The Danger of Needless Script Rewrites

Film poster for Gravity (2013)

With Gravity soon to hit bluray in what I have read is an impeccable and remarkable transfer, I figured in lieu of writing another piece about why this film is so great (since everybody has been doing that lately), I’d instead approach the film from a different angle, that of responding to its critics who attack the film for what they perceive as insurmountable flaws in the film (since everybody has been doing that lately, too).

Several months ago a man wrote to me describing his issues with the plot of Gravity, and enthusiastically offered me what he believed to be an improved rewrite. As an immense fan of the film, I was suspicious, but was nonetheless taken with his bravado. Reading his version I wanted to be positive, I wanted to agree with his central premise that his version was inherently superior, but as his specious claims mounted, my enthusiasm waned. I knew immediately that I was reading the ravings of one indoctrinated by devastatingly useless ideas, lost on a vainglorious crusade for the formula of the perfect script. To be clear, the ideas were sound in and of themselves, but troubling when proffered as the “improved” version of what was an already sufficiently realized plot. It amounted to a subjective opinion being passed off as incontrovertible objectivity. It completely overlooked the merits of the film as it was to describe a completely different version of the plot as it should have been according to the tastes of one man, bearing as much semblance to Cuaron’s vision of the film as Lindelof’s version of Prometheus did for Jon Spaits original script. Though, to be fair, his was more complete than Lindelof’s hack efforts. By the time I finished I contemplated turning off my computer and never penning a reply. I had almost nothing positive to offer in my criticism. But he had asked me for my thoughts, and I had never maintained any illusions with my readers about my affability.

The problem with the rewrite was that it sought to rewrite what was already a cogent film into something approaching the vast majority of other works produced these days. The rewrite argued for a seven-step process to improve the quality of the movie, ranging from features such as infusing moments of “weakness and need” to “self-revelation” (nevermind that the latter point requires we casually overlook such moments already present in Cuaron’s version). One of his fundamental claims was that the film’s plot as-is left him emotionally uninvolved without any sufficient reasoning. Continue reading

The Gravitas of Gravity

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in Cuarón’s Gravity

(95% Spoiler free, read without caution)

If Kieslowski had ever been inclined to tackle science-fiction, Gravity, I suspect, would have been something close to the film he would have made.

Ostensibly a loose remake of Kieslowski’s first film in the Three Colors Trilogy, Blue (1993), Cuarón’s return to film after an agonizing eight-year absence similarly features a bereaved mother struggling to cope with the loss of a child. Indeed, if I explained it is a film that illuminates the startling vicissitudes between life, death, faith, hope and the universe of human emotion, bound up in a work of sublime grandeur, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was still talking about Blue. Cuarón’s singular feat, however, is the way in which he gracefully navigates between the chaos of the universe and the supreme beauty of its idiosyncrasies that we as mere spectators in a cosmic dance have the supreme fortune of observing, and more amazing still, are sometimes called to participate within. Continue reading