Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Why It Is Wise to Ask for a Second Take


A director. A screenwriter. Even a bit of a technology nut.

You released a film in the 70s. Piece of science fiction film. Inspired by old serials and obscuro Kurosawa.

Scorned by the critics. Reviled by hard-sf authors.

Viewed by tens of millions.

In this film is a character.

Faceless. Clad in black. A master of mystic powers. An unmatched pilot.

His name became shorthand for ultimate evil.

And in the first sequel, you shocked the world by making him the father of the films' protagonist.

Even when you had his son help gain this character's redemption in the third (and technically final) film, it didn't detract from the growing popularity and fascination a generation of filmgoers would have with this enduring screen villain.

Say you have returned to this series after a long absence from the craft.

You are rich beyond the dreams of all of your student-film days, and you want to complete this saga by telling the story of how this villain was once a hero, and how he became evil.

Nobody has said "no" to you for a very long time, and your early efforts in this regard show it.

Your dialogue in the first and second new films is wooden, and your direction invests it with no new life.

You elect to introduce this enduring villain as a child, to show his pure beginnings. All the fans see is an irritating kid reading terrible lines from a rusty filmmaker in need of a script doctor.

But the fans return for the second film.

The eventual villain is a young adult.

Your characterization is not subtle.

He is loud when he should be menacing . . . whiny when he should be manipulative . . . creepy when he should be seductive.

Both the actor and, yes, your dialogue are to blame.

But the fans return for the final film.

Because this film will feature the turn to evil.

This film will show him turn against his friends, his lover, and his teachings.

This film will show The Duel.

He will enter this film a man, and leave it a scarred, cybernetic monster.

You're under juuuust a little pressure.

You have this one last chance to depict how a defender of peace and justice, a loving husband, and a devoted friend becomes the agent of a despot's rule . . . the destroyer of a democratic order . . . and the betrayer of of his fellow warriors.

You almost succeed.

Everyone went into this film wanting to see the moment when this man disappeared into forbidding black armor and robes, from which he would not emerge until just before his death.

Everyone wanted to hear, for the first time since 1983, the deep, resonant rasp of his voice, echoing through that nightmarish mask.

So given all of this, when it comes time for you to record his moment of ultimate despair and regret at the evil he has embraced, wouldn't you ask for just one more take if all you had to work with was this?

No comments: