Monday, May 23, 2005

Script Review: Hans Gubenstein, Project Greenlight

I'm not necessarily going to be in the habit of doing this (It's rare I read scripts), but KW gave me a copy of one of the "Project Greenlight" finalists, Rick Carr's Does Anyone Remember When Hans Gubenstein Invented Time Travel? and I thought I'd take a crack at it.

You can see why this script didn't beat out Feast. Not because of quality issues, but because of cost. If you watched "Project Greenlight" this season, you scratched your head trying to figure out how they'd do a horror movie with the budget they had, much less a likely effects-heavy time travel story with all sorts of locations and pyrotechnics.

The script concerns Dr. Jeffrey Jeffries and his "assistant" Sid, who invent a don't-call-it-a-time-machine device that sends messages from the future back to the past so as the "correct" moves can be made. So, the men encounter a situation, put a message in the computer, go back in time, get the message, and have no memory that they sent it. Jeffries wants to use the machine to stop disasters or tragedies, and Sid seems to have a let's-have-fun-with-this attitude, suggesting they win lotteries and such.

The humor of this script comes from some funny argumentative dialogue and from the characters continually starting over whenever they mess the future up--the scenes as written remind me of a section of Shaun of the Dead, when the main characters discuss what they're going to do and we see it played out as they talk about it. Then someone will bring up another factor, and they have to change the plan, and we see the same events again, with a different wrinkle, but always ending with the same imagined outcome. Well, that's how a great deal of this script is played out--lots of starting over, changing something, and moving on until the perfect scenario is achieved.

These are funny scenes, but I thought where the script got a little tedious is the introduction of Agent Aghent (hard "G" in Aghent, as we are reminded). While I don't doubt the government getting suspicious of two guys winning tons of lotteries or always being in the right place at the right time to save people, it sort of takes the fun out of the story. There's already a conflict; changing the future perfectly is impossible. This is where some of the humor leaves. I can see why he wrote it--it's a way of dividing the script into 3 different acts--and it seems like a logical idea to pursue, but the tone sort of gets broken.

Highlights: Hilarious arguments over whether they are the greatest minds of the 21st Century, and what qualifies as 21st Century advancements in science as opposed to 20th Century advancements, the sequence where Jeffries rides a Merry-Go-Round and they go to a kids' pizza place to play Wack-A-Mole, the first couple of sequences where they change the future. That beginning and that middle part are engaging; some real visionary writing. I think the third act needs work.

I think we might be seeing this in the future--how far into the future, who knows? But Ben Affleck apparently wants to buy the script and produce it on his own, since it didn't win "Greenlight," and was his personal choice during the competition. Anyway, this sounds interesting to you, go ahead and click the link at the top and download it.


At 5/23/2005 03:58:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Glad you enjoyed it. Well, sounds like you enjoyed it mostly. I, too, had some problems with the agent character. Overall, though, it really surprised me with how clever it was both in its humor as well as its shots and the way sequences unfold.

Cannot forget my favorite part: After many days of scouring the paper for a tragedy that they can then go back and right or fix, but without having any luck finding such a tragic event, they get frustrated. Finally, when an item does at last appear in the paper, it reads something like "Three boys die when frozen pond gives way". The doctor and his associate, so filled with joy and relief that there's something they can finally use their machine to fix, jump up and down and sing with glee, "Three boys die! Three boys die! Three boys die."

And I almost fell out of my chair.


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