Thursday, April 5, 2012

So, as an exercise, in 2001 Garcia and I thought up a blockbuster we could sell

So, like, way back in 2001, I was working in a video studio on UT's campus.  Why and what we were doing isn't relevant (distance learning), but we hired bright-eyed RTF students to help us out.  In fact, that's how I started there, actually.

Anyhoo, a student worker and I were kicking back one day and were wondering how one cooks up a plot to a movie like, oh, say... Armageddon, thinking of it as blockbuster movie bingo rather than a compelling narrative. In that, Garcia and I cooked up SP666.

SP666 was a movie in which a wrongly convicted Bruce Willis was serving time in the near/ distant future on a penal colony built upon an asteroid.  Of course the asteroid would house only the worst scum of the solar system, watched over by a tough-minded bureaucrat Andre Braugher and his worn-thin security crew headed by the cruel and disposable Eric Roberts.

Willis would arrive at the colony and befriend Robert Duval, the old, wise crook who regretted his crime and the life he'd led here at SP666 (Space Prison 666 - cause, you know, its like being sent to hell).  He'd show Bruce Willis the ropes, keep him alive and steer him clear of the very bad but intelligent bad-guy, probably Jimmy Smits.

In the second act the prisoners would riot/ mutiny and Bruce Willis would be forced to hatch a plan to try to survive.  Further, the stabilizer jets would now be on (turned on by a weaselly but technically savvy character actor like Steve Buscemi who had glommed onto Jimmy Smits to survive here in SP666).  Smits would declare his intention to return the prisoners to earth or ram the planet with the prison, killing millions.   Andre Braugher would be beat up some, and Bruce Willis would protect his sexy daughter (it was agreed it didn't matter who we cast here as she'd be forgotten by Hollywood in a year).  And, of course, Smits would do something awful and gross to Eric Roberts that you can only do killing someone in space.

Of course, Bruce Willis has to stop Jimmy Smits.  So, you know... lots of protecting the sexy daughter, lots of fighting space criminals.  Some danger tied to vacuum and space conditions.  And, of course, Bruce Willis's old pal played by Ed Harris is watching all this from Space Comm, back on Earth.

In the third act twist, we learn that Robert Duvall is actually the mastermind behind Smits, and he has no intention of slowing SP666, because he's secretly CRAZY.  Earth is going to pay for making him spend 40 years on a godforsaken rock (its also too sick to live).  Smits, who doesn't want to die, tries to stop Duvall who kills Smits while monologuing in front of a concealed Willis.

Bruce Willis tries to stop the engines, and confronts a well-armed Duvall in the engine room.  Willis wins, but they must evacuate the prison which the President (a semi-respected 50's-ish actor, probably a minority, will play) is going to destroy with nukes.  Ed Harris tries to give Bruce Willis more time, he succeeds when Willis slows the asteroid/ prison.  Our heroes escape in the shuttle flown by the sexy daughter and...  EXPLOSION.

Over the credits, we hear a washed up, but generally still popular band playing a ballad.

I don't know if Lockout is better or worse than SP666.  I do think our casting was better.

Its kind of weird to see this movie actually happen, but it tells me a bit about the writing process for feature films.  And that I should be a millionaire at this point.

I still think the 90's killed the action movie as we know it, partially because the audience seemed to come to awareness of the interchangeability of the moving parts that went into making a big, blockbuster action film.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it has meant that the audience became somehow even harder to please, and you're now left selling action movies to an audience that doesn't care that their movies are that predictable or who are sort of amazed every time they magician knows which card was theirs.

I dunno.  I just laughed out loud when I saw the trailer for Lockout.  


Matt A. said...

The basic elements of the plot sound a whole lot like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, in which a prison colony on the moon turned harsh new frontier land strikes a rebellion against the earth oppressors, and starts throwing huge rocks onto the earth as a weapon.

The League said...

Perhaps the common element is our innate knowledge that "space prisoners would be jerks".

Simon UK said...

"I'd buy that for a dollar", but yeah, audiences these days are a wierd mix of knowledgable about film genre but still clueless about what makes a good film, or even scarier- uncaring, otherwise Twilight, Transformers etc would not be successful.

The League said...

Well, to some extent I have to write off anyone under 22 coming to Twilight or Transformers. I'd buy that they haven't spent much time thinking about what they're watching, and cliches, tropes, and good/bad is still a foreign concept. Its when I talk to someone 23 and up run into the uncaring bit that tweaks me.

I have to also remember: this is subjective.

The most powerful force in how we relate to movies seems to be our expectations, and the art of managing those expectations seems to allude both audience and promoters.