I love Hanna, the blend of fairy tale and action movie is an excellent one and allows the story to take some unexpected genre twists. So, if you fancy it, have a read of the script here, then tell me if you agree with my analysis!
I’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:
Edge of Tomorrow micro-review: Death becomes him, time and time again. Hokey explanations aside, exciting and fun, 4 minutes too long.
— Stephan (@OnlyStephan) June 6, 2014
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.
On the whole, screenplay format is pretty standardised, and thankfully screenwriters barely have to think about it thanks to the use of modern screenwriting software.
Some of the formatting controversies of the past have been dealt with and become canon: Avoid using parentheticals or transitions unless absolutely, vitally necessary. Simple enough. Two controversies remain though.
For once I’m not talking about the screenwriting software Fade In, but the necessity to begin every screenplay with FADE IN: and end it with FADE OUT. Certain guides will tell you it’s mandatory, some will tell you it’s tradition and you should just do it. Many newer to the industry will say it’s redundant and can be skipped, leaving the choice of fading, cutting etc. to the director like all transitions. There’s pretty much no consensus other than this: Keeping it will seemingly annoy nobody, while removing them could irk some. So we may as well use them, and some of their variations. A word of warning though: There should only ever be one of each in the screenplay.
I don’t refer to line-spacing, but the number of spaces after a full stop in a screenplay. After years of beautifully laid-out treatises, typographers finally convinced us all that putting two spaces after a full stop was redundant, as these days we have typefaces and word-processors that handle the kerning properly. The restrictions of mono-spaced typewriters were a thing of the past. Except, however, when writing a screenplay, where we use a mono-spaced Courier font, to facilitate standardised spacing, partly to assist in judging the minute per page pacing. Again, nobody is going to throw your script in the bin for only using a single space, but apparently it’s easier on the eye of a script reader to use two spaces. And these are the people who’ll make the first decision on whether to pass on your script.
Back in spring of 2012, I took part in a competition called 50 Kisses; to reiterate, the idea behind it was for screenwriters to write a two-minute screenplay involving Valentine’s Day and a kiss. Successful scripts would then be made available to filmmakers, who would then decide from amongst the options and shoot the vignettes. Sadly, I was unsuccessful with my own entry, but I learnt valuable lessons from it. For example:
- If you’re writing a film, no matter how short or long, that you want to be made rather than read, keep the budget in mind
- Nobody needs a two-minute short with six actors, half of which children, most with largely pointless dialogue.
This is all aside from the fact that, with hindsight, it wasn’t very good or original. As I said, I learnt a lot from the exercise. If you’re going to fail, make sure it’s not wasted.
However, the 50 Kisses juggernaut rolled on; scripts were chosen, filmmakers made films, and Chris Jones and his team picked and assembled and polished and promoted and worked hard. And the result?