Posts Tagged ‘dramaturgery’


I saw Oblivion the other day, and will now write about it. This isn’t strictly a review, and it isn’t strictly dramaturgery, but I will review it a little bit, and I will also do dramaturgery on it, so stick around if you like either of those things.

SPOILERS FOLLOW. Serious spoilers, don’t read ahead if you want to be a little surprised.

I am performing Dramaturgery on NBC’s pilot Revolution.  In order to make this show interesting to me, I’ve made some kind of small but important changes to the backstory (detailed in this post here).  That post is pretty extensive (and, to be fair, maybe misleading in terms of a criticism of Revolution — my backstory looks like it’s got a lot of stuff in it, but it could very well be that the current writers have just as much stuff in their story bible, obviously we just haven’t seen it yet), but you can probably skip if for now unless you’re really interested.

Holland doesn’t like me to do this stuff because he thinks it’s pointless, but I don’t think it’s pointless — I think if I get really good at this sort of thing, maybe one day someone will hire me to do Dramaturgery BEFORE they film the pilot, and then we’ll avoid this whole mess.  Now.  To work!


There are two ways to go with a story like Revolution, and I think Moff is right in one sense, in that just how a society breaks down in the sudden absence of electricity could be pretty interesting, and I think the other sense is how a society builds itself up after the apocalypse, and in the absence of electricity. There are a lot of pretty neat questions to be asked: what is the individual’s responsibility to the state? How much security is worth sacrificing for the sake of stability? Should civilization be about building bigger states, or should we be content with small agrarian communities? What exactly IS civilization – the material well-being of its people, art, culture, roads, what is it? What is the value of science – is it inevitably good? Should it be controlled? By whom? What about kings? Democracy? What about religion – how can it benefit a society’s build? How can it be a hindrance? How exactly do all these things come together, and what is the purpose of them?


In my last post, I suggested that I had a number of questions and problems with The Avengers, despite generally having a pretty good time while watching it.  I don’t know if other people, ordinary humans with their inferior movie-watching abilities, are capable of both simultaneously enjoying something and engaging with it critically, but I am.

ANYWAY, when I declared that it was possible to make basically the same movie but also fix all of the problems that I had, Moff (author of Moff’s Law) admitted that he almost believed me.

Almost.  Believed.  ALMOST.


Look, I’m not trying to give anybody a hard time here.  The  Avengers was a fun movie, and I was committed to liking it.  Hulk smashed, Thor knocked some stuff around with his hammer, Captain America threw his shield at guys.  You know, the stuff that happens in The Avengers.  Every moment of the movie was an exciting and dramatic moment — people were falling out of things or into pits or whatever, getting zapped by stuff, things were going wrong.  There were a lot of jokes, which were great.  All in all, A+ time, would watch again.



Saw The Book of Eli over the weekend.  This was not, in my opinion, a bad movie, so much as it was a movie that failed to be good in virtually every conceivable way.  It was not preachy the way I expected it to be, and good for it for that, but was instead preachy in an entirely different and even more ridiculous way, all of which I will reveal after the jump.

Before I do, however, I must tell you:  THERE IS A MAJOR SPOILER THAT I WILL REVEAL.  It is an extremely big spoiler, and if you want to watch the movie without knowing in it DO NOT KEEP READING.



Now that The Dark Knight made eighty gazillion dollars at the box office, serious questions about a third movie are turning into Very Serious Questions about a third movie.

One of the most important ones is: who does Batman fight? How do you top the Joker?

Well, let me be the first to say this: you can’t. There is no topping the Joker. The Joker is the antithesis to Batman, is a super-villain bordering on uber-villain that cannot and should not be repeated. There is nothing like the Joker.

However. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be a third movie. There are still important and interesting issues, here. And there’s still a possibility for more brutal realizations of formerly idiotic comic-book characters.

So, let me make this suggestion, and let me elaborate my plan: The Riddler.

Okay, okay. The Riddler was a retarded character in basically every respect. He was actually kind of an anti-villain in the Old Days, whose largest contribution to the Evil Plan was giving Batman secret clues about how to stop it (on the Adam West TV Show, he actually WROTE THE CLUES IN THE SKY WITH GIANT MISSILES). The cartoons managed to rehabilitate him a little bit, making him, basically, a bank robber with a superiority complex, who kept needing to prove that he was smarter than Batman. That was okay, but it was kind of slapping a band-aid on a broken leg–they managed to make the character “not stupid,” but didn’t really solve the problem of “there’s not really a reason for this character.”

So, what does a third Batman movie contain? Go with me for a second: in the wake of the Joker’s reign of terror, Gotham has basically lost its shit. There are lunatics all over the place, dressing up like cats or crocodiles or characters from Alice in Wonderland, because the whole place is fucking nutso. Harley Quinn shows up, because the Joker is locked up in the basement of Arkham and they keep sending him therapists (this bears additional consideration; possibly a second post).

Into this comes the Riddler. The Riddler is a sociopathic systems engineer. He’s basically a criminal economist, and he moves into Gotham City to re-organize crime (generally: by killing people). He attempts to turn Gotham City into the worldwide hub for heroin smuggling, arms dealing, and kiddie-porn. His contribution is extremely clever, complex and brilliant plans that hide the organized criminal activity from the Batman.

And the thing about it is, it kind of works. Between Batman chasing after the nutjobs, the police chasing after Batman, and the Riddler building a functioning city out of Gotham, the place doesn’t actually collapse into anarchy.

This is the serious question that Batman faces, as action and tension builds to a head: the people of Gotham City would actually prefer a world that is corrupt and criminal but predictable to a world where Harley Quinn throws sarin nerve gas into orphanages. Batman is forced to confront the fact that the Riddler is trying to return Gotham to its status quo, and that’s kind of what everybody wants–a world in which Batman had never been.

There’s maybe a confrontation where the Riddler points this out: that no sane business invests in Gotham City anymore; the only enterprise in Gotham is criminal enterprise, and the Riddler is the only thing standing between the city and its absolute collapse into utter anarchy. This is what will give you the next step of Big Ideas to address: Why is it, exactly, that Batman is a force for good? How does beating up crazy fuckers actually solve anything?

In my imagination, the Riddler has a psychological condition called hypergraphia, which causes him, when stressed out, to feel the need to cover things with text. He writes in cryptograms and elliptically refers to things that he’s doing, basically because he can’t help it. His compulsive clue-leaving isn’t his “theme” so much as it is an essential weakness–without it, his plans would be too complex and obscure for Batman to glom on to. He’s a sociopath somewhere between R’as al-Ghul and the Joker–he doesn’t kill people out of some precise, obsessive approach to justice, and he doesn’t just do it because he thinks it’s funny. He kills because people are in his way, or because he gets angry and loses his temper, or to make examples of people.

And, that’s about it. He can wear a (dark) green suit, and should probably be played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.