The Razzies are the antithesis of the Oscars, in that they honor the very worst in film-making while Oscar honors the best. Or at least the most lucrative. Anyway, Sandra Bullock classed up the joint by showing up to accept her award. She might do the same on Sunday at the Oscars, for an entirely different movie, but I like any celebrity who’s capable of laughing at themselves. So kudos, Sandra. You’re still aces in my book.
Unsurprisingly, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was awarded “Worst Picture of 2009” despite its monumental box office returns, coming in just behind the blue-furry-powered Avatar. As kind as I was to the film in my review, a lot of that came from touches of nostalgia that help me return to the head space of a more innocent boy who hasn’t been exposed to things like collections agencies, unemployment and Uwe Boll. I acknowledge that it isn’t that great a movie, and some parts of it hedge on the terrible, but I still cannot completely chalk it up to bad writing.
In the article from Yahoo, something caught my eye that I felt bore mentioning:
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” was picked as last year’s worst picture and won two other Razzies, worst director for Michael Bay and worst screenplay for Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
Okay. Bob & Alex, I know. Well, I don’t know them personally, but apparently Bob’s been to this blog before. These guys worked with J.J. Abrams to bring us both Fringe and the new Star Trek film. Yet they were also involved in Revenge of the Fallen.
“How is this possible?” I often asked. “How are two guys who are distinguishing themselves as smart writers involved with something that, if I’m being honest, is a little dumb?” I think I have my answer.
Who is Ehren Kruger, and why did he ruin Transformers?
A little investigation may have yielded my answer. Apparently Mr. Kruger, before becoming involved with Transformers, adapted the Japanese horror Ringu for American audiences – that is to say, he dumbed it down. So he’s got a track record for making things worse than they had to be. But where did he start? What original works as he produced? Drilling down a little further I found my answer: Reindeer Games.
Suddenly, it all made sense. Now, I’ve only seen Reindeer Games once, during my university years, and I think I might have been hung over at the time. I don’t remember if I was more nauseous due to the previous night’s shenanigans or the awful, awful nature of this film. It’s one of those films that sits there and does absolutely nothing new. I wouldn’t watch it again unless someone asked me to. And gave me proper incentive.
Yeah, pretty shameless plug, I know. Click on those ads on the right while you’re at it, ad-clickers.
So the guy who shat out Reindeer Games and watered down Ringu for the fans of Jason & Freddy got involved with Orci & Kurtzman? That’s like having Gordon Ramsay and Morimoto-sama working together on a dish and inviting a hobo to come in and contribute whatever they want. Whatever delicious experimentation the two experts have undertaken is going to be completely overpowered by the rotgut, old anchovies and that shoe the hobo was chewing on before he got picked up. No wonder Revenge of the Fallen was such a mess. It all makes sense now!
Don’t read this as a diatribe against collaboration. Working with other people on a project often yields better results than going it alone. Peter Jackson could have worked alone to adapt The Lord of the Rings, but working with Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh made the films into masterpieces. Chuck Wendig wouldn’t have been able to blast his latest script draft in the face without the suggestions & input from people at Sundance. Well, maybe he could have, this is the Magic Talking Beardface we’re talking about.
All I’m saying is it takes one bad cook to spoil the meal. George Lucas insisted on so many things in the Star Wars prequels and had so much momentum behind him that nobody dared to question his decisions. I wonder if Kruger had Michael Bay firmly in his corner and pushed him to make changes to the screenplay after Bob & Alex were done with it. Other explanations make less sense. Bob & Alex, on their own, do good work. I just have to imagine that Kruger & Bay destroyed most if not all of the good they did for Revenge of the Fallen. Or maybe everybody was drunk. I think a couple of the cameramen certainly were.
Anyway, that’s what sprang to mind when I saw that third name on the list for the Razzie those guys won. This is just my opinion, I have no evidence to support it, rant rage etc. Nothing to see here, move along.
I’ll probably talk about the Oscars tomorrow. Not sure if I want to watch them, but I’ll be sure to talk about them. I have better things to do with my time. Like watch my lovely wife play the lovely Assassin’s Creed II. It certainly looks better than the first, which is a game I never finished.
More on that soon, too.
March 7, 2010 at 1:32 pm
Keep in mind, too, that the film script is, even before Sundance, a collaboration between my writing partner and myself.
One thing to be aware of: writers are not necessarily responsible for The Badness of a film. Some very good writers have been a part of some very bad films. Studios, directors, producers, editors, actors — the writing is a foundation, but a lot of very visible layers are added in retrospect. If something is a genuinely bad screenplay, hey, fine. It starts then with a shitty foundation. But some shitty films get started with solid scripts.
Kruger’s been on some bad films, true. But I’ve not read his scripts.
Further, one note I’d make: the American translation of Ringu isn’t really watered down. Having seen both in the same weekend, they’re very, very comparable. So much so that many parts of each film are shot-for-shot the same.
Further, I think the American Ring kicks Ringu’s ass.
Now, Kruger also wrote Ring 2.
Which was, politely, erm, less than stellar.
March 7, 2010 at 1:44 pm
You made fun of Transformers.
YOU MADE FUN OF TRANSFORMERS.
I will crush you! IN YOUR FACE! Transformers 2 had everything! It had giant robots, it had action, it had the Terminator…what sort of movie lets you watch an entirely separate movie while you watch the main feature? The movie also features Megan Fox, who if Hollywood mainstream is to be believed, is a talented actress known for more than her boobs!
I will give you to the count of 10 to apologize and give me your letter of resignation on my desk. Actually, I’ll give you to 20 to build me a desk in which to put your letter of resignation on. Hmm, course you’d have to get here first so I’ll give you 30. 30 or 40 depending on traffic!
March 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm
If you’ve got the time, I recommend a Terry Rossio article I read a while back, about the 1994 adaptation of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, and how you can be a good writer, committed to writing a good adaptation of a property, do everything in your power, and still get hosed with writing credit on something that doesn’t live up to your standards. It’s been a while since I read it through, but I seem to recall Building The Bomb breaks it down pretty well.
March 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm
Harlan Ellison has it in his contracts that any deviation from his script removes his name and substitutes “Cordwainer Bird”. He can do such things but the lesser beings of the writing world usually don’t have such clout. He probably has that clause to protect him from such monstrosities as Transformers Too being associated with a writer that can actually write. He wouldn’t have to prepare for such situations if hollyweird actually cared about the story, Avatar for instance…….sheesh…..
March 7, 2010 at 2:40 pm
I agree with Chuck on The Ring. I prefer it. Ringu was a bit boring, IMO.
Your Morimoto analogy doesn’t really fit. If Morimoto makes a dish, even collaboratively, you can see quality. I can honestly say that Transformers 2 was devoid of quality. I looked. I wanted to point out a good line or two. There just weren’t any. It was full of dog and dog robot humping. The main plot didn’t make a lick of sense. My head a-splode.
And John: Megan Fox gets a lot of shit. I think she’s underestimated. I also think she’s a symptom of a very big problem in our culture.
March 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm
I continue to avoid Transformers 2 for just that reason. I am afraid of how grumpy it will make me.
And word on Ringu: it’s a hair boring, and in my recollection actually gives more answers than the American remake (an odd difference given the American penchant for More More More when here it ends up being Less Less Less).
March 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm
If I recall correctly, Transformers 2 didn’t have much of a script. Bay needed to start production during the writer’s strike, so he forged ahead more or less on his own. I’m sure the credited writers made passes at a/the script either before or after the strike, but I’d lay most of the credit/blame for this one squared on the director’s shoulders.
March 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm
This makes a great deal of sense. And I’d much rather blame Bay for the shortcomings of Transformers (both films) than either of the aforementioned writers.
March 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm
I’ve been lax in fulfilling in my movie-buff responsibilities in the last 12 months. There are plenty of films that came out that I wanted to see, and turned out (according to people I trust) to be pretty darn good. What was my did my last cinema visit entail?
The husband dragging me by the collar to see Avatar. FOR FULL PRICE, which is something I try never to do. (We have a discount theater here in the Triangle, where not-exactly-first-run films can be seen for $1.50. Yay, us.)
March 7, 2010 at 3:12 pm
It has been brought to my attention that I didn’t actually say how I felt about Avatar.
The 3D aspect didn’t really do a lot for me, as I had to take my glasses off to fit the MIB Anti-Neuralizer Shades onto my face, so everything was blurry either way. (I swear, it’s like the universe is forcing me to get contact lenses.)
The story was very predictable, but paired with the visuals and the action, I found myself at least half-way enjoying the movie. As John noted, I was visibly moved during the Assault of Hometree, for reasons only slightly related to the actual movie. (I was angry because there are still assholes out there that think exactly like the Colonel and that corporate goon whose name I didn’t bother to learn. And that pisses me off.)
A note on the visuals: When I watched with one eye closed, I could see things clearly enough to have to remind myself this was all CGI. The moment of particular note being when Neytiri is holding the human body of Jake Sully, attempting to revive him after atmospheric exposure. If there was ever a moment where the whole thing was going to look fake, that was it. Guess what? I COULDN’T TELL SHE WASN’T REAL. And that, to me, is pretty damn amazing.
All in all, it wasn’t a complete waste of money or time. I’d go see it again, but only if/when it hits the $1.50 theater. Or if John buys it on Blu-Ray simply for the novelty of watching it on our PS3.
March 7, 2010 at 11:08 pm
I liked Avatar but it wasn’t my favorite film of the year. I’m not saying that makes it bad in any way, it’s just that while it’s a visually stunning film I wasn’t impressed with the story.