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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Screenplay Review: The Island

I often see movies coming out that I was given to read professionally, at some point. So I thought it might be interesting to go back to my coverage and get a review of the screenplay out there. Maybe I'll make this a recurring feature. Who knows? I'd like to start with this weekend's big budget Sci-Fi action flick, The Island.

I read The Island as a general writing sample for screenwriter Alex Kurtzman, and did my coverage on 12/10/04. Draft version was dated 11/19/04, so it was presumably one of the later drafts for the script, if not the shooting script itself.


Here's the logline I wrote:

Two people uncover lies, discovering they are actually clones raised for their organs, and set about saving their peers.

Not the strongest logline ever written, but you get the picture.

In brief, my comments seem to be in keeping with some of the others I've recently read in reviews of the film overall. The plot is highly derivative, but the details are strong. And judging by the commercials and trailer I've seen, those details come through in some pretty strongly visual action sequences. Clearly such things (along with the popularity of the stars) indicate some decent commercial potential for this film, but a stronger and more inventive script might have offered even stronger potential. As is, this film is likely to do relatively well, but will prove largely forgettable.

What follows is a slightly modified version of the comments I wrote in my coverage of this script. This may also give you a feel for the style in which coverage reports are written, for those who have never seen one. I've left in references to specific plot points that might not mean much to you here, but the comments were attached to a synopsis, and thus would also make sense to the reader of the coverage. Hope you'll get the gist:

The Island is much stronger in its details than in its conception. While the concept of the film overall is highly derivative, many specific plot points are both clever, and wittily written. There are also some plot holes that further weaken the script overall. Thus, as a general writing sample, The Island offers mixed comment on Kurtzman'’s skill as an author.

On a macro level, The Island is sadly derivative of multiple films and books of the genre, offering little to add to the pantheon. The film'’s concept is overly familiar, and many specific background elements (such as the "“evolution"” of later generation clones) have similarly been over-utilized in films of this sub-genre. In order to make this film stand out, it would need a much more original central concept.

Still, on a micro level, Kurtzman'’s skills seem significantly more promising. Many of the specific plot points are more surprising than is the concept overall. Minor twists, as well as the more significant, are generally presented adeptly. There are some decent moments of humor as well, to lighten the tone a bit. Some of these occur at inopportune times, but still the idea is right and it works more often than not.

Nonetheless, even on a smaller, detail level there remain some flaws as well. These particularly fall in the area of plot conception. For example, if the wristcuffs are able to read all of the agnates' vital signs, why would they not also be used for security purposes, preventing Lincoln from snooping around in the first place and allowing them to be tracked later? There are other similar flaws that, though not utterly destructive to the story, still add up to some shoddy and distracting craftsmanship.

Ultimately, Kurtzman shows himself worthy of further consideration. But his skills are certainly far from a certain success.

Okay, so that's it. Simple, but to the point. There is definitely room for commercial success, and I suspect this film will in fact succeed. But I think it could have had much more promise with a stronger and more inventive central premise.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

you voted it as a Pass then?

4:33 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I am afraid of The Island. But that's just me.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Well, it was a PASS specifically for this company, because it was not right for them. But the property itself (that received the PASS) was not really what I was reading it for, since it was just a writing sample. I gave Kurtzman a CONSIDER, which basically meant, "has some skills, but also some problems, better than many but not great."

And Paul, I'm not scared of The Island, I'm just scared of having to listen to idiots tell me it's the greatest movie ever, like they did with the (in my book) highly overrated The Matrix. Not saying that movie was bad, but it was just SO overrated. Then again, if I'm right in my predictions, that's not likely to happen anyway!

4:41 AM  
Blogger ThePete said...

I'll say The Matrix was bad. :) I've been hounded about my opinion of it already, so there. :)

Thanks for this post (and for drawing attention to it by posting a comment on my site!)--as a screenwriter myself I'm always interested in reading and learning more about the process a script goes through post-writer and as script readers you guys are the gatekeepers to the cathouse with the best hookers, IF you know what I mean.

While I agree with your general impression of the movie, personally, I think The Island will not do well in the box office. I think it will be just another movie in a slew of movies that movie goers just won't want to spend ten bucks for. Sure, both the leads are good actors AND hot. But I think people are looking for more happy, escapist fare or even, a plain old good movie. Of course, that's probably just wishful thinking.

Thanks for stopping by ThePete.Com, Joel! Sounds like we've got quite a bit in common. :)

8:27 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Well Pete, I (not so) secretly hope you're right! Welcome, and hope you'll come back again.

8:34 AM  

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