#film

Put THE MUMMY Back in the Tomb by Ryan Hill

 

The first reboot of The Mummy in 1999 was silly, cheesy popcorn entertainment. It wasn’t anything special, but it grossed more than $400 million worldwide, spawning two sequels of decreasing quality. The franchise, like the Mummy itself, was left for dead in 2008 after the disastrous third entry, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Like any good member of the undead, the Mummy is back after 11 years, this time sporting Tom Cruise and the kickoff to a cinematic universe of classic movie monsters.

Even with a megastar and an entire universe behind this dark and dreary version of The Mummy, it doesn’t hold a candle to the bright and colorful 1999 version.

Cruise stars as his typical cocky self with Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Jake Johnson and Sofia Boutella as the title character. The plot is a rehash of the previous Mummy films: a mummy wakes up, sucks up people’s life for regeneration, then goes on a rampage as epic as the CGI and budget allows.

The decision to create a cinematic universe out of a group of monsters that were at best loosely connected to begin with reeks of money, but that’s a “no, duh” statement. Dubbed the Dark Universe, this is Universal Studio’s attempt to cash in on the cinematic universe craze started by Marvel and copied by DC, now Universal, and soon Paramount’s Transformers universe will hit theaters.

The funny thing about the Dark Universe is Universal tried it once before with the horrific, awful, please God burn the negatives of the print Van Helsing. That Hugh Jackman monstrosity – phrasing – combined Abraham Van Helsing, Dracula, Frankenstein and his monster, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and a werewolf, much like this new Dark Universe. The Mummy is meant to be the start of that universe, which also includes a Bride of Frankenstein film, The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

But why kick things off with a new Mummy? It’s lazy. More to the point, why would Cruise star in the film? Sure, The Mummy tries to be a “Tom Cruise” movie, giving his character the typical, “cocky a------e turns good” arc that defines most Cruise films, but it fails in spectacular fashion. If Cruise’s arrogance isn’t fun, or in the case of Edge of Tomorrow leads to a series of deaths, there’s no point. The Mummy has neither, instead featuring the most unlikable Cruise character since … ever? Maybe Lions for Lambs?

Alex Kurtzman, making his directing debut, seems lost behind the camera. Every decision made feels like it was done to appease a studio suit, editing out everything that isn’t loud or goes boom. The result is a near-incoherent mess with massive gaps in logic and questionable character motivations that never go unanswered.

If this Dark Universe – which is such a big deal, the film has a logo for the universe before the opening credits – is to thrive, things better improve. Because if The Mummy is any indication, this universe will get sucked into a black hole before it even has a chance to untangle its bandages.

 

On Adapting THE BOOK OF BART For Film/TV by Ryan Hill

 

Fun fact: I originally wanted to be a screenwriter. After I finished grad school in 2004, I even moved out to Los Angeles in the hopes of making that dream a reality. Long story short, I came back to North Carolina after six months. I missed my family, friends, clean(ish) air, and a zillion other things. But I never lost the writing bug (obviously).

Last year, I got the idea to write a pilot script for The Book of Bart. I've always felt it would make a good show, something that could be a book-end to, say, Supernatural, so while I was in the middle of edits on the upcoming The Conch Shell of Doom, I set to work turning Bart into a 50-odd page pilot script. I'd written feature-length screenplays before, but not an adaptation.

For anyone out there considering adapting their novel, know that writing a script is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like writing a novel. They're different beasts with different rules. A novel can really dig into details and emotions, enveloping the reader in the soft, gentle sway of a tree branch in the wind. If that line were written in a script, the reader would toss it in the garbage and move on to the next script. With novels, that kind of writing is welcomed, and sometimes even praised. It can also mask potential deficiencies in plot or dialogue. 

Guess what?

SCRIPTS ARE ALL ABOUT PLOT AND DIALOGUE.

Scripts require the most sparse, bare-bones writing possible. Every single word matters. A script is meant to serve as a blueprint for a film or TV production. What's on the page is meant to be on the screen. If it can't be seen or heard, it shouldn't be in the script. Emotions, motive, all that stuff has to be left to the cast and crew for interpretation. Ever read a play, like Thornton Wilder's Our Town? There's the scene location, characters, and dialogue. That's it. Everything else is left to the director, actors, set designers, etc., to interpret as they see fit. A script is similar, though there's room for just enough description to paint a visual picture. 

The transition from book to screen is never seamless. Even films like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter have differences/departures from the books. The change in medium makes it impossible to stay 100 percent true to the source material because of length, a scene isn't visually compelling, or what works as a book doesn't necessarily work as a film. Some books just aren't meant to be adapted, while others are.

This one wasn't.

This one wasn't.

I knew going in that adapting Bart to a visual medium would be tricky. Much of the fun comes from Bart's narration, and only so much of that can survive before characters wind up standing in front of a camera, waiting for the voice over narration to finish so they can move on to the next thing. It became a balancing act of mixing the narration into a mix of voice over and dialogue. 

While I'm happy with the pilot for The Book of Bart, there's a lot of work left before it can even think about seeing the light of day. And that's fine. If nothing else, it was a learning experience, so onward and upward, and all that stuff. I'll share it one day, but today it's about the challenges of adapting one's work to a different medium.

John Irving won an Oscar for adapting his novel The Cider House Rules. Suzanne Collins wrote a draft of the first Hunger Games film. So adapting your work can be done, and done quite well. Just go into it knowing that by no means is it a cake walk, and good luck!