[EDIT: This is Part Two of the script review. You may wish to read Part One first]
One of the more marketable, appealing and adrenalising elements of the We3 script is the incredible potential for innovative action sequences. For this second look at the pages, I thought we'd concentrate on just a few of those.
So, adressing scenes in chronological order as we progress through the story, we will begin with the We3's escape from the military compound that has been their base of operations. This isn't the first action set-piece - the film begins with one, touched upon in the previous installment of this review - but it is a particularly interesting one.
On Page 34 we're introduced to a bank of surveillance monitors, monitoring the base from virually every angle:
Pull back to see a bank of CCTV camera scenes show the life of the base unfolding from multi-angles. The almost silent hiss of calm machinery.
Sentry at the front gate. (GATE CAM)
Soldiers patrolling the grounds. (EXTERIOR CAM)
The commissionaire at the front desk. (FOYER CAM)
The coats hanging up in an empty locker room. (CLOAKROOM CAM)
Guards posted outside the We3 home bay. (CORRIDOR CAM 5)
Black Ops security door (CORRIDOR CAM 4)
Electric buggy going to Rat Lab (CORRIDOR CAM 3)
Cleaners mopping the floor (CORRIDOR CAM 2)
Soldiers walking through the halls. (CORRIDOR CAM 1)
Honda talking on his cell phone in the elevator. (ELEVATOR CAM)
Roseanne’s workstation. (WE3 BAY CAM 1)
We3 sitting in their posts. (WE3 BAY CAM 2)
General scene of the WE3 Bay (WE3 BAY CAM 3)
The (cubist) stage is set. This entire place is about to explode into action. Going from the perspective of one CCTV camera to another we see, without the relevant audio, the build up to the animal's escape. Roseanne Berry is walking away from the lab, leaving the animals free to exit their stations; the euthenasia team are coming to put the We3 down; the rest of the bay stirs, unaware, then:
Something has gone wrong. There is wild movement as the animals break out of their unlocked harnesses.
Close on Bandit’s snarling muzzle, teeth bared. A loud roar. The sound of gunfire. The sound of breaking glass and choked off screams.
Things are being tossed around. It’s hard to see what’s happening on the little CCTV image.
Cutting rapidly between CCTV footage and flashes of the We3 as they hurtle through the base, the scene is described as a dazzling mosaic of action, of different perspectives that catch every moment in the most dynamic fashion possible. With a decent director, this is going to knock audiences so far back into their seats the cracking of vertebrae will be deafening.
Imagine something like the shower sequence in Psycho, or the dress ripping in Disney's Cinderella, spliced with the kinetics of a super-ramped up chase-and-escape action scene. The potential is incredible...
...as is the potential to foul it up miserably. But on the page? Electrifying.
Most of the great leaps forward in action staging recently have revolved around the fluid movement of virtual cameras, doing impossible pans and tracks as characters pretty much dance around one another - from Blade 2 onto Spider-Man 3. This sequence in We3 requires an utterly different approach - a great deal of the shots presented here require no camera movement at all, let alone CG enhanced, stitched-together swoops. This is all about different, perfectly chosen, moments, sequence to build one after the other. This takes us back to the approach most famously exemplified in Battleship Potemkin's Odessa Steps sequence - or, more accurately, a very modern evolution of this. I can see it now - and it is incredible.
So, as you'll know if you read the basic plot outline in the first part of this review, the We3 escape the compound and set off in search of home. Can a group of deadly bioweapons be allowed to roam unchecked?
Honda has a plan to prevent any human casualties:
INT. RAT LAB - DAY
HONDA hurries into the rat enclosure.
The Operator center is filled with geek gamer guys operating rats with control pads. These are the soldiers of the future, pasty, overweight and munching on potato chips as they guide rats into battle.
Honda takes the control pad from one of them.
We trained them to kill.
If you threaten them with any kind of weapon they will KILL.
Everyone stops what they’re doing and looks at him.
There’s no need for human beings to die.
They all go back to what they were doing, heads nodding in time to the music on their MP3 players.
And as Honda says of the rats a few pages later:
NO-ONE has to die when we have soldiers like these.
So, an army of Rats are engaged to chase down and stop one Dog, one Cat and one Rabbit:
All the geeks sit with their control pads at the ready.
As if synchronized, they operate their joysticks simultaneously. The rats sit up, then skitter eerily into place, arranging themselves into strict lines and columns, like well-drilled soldiers. The geeks munch candy bars, dip into bowls of popcorn and chips.
The geeks manipulate the buttons on their pads and, in response, the rats flow together out of the room in a creepy procession.
I don't want to spoil any details of the conflict between the We3 and the rat-allions, but it begins when Bandit, Tinker and Pirate aren't exactly ready. Pirate gets the line 'Uh-oh', spoken with her synthesised voice - and that moment is going to bring everybody in the auditorium forward in their seats. There will be laughter - the kind that can only come from nervous, anxious energy, as well as the odd voice delivering such a line - and then the whole audience will fall silent as slowly, steadily, the full extent of the danger the We3 are in comes clear.
Here are a couple of non-consecutive teaser lines from this sequence, out of context:
Dozens of rats are chopped down in the spray of bullets.
Rats are thrown in every direction, spilling into the water far below, or thudding with broken backs against the bridge supports. The noise is horrendous, like a thousand ragged nails dragged across a thousand slate blackboards.
The culmination of the scene is incredible - a great dramatisation of some of the script's great ideas. Human lives are lost, after a scared animal acts in self defense; many animal lives are lost because of human intervention. That's the genius of We3, as I said before - big ideas, rendered in big, dramatic scenes.
The supposedly fail-safe plan to stop the We3 is Weapon 4, another cybernetically enhanced beast. This one appears very late in the script and while the set piece isn't quite as astonishing as the battle with the rats, it is still pretty darn special. We're getting to material that comes very late in the script now, so you may choose not to read on.
But I bet you do read on. I feel okay doing this because there's a source, the comic book, that is freely available.
On page 79, of 114, the Weapon 4 is first unveiled:
Then a slamming weight of muscled flesh hammers against the bars of its cage, making the whole thing shudder.
Slobbering, red-eyed, the beast within bludgeons its head against the bars, then draws itself up and bellows a soul-chilling roar of sheer destruction. Now we finally see the next generation Animal Weapon 4 in all its terrifying, primal glory - a giant black mastiff in a matt black heavy duty version of the We3 armor. Savage, awe-inspiring and utterly terrifying, the dog slams against the bars once more, teeth bared, eyes rolling, bloodshot. And HOWLS.
At this time, the We3 are hiding out in a rail shed together. Frank - the homeless chap mentioned in part one of the review - comes along:
His eyes slowly adjust to the damp gloom. He raises the burger to his lips, then freezes. There are eyes staring at him avidly following every move of his burger. There are shapes in here, light gleams off polished armor. Snuffling, shuffling sounds.
The animals are here, huddled together in this rail shed, hiding from pursuit. Tinker is looking and hunched, coughing occasionally. Bandit, part-pleading, part-on the defensive. Pirate is pawing at his wounded head.
Frank does a double take, blearily trying to deal with what he’s seeing.
He lifts the burger. All the eyes move at once. He lowers it and they follow. He raises, stops...and the eyes do the same.
What the hell?
Bandit stares with red-rimmed eyes.
Frank sways a little drunkenly on his heels. He tosses his bun down in front of the dog, Bandit greedily scoffs it up.
Frank heads off to get 'liquor and tools', apparently planning to remove the We3's armoured casing and Wernicke's boxes. This is when the cops and military show up:
We see flashing lights, and hear the rumble of truck wheels and rotors. There are grim-faced policemen and soldiers up ahead, as we follow Frank down the alley towards what appears to be a police and military blockade of the entire area.
Hey! You! Out!
Get a light on this guy!
Frank lifts his hand to shield his face against the glare. Cops surround him as he emerges from the alley into a street filled with busy military personnel, including Boxer and his team.
You shouldn’t be here, buddy. Seriously. Didn’t you hear there’s dangerous animals loose?
BOXER [no, not a Boxer dog, the leader of a 'hard-core Black-Ops team']
Ask him if he saw anything.
There’s a big reward.
I’m betting that’s the sorta money you could use.
Does Frank sell the animals out? Or what else could happen? The answer is in the comic, if you're desperate to know.
Weapon 4 is unleased on page 86:
Animal Weapon 4 engaged.
The mastiff roars.
Releasing restraint harness.
The cage locks spring open and the cage grille falls down.
Stand well clear of the jaws!
Red eyes, steaming breath. A rumbling, doom-laden growl. Then the Rooooarrr. Weapon 4 lumbers out of its cage, remote-controlled. Its great head swaying from side to side. Strings of bloody drool hang in loops from the jagged mantrap of its mouth.
So, the We3 go head to head with the Weapon 4. It is written as it should be: three animals with strange, in-animal tools (if you pardon the expression) wired into their systems, fighting like animals with weapons would - against a giant, crushingly powerful animal restrained by the over-riding controls of the operator.
It is bloody and brutal and fatal. Recall how, for example, the two Terminators in Terminator 2 actually fought like robots, and not big tough men? They targetted one another's weaknesses and understood their 'robotness' in the way they battled? Well, this scene deserves the comparable approach - this is 3 animals with altered, tank-ified bodies fighting a tank-animal hybrid (tank winning out) with the body of a tank-animal hybrid (animal winning out this time). There's never been anything like it on screen before.
The epic struggle against Weapon 4 is to be the big action climax to the film - though there is one more, very suspenseful, sequence to follow when a tactical team try to corner the We3. It is pure Hitchcock, and ripe for a very tense rendition. To go into more detail would be to spoil everything...
But I think it spoils nothing to reveal that the We3 don't make it to the end of their journey unscathed. There have been consequences for the trio, and they have been painful. For all of the amped-up action that I've touched on, the heart of the film remains these animals, their desire to reach home, their attempts to understand the world around them, and the cruel, strange oddness of their plight. But the natural world - of which we are part - is not a peaceful place, and chaos, fear and the will to survive can take us to some dangerous places. We3 works because it shows us these places in a real way, even amongst the sci-fi trappings, and because the script is underpinned with a smart, and honest, perspective on survival and on the desire to be safe, be where you can be left alone, where the pain and the guilt and the fear should just drop away.
To be home.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
[EDIT: This is Part Two of the script review. You may wish to read Part One first]