Film rewriting: Little Women

Things are opening up again, including movie theaters. And one thing I did miss in China, were the smaller places we have here where you can find the non-blockbusters. It is a bit ironic then that the first movie I watched here, was one of the more mainstream ones.

Hearing the title Little Women, it kind of reminded me of A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara. I have not read both books, but they must be quite different after watching the first one’s adaptation. Little Women is a romantic setting, à la Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights. A Little Life is more of a biopic including many different characters and their struggles, a focus on the realistic instead of the romantic.

So Little Women, then, has the following synopsis on imdb:

“Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women, each determined to live life on her own terms.”

It feels similar to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in the setup with multiple sisters who all have quite different personalities. Although I pretty much bawled my eyes out during the second half and liked the movie in general, there were a few things I would have done differently.

  1. I expected to see a bit more evenly divided screen time. Of course it became clear early on that we would just be in Jo March’s head, and Amy March as a good second, but I hoped to learn a bit more about the other 2 sisters’ perspectives as well. Especially Meg March, who is shown having some grudges about the life she chose, but there is no real catharsis from the one argument she has with her husband, to her frolicking in the garden with her kids at the end. Let alone talking about the sickly sister Beth March, who mostly serves just to be taken care of instead of being a fully formed character.
  2. How did they manage to make this main love interest guy look so much like he does not belong in this era? He is cute, but his body language reminded me of a cool guy who just put on these clothes because someone told him too. Also, he is not even fleshed out that much. We see him bantering with his teacher, who marries Meg March, and hear through other characters that he does not have a very good relationship with his father, but none of it is really shown. This makes it even more difficult to look beyond his modern demeanor and see him as an actual Victorian gentleman.
  3. Jo March is played very well by Saoirse Ronan, but her arc is kind of… anti-climactic. Especially since during the movie’s title sequence, a statement is shown saying something like “my life has been tough enough, so I only wrote about frivolous things.” And I am not one to say that it is ‘not tough enough’ if you have to scrape by or lose a family member, but the problem is that you do not see a lot of moments of real despair, besides the main ‘climax’. Even though everyone is not thriving at the beginning, neither of them really have failed. Add to that the fact that you mainly see flashbacks of happy family moments, and all the tension created for the final romance, sort of feels undeserved.

This is not to say that I do not like the movie, I just think it is a bit too sweet for my taste. I really love Pride and Prejudice and liked Sense and Sensibility as well, so I certainly have a soft spot this genre. It just nagged me a bit while watching the movie that I was waiting for a punch, but only got soft pats.

N.B. I did not take into account the original novel (which I have not read) for these critique points.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zongo/33133416758

Film rewriting: Battle Angel Alita

Comics are sort of the new favorite source for films these days. Of course we have Marvel and DC, but also manga (and anime) have served as inspirations in the past years. With mixed results to say the least.

On the other hand, it seems that production values and budgets increase as well, hopefully leading to better quality films (in any sense of the word). This all leads me to the newest addition in this genre, Battle Angel Alita.

This is actually the first manga-based film, where I actually read the manga. It was about 10 years ago, so not too fresh in my mind but I remember enjoying it quite a lot. The basic premise of the movie is as follows:

“A brilliant scientist finds a broken android in the scrapyard. He rebuilds her and discovers she has a strong appetite for battle and sports (motorball). While (re)discovering herself, she becomes part of a competition to rise above others and literally above the city to the promised land.”

Honestly, the story line is quite straightforward so here are a few things I propose to make it a little bit more interesting.

  1. Can we have more shots of sports training? Motorball is like this intense, extreme competition where people, androids and robots literally completely rebuild themselves and lose their lives. Yet, we only get a mock practice game and Alita’s first real game before we are told at the end that she rose to the top in a few months of beating everyone. Where are the photos of those moments?
  2. Could we get a little more background information as to why certain people like or do not like Alita? The best friend of her main love interest (more on that in my next point) just does not like Alita, for no particular reason than that she beat him at the first game where he cheated, but keeps hanging around and going to places. And then in the end, he still dies for his friend even though he just insulted him of becoming weak because of her. That is just not how friendship works.
  3. I like Disney and hot guys as much as the next person, but it just does not match in a gritty, industrial and serious environment. Please throw the scene where he wakes up without a shirt out of the window immediately. Please do not throw in a cheesy quote such as: “You are the most human person I know”, when it is literally directed to an android. Please do not have the guy thanking the girl for changing his world as he falls to his death. And if possible, just find a less standard hot guy type. They just look too clean, no matter how dirty their environment is.

Apparently, this is only the first film in what is to become a series. As a stand-alone film, it is fine. It does the story enough justice, but could certainly improve in the next films. In any case, at least this was not the next Dragonball disaster.

Film rewriting: La La Land

Shamelessly plugging into the publicity that La La Land already has because of the Oscars and its popularity. Yes, I saw the movie, I even saw it twice. I liked it a lot, love the music, understand (part of) its popularity.

So I am not going to tell you the synopsis of this film, since it is everywhere on the internet and otherwise you know how to go to www.imdb.com (or you just learned now how to). But basically it is a slightly more realistic lovestory with some very good music inserted.

Actually, that is one of my main complaints, there is not enough music in it. Okay, granted I looked for the full music soundtrack on my Chinese (slightly illegal?) music app and it had more than 40 numbers. However, half of them are instrumental tunes which only last for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

I absolutely loved the first 40 minutes of the film and the first two songs. The opening is one of the happiest traffic jams you will ever see, and I whispered to my friend when we would ever be standing in such a traffic jam with 40 handsome young people who can dance and sing. Shortly afterwards the second song follows which is a nice twist on the getting ready sequence that usually happens before the party.

I reckon it is because the film is between an actress and a musician, so the instrumentals get a lot of time to shine. I did miss some unison singing and flashmob dancing though. I remember watching the remake of the Hairspray film as a musical film a few years ago with some French friends. They were clearly not into musicals, since I heard them whispering at a certain point: “They are singing a bit too much.” Which of course is the whole purpose of a musical film, but never mind.

So to get to the purpose of this writing exercise, herewith some recommendations for La La Land:

  1. I understand it is an idealized version of having it difficult, but being able to regularly go to parties, afford a nice apartment (even shared) and take off from work when you want to (and not even serving customers adequately), does really defy expectations quite a bit. Would it not be nice if she had some harsher conditions to go against?
  2. So can we have a bit more motivation for the change of heart for these starstruck lovers to start looking at each other differently? I mean, he swipes sand in her shoe and then they start dancing. Why yes, is that not a great dating move?
  3. For the final reel of how ideally their relationship/lives should have gone, can we shorten it a bit? By this point we have already been watching for about 1,5 hours, and we can basically imagine ourselves how it should have went. The first part of re-enacting the original movie was fun, but could the family/kid part not have been shortened? Yes it could have been.

But perhaps if it was even slightly more realistic, there would not have been as many Oscar nominations and wins. Oh well, who cares about that anyway right?

Film rewriting: Kubo and the Two Strings

So to be a bit more accessible, let’s add some English to this game!

Last weekend, I went to the movies with a friend and (sort of) by coincidence we saw Kubo and the Two Strings. Without actually knowing it either, it was a beautiful stop-motion movie where you could easily lose yourself in its visuals.

But then the story. It was not that it was terrible, not by all means. But I always keep wondering how they manage to keep these tales so predictable. Being an instantly obsessed millennial internet user, I dove right into the IMDB and review pages. Having read a few reviews, it got me thinking that it would be interesting to see how the story could be changed to follow a more original, possibly more interesting, path.

Let’s take a look at the basic storyline below:

“Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato, Akihiro, and Kameyo.”

“But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey and Beetle, and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known.”

“With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King and the evil twin Sisters, to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny.”

Source: Rotten Tomatoes

In one of the reviews I read online, it was mentioned that the hero himself did not have a lot of doubts regarding his fate/travel/destiny. Another thing, that often seems to be the case in these kinds of stories, is the underdevelopment of the villains. They just exist without a background or any other motivation besides being bad(ass). Sounds like a simple way of living, but one that does not incite a lot of recognition. Additionally, I was initially a bit confused with the role of the mother, especially since (spoiler!) she goes from a mentally unstable person to a wise and protective monkey.

So what to do? I propose some simple editing of crucial story elements (spoilers!):

  1. Can we have the mother act a bit more lucid in the scenes where she is not a monkey? Just so it feels more natural once she actually becomes the monkey. That would be very helpful to our audience.
  2. The start of Kubo’s journey starts because he stays outside after dark and can thus be found by the bad peeps. Can we have a better motivation for Kubo to stay outside other than that he somehow does not manage to run the whole way back in one sequence because he just needs to be slow once?
  3. Can we get a look at what Heaven looks like? What is the reason for people in Heaven to be so cold and evil? That is not what I have learned before!
  4. There is no moment of inner turmoil. This guy has his mother turned into a monkey, a beetle as his additional travel companion, is chased by people descended from heaven and has both his parents dying at the same time. How is he keeping his stuff together? Please enlighten me!
  5. Why is there a semi-happy ending with the entire family (even though the parents are in some sort of spirit-form)? Please do not end this movie in such a cheesy way.

Sounds great huh? Now to find some people to shoot this thing again in like 100.000 frames since it is stop-motion. Oh well, it is all about the ideas right?