So I’ve seen a lot of bad movies in my time. Sadly that kind of comes with the territory for sci-fi fans, which means that most of you can say the same. And for years one of my primary coping mechanisms has been picking said bad movies apart and trying to figure out where the film makers or, more specifically, the writers went wrong. In other words, I nitpick, lampoon, and riff mercilessly.
That said not all of that riffing is negative. Every now and then me and some friends like to sit down and actually work out what kind of changes would be needed to make a bad movie into a good one. Usually in unnecessary detail. Which is basically what these bits, so far called “Plotting Along” (yeah, a pun, sue me) are going to be all about. Mostly because I do want to put something on here other than just endlessly droning on about Shadows of Time.
There are a lot of movies that could be really, really good but for a few missteps. The reasons for this are generally varied. Sometimes it is incompetence, but even more often it’s just a lack of necessary resources, be they money, actors, or time, to do things the way the people involved want. In this case it’s really not anyone’s fault if a film falls flat, it’s just reality. Which is why before I start I want to lay down some ground rules.
First, this is all in good fun. It’s what-if musings about how a story might have been tweaked, not an attack on anyone or their tastes.
Second, this is not necessarily an exercise in real world film making. A surprising number of sci-fi movies are filmed on a shoestring budget these days due to the cost of the special effects they require. In the real world scripts get trimmed for budget, dialog gets tweaked by a star’s favorite writer, and scenes get dropped or added in order to hit a targeted running time. All of these tend to play havoc with the scripting process and none of these factors are ones that will be regularly considered in these articles. They exist in an ideal world where actors can do every role handed to them, producers write a blank check but otherwise are unseen, and the only schedule the director needs to stick to is “when it’s done.” Like many of you I have a lot of opinions on these practices, but these aren’t a forum on any issues I have with the entertainment industry.
Third, all of this, of course, reflects my tastes. And I enjoy a lot of stuff that others dub as overly cerebral or slow. Obviously the changes I suggest wouldn’t please everyone. This is not a value judgment or attempt to assess the quality of any particular style or genre, just a reflection of what I like. So don’t take it personally if I come up with an idea that in your mind would ruin your favorite movie.
Fourth, by the same token, there are films I like that a lot of people hate. For example, I have a huge soft spot for Star Trek The Motion Picture, a film that is regarded as unwatchable by many. I can understand a lot of the objections people have to watching it, I may even agree with a few of them, but I still don’t feel it’s a bad film. And by and large this is going to spotlight films that failed to live up to their potential in my personal opinion.
And finally, just because the goal is to come up with a better version doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be original. I know I’m not the first person to compile constructive criticism or alternate scripts. I’m not setting out to copy anyone else’s ideas, but I have no doubt that a few of the ones I come up with will bear a resemblance to ones others have made public over the years. If this happens just leave a comment with a link – I’ll try to look at it and possibly even edit the article to include it. It’s always interesting to see someone else’s approach. Should I ever actually reference another article on purpose though, it will be credited as such.
And that’s it for now. First randomly selected movie for revision is… Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.
This is going to take a while.