Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Atlas

Genre: Fantasy/Procedural/Action
Premise: A hunter named Atlas must figure out why a human is being targeted by creatures from a parallel world.
About: Ben Magid is the writer of the dark serial killer fantasy “Pan,” which I reviewed a few weeks ago. He has a few other projects in development including Hack-Slash at Rogue and Invasion at Summit. Atlas originally went out on the town in 2009, but despite some initial interest, it didn’t sell. I’ve been told more than a few times, “Carson, you gotta read Ben Magid’s Atlas. It’s awwwesome.” And they say it like Jack Black but without the irony. Hey, I’ll admit it. I think fairies are for girls. So I wasn’t down with strapping my wings on. But if you want to expand your horizons, you gotta take some chances right?
Writer: Ben Magid
Details: 114 pages – 2/19/09 (This is an early draft of the script. The situations, characters, and plot may change significantly by the time the film is released. This is not a definitive statement about the project, but rather an analysis of this unique draft as it pertains to the craft of screenwriting).


The people have spoken. You wanted more Ben Magid. I’m bringing you more Ben Magid. To be honest, I always thought this script was the script for Atlas Shrugged, so I stuffed it in my “never read this for the rest of your life” pile. I mean, did you see the trailer for that abomination? If you can watch that trailer and tell me what that movie’s about, apply to Harvard now cause you’re a certified genius.

Okay now you’re going to have to excuse me if I don’t get this right. I’m not a fairy expert. I don’t build troll replicas. The only witch I know is my ex-girlfriend. The parallel fairy worlds are confusing so take my description with a grain of pixie sand. Or dust. Or whatever it’s called.

We start on a 16 year old girl named Willa running from a creature. She’s not too sure why a creature is chasing her and quite frankly neither are we. But her big mistake is turning into an alley. Rule number 1 when anything is chasing you. Never EVER turn into an alley! You ESPECIALLY want to abide by this rule if any sort of creature is chasing you.

Lucky for Willa, Atlas Goodfellow, Creature-killer extraordinaire, has experience with people making the dumb decision to turn into alleys and decides to end this creature’s comfort, dragging a confused Willa back to the hideout afterwards to figure out what’s going on.

See, we’re in the human world. And creatures aren’t supposed to come into the human world due to some pact we made with them back in the olden days. Atlas is a hunter. He hunts down any of these things that come into our world and sends them back – if sends them back means killing they asses.

Atlas figures this girl must be pretty darn special if she has creatures risking their lives to come into the human world to execute her. And he wants to get to the bottom of it. Now here’s where things got a little confusing. I couldn’t figure out if the human world was our world as we know it now, or a heightened version of our world where fairy creatures co-exist with us. Because sometimes our heroes would, say, go to a club, and there’d be trolls and fairies hanging out. I’ve been to a fair share of nightclubs and I haven’t ever seen a fairy except for when girls dress up in slutty fairy costumes on Halloween. I suppose they could be real fairies PRETENDING to be slutty Halloween fairies but I doubt it. Anyway, I couldn’t figure that out.

But getting back on track, Atlas eventually realizes that Willa is special. Verrrrry special. And that’s why the people from the creature world want her. In the end, the two will have to team up to stop the baddies from getting their hands on her. Cause if they don’t, the human world and the creature world will collide in one giant world jumbolya and if that happens we’re all going to become human stew.

Atlas was a neat script if you like this kind of thing. Did you see that movie with Nicolas Cage? The one with the dragons in New York? The Sorcerer’s Apprentice! That’s the one. This is kind of like that movie, but more clever, more inventive, and a little better.

Specially on the inventive part. Ben Magid’s really created his own world here. And that’s not easy to do WHILE keeping us entertained. You know how easy it would be to get bogged down in fairy names and troll guild descriptions? I see it happen all the time in fantasy scripts and it makes me want to claw my eyes out. “The Lisp Fairies are an ancient fairy tribe that once warred with the Carmine fairies, who would eventually give their allegiance to the Naksor King, who ruled the land of Falsettosoon before being consumed by the great Jigsaw plague, eventually reemerging as the Genky fairies, who were a combination of the original two factions, but who now only answer to Queen Xafulfa.”

Like I said. Ben doesn’t do that here. He tells us only what we need to know about the world and then keeps things moving so we can focus on the characters and the story. ALWAYS follow this rule when you write a fantasy movie. Know your world inside out, but don’t tell every single detail about it.

The thing is, the few times Ben does get into detail, it’s pretty cool. Like when Atlas whips out some strange bio-duo-loaded steam gun that shoots huge bullets. Except when we move in close, we see that these are not bullets at all, but rather fairies, who then burrow into their target’s skin, and suck the life out of them from the inside. Fairy bullets? Okay, I admit, haven’t seen that in a script before.

On the problem side, though, are a few things. Starting with the dialogue. It’s either too plain or too “summer action movie’ish,” and the reason it stands out is because everything else is so imaginative. For example, when Willa asks Atlas about a witch they have to see, Atlas replies, “More bitch than witch. It’s too risky. And there’s a price. No. We’ll find another way.” I don’t know. It’s not bad. It just never feels like people are *really* communicating with each other. Rather, they’re just shooting movie lines back and forth.

I also thought Atlas’ motivation was kind of wishy-washy for the majority of the story. He risks life and limb (literally death at every corner) because he’s “curious” about why the baddies are after this girl? Later on it starts to make more sense when he realizes that the world he’s protecting is in danger. But at first his obsession with protecting her at all costs didn’t have merit.

Likewise, I wouldn’t have minded a little more urgency, a ticking time bomb of sorts. They are getting chased a lot, which keeps the pace upbeat, but for the longest time there was no looming problem, allowing a leisurely pace through some of the second act, such as when they had unlimited time to visit Black Annis the Witch.

Atlas is unique. It’s a procedural that happens inside a hybrid human/fairy world. And I have to admit, I hadn’t seen that before (still haven’t read Killing On Carnival Row – is that script the same thing?). Would I have liked the relationships to be better explored and the backstories a little less clich├ęd (My parents were murdered right in front of my eyes!)? Yeah, probably. But none of these things are so bad that they’re story killers. The main reason I can’t personally recommend Atlas is because I’m just not into this kind of thing. But I have a feeling that those of you, men and women, who like to dress up as slutty fairies on Halloween, will like this quite a bit. So if you’re in that camp, read it and tell me what you think.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Be careful when you’re writing a “summer type” movie, that your characters aren’t all speaking in trailer lines. Those lines have their time in the sun, such as the climactic moment of a speech or during an action scene where your characters are in danger, but for all the lines in between, have your characters talk to each other like real people.