Friday, September 7, 2012

Twit-Pitch Review - Everything Falls Apart

Genre: Comedy
Premise: (Original Twit-Pitch Logline) When the world's biggest superhero agreed to grant a dying boy's last wish, he didn't count on the boy wishing for all his powers.
About: For those recently joining Scriptshadow, I held a contest a few months back called "Twit-Pitch," where anyone could pitch me their screenplay on Twitter, as long as it was contained within a single tweet.  I picked my 100 favorite loglines and read the first 10 pages of each (which I live-reviewed on Twitter), and then from those, picked the Top 20, which I've been reading the entire screenplay for.  
Writer: Chris Mulligan
Details: 90 pages

Pigman is not in Everything Falls Apart.  But he should be!

Thank the Lord for Chris Mulligan.  I was SPENT last night, struggling to keep my eyes open.  These sorts of things happen when you spend 2 unplanned hours of your day defending yourself against Twitter baddies.   So when I saw those two beautiful numbers sitting next to each other, 9 and 0, at the top of the document, I did a Gangnam Style dance that Psy himself would be proud of.  This wasn't going to be a long read.

But would it be a good read?  I mean, 90 page scripts can easily read like 140 page scripts if the writing's bad.  However, I had confidence.  This was a script that had been vetted through the first 10 pages process, remember.  I still remember the line that pushed it through.  When a woman asks if it's true that Everythingman can time travel, he smiles, we back away, and see that the woman is now pregnant.  I thought that was clever.  I was in!

Our superhero, Everythingman, is kind of like a superhero version of Anchorman.  He's arrogant.  He loves himself.  He drinks too much and bangs chicks.  But hey, he's saving the world one villain at a time and he's actually pretty good at it.

But Everythingman's a bit unethical in some of his practices.  You see, one of Everythingman's big powers is that he can steal powers from other superheroes and villains.  We see this in the opening scene when Everythingman steals a villain's fire-generating power in the middle of a fight and then uses it against him.

Thing is, Everythingman has gotten more and more greedy with this ability, and keeps stealing EVERYBODY'S powers. That's why he's called "Everythingman."  However, right after defeating this helpless latest bad guy, Everythingman flies into his standard post-victory press conference, where a 9 year old cancer-stricken "Make-A-Wish" foundation boy is thrust in front of him.  He's pressured into granting the boy a wish, and guess what, the boy wishes he could have Everythingman's powers!

Montage our way forward a few months and Cancer Boy is now the dominant superhero in town and Everythingman is a big fat nobody, with emphasis on the "fat."  So what does Everythingman do about this?  Well, he teams up with his old sidekick, the rather plainly named, "Frank," and plans to take down Cancer Boy to get his powers back, even though he knows this means Cancer Boy will die.

That is,

Readers love short scripts.  But here's the ironic thing. When they spot a script that's extra short, 90 pages or less, they get nervous.  They fear there might not be enough meat to the story, or that the characters aren't fully explored.  The fear is that the story will be too thin.  And I believe that's what's happened here.

Now we're not talking infamous entries Orbitals or Frankenstein 90210 thin, but storywise, there isn't a whole lot that happens in Everythingman.  Let me try and explain.

The opening is great.  We meet Everythingman in his environment.  We establish his flaw (his arrogance).  The scene is funny.  I'm pulled in.  But then Cancer Boy takes his powers, Everythingman goes into a deep depression, and eventually runs into his old sidekick.

And this segment lasts forever!

I know it couldn't have been this long since the script is only 90 pages, but it felt like we got 50 scenes of Everythingman and his old sidekick, Frank, talking about nothing.  I remember looking up, seeing that I was on page 45, and thinking, "Jesus, we're already halfway through this thing and nothing's really happened."

Then the two sort of goof around, preparing for their showdown with Cancer Boy and, I don't know, it just seemed like there weren't a whole lot of stakes involved.  Everything was so casual.  Not only that, but you could feel Mulligan struggling with the motivation thing the whole way through.  Our hero's basically planning to kill a young child.  A child who's doing a great job protecting the city.  Which pretty much makes Everythingman a great big asshole.

Now I'm not completely against this, since this is a comedy and it's kind of funny how selfish Everythingman is to the point where he's willing to kill a boy to get his powers back.  But when all the other story components are kind of loose and not working as well, something like that really sticks out. I mean look at Frank, for example.  He's a good guy.  He always does the right thing.  Why in the world does he agree to kill this boy to get powers back for someone he hates (Everythingman stole his powers a long time ago too).

Something like that would work a lot better if, say, Everythingman needed Frank to help him defeat Cancer Boy and therefore went to him.  It becomes much more dramatically compelling if Everythingman must come grovelling back to the guy he screwed over for help than if that same guy conveniently shows up at his door right when he needs him.  But even if you got that element right, it's still impossible to understand why this nice guy would agree to kill a boy.  It just doesn't make sense.

Another part of the script that needs work is the explanation behind the powers.  It was all rather confusing.  Not only does Everythingman have all these superpowers, but there's also this mysterious Genie in his past who gave him all these powers or something?  So in this universe we now have superheroes and.....genies???  Is this The Incredibles or is this Aladdin?

So he stole the genie's ability to grant wishes, which is what allowed him to give Cancer Boy a wish - I think.  But did he only have 3 wishes to give away since he was a genie??  Was this his last one?  Why would he waste it on a random boy?  I don't know.  It all seemed harder to follow than it should've, particularly for a movie like this, where things should be fairly straightforward.  So that will have to be fixed.

Moving forward, I think it's important for Mulligan to pack more into his story.  Never take 10 pages to say what you can say in 5.  That was the big problem here.  It always took Mulligan twice as long to say what he needed to.  The first 30 pages could have easily been packed into 15 with a keen eye for cutting and a focus on short crisp scenes and no repetition.  This will allow more room for relationship exploration and subplots.

I think Mulligan had the right idea when he started delving into relationship stuff with Frank and his sister, but Frank was such a thin and confusing character (him just showing up to wish someone well who he hated made no sense) and the sister came in so late, that it was tough to care about whether they fixed their relationship or not.  I'd much rather get into Everythingman's character flaw (his arrogance/ selfishness) and bring in a relationship that explored that.  We're way more interested in him changing than Frank.

So yeah, this felt too thin to me.  There were some funny lines and some funny moments.  But you always need more than that in a screenplay.  You need a compelling story that involves you the whole way through.  This kinda felt like one long extended joke.  :(

Script Link: Everything Falls Apart

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

What I learned: You want a lot of "plot points" in your script.  A plot point is anything that pushes your characters through a relevant barrier in the movie.  In Avengers, each time we brought one of the superheroes into the story, that was a plot point.  When the bad guy shows up on earth, that was a plot point.  When all the superheroes finally get together to plan what they're going to do, that was a plot point.  When they're attacked, that was a plot point.  The less plot points you have, the thinner your story feels.  And that's how Everything Falls Apart felt to me.  There simply weren't enough plot points to make this feel like a full move.