Premise: In a future where nuclear war is imminent, humanity’s last hope is an artificially intelligent robot being escorted up through South America by two low-level Brazilian criminals.
About: Today’s script is the new spec that just sold from Ryan and Matthew Firpo, the writers behind number 1 Black List script, Ruin. Whereas that script dealt with World War 2, this one deals with an impending World War 3.
Writers: Ryan and Matthew Firpo
Details: 132 pages! – Nov 20, 2017 draft
We’re two days past The Black List and two days away from the latest release of the biggest sci-fi franchise in the world. So I thought, let’s split the difference. We’ll review a sci-fi spec from the writers who scored the number 1 Black List script! It’s almost poetic.
In the near future, a nuclear attack in Korea has left the entire planet on the brink of war. A global government body called the ITA has come up with a potential solution. Because humans seem destined for violence, why not leave the world in the hands of an artificially intelligent president.
This AI is called “Deep Unity,” a perfect AI program developed by Elon-Musk-like Anders Vik that takes human emotion out of the equation. What could go wrong? We’re just days away from a global election on whether to allow Deep Unity to take over. And the race is tight!
Meanwhile, down in Rio, two brothers slash criminals, Primo and Caspar, are looking to score a job. They need money so they can escape to Cuba, the last place in the world without internet. They sign up for their most elaborate job yet, transferring a pleasure android up the coast into Columbia. A road trip that will net them a couple hundred grand.
Jaji, the woman hiring them, refuses to tell them why the android, Mimi, is so valuable. But they soon find out when, on the first leg of the trip, they’re attacked by American mercenaries. That’s when Mimi first powers up and casually kills the group of soldiers.
Primo and Caspar aren’t so sure about this job anymore. But if they want the other half of their dough, they have to complete the mission. After meeting with a member of the “terrorist group,” the Citizens, (spoiler) they find out that Mimi is actually the real Deep Unity. And that the Deep Unity that will be used to rule the world is secretly human-influenced.
Primo comes up with a new plan. Let’s head over to Cuba, sell this way-more-trouble-than-she’s-worth Mimi chick to a boater, and get themselves to their version of Zihuatanejo. But the more idealistic Caspar wonders if they don’t have a duty to deliver Mimi to the people who can use her to stop Fake Deep Unity. It’s a morality showdown. Who’s going to win this argument? If you’ve watched movies before, you probably have a good idea.
Mimi From Rio has world-building up the wazoo. It’s wildly ambitious in that area, not just creating an entire future, but creating an entire political landscape. I’ve read so many scripts at this point, that I know when a writer’s put 5 minutes into his world-building or 5 months. Mimi From Rio’s world-building contains so much detail, it feels like it took a year to come up with. It’s that intricate.
I gotta give it to the brothers on the location of the story as well. Most of these types of scripts will be placed in America or a well-known Western European country. To shift our story down into South America adds an entirely new flavor to the science-fiction proceedings.
Unfortunately, that’s where the originality ends. Well, maybe not ends. But the rest of the story elements feel familiar. The most prominent of these is Mimi. I can’t tell you how many scripts I read where a robot or amnesiac woman/girl “wakes up” and has the ability to kick anybody’s ass, no matter how big.
Once something becomes a “thing,” it’s no longer interesting. That kind of choice is only interesting when we haven’t seen it before. We now live in a cinematic universe where 80% of the characters we see onscreen are superheroes in some form or another. So when yet another one arrives, packaged similarly, it’s hard to get excited about them. I don’t know if I’m getting too “get off my lawn” about this. But I’m telling you guys. I see this choice ALL the time.
With that said, these guys know how to write a script. They know how to structure properly. They know how to hit plot beats when you’re supposed to hit them. They know how to add a twist at just the right moment, send in a new character, kill a character off. Everything seems to come at just the right time. And even though you think you can predict what’s going to happen next, they manage to slide the reveal over a couple of notches and surprise you. The stuff with Jaji, the Americans chasing them, Anders Vik, and the political climate in general were all well done.
So why aren’t I going bonkers over this?
Something about this specific sub-genre has never worked for me. By “sub-genre,” I mean near-future, world in disarray, male protagonist escorting a special woman character. It’s a whole lot of world-building to essentially create a “characters travel from point A to point B” movie. A classic example of how unmemorable these movies can be is Vin Diesel’s Babylon A.D. I mean, it’s basically the same film.
In my experience, the best way to write these movies is to go the “gimmick” route. You come up with a tight premise, simple mythology, and gimmick-ize it. The best example of this is Children of Men. In a world where we can no longer pro-create, a guy must transport the last pregnant woman in the world to safety. Instantly understandable mythology that takes 2 seconds to explain. And the gimmick is that the movie is told in a series of one-takes.
Whether Mimi from Rio can withstand the more elaborate version of this formula will in part be determined by who signs on to direct and who stars. If it’s a high-level package, they’ll get a ton of money, which will allow them to realize this complex vision. But you guys know me. I’m all about the simplicity. Keep it simple. Focus it in. Don’t expand it out. So this one was too ambitious for me.
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: If you have a ton of world-building (mythology) in your script, that means more exposition (more explaining). Every second you’re explaining is a second you’re not entertaining. Which is why you either want to keep the mythology simple or, if it’s complex, leave as much of it off the page as you can get away with (and have your script still make sense).