Crawford

          The script was a $100 million movie, but New Line only had $65 million. It was R-rated. Cutthroat Island had come out the year before. It featured a woman being waterboarded and a child in danger, which may have put off the women.

          And then there’s the “X-factor”. The “nobody knows why” factor. It’s the reason that New Line – like all non-studio studios – collapsed. Every studio knows that they can’t predict how their films are going to do, so they make a portfolio of different films balancing, I don’t know, Star Wars along with The Other Side of Midnight. Giant walking dog alongside a Harold Robbins bestseller – who knew which would be a hit. But studios like 20th Century Fox can handle that.

          New Line ultimately couldn’t balance enough hits against the misses – because no one can accurately predict what will be a hit. You just have to do the best you can.

          Incidentally, Shane Black sold to New Line because they had Renny Harlin and Geena Davis on board. They didn’t offer the most money. Colombia did – $5 million and James L. Brooks as producer. With Jim Brooks producing on a $100 million budget – aww, who knows. Can’t predict what if. Still a good film.

          • kenglo

            So yeah, I notice, an R-rated film only does so much business. If you look at the KILL BILLs, they each made roughly 66/70M respectively. I was always under the assumption that an R-rated film only made x amount. But over the last decade or two, they have jumped up to the 100-120 mark. Mostly because they are R-rated comedies I guess….??? Ah, who knows… rhyme or reason….

          • Scott Crawford

            The Equalizer will be R-rated, like Man On Fire was ten years ago. Or The Taking of Pelham 123. R-rating can be very successsul difficult to imagine many films without – but you’re narrowing your target audience, so you better be a good shot.

          • koicvjr

            But the ironic thing is that–if you think back to when you were 14–the best movies were R-rated. Sneaking in to see the Devil’s Advocate.

          • koicvjr

            Super informative and helpful!

        • koicvjr

          Other variables?

  • Jim

    OT: Last link I’ll post here as I don’t want to spam – new article up. Can you believe it’s been 20 years since The Shawshank Redemption was released? Here I discuss theme and perspective and how they combine through the main character in an article I hope you find informative and useful! If you like, please subscribe, follow, share and wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care! Well, you can skip that last part…

  • Scott Strybos

    I can still feel the sting from the disappointment after watching Besson’s Lockout in the theatre. My friends were there but they all went to see a different film (Cabin in the Woods, I think). But I would not budge. I wanted to see Lockout! I was crazy for the trailer (
    –so over-the-top, running full steam, embracing every cliché, completely self-aware but taking itself seriously too. I wanted to love this film. But sadly it did not live up to the trailer. I should try watching the film again. I think I saw it on Netflix.

    • Scott Crawford

      The opening interrogation was terrific, a really great twist on an old standard (“I’m being interrogated by a man named Rupert!”), in fact everything to do with Guy Pearce’s character was great – I like Pearce, I think he’s funny, and I think he does the best with what he’s got. But the rest of the movie… meh.

      Lockout began as a short and Besson helped the writers expand it. But it really doesn’t seem as if they worked hard enough on the story – great lead character, no story.

      • Scott Strybos

        Yeah, I remember Lockout starting really strong and thinking to myself… “Thank-God, this is going to be awesome and live up to the trailer”…

    • Midnight Luck

      Yes, I was so, so, so disappointed when I saw it. I was interested by the trailer as well, and it looked like it might be good.

      Trailers can be such orchestrated liars.

      It was about as bad as a movie can get. The CGI was laughably terrible. The story as well.

  • walker

    That opening note does a great job of preventing me from interpreting it as pretension on his part.

    • Scott Crawford

      I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen a script online where the writer/director tells the reader NOT to think this a comedy, even though some of the lines may seem funny, it’s meant to be taken seriously.

      Knock, Knock! Who’s there? This is not a joke. Don’t laugh. This is serious. I will TELL you when something is funny. That’s pretension.

  • E.C. Henry

    Luc Benson is only using 10% of his brain. Brett Ratner only 2%. Nice graft in of humor, worth reading the review right there!

  • Citizen M

    Pure action heroin cut with some crapulous science.

    Total rubbish but I loved it.

  • mulesandmud

    Just a friendly reminder, routinely stated by smarter people than myself: the quality of a film (or script) is almost unrelated to its opening weekend box office numbers, especially in the modern blockbuster climate.

    Actual quality of material mattered more when films had staggered or roadshow releases; back then, movies lingered in theaters long enough for critical acclaim and word of mouth to cause a rolling thunder of second-wave or repeat viewings. Nowadays, good word-of-mouth might mean a 10% bump in the second week, but those films are often in and out of theaters before the reviews sink in, or else they’re overshadowed by the next big weekend release.

    Exceptions do happen, which is encouraging if for no other reason than they punch holes in the almost-airtight logic of the studio marketing departments. And in the indy world, there’s still room for an occasional surprise success, though even those runaway arthouse ‘hits’ rarely post numbers that earn much respect from the corporate gods.

    There are lots of variables in play: the marketing budget, fanbase (of IP or star or in rare cases the filmmaker), the luck of the weekend draw, etc. Artistic merit is on that list somewhere, I guess…probably near the bottom. And the quality of the film’s script represents just a fraction of that artistic merit.

    MOONFALL just reminded us that a spec deal is not the same thing as a quality script, just as TRANSFORMERS reminded us that big box office is not the same thing as a good movie. There are overlaps, of course, and it’s great to talk about all of these things, but let’s be sure not to confuse one for the other.

    • Midnight Luck

      I absolutely agree.

      Back in 1998 when There’s Something About Mary came out it did OK business, but then it lagged and disappeared. Then a few months later it came back with a vengeance and you couldn’t escape it, It was everywhere.

      Same thing happened with Pulp Fiction, though not in the same way, or for the same reason. While Mary almost disappeared for good as people hadn’t caught on to it being worthwhile, Pulp Fiction was just phenomenal out of the gate and eternally built on it’s own quality and word of mouth.

      I have felt for so long that people are too quick to judge a movie. That production co’s give them no time to slow burn, especially the Indie’s. No one gives them the air, the space, to breathe and grow.

      I think we could have such a different film world if movies were allowed that consideration.

      Sadly, the new tech love world we have is changing everyone’s brain and synapse. They are no longer capable of thinking through and over longer periods of time. The short, instant feedback, instant reward system we have going, creates no time and no thought for what could be. (read THE SHALLOWS by Nicholas Carr, it is all about how the Twitterverse and changing use of our brain from technology, is forever altering our way of thinking).

      I hope it changes. The way we are going, we are going to revert back to Gnats, and will only have less than a second of thought.

      Driving will be strange.

  • Midnight Luck

    Haven’t read the script, from your impression of the script it sounds a lot better than the movie was.

    Saw the movie over the weekend as there was nothing else to see, and because my Brother loves action / sci-fi, and it was the kind of movie that sort of fit what we both might agree on. I love The Professional / Fifth Element / Taken (1) Luc Besson, but wonder who on earth the Lock Out / Transporter (did he have a part in CRANK being made?) Luc Besson is. This felt way closer to the Lock Out Luc Besson, and it was. Just Dumb, Dumb, Wow SPARKLY THINGS, Dumb, Dumb, Dumb…Ohhh Pretty….

    So slick with style, very small with anything else. He was trying so hard to make it Deep and Intellectual, and it contained nothing Deep or interesting. Very grade school like ideas of what using more than 10% of your brain might look like. It felt like a different version of TRANSCENDENCE. At one point LUCY is using one hand for each of two computers and typing something on each of them at rocket speed. What is she typing? who the f knows? But the screens are just multiple layers of falling multi colored numbers. The whole thing looks so dumb as it tries to look “computer-y” and amazing. It comes off just stupid and uninspired instead.

    The movie is filled with so much of that kind of thing it was exhausting in its ridiculousness and small mindedness.

    In all honesty it felt like it was trying to be THE MATRIX on a budget. It had a lot of the terrible MATRIX dialogue and quasi-intellectual conversation, but it still ran on only ONE cylinder, while the Matrix ran on two (sometimes).

    So yes, I was one of those people who gave my $9 on Friday to this P.O.S.

    What I really wanted to see is BOYHOOD, which also opened here. I will be seeing that one, alone, today, since no one else seems interested in it at all. I can’t wait to see it, as it looks phenomenal. That is my kind of summer movie.

    So LUCY was a fail in my view.
    But thank god i forced into seeing Hercules,
    as I might have had to blow my brains out part way through it to save myself from the grating stupidity. It looked so terrible.

    Get ready to be Lobotomized while having fun at the Summer Movies!

  • ripleyy

    I’m really confused why no one has questioned comic sans as a screenwriting font. Personally I would have gone with Impact but that’s just me.

    • IgorWasTaken

      Seriously… I liked the Comic Sans – because it told me, “Look, this reads dead-serious, but it’s really over-the-top action.”

      IOW, if a reader might otherwise roll his/her eyes at some of the “science” in here, the Comic Sans says, “Don’t do that.”

      I also really like the insert “NOTA” page. It’s to the point and it works. I only laughed because LUC BESSON felt the need to do that. AND, to also mention, “Don’t interpret this [NOTA] as pretention on my part…” If the guy is really as humble as that, then that’s impressive. But still, it made me laugh.

  • SinclareRose

    Wow, another script link. Crazy stuff is happening here! I was surprised there wasn’t a link for Taken as a comparison.
    I’m so glad this was at least a Worth the Read. I actually want to see this one.
    There’s a lot of talk about female leads vs. male leads…. I don’t think that had anything to do with Lucy making more than Hercules this weekend. I don’t even remember if I bothered to watch the Hercules trailer, we all know that story, we’ve never seen Lucy and it just looked better. Besides, The Rock is better in the kid movies – The Tooth Fairy and Journey 2 are hilarious.
    Okay, back to researching my family history. Checkin’ out the 1860 Census sheets now. Oh yeah, that’s how I procrastinate my writing! Exposition sucks!!!

  • Scott Crawford

    I like Olivia Munn, so I wasn’t happy about that interview. Stupid is word I woulduse. The f-word thing was a throwaway remark. Poor choice of words, but in the context of the interview, almost certainly intended as a throwaway joke. “Do you do rehearshals?”, “Rehearsals are for ___.” There are similar lines in lots of films: Mahoney in Police Academy says “Sleep’s for ____.” for example.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I cannot believe how amazingly effin’ slow this starts out. 24 pages just to get her up to Mr. Wang’s and knocked out?

    Even Tarantino, whose dialogue would be long but interesting, would do it in 1/3 the pages.

    Just the opening 10 pages:

    Please, Lucy.

    No, Richard.

    And then, repeat that back-and-forth “banter” – and you have the opening 10 pages.


  • koicvjr

    Carson said he can’t stand it when writers don’t leave a space between paragraphs. Besson’s script is replete with this. Myself, I feel the evolution of formatting moving in this direction. Push-pull…

  • koicvjr

    And can someone comment on this: Why, if the script comes in at 115 pages, does the movie come in at ninety minutes? Rules, huh.

    • IgorWasTaken

      In this thread, eskiimomo did some calculations and found that 23.5 pages in comic sans works out to 16.5 in regular Courier FD.

      So, that’s about 70%. And 70% of 113 pages equals about 79.4 pages.

      • koicvjr

        Simple explanation–makes sense.

    • blue439

      Also, things get cut out during editing. What may have been necessary in the script to explain things in dialogue might be accomplished by a look or cut so the dialogue ends up cut. It’s not apparent that something may be unnecessary reading the script as there are just words, not sound + picture, but once the movie’s filmed and being edited, the redundancies become clear. Most pictures are shorter than their page count for this reason.

      • koicvjr

        Thank you. Once again this shows how the page count rules are more an industrial motivation and especially a criterion set by the pressures of being a reader or someone in the industrial side of things rather than the creative side.

  • carsonreeves1

    We need to reevaluate everything with the new comic sans font. First acts, second acts, inciting incidents. Nothing will ever be the same except for the fact that comic sans immediately makes your script 17% better.

    • klmn

      That means everyone submitting to Amateur Friday – or sending to Carson for notes – should convert to comic sans.

      • IgorWasTaken

        klmn wrote: “… should convert to comic sans.

        Does that require a comic mohel?

  • IgorWasTaken

    Interesting. And yet, I still say that opening scene is slow, even if he does hit a mark. He could hit that mark, and along the way let us know more about other things. On the page, it’s banter that’s not witty.

    Now, even if it does run on the screen as it does on the page (i.e., not edited down), maybe it’s fun to watch Scarlett do her thing for that long. But, right or wrong, I’m convinced that that scene with Lucy and Richard needs to be cut by 40%, at least. We get it.

  • BSBurton

    Scarlett’s involvement is the only reason it did cash. She’s an action A lister now. This movie had a 1,000 problems and the logic missing. no one experienced these side effects before on the drug? Why did her hand start dissolving on the plane?

    the whole 10% of the brain was old when disney used it in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. jeez!

    And why didn’t she kill the villain dude when she killed all the henchmen outside the room?

    It was pitiful.

    • astranger2

      You’re such a buzz kill, BS… sheesh…

      When I see Scarlett Johansson it makes me use only 1% of my brain…

      Any time I gaze upon her, the only organ in the “suspension of disbelief” mode is the chaotic grey matter in my cranium…. ; v )

  • Malibo Jackk

    Think some people are underestimating the trailer.
    Has my vote for trailer of the year.

    This is art, craft, and primal.
    (And you’re worried that it doesn’t make sense?)

  • Film_Shark

    Here’s why ‘Lucy’ worked. Scarlett Johansson is so darn captivating to watch. I could watch her eat a croissant and sip a cappuccino at a sidewalk cafe and not get bored. The other reason it worked is that Luc Besson knows action films. He gets you in the beginning scene and never lets go. No matter how ridiculous the plot gets and it gets downright silly, you cannot help but stay engaged to the very end. Screenwriters can learn a lot from him.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    I’m not sure how exciting of an article would that be. Carson will say that there aren’t any clear GSUs on GoT (although, the main goal is clear and powerful: get the throne).

    He will also talk about the kiss of death of a scene: people sitting in a room and talking.

    Maybe it would be more interesting to truly and deeply dissect why GoT is loved almost universally in spite of the above.

    • Sebastian Cornet

      It would be a kickass article precisely because the details aren’t all that clear! The deep analysis would be better, though, that’s true.

  • Panos Tsapanidis

    “I was even thinking of writing an article about how the GSU model needed to evolve to survive this change.”

    I’d read that.

  • geoff

    off subject but does anyone know how to get hands on the “hateful eight” script? I am dying to read it!

    • Scott Crawford

      Rhymes with “kickglass orrents”. Google it.

  • carsonreeves1

    Despite these problems, it was a really fun read. I didn’t focus on that much because I’m a curmudgeon. But yeah, it was a nice fast-paced story, if a little empty.

  • blue439

    One thing to take from Lucy’s success is it centers on a FEMALE action hero. 50% of the audience was female, which is huge for an action movie. Put a guy in the lead and it doesn’t do nearly as well, maybe even a flop for being too brainy. There’s clearly an audience for this kind of movie that’s not being served. Hard to believe ScarJo as an action lead but with this she is.

  • BSBurton

    If the drug was brand new, why would anyone buy it. “Hey, you wanna pay money for this drug that no one knows about and we don’t know what it’ll do?” Yeah, that’s not a sound business plan to ship the shit across Europe.

    Or why does the woman shoot all the evil guy’s henchmen and a cab driver but only stabs the dude’s hands? She killed the henchmen literally 3 seconds before stabbing the guy’s hands. She didn’t have a epiphany about transcending violence then. So it doesn’t make sense.

    Or why does she decompose in the airplane and then it never again happens and it’s never brought up?

    And why does she give that weird speech about her mom’s tit milk. THat’s not a plot problem, it’s just weird! lol.

    • claudethewriter

      You should watch the film again and think like a writer, not a movie critic.