I should imagine it could go without saying that an early look at a film's screenplay can't be taken as a clear indication of what a finished film is going to be like. Not with a high degree of definite certainty, anyway. A script is a step in the process and the film has yet to be filmed or edited at that stage, and things can change very, very dramatically during that ongoing development.
Having said that, I've read an awful lot of film scripts that reflect the eventual film rather well indeed.
As the Robocop remake has come together so far, most signs have been very good. Jose Padilha is a very interesting choice of director and his cast list features a lot of great names – Joel Kinnaman, Samuel Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Jay Baruchel, Hugh Laurie, Michael Kenneth Williams.
I was feeling pretty optimistic.
But then Twitter reminded me, in the worst way possible, of some weaker links in the chain.
The screenplay for the new Robocop has been written by Joshua Zetumer and Nick Schenk. Zetumer has yet to have a script produced, but some say he contributed rewrites to Quantum of Solace; Schenk, meanwhile, wrote Gran Torino. That was not a great screenplay.
Following the Twitter feed of Hit Fix's Drew McWeeny yesterday (maybe still better known as former Aint It Cool contributor Moriarty), I got to see a play-by-play of his reactions to the script as he was reading it.
Here's how it went down for him. His reactions are often rather vivid.
I tried to read the "Robocop" remake, but 20 pages in my nose started bleeding and I forgot my name. #nobueno #reallynobueno
I will try this again once my blood pressure's gone down. But, seriously, folks, "Robocop" was already perfect.
I'll share this one detail. In the film, when Murphy is turned into Robocop 1.0, it's described "a high-tech version of the '80s suit."
Then they show a focus group scene where criminals laugh at the design. "He looks like a toy from the '80s!"
So they redesign him to look "meaner" as Robocop 2.0, who passes focus group approval.
So they not only make sure to include the original design, they also point out it's dated and stupid. *facepalm*
Hold onto your sides for more hilarious "Robocop" details. They outsource his construction to China. #seriously
And we meet the ED-209s in the field in Iran, where they're used to subdue suicide bombers. #ineedallthedrinksnow
Short version: this script makes my stomach hurt very, very badly.
Ahhh… now they just dropped Robocop 3.0 onto an Al Queda training camp to see what he does.
"He should be programmed to incapacitate in all scenarios." "Agreed. Let's keep him PG-13, Dr. Norton." No. No. No. No.
By page 54, they are already onto Robocop 4.0, who looks like a "cop on steroids painted metallic blue."
Oh, god… oh dear god… Robocop is a Transformer. He goes from "social mode" to "combat mode" and back. Full transformation.
I'm going to go stand in my backyard and scream at the moon for a while. My brain needs a shower.
Write it down. Page 55, the "Robocop" remake beat me. I'm done. I can't hurt more than this.
Okay… the two "best" lines in the script. First up is at the unveiling ceremony for Robocop in Detroit, from a TV reporter covering it.
"I think it's safe to say that Alex Murphy is now part man, part machine, ALL COP!" Yes, I too remember the original poster, asshat.
Second, after the traumatic first meeting with his father, Alex's son retreats to the apartment of Lewis, Murphy's male partner.
The scene ends with the action line "David sits, catatonic, looks at the TV — MGM REMAKE TBD."
I feel like one of those little potato people staring directly into The Dark Crystal. And, yet, pages keep turning…
Good god… it just keeps topping itself. It's like someone wrote a script scientifically fine-tuned to destroy me.
Someone shows Pope, head of the OCP project, some mock-ups for Robocop action figures. "Are you kidding? I wouldn't buy that for a dollar!"
When this thing hits theaters, people are going to call up Len Wiseman's "Total Recall" on the phone and apologize for being so mean.
I'll say this: once the script stops all the winky-winky crap and just starts telling a story, it's not terrible. But it's way too late.
If you can get past Robocop The Transformer, there are some interesting action beats. And I'm sure Padilla will direct the hell out of it.
But overall? Ouch. Ouch. Ohpleasedon't. Ouch. And a big side order of ouch.
So, he didn't like it then.
We're at a remove, here, reading only McWeeny's reactions and very filtered selection of lowlights, but the fact remains that this is by no means the first script this man has read but it's everyday we see him kicking one to death on Twitter like this. It's clear that he was moved to attack this script in particular.
I'm not sure that these bits and pieces that McWeeny has quoted couldn't work, necessarily, and some of the stuff sounds like interesting business. There's certainly somewhere to go with the focus group testing of police on an "aggressive looks" scale, and the outsourcing to China could be part of something coherent and meaningful.
But McWeeny has read the script, I haven't and he's not been convinced by these bits and pieces when reading them in context.
And there we have it, doubters. Lots of ammo for you.
Anybody out there who has read the script and liked it, I wonder?