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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.

Sound the fire alarm

Having just watched a film in a cinema today, made me realize a thing I already knew before. The world is filled with hypocrisy.

In this case, I am referring to the fire safety clips they always show in Chinese cinemas before the actual film. It might be a strong and trustworthy fireman, an animated helpful robot or your average guy turned fire superhero, all of them urge you what to do in case of a fire. It is just as rote as most of the flight safety reminders when taking an airplane.

Of course, in almost all other cases there is much less, hardly or even no attention paid to fire safety. I remember when I went to China for the first time more than 15 years ago and eating in a hotpot restaurant. These were the times when the soup was still being heated by gas bottles whose tubes basically crossed the entire restaurant floor. And of course there were enough open fires with people happily smoking inside. Nonetheless, we lived to now tell on this tale luckily.

Another instance that comes to mind is in my own apartment building. Living in one these old, traditional 6-story flats already means that fire safety norms are non-existent. There are no emergency exits and stairs, and I doubt there are even smoke detectors installed.

Actually, I am quite positive there are none, because I saw my neighbors burning some money in the hallway a few days ago. Burning money in itself is not that strange, most Chinese do it when someone passes away or for other ceremonial purposes. However, it was quite windy and there was a cloth hanging over the door which seemed to come awfully close to catching on fire by the flames below it.

So naturally, I just headed out quickly and prayed nothing would catch on fire. I do not know if the burning of the money helped with that, but so far everything is still standing.

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?