The Problem with Writing

For the few of you who may check this blog out on a semi-regular basis (and I mean few) you may have noticed a lack of activity. But I assure you it’s not from a sense of giving up.

Trying to become a writer is tough. It’s tough on relationships, it’s tough on your jobs, your family life.

I have had a crazy busy month. I’ve come upon a potential writing opportunity (which I should find out more about and can reveal more about later), so I have dedicated a lot of writing time to it, I’ve picked up a freelance corporate editing contract to supplement you know… living, and I’ve started building a homemade computer.

Due to this at the time of writing (May 19, also my birthday) the only movies I’ve seen since watching Batman Begins were all the short thesis films from my program, Neighbors in theatres, and Godzilla in theatres. But I’m gonna try to squeeze in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises to finish off my Batman marathon this week.

But in regards to just what is happening – when the opportunity presents itself, you gotta grab it. This writing opportunity could land literally nowhere or it could work out wonderfully. But I’ve had to dedicate a huge amount of time to it. I am constantly thinking of ideas for this project, half the conversations I have with my lovely patient girlfriend are in regards to how a character may act in this certain situation, etc. I have a notebook next to my bed in case I dream of something zany I could add.

The problem with writing is when you get that seed, you constantly are writing and have very little time for anything else.

But new blogs are coming soon!

Advertisements

From Script to (Big) Screen

So this is going to be a more personally based post today.

As some readers may recall, a few weeks ago I posted a trailer for a short film I did called Robbing Blind.

Facebook Banner… download it and use it! (shameless self-promotion)

On Saturday, June 22, 2013, I wrote the first draft for a short film called Doggone.
On Tuesday, September 3, 2013 I pitched the concept to my professors and fellows students.
On Friday, November 29, 2013 we had our first day of principal photography.
On Monday, April 7, 2014 we submitted our final cut.
And on Thursday, April 24, 2014, we screened it at a private screening for friends, family, cast, and crew for the first time, now called Robbing Blind, along with 10 other films. That’s a lifespan of 306 days for my short film.

Now usually, this isn’t a big deal – I’ve screened films I’ve done before to audiences, but this was a little different.

Robbing Blind was the first major comedy short film I’ve directed… and I wrote it. And this fact was terrifying to me.

Look! A movie reference! Get it? 'Cause I make movies!?

Look! A movie reference! Get it? ‘Cause I make movies!?

Last year, I co-produced and directed several projects including a heavy drama entitled Normalcy, written by my friend and fantastic editor on Robbing Blind, Margaret MacDougall. It was a tough film, but thanks to my terrific actors Jessie Behan, Megan Leach, and Nathan Hoppe, along with a fantastic crew (most of which ended up on Robbing Blind as well) it went over very well. (Trailer HERE)

I did a two minute comedy sketch entitled Mess for a small project… it was my first foray into comedy but it was tiny – one day production, $100 budget, and a cast of friends. It got laughs at the screening last year which made me feel good about myself. (Watch the whole film HERE)

And I co-directed, co-produced, co-edited, and co-wrote an experimental drama piece called with three other directors (all of whom worked various crew positions on Robbing Blind as well). It was a small project, and it finally screened this year in a small first-time festival in Burlington Ontario called the Tottering Biped Film Festival (Festival website HERE and trailer HERE).

But onto the point.

Out of the 11 films that screened on Thursday, Robbing Blind was 10th on the docket, and one of only three comedies. So through the first nine films I bit my nails and worried:

  1. If my film would be in sync (see, the film starts on black, and our school had a third party company create our DCPs for the screening – which means they regenerate the video in a new format and have to re-sync it up with the 5.1 audio… and I never got to see it before hand to make sure it was done properly… because if it wasn’t, my entire 10 minute film would be 2 seconds out of sync.)
  2. If it would get laughs or not.

Now I don’t know about you, but when your film screens, and you’re sitting in the audience – it’s nerve wracking. Not just from a technical perspective, but from purely the thought of “I hope they like it.” Because as a writer / director, there are always things you see in the final cut – things you wish you wrote differently, directed differently, or could have edited differently.

When you do a drama though, like I did with Normalcy, the reaction is usually silent – good or bad. Yeah, they applaud at the end, but you can’t tell if people bought it. Then they’ve got the opportunity to lie to you and tell you it was great even if they hated it. Actually, on second thought, if at this point they’re laughing at your super serious short film, then it’s a pretty good indication that you fucked it up.

But when you do a comedy, you know, right then and there, if they liked it or notAnd if they didn’t, those laughs you strived to give are very evidently not there.

"No, I loved it. Really. Leave me alone."

“No, I loved it. Really. Leave me alone. Yeah I don’t care how long it took to light.”

Thankfully, the film was in sync, and the crowd laughed. A lot.

I was floored – and honestly, I don’t know if there’s any feeling like it – seeing a crowd of 400+ people sitting together in a theatre and roaring with laughter at this 300 day endeavour of a comedy you poured your blood, sweat and tears into. It has probably been one of the most important moments in my career thus far.

Now I don’t claim to be a good writer or director by any means, but I try. And when you set out to make a project like that, and you get the response – no, not the response – a better response than you wanted, then that’s when you know you’re focusing on the right things.

And even if it didn’t – just motivation to pick up your socks, cut your losses, and try again.

Batman Begins

Batman Begins Theatrical Poster

Batman Begins Theatrical Poster

Batman Begins
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriters: Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Released: June 17, 2005
Method of Screening: Blu Ray

It’s been a few days – the Easter holidays and a serious cold got in the way of me doing this one, but I finally managed to find the time to pull out the old Begins and give it a watch. This begins one of my favourite trilogies – one I will admit I am somewhat of a fanboy of, even if Rises was disappointing in a lot of ways.

Cast
Bruce Wayne / Batman – Christian Bale
Ra’s al Ghul – Liam Neeson
James Gordon – Gary Oldman
Alfred Pennyworth – Michael Caine
Rachel Dawes
 – Katie Holmes
Dr. Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow – Cillian Murphy
Lucius Fox – Morgan Freeman

BEGINNING
ACT 1
Bruce and Rachel are introduced in the past – as children, showing their playful relationship and displaying how long they’ve been friends. Bruce snatches an arrowhead from Rachel, but ends up falling into a boarded up well, landing in a cave, surrounded by bats. At which point, we transition into the present – Bruce is locked up in a prison, dreaming of a life more innocent. He ends up getting into a brawl with a bunch of inmates, incapacitating six of them on his own. We’re right off the bat (pun intended) introduced to who Bruce is, and we know his physical strength – within three minutes.

Plot Point 1 – INCITING INCIDENT (~5 minutes in)
After being tossed into solitary confinement, a mysterious man named Ducard reveals himself as part of the League of Shadows, and offers Bruce the means to train himself. To become “more than just a man, something else entirely. A legend.” In five minutes, Bruce’s word is turned upside down by this man who can offer him the means to fight injustice.

Plot Point 2 (~14 minutes in)
Once Bruce arrives at the League of Shadows headquarters, we flash back to his childhood, where he remembers the night his parents were murdered in front of him. At Bruce’s insistence, he and his parents left the opera, and Joe Chill – a homeless criminal, robbed and murdered them. Now we know the reason why Bruce wants to fight injustice.
*It’s worth noting that some may see this as the inciting incident – it’s what turns Bruce’s life upside down and leads him down the road to eventually become Batman, but the reason I don’t is because I consider the true story of Batman Begins to be the present timeline – while this is all background information. Bruce’s goal for the film is to strike fear into the hearts of criminals – when Ducard shows up, that’s what allows him to begin working that way.

Plot Point 3 (~28 minutes in)
In another flashback sequence, we see Bruce watch Chill die. This is the reason why Bruce felt powerless – he wanted revenge, and he could never get it. He planned to kill Joe Chill, but Falcone beat him to the punch. And when Rachel finds out Bruce was planning that, she tells him that his father would be ashamed of him – prompting Bruce to run away from Gotham, and vow to never kill (demonstrated when he tosses the gun into the water).

Plot Point 4 – KEY INCIDENT – End of ACT 1 (~37 minutes to ~40 minutes in)
After passing his training, Bruce is ordered to execute a criminal by the League of Shadows, and finds out that they plan to destroy Gotham City and kill millions. Bruce, remembering his promise to himself, turns on the League, and destroys their fortress (although in my opinion, I’m fairly certain he killed a LOT of League Members here, including “Ra’s al Ghul”). He saves Ducard though. And now, he’s ready to go home.

ACT 2
Plot Point 5 (~42 minutes in)
While on a plane with Alfred, Bruce explains his plan, knowing that as Bruce Wayne he’s useless – destructible. But as a symbol, he can be indestructible – something terrifying, something elemental. We now know his plans.

Plot Point 6 (~46 minutes in)
After seeing a Bat in the grounds and finding the old cave, Bruce climbs down into it with a light. As if the fates are calling him, a horde of bats surround him, and rather than cringe in fear as he had in the past, he embraced them, facing his fear – turning his fear into his weapon.

Plot Point 7 (~54 minutes in)
After a few other scenes introducing us to Bruce’s methods of obtaining weaponry and vehicles (via Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises), Bruce uses some of that tech (but not quite in Batman garb yet) to break into James Gordon’s office, and holds him at gun-point – er, stapler point. Gordon is able to give Bruce some intel on the docks shipments, and Bruce escapes by jumping off the roof. This begins the uneasy relationship between Gordon and Batman (although it gets easier).

Plot Point 8 (~1 hour, 3 minutes in)
“I’m Batman”. The iconic moment where our masked vigilante finally reveals his face. After taking out a bunch of mobsters, he hands Falcone to Gordon on a silver platter – that is, on a giant spotlight, forming a “Bat signal”. Batman’s and Gordon’s alliance gets a little easier – as Gordon sees that this guy’s actually here to help. Batman is now known among the city.

Plot Point 9 – MIDPOINT (~1 hour, 10 minutes in)
I consider the moment where Bruce bumps into Rachel outside the hotel the midpoint of the film. It’s at this point that Bruce sees that their may be consequences to his actions, as his playboy persona begins to affect his real relationships – especially the relationship to the girl he loves. She tells him that “it’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you”

Plot Point 10 (~1 hour, 18 minutes in)
Batman investigates an apartment in the Narrows, finding out that that’s where some of the drugs were going. However, Dr. Crane / Scarecrow, from Arkham Asylum (who we know by this point is involved in this whole thing) is also there to burn some evidence. When Bats makes his move, trying to take them out, Crane sprays him in the face with a weaponized gas – a hallucinogen with similar effects as a gas the League of Shadows made him inhale. Bats is lit on fire and barely escapes. This moment is where Bruce and Alfred realize how vulnerable Bruce still is, and we see that these villains may be closer to each other than we thought.

Plot Point 11 – END OF ACT 2 (~1 hour, 26 minutes in – ~1 hour, 38 minutes in)
After Bruce is healed by Fox and Rachel informs him that Falcone was transferred to Arkham by Dr. Crane, Bruce suits up. However by the time he arrives, Crane has already gassed Rachel, and when Batman interrogates him, Crane reveals that he’s working for “Ra’s al Ghul” – who Batman believes to be dead. After summoning a horde of bats to back him up (a callback to Frank Miller’s amazing Batman: Year One) Batman saves Rachel with the help of Gordon (although he nearly kills about 200 cops on this way to the batcave. When she awakes, he gives her the antidote concocted by Fox to get to Gordon.

ACT 3
Plot Point 12 
(~1 hour 43 minutes – 1 hour 48 minutes)
At Bruce’s party, Ducard appears, revealing to Bruce that he is actually Ra’s al Ghul, and that the League of Shadows is still planning to destroy Gotham. The League burn down Bruce’s home and Ra’s leaves Bruce for dead.

Plot Point 13 (~1 hour 57 minutes in)
After the League unleash their plan (to vaporize Gotham’s water supply using a microwave emitter, releasing Crane’s fear toxin driving everyone violently mad) Batman swoops into the Narrows, where Arkham is, and saves Rachel from near death. At this point, he repeats to her something she said to him at the hotel lobby – “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me”. She knows who he is.

Plot Point 14 – CLIMAX (~1 hour 59 minutes – 2 hours, 4 minutes)
Batman and Ra’s al Ghul get into their final confrontation on the elevated train, as the microwave emitter vaporizes water along the way. Meanwhile, in the Tumbler / Batmobile, Gordon blows out the final supports on the train. Batman defeats Ra’s, but instead of killing him, he chooses not to save him, and flies out of the train – allowing the train to plummet to the earth and explode, killing Ra’s al Ghul and saving Gotham.

Ending
Concluding a side plot, Bruce takes over his company again, and meets with Rachel at the burned down Wayne Manor, where they express their love for one another, but Rachel knows that as long as Bruce needs Batman, they can’t be together. Meanwhile, Bruce and Alfred devise plans to rebuild the house, brick for brick – and perhaps upgrade some spots, specifically in the south-east corner, where the cave lies.

In a stinger, Gordon and Batman meet on top of the GCPD, where Gordon now has a batsignal set up – confirming their trusting relationship, and Gordon hands Bats an evidence bag – with a Joker card. Batman says “I’ll look into it” and soars off into the night.

I think it’s safe to say that I love this film and have since the day it was released. It restored my faith in a theatrical Batman, and similar to Batman ’89 – it paved the way for serious super hero films again (I honestly don’t think that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be in the place it is had Begins not been made.) And it started one of my favourite trilogies.

Script
I could only find an undated script online, and it seems pretty accurate compared to the film, albeit containing some differences, specifically:

  • Some of Ra’s al Ghul’s awesome dialogue is not there (ex. “If you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely” is not in it)
  • A scene shows that Bruce used Rachel’s car to hide his gun while Joe Chill’s proceeding occurred, and he goes back to get it after (kind of explains how he could have a gun in a courtroom… he simply doesn’t have it yet) I’m not sure if this was shot… Nolan is kind of notorious for never releasing outtakes or deleted scenes.
  • Bruce meets Falcone outside the club, after attempting to bribe a bodyguard
  • Rachel’s name is not Rachel Dawes, but rather Rachel Dodson.
  • In the film Bats gives Rachel photos of the judge and a hooker as leverage – in the script we actually see Bruce get these photos.
  • It’s the Judge that Batman takes out of the limo when he first shows up – not Falcone, because he’s in a nearby office with Crane and Flass. Crane is present during the Docks takedown scene. Then, rather than save Rachel from thugs on the train, Batman visits her at her apartment to give her photos and such.
  • The District Attorney isn’t the one who’s killed finding the microwave emitter, but rather some random customs agent.
  • A bunch of dialogue changes

 

SCRIPT (undated)

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Theatrical Poster

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Theatrical Poster

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Directors: Eric Radomski; Bruce Timm
Screenwriters: Alan Burnett; Paul Dini; Martin Pasko; Michael Reaves
Released: December 25, 1993
Method of Screening: DVD

This is actually considered by some to be one of the best Batman feature films made. And it is a terrific story that is cram packed with information and action. It’s also worth noting that this is the first animated film I’ve tackled in terms of breaking down.

Cast
Bruce Wayne / Batman – Kevin Conroy
Andrea Beaumont – Dana Delany
The Joker – Mark Hamill
Phantasm / Carl Beaumont – Stacy Keach
Arthur Reeves – Hart Bochner

ACT 1
Beginning

After a two minute credit sequence, we’re dropped right into the action as Chuckie Sol, a mobster, meets with a group of other gangsters to discuss laundering counterfeit money when Batman busts in and screws their stuff up.

Plot Point 1 – INCITING INCIDENT (~5 minutes in)
Chuckie Sol, a mobster, is killed when his car goes flying out of a parking garage and crashes into a building. This occurs because the mysterious and ghostly Phantasm distracts him while he’s driving. But then Batman is witnessed at the scene, leading people to believe he is the murderer. This sets up a goal for Batman – find out who the Phantasm is, and clear his name.

Plot Point 2 (~10 – 15 minutes in)
After an “Andrea Beaumont” is mentioned to Bruce, we flash back in time. We see Bruce meeting Andrea in the cemetery, talking to her mother’s grave – similar to Bruce. Then Bruce goes out into the night, pre-Batman, dressed in a ski mask and attempting to stop some criminals. While he succeeds, he expresses his annoyance with how it went to Alfred, because the criminals weren’t afraid of him. And that’s when Andrea shows up at his house and they begin a relationship. This is the catalyst for the whole film – the question of “Who is Batman and what does he stand for?” and “What’s the history with Andrea Beaumont?”

Plot Point 3 – KEY INCIDENT – END OF ACT 1 (~21 minutes in)
After another mobster, Buzz Bronski is killed in the same cemetery Bruce’s parents are buried in, Batman visits the grave, when he’s discovered by Andrea, who is back in town. She sees that he was staring at the Wayne’s family tombstone, and deduces that Bats is Bruce. This moment motivates much of the action throughout the film, as the flashbacks and the criminals are all tied to Andrea.

ACT 2
Plot Point 4 (~30 minutes in – ~35 minutes in)
We’re given another few flashbacks, including one where Bruce breaks down in front of his parents grave, saying he didn’t count on being happy… that perhaps his quest for vengeance is over before it began. In the present, Bruce figures out that Andrea’s father is tied to Chuckie Sol, Buzz Bronski, and another mobster, Sal Valestra. And then in flashback again, we learn that Bruce proposed to Andrea, but she broke it off suddenly – allowing Batman to fulfill his parent’s promise and become Batman. Both stories – past and present are hitting key moments at the same time.

Plot Point 5 – MIDPOINT (~42 minutes in)
In the present, Batman confronts Andrea about her father’s involvement, and she shuts him down. Ultimately he leaves, and Andrea breaks down into tears.

BatsFirstSuitup

Key moment in Batman lore as imagined in this film – the first time he dons the Cape and Cowl

Plot Point 6 (~50 minutes in)
A lot happens before this key moment at 50 minutes in. After we’ve learned that The Joker is also involved in this somehow, The Phantasm goes to visit Valestra, who is already dead by The Joker’s hand – and The Joker catches video of the Phantasm, proving that Batman is not the one killing people. But the police don’t know this yet, and continue chasing Batman after he attempts to apprehend Phantasm. Bats is nearly killed, but is rescued by Andrea. She reveals to him that her father and her were run out of Gotham by the mobsters due to the amount of money her father embezzled, and Andrea convinces Bruce that her dad is the Phantasm.

Plot Point 7 (~52 minutes in)
While looking at a picture of the mobsters + Andrea’s dad, Bruce realizes that one of the mobsters is in fact a pre-disfigured Joker. At that moment Bruce realizes that Joker is the next Phantasm victim, allowing him to try to intervene.

Plot Point 8 – END OF ACT 2 (~59 minutes in)
Joker deduces before Bats that Andrea is the Phantasm, because we find out that Joker (before becoming Joker) actually killed Andrea’s father on orders from Sal Valestra years ago. So now Bruce must try to tackle his old love and his arch nemesis at once.

ACT 3
Plot Point 9 (~1 hour 3 minutes)
Bats locates Joker and Andrea fighting at the Gotham World Fair (previously seen in a flashback of Bruce and Andrea’s relationship) and saves Andrea’s life when she’s almost killed by Joker.

Plot Point 9 – CLIMAX (~1 hour 9 minutes)
Batman defeats Joker, but Andrea shows up and grabs the Clown Prince of Crime, and Batman is unable to save him as she disappears with Joker. They’re both presumably killed as the entire fair explodes (after Joker set off explosives) and Batman barely escapes (although then in the TV show we know that Joker’s still alive… somehow).

Ending (~1 hour, 11 minutes)
Bruce mourns Andrea to Alfred, the only love he’s truly had… but then notices a necklace, Andrea’s necklace, out in the cave. We are shown that she’s alive, and she considers herself to be alone. Leaving Batman to be Gotham’s protector.

As you can see, in a 70-minute animated film, it’s DENSELY packed with information. Everything is very concise, and almost every scene moves the story forward dramatically.

Script Notes:
I was unable to find a publicly posted version of the script – but with enough digging you can locate it. I won’t be hosting it here for that reason.

First off, the working title of the film was just “Batman: Masks” which I found interesting. I guess it’s not quite as catchy as Mask of the Phantasm – but it makes a little more sense, since we never actually hear anyone utter the word “Phantasm” in the film.

When I opened the document I managed to get my hands on, I was blown away – it’s 130 pages… which I figured it must have had tons of stuff cut out of it – but it turns out, as an animation script, it’s actually that long because they’re incredibly descriptive of its action and its direction. It’s almost a script plus a shot list. It’s a very interesting experience reading a script for animation compared to live action. But the script essentially remains the same as the film.

As stated, I will not host the script here since it wasn’t publicly posted, but I recommend you try to locate it.

TRAILER

 

EDIT: Don’t know how I screwed up the title and called it “Mark of the Phantasm. Derp.

Robbing Blind Trailer!

Well the last eight months have been spent (among other things) producing a short film. I wrote it, co-produced it, and directed it. It’s a short dark comedy entitled Robbing Blind. It was an interesting and sometimes difficult trip, but we made it out alive.

Here’s the trailer!

Robbing Blind – Trailer from Robbing Blind on Vimeo.

As well, there’s a project I’m currently in development on I hope to share on here soon! Check back often for details.

Producer: Jessieh Slezak
Writer / Director: Mike Chantaj
Editor: Margaret MacDougall
Director of Photography: David-Anthony Turineck
Composer: Johnny Lima

Starring:
Andy Auld
Benjamin Muir

Nicole Wilson
Shel Goldstein

Batman & Robin

Batman & Robin Theatrical Poster

Batman & Robin Theatrical Poster

Batman & Robin
Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenwriter: Akiva Goldsman
Released: June 20, 1997
Method of Screening: DVD

Well, here it is, the cream of the crap when it comes to the Batman franchise. This is actually a movie I’ve watched specifically to remind myself how NOT to make movies (along with The Room by director Tommy Wiseau & Troll 2 by… it doesn’t even matter). This film was doomed before it began – straight from the script. It has no heart, character motivations that make no sense, and a huge amount of coincidences. They were very unfaithful to the source material, and took a lot of bizarre liberties.

Cast:
Bruce Wayne / Batman – George Clooney
Dick Grayson / Robin – Chris O’Donnell
Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Pamela Isley / Poison Ivy – Uma Thurman
Barbara Wilson (ugh) / Batgirl – Alicia Silverstone
Alfred Pennyworth – Michael Gough
Bane / Antonio Diego (ugh) – Jeep Swenson / Michael Reid McKay

The previous themes of the films were this:
Batman ’89 was revenge and how trauma shapes a person
Batman Returns was feminism
Batman Forever was the duality of being Batman
Batman & Robin is about family and partnership. Every character has a ‘family problem’. Bruce and Dick don’t get along, Alfred misses his brother in a weak plotline, Barbara Wilson (ugh) comes back to her Uncle Alfred, Freeze wants to save his wife, and Ivy considers the earth her mother. This theme could have been explored wonderfully and it could have made for an interesting film… but c’est la vie.

In terms of what everyone wants (so I can just state it now… it’s pretty much all conveyed through exposition in the film)

  • Freeze wants diamonds to power his ice suit (really… powered by diamonds?) and wants to continue researching a cure for McGregor’s syndrome – the condition his wife has.
  • Ivy wants to make plants self-sufficient and allow them to defend themselves
  • Robin wants to be trusted by Batman.
  • Batman wants… to just kinda keep doing what he’s doing and have everyone listen to him all the time.

Also here:

ACT 1

Beginning
The film almost starts exactly the same as Batman Forever – the Batmobile raises out of the ground as Batman approaches it… except this time accompanied by the playful Robin, who quips that “[He] want[s] a car. Chicks dig the car.” Oh boy. Already. Batman retorts with “This is why Superman works alone” – and off they go, and Alfred says that he’ll “cancel the pizzas”. It’s lighter in tone, and is definitely going to be much more kid-friendly.

Plot Point 1: Inciting Incident (~3 min, 20 seconds in)
The inciting incident is a very small moment – but right after Batman and Robin leave, Alfred has a pained look on his face. Something’s wrong, but we don’t know what.

Plot Point 2 (~14 minutes in)
After a ridiculous sequence involving Batman & Robin playing ice hockey, an inability to properly display physics, a spaceship, and surfboarding out of the sky, Robin is frozen by Mr. Freeze, and Batman has to choose to stay and save Robin, or chase down Freeze. Being pseudo-family, he saves Robin.

Plot Point 3 (~20 minutes in)
Before the 20 minute mark, we’re treated to a lot of exposition and over-the-top acting as Dr. Jason Woodrue shows off his creation – a super soldier named Bane, made with a type of chemical called Venom. As well, we learn about Pamela Isley through her tape recording herself that she’s got a thing for plants and hopes to make them self-sufficient – make animals out of plants. Then after Woodrue realizes she’s seen too much, he decides he must kill her and pushes her into a bunch of her chemicals. Come to think of it – this is pretty much exactly the same plot as Schreck & Selina in Batman Returns – except this is way goofier. A few minutes later she comes back to life (somehow knowing everything the chemicals changed about her), kills Woodrue, takes Bane and sets on a trip to Gotham and Wayne Enterprises (who seemingly fund this place she works at).

Plot Point 4  – KEY INCIDENT – END OF ACT 1 (~30 minutes in)
Barbara Wilson (ugh) shows up at Wayne Manor looking for her Uncle Alfred. There’s a bunch of exposition, and Bruce offers to let her live at Wayne Manor (for… what reason?) because she’s family.

Plot Point 5 (~38 minutes in)
After being exposed to more “family and trust issues” (Barbara sneaking out and taking bikes, Bruce unable to answer questions about marriage, etc) he meets Isley, who asks him to help her fund and protect plants. Bruce politely declines and tells her “people first”. And some other character mentions that Batman & Robin protect Gotham. In one fell swoop, Ivy has two new enemies – Bruce and Batman.

Plot Point 6 (~45 minutes to 50 minutes in)
At an auction to raise money (and also a badly planned trap for Mr. Freeze) Poison Ivy turns Bats and Robin against each other with her pheromone dust – creating more tension in their relationship. Then Mr. Freeze falls for the trap and shows up, and meets Ivy. Their union begins here.
Batman and Robin end up chasing Freeze down, and Bats deactivates Robin’s motorcycle, not trusting that Robin can make a jump on the bike. Robin’s piiiiiisssed and gives Bruce a bit of shit when they’re back at the cave later.
But Batman manages to catch and knock out Freeze, apprehending him.

Plot Point 7 – MIDPOINT (~1 hr 0 minutes to 1 hr 7 minutes in)
Julie Madison, Bruce’s long-time girlfriend (who has very little to do on screen it seems) mentions that she can’t wait around forever for him (FAMILY!) while Bruce just imagines about Poison Ivy. Barb sneaks out again, but Dick follows her to a motorbike race and saves her life, and then they find out that Alfred is dying. That’s why Barbara came back, to take Alfred away from “a life of servitude”.

Plot Point 8 (~1 hour, 15 minutes to 1 hr 22 minutes in)
Batman and Robin find Nora Fries, frozen at Mr. Freeze’s lair. At this point, they don’t know that Ivy and Freeze escaped Arkham, and are nearby. They encounter Ivy, who encourages them to fight with each other again and nearly has Bane kill them. Then, while they’re distracted, Ivy goes back to Nora Fries’ tank and unplugs it, (seemingly) killing her, with plans to pin it on Batman – and it works. Freeze’s new goal – destroy the world for taking his wife away. As well, we find out that Alfred has McGregor’s syndrome, the same condition Fries’ wife has (WOAH! COINCIDENCE!) But it’s only in stage 1, while Nora’s past that. Fries actually has a cure for stage 1 (and nobody else has done it yet)

Plot Point 9 – END OF ACT 2 (~1 hour, 31 minutes to 1 hour, 36 minutes in)
Bruce and Alfred have a moment, almost saying goodbye, because they know Alfred doesn’t have much time left. Meanwhile, Alfred has been trying to get in touch with old family members (who are all seemingly butlers as well), Barbara uses this information he tells her to never open to find out that Bruce and Dick are Batman & Robin. Afterwards, Bruce approaches Dick and convinces him that they need to be partners if they want to succeed.
Mr. Freeze manages to take over the observatory, and put his plan to turn the telescope into an ice beam into action, and Barbara finds the Batcave, telling the simulated Alfred to “suit [her] up”. And then she suits up. Ugh.
ACT 3

Plot Point 10 (~1 hour 41 minutes in)
Bruce realizes that Ivy is Pamela Isley when at a party, he smells her pheromones. He uses this information to convince Robin to join him again. So Batman and Robin go to Ivy, and trick her into spilling the beans on Freeze’s plan. But she nearly defeats them until they’re saved by BATGIRL! They manage to record Ivy saying that she killed Nora, and then her plants turn on her for… some reason. While this happens, Freeze begins icing the city.

Plot Point 11 (~1 hour 50 minutes in)
The team have made it to the observatory, and Batman manages to defeat Freeze, deactivating the ice beam and thanks to Barbara, begins making satellites send heat to the city despite it being nighttime (what?) But then Freeze blows some bombs, taking the observatory out, and nearly killing everybody. Robin and Batgirl manage to defeat Bane (very easily) and Batman finally trusts Robin to save himself. Yay.

Plot Point 12 – CLIMAX (~1 hour 55 minutes in)
Barbara manages to fix the computer and they bring sunlight to Gotham. Batman talks to Freeze, reveals that Nora is still alive and Batman will ensure that Freeze can continue his research to save her life. In return, Freeze gives Bats the antidote for Stage 1 McGregor’s.

ENDING
Ivy and Freeze are placed in the same cell in Arkham, with Freeze planning on making Ivy’s life hell.
And the next morning after administering the cure to Alfred, he’s PERFECTLY CURED. They discuss how they’re a family – partners now. And that they’re gonna need a bigger cave.

So the problems that lie in this movie – no plan really makes sense because they’ve all become cartoon characters, and there’s way too much exposition. Freeze can afford to build essentially a rocket ship that can almost reach space, but can’t afford to do research to find a cure for his wife. Ivy just talks at lengths about everything she can and does do. Batman and Robin are just a bitter old married couple… I genuinely believe that the angle they approached the theme from could have worked – Can Batman really trust anyone else? Can he have a family? But they just decided that this should instead be a two hour toy commercial.

The best Mr. Freeze so far.

The best Mr. Freeze so far.

I managed to find an undated script but it seems to be PRETTY close to the film… possibly dated not long before principal production – some noteworthy things:

  • The ice puns? They’re in the script. What were you thinking Goldsman?
  • Superman isn’t mentioned by Batman, but by Mr. Freeze… for no real reason.
  • Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend Julie Madison (a character from the comics that hasn’t been straight adapted for live action elsewhere – although it’s believed that Rachel Dawes from the Dark Knight trilogy is inspired by her) has a slightly more significant role. Apparently there was a scene shot where Ivy murders her by stabbing her, but it’s cut from the film. This murder scene is NOT in the script
  • Alfred’s old love Peg was named Joanna, and their relationship is explored a little further.
  • It’s explained that Barbara’s mom was named Margaret (explaining why she enters that as a password in the film… since they cut the scene where her mother’s name is discussed, her trying “Margaret” as a password to Alfred’s computer seems REALLY random)
  • The Bat Credit Card is NOT in this version of the script.
  • Bruce and Julie Madison break up in a scene after Isley gets the keys to the Batsignal from the Commissioner and Bruce tells Pamela Isley he loves her. They shortened this scene down in the film, to Bruce smelling the pheromones and putting two and two together. It made Julie Madison much less relevant but got to the point quicker.

Yeah… so while comparing this script to Batman Forever‘s – it doesn’t hold up. It was rushed, unclear, the characters are unmotivated… and it goes to show the other side of the coin from what I said about Forever. With Forever I said you can make a shitty movie out of a good script. With Batman & Robin, it proves you can’t possibly make a good movie out of a shitty script.

Undated Script

Trailer

As an aside, unrelated, I may also be posting on here about a new project I’m writing that hopefully will be coming up soon. As well, check out my own personal website I recently set up!

Batman Forever

It’s been a few days but I’m back and continuing my 75th Batman Anniversary Celebration with what can only be seen as the beginning of the downward spiral in contemporary Batman lore.

Batman Forever Theatrical Poster

Batman Forever Theatrical Poster

Batman Forever
Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenwriter: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott-Batchler, Akiva Goldsman
Released: June 16, 1995
Method of Screening: DVD

Cast:
Batman / Bruce Wayne – 
Val Kilmer
Two-Face / Harvey Dent – Tommy Lee Jones
The Riddler / Edward Nygma – Jim Carrey
Robin / Dick Grayson – Chris O’Donnell
Dr. Chase Meridian – Nicole Kidman

Here’s where the franchise I loved so dear began to fade and I tend to blame Warner Bros for this one for trying to make a “kid-friendly Batman” film. Joel Schumacher is a wicked director (if you haven’t seen it, please watch Falling Down), and Akiva Goldsman is a champ writer (A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend, Cinderella Man). The thing about this film is that the script WAS awesome. It’s a wicked tale that really breaks down the theme of duality that exists in Batman’s world – that everyone has two sides – who they have to be and who they choose to be.

Remember?

Unfortunately, yes.

Beginning
The story kicks off with Bats suiting up – Bat nipples and all, before a quirky remark to Alfred about dinner. We’ve already set up the lighter tone for the film – Batman is still dark, still brooding, but he’s got a bit of a sense of humor. The cave is flashier – the Batmobile sleeker.

Plot Point 1 / Inciting Incident (~4 minutes, 30 seconds in)
Now the inciting incident in this film is not where some might think it is – it’s not when Bats first faces off against Two-Face or when he first meets Riddler – it’s the first time he comes face to face with Dr. Chase Meridian outside the bank Two-Face is holding up. She challenges his duality, and SHE is Bruce/Batman’s goal for the whole film. Then we get into a big chase sequence involving a helicopter and explosions and such. At one point we learn through a newscast a little later that Dent blames Batman for the scars on his face. So Two-Face’s goal is known – kill Batman.

Plot Point 2 (~14 minutes in)
Here we meet Edward Nygma – an employee for Wayne Enterprises. He pitches (much to his boss’ chagrin) an idea to Bruce in entertainment, where you can implant ideas into people’s heads. Bruce is not a fan, and shuts the idea down. At that point, Nygma’s goal is in place – destroy Bruce Wayne due to the rejection.

Plot Point 3 (~22 minutes in)
Nygma, now in full force rage mode, finds out his device can actually suck brainwaves from people and allow him to ingest it – increasing his intelligence. He performs this on his boss Stickley, and then murders him by pushing Stickley out of a window. However, using his new knowledge, Nygma is able to fake Stickley’s suicide (also the Police’s baffling suicide investigation, which includes a note, and Gordon saying “Yep, definitely suicide”… which wasn’t in the script)

Plot Point 4 / KEY INCIDENT (~30 – 41 minutes in)
I kind of feel there’s several key incidents in this film that motivate everything else that happens in the film. Specifically:

  • Bruce visits Dr. Chase Meridian after Nygma begins leaving him riddles – again, Bruce going after his goal, but she’s definitely got a thing for Batman. Bruce asks her to the circus anyway.
  • At the circus, Two-Face crashes the party, and nearly bombs the place insisting Batman reveal his true identity.
  • Bruce stands up and attempts to yell out that he’s Batman, but the chaos is too loud.
  • Dent leaves a trail of dead Graysons in his wake, and Dick is the only survivor – now going to live with Bruce at Wayne Manor.
  • This ENDS ACT 1

ACT 2
Plot Point 5 (~44 minutes in)
Bruce reminisces about his parents death, and the effect it has had on his life, and he begins to see a parallel between himself and young Dick Grayson.

Then there’s a big random chase sequence, literally just to show how far Two Face is willing to go to kill Batman. Really… doesn’t add anything to the story.

Plot Point 6 (~53 minutes in)
The meeting of the freaks. It is at this point that Nygma meets with Two-Face and they hatch a plan – team up and steal capital to fund Nygmatech (the IRS must not have a clue what’s going on in Gotham), and then using this new technology, find out who the Batman is and destroy him. Our antagonistic forces are building and creating more obstacles for our hero.

Plot Point 7 (~1 hour, 1 minute in)
At this point, Nygmatech is fully funded and they have their own private island (seriously IRS, take a look at where this dude gets his cash) and the stocks are selling fast. Nygma meanwhile, continues to ingest knowledge from all of the Gothamites who have purchased his product – essentially making him one of the smartest men alive.

Plot Point 8 / MIDPOINT (~ 1 hour, 2 min – 1 hour 10 min)
The midpoint spans a good chunk of the film – an entire sequence. Specifically Dick finds the cave and realizes who Batman actually is, and goes on a joyride in the Batmobile. Meanwhile, Bruce is again with Dr. Meridian (see the pattern? Inciting incident, key incident, and now midpoint have all been interactions with Chase). He informs her about his parents murder, and how that has affected him further. She gives him a dreamcatcher figurine (something too Two-Face-esque to be a coincidence). Bruce then suits up when Alfred inform him of Dick’s adventure, and brings him home. Dick says he’s intent on finding and killing Two-Face, while Bats tries to talk him out of it. Bruce encapsulates the film in a line to Dick during this conversation. “We’re all two people” – who we have to be, and who we choose to be.

Plot Point 9 (~1 hour, 15 minutes in – 1 hour, 20 minutes in)
While attending a party for Nygma, Bruce unwittingly has Nygma’s machine turned on while he’s inside, allowing Nygma to record that he’s got “Bats on the brain.” – deducing that Wayne is Batman. Conveniently though, in an attempt to draw in Batman, Two-Face breaks up the party. Sure enough, after the machine shuts down, Bruce scampers away to get his batsuit and returns to kick ass.
However after a chase into the subway, Two-Face gets the upper hand and buries Batman in sand, only to have Dick Grayson, dressed in his old trapeze artist getup, save him. Bruce ain’t happy with Dick doing this..

Plot Point 10 (~1 hour, 29 minutes in)
After Bruce decides to retire from being Batman, he shuts down the cave, and plans on telling Chase everything – who he is, his duality, etc. However before he gets the chance to he has more repressed memories come through of his parents death, and Chase kisses him – and BAM. Since she previously kissed him as Batman, she just knows. Then Riddler and Two-Face, now knowing that Wayne is Bats, storm the place with their cronies, destroy the cave, shoot Bruce, and kidnap Chase.

This ends ACT 2 – because now Bruce’s goal has evolved – not only has he been trying to get Chase on a personal level, now he needs to get Chase to save her life.

ACT 3
Plot Point 11 (~1 hour, 39 minutes in)
Bruce and Alfred finally crack Nygma’s riddles, and now know that Riddler & Nygma are one in the same. Batman decides to try out his new prototype suit, and Robin shows up – in his own armour getup. They’re partners now. 2 against 2 are better odds (a lot of 2’s in this movie).

Plot Point 12 (~1 hour, 46 minutes in)
As Batman and Robin storm Riddler’s huge lair (seriously, who paid for this?) the island shifts, and part of it is raised into the air – with Robin on it. Batman is left below and climbs into a hatch on the side of the silo. However Robin comes face to face with the man with two faces, and seemingly defeats him – and in Robin’s character climax, he ultimately decides to spare Two-Face, saying he’d rather see him in jail than in hell. Two-Face uses this moment to pull a gun on Robin and take him hostage.

The most practical setting for technology research.

The most practical setting for technology research.

CLIMAX (~ 1 hour 50 minutes – 1 hour 54 minutes in)
Finally coming face to face with Nygma and Dent, Batman is forced to choose between saving Robin or Chase. They’re suspended above a long fall into a rocky watery grave. Riddler, claims that Batman can’t save them both (just like Bruce can’t continue being both Bruce Wayne and Batman). But Batman manages to throw a batarang to destroy Nygma’s machine, and swoops down, managing to save both Chase and Dick as they fall. He can save both of them, because he can be both Bruce and Bats (Chase symbolizes Bruce Wayne, Dick symbolizes Batman). Then Two-Face manages to catch up with them, and Batman manages to convince Harvey to toss the coin to decide their fates, and as he does, Bats tosses a bunch of other coins up, confusing Two-Face and causing him to fall to his death.

Ending
Dent is dead, Nygma is locked up in Arkham, and now due to the destruction of his machine, can’t remember that Bruce Wayne is Batman. Bruce and Chase meet outside, and kiss.

Now like I said before – this story had so much potential, and somehow it got goofed up along the way.
The script I found is actually very close to the finished film in a lot of ways although many scenes were either cut that were considered to grown up, or moved around.

  • The first scene in the script where they show how Dent escaped from Arkham was cut
  • The scene where Bruce meets Nygma is actually essentially the second scene in the script, but it shows up in the film considerably later (about 20 minutes in)
  • Sugar and Spice (Two-Faces henchwomen) were named Leather and Lace and their scenes were a little more risqué.
  • In the film, Alfred asks Bruce why he keeps doing what he’s doing – his parents are avenged, the Wayne foundation contributes money to anti-crime programs, etc. In the script, Bruce asks these things, and specifically mentions Jack Napier by name.
  • A short sequence where Bruce suffers a little amnesia after being shot by Two-Face (this was shot, but cut from the film)
  • Batman doesn’t throw more coins to Two-Face to make him fall, Two-Face simply tosses the coin a little too far and loses balance trying to reach out to grab it.
  • Chase seems to forget that Bruce is Batman for some reason after Bats saves her from Two-Face, but seems to know it in the final scene… and in the final scene, Bruce isn’t there, just Alfred.

It’s a shame really, because this could have been such a good movie about the struggles with duality (a theme very present in The Dark Knight… because Two-Face is a villain that represents that aspect of Bruce’s psyche).

The biggest problem with the final film though, is that Two-Face is essentially The Joker… his characterization is an over-the-top psycho with an obsession with Batman – it’s not about what he perceives as “justice” – he just seems to love chaos and anarchy.

What this film does is teach us something about screenwriting – you can write a wicked screenplay, and have it turned into a bad movie.

Script (dated June 24, 1994)

Trailer