Edge of Tomorrow vs All You Need is Kill

edge-of-tomorrow-bluntI’m trying to make sure I go to the cinema more often, so last week I went to see Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. It was either that or X-Men: Days of Future Past. There seemed to be a time travel element to both, but despite my reservations about Tom Cruise, I’ve pretty much hit superhero fatigue at this point. I’m still looking forward to the gloriously ridiculous Guardians of the Galaxy, but beyond that it’s getting harder and harder to get excited about the next Marvellous Men In Tights Movie.

I enjoyed the film, more than I thought I would. This was my initial micro-review:

It had its flaws, sure, the ending particularly felt tacked on, but it was enjoyable. But, I thought I’d check out the spec screenplay, to see how tacked on that ending really was.

Dante Harper’s adaptation of All You Need Is Kill, a Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka is already legendary in screenwriting circles. Written on spec, rather than at the behest of a studio, the material garnered a seven-figure studio deal. Suddenly there was hope for all us forlorn scribes that we might be able to pay bills, eat and write.

Read the All You Need Is Kill screenplay.

So, in this futuristic Groundhog Day set on D-Day (don’t think we didn’t notice what you did with the release date, Warner!), what are the main differences between script and screen? Well, other than the premise, the conceit, the setting and some of the characters – Pretty much everything. Some spoilers ahead.

To begin with, it’s a great script, a real page turner. This is what I want to see in an action film script, a rip-roaring read where you suddenly look up and an hour has passed and you’re 3/4 of the way through.

There’s perhaps too much emphasis on flashback, a bit heavy-handed when you’ve already got timeloops, but it’s a real barnstormer. One thing I liked in the script, a good use of semi-flashback exposition, was after 38 minutes of action, the protagonist goes and then find out/explains the history of the conflict. Nothing up front.
You’re just thrown in and picking up clues, which I like.
It lightens the burden of the eventual exposition. Unfortunately the flashback-as-exposition was repeated too often for my tastes.

But storywise, so much is different. Cruise’s character Cage is just a raw recruit in the script, instead of a disgraced officer and the reasoning behind the timeloops is totally different and even makes a little more sense. The conflict never goes further than the original beach, the only other setting being the base, to which the conflict eventually moves in the script as the Mimics learn where to focus their attacks.

But it’s the ending where the real difference hits, an ending foreshadowed by Sergeant Farell on page 46 of the script:

That's what it takes to be a great soldier. Realize your doom and get on with it. Inflict the greatest damage you can on your enemy. And die a hero.

It’s sacrifice that’s required to go from coward to hero. It’s the sacrifice that was blunted in the end of Edge of Tomorrow by allowing one more reset. But while Cage doesn’t die in the original script, it’s sacrifice that’s required of him, making it a more somber ending, which I much preferred.

So, Edge of Tomorrow was a good film, and I really enjoyed watching it. But it leaves some open questions, loose ends that were not left loose by the original script.

TV Review – Penny Dreadful continued

Penny Dreadful - Sir MalcolmThree episodes of Penny Dreadful have aired so far in the UK, one behind the US. Sadly, the promise of the first episode has not quite been maintained. While episode 3, Resurrection, wasn’t as much of a mess as the preceding Séance, the dialogue seemed particularly all over the place. Overall there was a feeling that much scenery was made available for actors to chew, but none of it of any substance. Hence…

Judging by the previews of next week’s episode, the ensemble will soon be complete, and come together at last; and perhaps Josh Hartnett’s character can take another inevitable step along his nigh-literal Hero’s Journey.

TV Review: Penny Dreadful – Episode 1 – Night Work

Penny Dreadful - Vanessa Ives

Showtime’s new show Penny Dreadful has been on my radar for a little while now, and to no great surprise: A Victorian era urban fantasy show, with shades of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Written by John Logan, famed for Sweeney Todd, Gladiator, Skyfall and The Aviator? Starring Eva Green? Directed by J.A. Bayona, best known for The Orphanage? It’s a perfect storm.

Let me put you out of your misery; thanks to Sky and Showtime’s decision to make this show available digitally ahead of its TV release, I have just finished watching it, and it’s very good.

(Aside: We really need to find a better term to call this programming than ‘TV’)

Some mild spoilers ahead.

Penny Dreadful - Ethan ChandlerThe first episode, Night Work, introduces us to the world and begins to introduce its dramatis personæ, through the eyes of Josh Hartnett’s gunslinging ingénue. While he isn’t the focus of the episode, he is shaping up to be the hero of the show. Not in a simplistic way, but he is literally taking the Heroes Journey here, guided by Eva Green and Timothy Dalton’s hooded light.

While his depths are alluded to, what we initially see is his naivety to this world, this Victorian London caught between light and dark. It is his guides that have layers and depths and mysteries to them. Mysteries that, in contrast to a lot of other recent TV shows, I actually care to have revealed. I want to know; but I’m also enjoying not knowing.

The horror tropes, alluded to by the title, are there as expected, some of them pleasantly subverted. But this is not a horror show. It is a mystery show, a Victorian urban fantasy, painted with the palate of horror.

I’ll grant, it’s a well-used palate, and the show borrows heavily, not just from literature, but from past shows. But this League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets From Hell is definitely watchable; even knowing when to lighten things a little, like with a superb turn by Simon Russell Beale.

It’ll be interesting to see how the show develops. It only has eight episodes and there are more major characters to be introduced, all plucked from the pages of Shelley, Wilde, Stoker and their contemporaries. But one episode in, I’m excited for more.

Short Film: The First Step

This review is different to previous short film reviews in two ways: Firstly, I was told about it and given an opportunity to watch it by the filmmaker, Daniel Brown. And secondly, as the aim is for it to be shown at film festivals, the full short film isn’t available to watch online yet. However, here’s the trailer:

tfsteaserposterWritten, directed and edited by Kate McMeans and Daniel Brown of Wide Eyed Pictures, The First Step is a seven minute horror short.

It’s a familiar horror tale, the monster living in the cellar of an old house, the young girl being stalked. Sadly, it’s very familiar indeed, and the main shock or surprise of the short was that there was neither shock nor surprise to be had. The narrative was a straight, and well-telegraphed line, from beginning to end.

However, the production values are high, and the acting solid. Particular praise should also be directed towards the construction and portrayal of the monster, a creepy construct with perhaps a reminiscence of The Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. Also, the shot down the staircase is well executed and well used.

As an alternative horror short though, I’d like to recommend David Sandberg’s Lights Out, which even on a re-watch still gives me goosebumps!

First Trailer for NBC’s Constantine TV Show

Okay, I was fairly excited about the new Constantine TV show before, especially when I learnt the pilot was to be directed by Neil Marshall. But now having seen the trailer that excitement has reached nigh-fever pitch. Are there a few things, tonally speaking, that I’d have done differently? Sure. Does the story draw some pretty clear lines to the middling efforts of Keanu-stine? Sure.

But this is a valiant effort, and by the looks of things a very watchable one. And in terms of tone and theme, much closer to Vertigo Comics’ cancelled, yet much-loved, Hellblazer series, than that tone-deaf reboot Constantine.

I recently gave the collected edition of the new comic another go, thinking that at first I might have not given it a sufficient chance, that I had pre-damned it with expectation and hope. Hope that a DC Universe all-ages superhero universe version of Constantine could deliver the same power that Hellblazer did. That hope was futile.

As it turns out, David Goyer understands the character of John Constantine much better than Ray Fawkes does.