Script Review – Angels & Demons

A casual fan of Dan Brown’s first Robert Langdon novel approves of its screenplay.

So a friend of mine recommends the Dan Brown bestselling novel, Angels and Demons, and I say, sure, ok, all I’ve been reading is rock star tell-alls and crime fiction, this’ll be a nice change. Everyone knows Dan Brown, worldly famous for another one of his books, The Da Vinci Code, from which they made a pretty successful movie, with Tom Hanks. Haven’t read that one, or seen the film. I get a copy of A&D, and whip through it.

And you know what? I liked it.

Taking place mainly in Rome (can’t go wrong with that), it’s a mystery, a whodunit, full of brutal murders and arcane history, fun for all ages. I hear they’re making a movie of it. Nice, I think. Like to see that.

But then I get to see something else first, a script. Of A&D.

Now, there’s often a problem in checking out a script of a book you’ve already read and liked. You know there are going to be omissions, changes, and if history serves, almost ALWAYS to the story’s detriment. Understanding that, you attempt to have an open mind, and think cinematically, cutting the filmmakers some slack.

Akiva Goldsman, with help from David Koepp, pulls it off. Normally you’re only as good as your source material, and Goldsman wisely stays close to it, retaining the flavor and dramatic push of the novel. Using Rome (second-greatest city on earth, behind NYC, natch) as a character in itself, we follow American professor Robert Langdon as he tries to put together an intricate historical puzzle, centering on the Vatican and a sinister underground organization called the “Illuminati.”

Seems someone has kidnapped four Catholic Cardinals, and plans to kill them dead, one by one. There’s also the small matter of a device being placed inside the Vatican, which is counting down the minutes till it goes off, and the search for it. Oh yeah. And the Pope just died. Murdered, perhaps? Will Langdon and co. save the Cardinals? Will the device explode and take Rome with it?

As they search for clues here there and everywhere, tear around the streets in Alfa-Romeos following trails pointed out by centuries-old statues, it’s the city that stars in this story. I can’t wait to see this Rome, to go to these locales, whether it be inside the Vatican, or down in the catacombs, or to various churches and holy places. It’s a fun ride, energetic and suspenseful, and the characters are more engaging than you would expect, with Langdon as the scoffed-at American who saves the day, to Vittoria, as the scientist/love interest, to the Camerlengo, the acting Pope, who may have his own personal plans for them all.

A few things about the screenplay, though, stuck out. The first thing was good. They removed a preposterous bit at the end of the book where Langdon survives jumping out of a helicopter by using a blanket as a parachute. Nice call. They did, however, make a misstep in changing the nature of the killer from a more devout disciple-type to a standard gun for hire. This relegates the assassin to caricature status, not nearly as complicated and frightening as he was in the book. They also, oddly, cut the part where Langdon rushes to save Vittoria, the ole’ damsel-in-distress bit, which actually worked well in the novel, allowing for a climatic showdown. Now, as to why a certain main character does what he does, and it’s central to the story, here the book and screenplay match completely. I read the book. I read the screenplay. I have no clue. Hopefully Dan Brown knows. Guess I could ask him.

Angels and Demons started as a good novel, has become a good screenplay, and hopefully, will be a good film. Interesting, entertaining, mildly convoluted and scenic, it’s just like the city it takes place in.

DVD Series Review – Homeschool Course of Study

Envision a cross-curricular Homeschool resource influenced through Friends and Heroes prize-winning educational Christian movies, animated adventure DVDs including Holy bible accounts! That’s what the brand-new Home-school Course of study offers you and your children!

Each Unit investigation features the best animated bible stories on DVD, containing the Friends and Heroes installments which influence the teaching course, plus PDFs containing the self-guided Pupil Handbook — usually around 40 to 60 pages — and also a comprehensive School teacher/Parent Manual with web links, history-relevant information and teaching assistance.

Offered separately or as a series of 13 units, including each Old and New Testament  stories, this material of bible videos plus an awesome home school curriculum is stimulating and also completely unique for each learner, as well as their families! Thrill to the experiences of Macky and the Friends of Jesus as they withstand the Romans and also pick up from the thrilling tales they advise. More information.


Script Review: The Highlander Remake

Highlander was a solid fantasy/action film released in 1986 that told the tale of Conner MacLeod (played by Christopher Lambert), a Scotsman born in the year 1518 “in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel,” who violently discovers that he is a member of a group of immortals who move silently down through the centuries, living many secret lives until the time of The Gathering, when the few who remain will battle to the last, each hoping to win The Prize.  Though it told a complete, self-contained narrative – at the film’s climax MacLeod battles and kills the penultimate immortal, his arch-nemesis The Kurgan (played by Clancy Brown) and wins The Prize – its success demanded more.  Despite the difficulty of building a franchise upon a story that essentially left no room for one, several sequels and television series spin-offs were developed with varying success.  But since Hollywood has a memory of a 12-year-old with ADHD and the financial philosophy of Gordan Gekko, it’s time to slap a new coat of paint on the Highlander franchise and take it out for another spin, i.e. it’s reboot time!

I’ll admit that my geek-fueled gut reaction is to shout, “But wait!  There’s no need to remake Highlander!  It’s a great movie!”  But if I really stop and think about it, from reading the script it’s obvious that producers so badly want to build a new, more successful Highlander franchise that a remake is inevitable.  Trying to build more story on the foundation of the original film is, well, problematic to put it mildly.  You can pretend that the ending of the movie didn’t really happen, that wasn’t The Gathering, and Macleod didn’t win The Prize (basically what the Highlander TV show did), or you can go the WTF? route and decide that the immortals are really aliens from a planet called Zeist along with some other crazy shit, like what they did in Highlander 2: The Quickening.  However you go about it, the other big problem is that all of the original actors are too old now, so you’ve got to find fresh, bankable faces upon which to build the new Highlander franchise.  So now that we’ve reconciled ourselves with the fact that a remake is going to happen (and is due out ~2010, according to IMDB), let’s get right to the point.  What can we discern about the new film based on the script?

Well, let me put it this way.  If the original film is Windows XP – it’s been around for awhile, it may have a few problems, but all around it’s solid; people are happy with it – then this reboot is Windows Vista.  It’s an updated version of what we already had, made for no other discernible reason than to make more money, and while it’s fundamentally different on multiple levels, it’s most assuredly not a good kind of different.  It’s the bad kind of different that induces hair pulling and audible cursing and brand switching.  If this is where the Highlander franchise is going, I think I’ll be seeing something else at the cineplex on opening weekend, thank you very much.

I suppose we’ll never know.  I would venture a guess that some of this will giet addressed in the sequel sure to follow this remake, but that would imply that the screenwriters are operating with some degree of intelligence.  After reading this script, I’m just not sure I believe that.


Fanboy Comics Interview: Gino Pesi of Battle: Los Angeles

Here is a conversation with actor Gino Pesi, who co-stars in the upcoming film, Battle: Los Angeles, with stars Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, and Bridget Moynahan.   A few of Pesi’s recent credits include the films Takers and SWAT: Fire Fight, as well as TV appearances in NCIS, CSI: NY, Chuck, Cold Case, and What I like About You.  Pesi discussed his thoughts with Fanboy Comics Mang. Editor B. Dillon on his Battle: LA character, acting with CGI, and how Battle: LA’s aliens compare with other movies.