It’s the Script, Stupid

The single, most important aspect of a movie is the script. You can have all the best actors and technology available and it means nothing if the story and the dialogue are crap.  That is the undeniable lesson of movies like SKY CAPTAIN and, more recently SIN CITY.

I saw SIN CITY today, and while I marveled at the technological achievement and the look of the film, after a few minutes that excitement and fascination evaporated and crushing boredom took over. The movie is, in a word, awful.  Why? Because the story, the dialogue, and the characters  are terrible.  The narrative is a mess, the characters are non-existant, and there isn’t a single real emotion to hold on to.  The writing itself is wince-inducingly bad.

Anyone who doubts the importance of the writer to a film, of a strong script, a well-constructed story and credible characters you can believe  (notice I don’t say "like" or "identify with")  should be tied to a chair and forced to watch SIN CITY (that’s what it would take to make me see it again). 

You can hire the biggest names on the SAG membership rolls, fill every inch of the screen with amazing effects and gore, and pummel the audience with blaring sound and thunderous music, but none of that will hide the absense of a good script.

That’s one reason why I loved THE INCREDIBLES so much… it was a great movie with big effects, a strong story,  wonderful dialogue and characters so credible it didn’t matter that they weren’t even portrayed by flesh-and-blood actors.  Not only did it look good, and sound good,
but most important of all, it was well written.

It’s all about the script.

It’s why old shows like  STAR TREK, I LOVE LUCY, and GUNSMOKE hold up so well today… it doesn’t matter if the show is in black-and-white,  or that Dodge City is  clearly on a soundstage,  or that the consoles on the bridge of the Enterprise look less sophisticated than an 8-track tape deck. It’s the writing and the acting that carries the shows…and that, ultimately, is what endures long after the "wow"-factor of the film-making technology has worn off and become dated. Which, in the case of SKY CAPTAIN and SIN CITY, is about five minutes into the films.

SIN CITY is a technological achievement, and a poor excuse for a movie.

7 thoughts on “It’s the Script, Stupid”

  1. It seems to me that SIN CITY (and the graphic novel it was based on) owes a lot to film noir and especially, Mickey Spillane, but the geeks who slavishly devote themselves to it don’t see the film noir references and would probably spit all over Spillane (not necessarily for bad reason, since his work is awfully dated now.) So the question is, why is this? Just because it looks good, it makes the stilted and cliched dialogue more palatable?

  2. By way of shameless self-promo: I recently reviewed SIN CITY in my weekly film and movie column (Now in its sixth year–yeah?). Said review has provoked so much response because I dared to call said piece of crap a piece of crap, owing to the lack of story, my editor has suggested my next review should be ‘kind’ because she doesn’t know if she can stand another such wave of response.
    Oh, well. I stand my long-time assertion: Tell. Me. A. Story. A Good Story. I ain’t that fickle. And that ain’t that much to ask.
    Is it?

  3. That would explain why, everytime I saw an ad for the movie, I was left wondering what the movie was about. Sounds like if I saw the movie (which I already had no intention of doing), I would be left wondering what it’s about.

  4. Absolutely! I just saw Sky Captain–AND the Incredibles. With the first, I was embarrassed. The plot was so bad, the dialoge–everything. Then I saw the bonus scenes on the DVD and marvelled at the technology (no, I hadn’t know it was all blue screen before that–I’m kinda out of the loop). Amazing stuff–truly mind-blowing …but without a storyteller in charge, it’s just a fireworks display.
    The Incredibles, on the other hand, my wife turns to me and says, “Why can’t they make live action movies with scripts this good?”

  5. Two college friends and I saw SIN CITY last night. The torturous scenes went on a tad too long, just long enough so I stopped empathizing with the characters and started laughing at them.
    The abuse the characters take is less meaningful because they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and keep going; more cartoonish than truly noirish. As Sarah hinted, they struck me as a bunch of tough-talking posers.

  6. Wow…whatever. There was plenty of plot to go around, enough for three different storylines to come out. Sure it’s a bit too gore-filled. Sure, the women wore too little clothing and there was the presence of nudity. I’m sure one of those items was enough to turn you off to the movie. It’s based off of a comic book, an adult one at that. If you’ve ever taken time to read a comic book, much less a book, then you would realize how well the producers of the film did with translating the sensation of “reading” into “watching.” I’m sorry you all missed enjoying the movie because you were too busy looking up words on to bash the movie with.


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