COWBOYS AND ALIENS AND TERRIBLE SCREENPLAYS

(NOTE: AT THIS POINT HULK HOPE IT CLEAR THAT HULK’S “REVIEWS” NOT REALLY TRADITIONAL WAY IN SENSE THAT ONE WOULD READ BEFORE TRYING DECIDE IF WANT SEE MOVIE OR NOT… THOUGH THEY COULD EASILY SERVE THAT PURPOSE. HULK JUST TAKING LOOK AT ONE CENTRAL ASPECT THAT HULK THINK MAKE THE MOVIE SUCCEED OR FAIL AND EXPLORING THAT CENTRAL CONCEPT FULLY. THIS SORT OF WHAT REGULAR REVIEWS SUPPOSED TO DO, BUT HULK GIVEN THE FREEDOM TO DO WHATEVER WANT SO HULK DOES SO.)

HULK WANT TO MAKE ONE THING CLEAR TO EVERY POTENTIAL STORYTELLER OUT THERE:

THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SOMETHING BEING A MYSTERY AND HAVING ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE WHO ANYONE IS ON SCREEN.

GOT IT? GOOD.

PLEASE UNDERSTAND HULK NOT TALKING ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE FOLLOW A PLOT. THAT SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY… AND NOT BE A DICK OR ANYTHING, BUT HULK CAN FIGURE OUT PLOTS JUST FINE.(1)

NO, HULK TALKING ABOUT CHARACTER MOTIVATION.

WHAT THAT? IT SOMETHING VERY SIMPLE: IT A CHARACTER’S TANGIBLE GOAL/POINT OF VIEW WITHIN ANY GIVEN SCENE, AND USUALLY SPEAKS TO WHO THAT PERSON IS IN THE OVERALL CONTEXT OF FILM. THEIR MOTIVATION SOMETHING YOU INNATELY SUPPOSED TO UNDERSTAND, MADE CLEAR BY THE SIMPLEST OF CHARACTER INTERACTIONS. FLIRTATION (“I WANT TO SLEEP WITH YOU”), FEAR (“STAY AWAY MISTER!”), ETC. IT MEANS THAT WHEN TWO CHARACTERS TALK YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT ONE PERSON WANT AND WHAT ANOTHER WANTS. THEN YOU TEND TO ROOT FOR THE  ONE YOU LIKE. AND GUESS WHAT? THIS PERSON OFTEN WANT SOMETHING YOU AS THE AUDIENCE WANT TOO. AS FOR THE ONE YOU DON’T LIKE? YOU ROOT AGAINST THEM . THIS SIMPLE INTERACTION OF CHARACTER MOTIVATIONS THE ENTIRE BASIS OF CONFLICT. AND IN CASE UNAWARE, TANGIBLE CONFLICT = THE ENTIRE BASIS OF STORYTELLING.

COWBOYS AND ALIENS HAVE, LIKE, NO CLEAR CHARACTER MOTIVATION… EVER.

THE PROBLEM STARTS WITH FACT THAT THE MOVIE TAKE THEIR MAIN CHARACTER (DANIEL CRAIG) AND SMUSH TOGETHER TWO VERY BASIC ARCHETYPES: THE BAD-ASS POSTURING HERO AND THE MAN WITH NO MEMORY. IT MISCALCULATION ON THE MOST BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF CHARACTER AND STORYTELLING. THE BAD-ASS POSTURING HERO SOMEONE WHO “COOL.” TO BE SO SIMPLE AND COOL THEY MADE UP OF VERY SIMPLE MOTIVATIONS. THEY HAVE HONOR CODES AND YET TEETER ON THE EDGE OF GOOD AND BAD. AND THAT CLEARLY WHO THEY WANT THEIR MAIN DANIEL CRAIG CHARACTER TO BE. THE PROBLEM THAT HE ALSO “THE MAN WITH NO MEMORY” WHICH INNATELY A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF PERSONALITY. THEY HAVE TO BE A DETECTIVE. A VERBALIZING CONDUIT OF EXPLANATION-AS-THEY-EXPERIENCE IT. HULK CAN THINK OF ONE OBVIOUS EXAMPLE, BUT IT AN ABSOLUTELY FIXTURE OF ANY STORYTELLING WHEN OUR MAIN CHARACTER HAVE TO UNRAVEL THE MYSTERY… BUT THE BAD-ASS HERO DOESN’T DO THAT. THEY BROOD. AND THEY WANDER.

THE NET RESULT OF THIS SMUSHING = A CHARACTER WHO WALKING AROUND WITH ABSOLUTELY NO CLEAR MOTIVATION. IT ABSOLUTELY KILLS ALL MOMENTUM AND NARRATIVE PROPULSION. MOST OF HIS INTERACTIONS INVOLVE FIGHTING PEOPLE THINGS AND HE/WE HAVE NO IDEA WHY HE DOING THAT. HE RESPONDING TO INSTINCTS OF A PERSONA WE NO TRULY UNDERSTAND UNTIL WAY, WAY, TOO LATE. AND THE WAY THESE BITS OF PERSONALITY DRIBBLED OUT COME OFF SO LIMP AND UN-REVEAL-LIKE. WHY? THE IN NAME OF… AMBIGUITY? AND ULTIMATELY, THE DETAILS FINALLY DELIVERED AS MERE LIP-SERVICE TO RENDER THEM SO TRITE AND OBVIOUS THAT THEY NOT WORTH THE MYSTERY WHATSOEVER. THE WRITERS MANAGED TO TURN THE MAN WITH NO MEMORY INTO A WASTED, AIR-LESS PURSUIT AND TURN THE BAD-ASS INTO AN EMPTY VESSEL OF POSTURE.

THIS POSING THE EXTENT OF HIS CHARACTERIZATION

HULK HOPE THAT THIS MOVIE PROVES THAT THIS SPECIFIC CHARACTER SMUSHING SHOULD NEVER, EVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

BUT HEY, IT WOULDN’T BE SUCH PROBLEM IF ALL THE OTHER CHARACTERS AROUND HIM WERE RIFE WITH MOTIVATION AND INPUT TO DRIVE THE NARRATIVE FORWARD, RIGHT? THEORETICALLY IT COULD BE THE BLANK NARRATOR WITH A COMMUNITY DRIVING THE STORY, RIGHT? PLEASE! RIGHT!??! I WANT TO LIKE THIS MOVIE!!!!!

TOO BAD THE OTHER MAIN LEAD AN INTENTIONALLY-ETHEREAL AND SOMEWHAT VACUOUS OLIVIA WILDE WHO SIMPLY SHOW UP AND DO MYSTERIOUS THINGS FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE RUNNING TIME. FOR ALL HULK KNOW SHE COULD HAVE BEEN PRETTY GOOD IN THIS MOVIE, BUT THERE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING THERE FOR HER TO DO. SHE MEANT TO BE A MYSTERY BUT THERE NOTHING THERE TO BOUNCE OFF OF! MYSTERY HAS TO HAVE A CONTEXT AND THERE IS NONE. THEREFORE THERE ZERO CHARACTER MOTIVATION BETWEEN THEM. SERIOUSLY, WE MOSTLY JUST WATCH THESE TWO GRUMBLE BACK AND FORTH AND MAYBE RUN FROM ALIENS WITH THIS MYSTERIOUS AIR ABOUT THEM, NOT TALKING ABOUT ANYTHING. IT COMPLETELY, TOTALLY, INESCAPABLY POINTLESS. WORSE THAN THAT, IT’S BORING.

THERE A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NOT KNOWING WHAT A CHARACTER UP TO AND NOT KNOWING WHO A CHARACTER IS.

THIS PERFECTLY CAPTURES THEIR DYNAMIC... SERIOUSLY

EVEN ON THE MOST STRUCTURAL LEVEL, THE PROBLEM WITH STAGING THIS MOVIE AS A MYSTERY THAT WE ALREADY KNOW WHAT IT ABOUT:  IT ABOUT ALIENS VERSUS-ING PEOPLE FROM THE WILD WEST. THAT IT. THE SPECIFICS ARE ONLY INTERESTING SO FAR AS TO DRIVE THE PLOT FORWARD. AND THE SPECIFICS NOT THAT INTERESTING.

CINEMA HAVE TO HAVE PURPOSE. IT JUST DOES. IF THERE A MYSTERY, WE HAVE TO BE WITH THE CHARACTERS ON THAT TRIP INTO MYSTERY. IT MOST REQUIRE INTRIGUE AND INTRIGUE BORN NOT OUT OF “NOT KNOWING WHAT GOING ON” BUT INSTEAD THE CONFLUENCE OF CONFLICTS. AND MYSTERY DEEPENS NOT JUST BY “LASTING A REALLY LONG TIME” (FOR FUCKS SAKE THIS MOVIE TAKES FOREVER TO GET TO THE ACTUAL CONCEIT) BUT IT DEEPENS WITH REVERSALS OF CHARACTER MOTIVATION AND INTENTION! EVEN WITH BIG CHARACTER TWISTS, THE REAL TWIST NOT THAT SOMETHING/SOMEONE DIFFERENT, IT THAT THERE A TWIST IN MOTIVATION. AS FOR COWBOYS? THE CHARACTER TWIST NOT AFFECT MOTIVATION WHATSOFUCKINGEVER, JUST IDENTITY. THE WHOLE MYSTERY/TWIST/STORYTELLING SCENARIO JUST A MOST BASIC FAILURE OF WRITING ON EVERY LEVEL.

SERIOUSLY, TWO OF THE LEADS ARE MOTIVATION-ZOMBIES.

ONE GOT THE SENSE THE FILMMAKERS REALIZED THIS AND TRIED TO CREATE A HUMAN DYNAMIC THAT MAKE IT ALL WORK.

ENTER: HARRISON FORD AS COLONEL SOMETHING-OR-OTHER. HE THE GRIMY, MEAN-AS-ALL-HELL RICH LANDOWNER WITH A SHIT-FOR-BRAINS SON. HE CRASS. HE MEAN. HE ALMOST DRAWS A MAN IN HALF BUT JUST HAS HIM DRAGGED INSTEAD. HE A SON-OF-A-BITCH FOR SURE. AND AT FIRST IT GREAT. FORD CHEWING SCENERY AND HULK COULDN’T WAIT FOR HIM TO BE AN OLD BASTARD THROUGHOUT THIS THING. MAYBE HE’LL HAVE A LITTLE TURN HERE AND THERE, BUT THIS THE CHARACTER WE GIVEN AND THE AUDIENCE READY TO GO ON A RIDE WITH THIS GUY.

… THEN HE GETS THIS BIG OLE’ GOOFY CHARACTER ARC. HULK IMAGINE WE SUPPOSED TO CARE BUT UNFORTUNATELY IT ONE OF THE MOST HAPHAZARDLY WRITTEN TRANSFORMATIONS HULK CAN REMEMBER. SURE ALL THE PIECES THERE, THEY JUST REVEALED IN A COMPLETELY BAT SHIT CONTEXT AND SCENE ORDER. HE SORT OF JUST SHOWS UP AND IS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSON DEPENDING ON THE SCENE. EVENTUALLY ONE CAN JUST USE THE PIECES TO SORT OF MAKE SENSE WHAT HE DOING, BUT IT TAKE A LOT OF FORGIVING ON AUDIENCE’S PART. MOSTLY IT JUST STRANGE.

WHY THIS HAPHAZARDNESS IMPORTANT? BECAUSE IT GO BACK TO WHAT HULK SAID BEFORE: CHARACTER MOTIVATION. IT SHOULD BE A JOURNEY. SOMETHING THE AUDIENCE UNDERSTAND AND EVOLVES WITH. AND THAT NOT THE CASE HERE. IT SHOWCASE A COMPLETE LACK OF UNDERSTANDING. THEY HAD AN IDEA WHO THIS PERSON WAS AND WHO THEY WANTED HIM TO EVENTUALLY BE, BUT HAD NO IDEA HOW TO GET THERE. IT LIKE THROWING ALL THE INGREDIENTS IN A BOWL AND CALLING IT A CAKE (THE AUDIENCE WOULD KILL FOR HIS CHARACTER TO BE MERELY CONSIDERED HALF-BAKED). AND IT BEAR MENTIONING THAT FORD AT LEAST GIVING IT HIS ALL. HIS SNARLING BADASS THE MOST FUN HULK HAD WITH HIM SINCE 1993 (AT LEAST UNTIL THIS CLIP). AND EVEN BY THE END HIS CHEESE-BALL TAKE ON THINGS STILL PRETTY DECENT IN TERMS OF PERFORMANCE. THE WRITING JUST MAKE IT ALL A WASTE AND THAT A SHAME.

NOT THIS BIG OF A SHAME THOUGH

SO THE THREE LEADS STRIKE OUT IN TERMS OF WRITING, SO WHAT ABOUT THE REST?

OH YEAH, THERE’S A “THE REST.”

ONE COULD TELL THE AIM OF THE MOVIE TO SET UP THAT STAGECOACH-LIKE CAST OF CHARACTERS THAT WE CARE ABOUT AND MAKE UP A BIG OLE’ GANG. USUALLY THE PURPOSE OF THIS TO GIVE THE MAIN CHARACTER A CONTEXT WITHIN LARGER STORY, SHOW THE FULL RANGE OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE AND PERSPECTIVE, AND POSSIBLY PROVIDE THE AUDIENCE WITH A FEW MOMENTS TO WELL UP AND FEEL SAD WHEN ONE OR MORE OF THEM DIES. BUT THE TRUE JOY OF ANY ENSEMBLE TO SEE THEM INTERACT AS A GROUP AND THEN GIVE THEM ALL MOMENTS WITH EACH OTHER THAT DEFINE THEM IN DIFFERENT LIGHT. IT THE VERY PURPOSE OF AN ENSEMBLE.

COWBOYS, MEANWHILE, JUST DECIDES TO PAIR THEM OFF AND GIVE THEM ALL THE SAME EXACT PLOT MOTIVATIONS. THREE MAIN CHARACTERS EACH LOSE SOME SIGNIFICANT OTHER AND THEN COME ALONG ON THE HUNT TO GET THEM BACK. SURE, THEY ALL SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT PEOPLE BUT THEY ALL HAVE TO MAN UP AND FIND SOME SORT OF COURAGE IN A VERY, VERY SIMILAR WAY. IN FACT, THE MOVIE LOVE TO DOUBLE UP ON THE SAME PLOT-LINES CONSTANTLY. THERE’S THE AFOREMENTIONED CRAIG AND WILDE MYSTERY DYNAMIC. AND HARRISON NOT JUST HAVE ONE BROKEN FATHER/SON RELATIONSHIP, BUT APPARENTLY THIS COMPLETE LACK OF DEPTH DESERVING OF TWO BAD FATHER/SON RELATIONSHIPS! NATURALLY, THE MOVIE MAKES THE MISTAKE OF WAITING WAY TOO LONG TO CLARIFY THAT THIS WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENING AND HULK GUESS THE TWO ARE SUPPOSED TO COMMENT ON EACH OTHER BUT IT NOT WORK LIKE THAT WHATSOEVER. IT JUST REPETITIVE SURROGACY DUE TO THE FACT HIS SON NOT AROUND AT MOMENT. THIS KIND OF STUFF AMATEUR HOUR BY THE WAY, IN THE MOST BASIC OF SCREENWRITING CLASSES ONE LEARNS THAT WHEN YOU HAVE MULTIPLE, SIMILAR PLOT-LINES AND CHARACTER MOTIVATIONS YOU JUST ASSIMILATE THEM INTO ONE ROUNDED CHARACTER WHO HANDLES IT. UNFORTUNATELY, THESE WRITES WERE SICK THAT DAY.

AND FOR FUCK’S SAKE THERE LIKE ONE ACTUAL GROUP SCENE WHERE THEY INTERACT IN THAT WONDERFUL ENSEMBLE-Y WAY AND IT LASTS, LIKE,  FIVE SECONDS. HULK SPEAKING OF COURSE OF THE SUPER BRIEF CAMPFIRE SCENE, AND GOLLY GEE, IT HAPPENS TO BE THE VERY SCENE WHERE EVERYONE CLEARLY EXPRESSING THEIR CHARACTER MOTIVATIONS FOR ONCE! AS RESULT? BASIC CHARACTER CONFLICT! HURRAY! THEY INTERACT. THEY BOUNCE OF EACH OTHER.THE CAN FINALLY CRACK JOKES. AND IT NOT THAT THE PLOT MAKING SENSE IT THAT THE CHARACTERS FINALLY MAKING SENSE.

UGH. IT JUST MAKE HULK SMASHY. THIS STUFF NOT THAT HARD. IT REALLY NOT. IT STUFF THAT JUST GETS PASSED ALONG THE CRAZY CONFUSION OF GREEN-LIGHTING A MOVIE WITHOUT A SCRIPT.

THE RESULT JUST AN ABSOLUTE DEBACLE OF A SCREENPLAY.

EVEN THIS PART SUCKS

… SO WHO ACTUALLY RESPONSIBLE? THAT WHAT MATTERS, RIGHT? ACCREDITED BLAME?

FIRST OFF, THIS MOVIE HAD LIKE 19 WRITERS (OKAY 5 CREDITED PLUS ONE EXTRA FOR STORY) BUT THAT MEAN ONE OF TWO THINGS. EITHER SOMEONE FUCKED UP WHAT ALREADY THERE OR NO ONE COULD EVER FIGURE IT OUT… HULK LEANING TO THE LATTER. ESPECIALLY GIVEN THAT THE PRIMARY FAILURE AT THE MOMENTUM-KILLING SMUSHING OF CRAIG’S TWO ARCHETYPES.

THE BIGGEST “NAME” WRITER ATTACHED TO THIS MOVIE = DAMON LINDELOF. HULK LOVED LOST AS MUCH NEXT HULK (ALBEIT SOME PROBLEMS WITH THE FINALE). BUT USUALLY HE MUCH MORE CAPABLE THAN THIS. HE NOT HAPHAZARD. HIS CHARACTERIZATION SO DAMN FUCKING STRONG. SURE, HE INDULGE IN “MYSTERY” FAR TOO MUCH FOR OWN GOOD AND PERHAPS THAT WHY THIS SCRIPT HEADED THAT WAY, BUT IT ALWAYS GROUNDED. BUT WHO KNOWS. MAYBE HE THE CULPRIT WHO TRIED TO IMBUE THESE MAIN CHARACTERS IN THE UNKNOWN WHEN THAT PRECISELY WHAT ROB THE MOVIE OF MOMENTUM INSTEAD OF ADDING INTRIGUE. HULK NOT KNOW.

THEN THERE THE WRITING TEAM OF MARK FERGUS AND HAWK OSTBY, WHO RESPONSIBLE FOR THE AWESOMELY-WRITTEN IRON MAN (JUST THE FIRST ONE), A GREAT LITTLE FIRST MOVIE CALLED FIRST SNOW, AND THEN A MOTHER-FUCKING STRAIGHT UP MASTERPIECE IN CHILDREN OF MEN. WHERE ARE THEY IN THIS MOVIE? HULK HAVE NO IDEA. THE WHOLE THING COULD HAVE BEEN THEIR FAULT, IT JUST THAT HULK CAN NO IMAGINE ALL THE PROBLEMS IN THIS THEIR FAULT. THEIR TRACK-RECORD TOO GOOD. THIS EDUCATED-BIAS? SURE. BUT THAT THE INFORMATION AT HAND.

WHICH LEAVES ROBERT ORCI AND ALEX KURTZMAN.

HULK THINK THEY SHOULD JUST GO AWAY… NOW.

HOW THESE TWO SOME OF THE MOST SOUGHT AFTER BLOCKBUSTER WRITERS AROUND? THEY NOT WRITTEN ONE GOOD SCREENPLAY THAT SHOW ANY SORT OF COMPETENT WRITING. AT ALL.

THEY JUST SEEM HAVE TWO GREAT CENTRAL RELATIONSHIPS (JJ ABRAMS AND MICHAEL BAY) AND INCREDIBLE PENCHANT FOR FINDING PEOPLE TO CINEMATICALLY-POLISH THEIR TURD-LADEN SCRIPTS. IN ORDER: STAR TREK (GREAT DIRECTION) AND MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III (SOLID DIRECTION) THE FIRST TRANSFORMERS (MEH). BUT EVERYTHING ELSE A FESTERING SHIT-PILE OF METRICALLY-QUANTIFIABLE ASS-RAPE: TRANSFORMERS 2 REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, THE ISLAND, THE LEGEND OF ZORRO (THE TERRIBLE 2005 SEQUEL) AND A LOT OF REALLY BAD TV RANGING FROM HAWAII 5-0 TO HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS. (2)

WELL HOW ABOUT THAT? WHAT THE CENTRAL THROUGH-LINE OF PRETTY MUCH ALL THESE MOVIES?

TERRIBLE PLOTTING AROUND THE AIR OF “MYSTERY” AND LACK OF TANGIBLE CHARACTER MOTIVATION CAUSING IT.

DING. DING. DING WE HAVE OUR WINNERS IN THE WHO-RUINED-COWBOYS-AND-ALIENS-SWEEPSTAKES!

OKAY, AGAIN, THIS TOTALLY UNFAIR. HULK NOT KNOW THE REAL STORY. NONE OF US WILL WITHOUT INSIDE INFO AND ALL THIS JUST HULK GOING OFF EDUCATED BIAS. NOTHING MORE. THE FINISHED SCRIPT COULD HAVE EASILY JUST THE RESULT OF GOOD INTENTIONS BUT TOO MANY COOKS IN THE KITCHEN. BUT THE AUDIENCE STILL PAY THE PRICE ON END RESULT: IT A BADLY WRITTEN MOVIE NO MATTER WHAT FUCKED IT UP.

WHICH MAKE IT UNFORTUNATE THAT MOST OF THE REPERCUSSIONS GOING TO GO TO JON FAVREAU ON THIS. HULK PRETTY SURE THIS MOVIE WILL NO BE HIT. HULK LIKE JON FAVREAU AS DIRECTOR A LOT. HE NOT EXACTLY TONE DEAF WITH COWBOYS, BUT HE TRYING TO WRANGLE ATMOSPHERE OUT OF A SCRIPT THAT HAVE NO PURPOSE. SOMETIMES HE AIR ON THE SIDE OF WESTERN VISTAS, OR TOUGH GUY ACTION, OR BROAD COMEDY, OR WTF IS HAPPENING-LEVEL-MYSTERY. BUT ULTIMATELY NONE OF THOSE THINGS HIS STRONG SUIT. HIS STRONG SUIT = CHARACTERIZATION.  LOOK AT THE CAREER: THE IRON MAN MOVIES, ELF, SWINGERS, ZATHURA(3) THE STRONGEST PART OF EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE MOVES THE CHARACTERIZATION. SO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HE GIVEN A SCRIPT WITH ABSOLUTELY NO CLEAR CHARACTER MOTIVATION? IT PROVES THAT ANYONE TALENTED CAN HAVE THE RUG TAKEN OUT FROM THEM.

IT JUST MAKE HULK SAD…

OH AND BY THE WAY. IT 2011. AS MUCH AS WE NEED MOVIES ABOUT THE COMPLEXITY OR RACE RELATIONS IN THE MODERN WORLD, IT NO LONGER 1996. WE CAN DO AWAY WITH THE OBLIGATORY “RACISM IS BAD” PLOT-LINES. OKAY? GOOD.

GO SEE ATTACK THE BLOCK INSTEAD.

TRUST

ENDNOTES:

(1) HULK THINK HULK HAVE PRIMER FIGURED OUT… MOSTLY.

(2) HULK SORRY IF YOU OFFENDED BY ASS-RAPE TERM. HULK TALKING MORE ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF VIOLATION HERE. BESIDES, IT A JOKE. BUT SERIOUSLY, THEIR MOVIES HAVE TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE SCRIPTS.

(3) ZATHURA GETS REMEMBERED AS THE THROWAWAY JUMANJI SEQUEL THAT STARRED DAX SHEPARD BUT IT REALLY WELL MADE FAMILY FILM… SERIOUSLY.

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