Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Iron Man 2 and the Coffee House Script

**** Warning: here there be spoilers ****

Don't get me wrong. I liked Iron Man 2. I felt it was well worth the $6 I paid for a matinee show. I would have probably felt the same way about a full price ticket. The effects were good, the pace didn't drag and Downey remains an ideal choice. Nonetheless IM2 remains an almost perfect example of a coffee house script.

If you've lived in LA, you've probably been forced to overhear a couple of aspiring industry types working on a movie treatment. I suppose that technically what they are doing would be called 'writing,' but it's fundamentally different from any writing process I'm familiar with.

You won't overhear them talking about story or character or even great scenes; all they are interested in are elements.

A typical conversation might go like this:
"He's got a loner."
"A tortured loner."
"A tortured loner... and he's like totally dedicated to his job."
"Because his wife died and he wasn't there to save her."
"Because his child died because he wasn't there to save her then his wife left him because he had like a breakdown."
At this point the one with the laptop starts typing while the other sits back and reflects on which actress he should sleep with first once he makes it big.

I could easily imagine Iron Man 2 emerging from a similar process. The script is largely a collection of elements, almost none of which emerge logically from what there is of the story, from the terminal illness, to Downey's bad-boy bits to pretty much every fight scene (and while we're on the subject, how did Vanko know that Stark would be driving the car?).

The low point was unquestionably the daddy-loved-me moment. In no way justified by character or situation, it was simply there because the film-makers needed it there.

There are any number of ways to dramatically convey a man's discovery of his father's pride and love. If you give yourself a couple of minutes I'm sure you can think of a half dozen or so that are better than having the father pop up for no reason -- deus ex video -- and just spell it out.

Screenwriter Justin Theroux had never written a screenplay before (I have a hunch Favreau and possibly Downey had a hand in some of the dialogue but Theroux is the only credited writer on IMDB). Other than a story credit for Tropic Thunder, all of his previous work has been as an actor.

It shows.

No comments:

Post a Comment