Dark Matter

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© 2018 by Dark Matter Media LLC

 
where creatives control
Chrome by Quinn Dewsbury

Logline: In the technological future, when magic has returned to the earth, an ex special forces, cyber modified, soldier battles mages, cyborgs, and something even more fearsome, in order to pay for an operation to save his nephew's life.

Dark Matter Review

 

Overall Impression:

An ambitious and original take on a tried and true plot, Chrome ably connects its audience with its hero’s emotional and tangible goals.  World building, a sound system of magic and a fresh take on action sequences are the three pillars of fantasy; their development is the crucial mission facing the fantasy writer.  While Chrome flashes cleverness, and even occasional brilliance, on each of those three elements, it ultimately punches below its weight class on these key constructs.

What We Found Most Effective:

 

Dodge is a well-constructed character, round and buoyant.  His hero’s quest is equally clear and timely arranged.

 

The titular chrome is fun and just plausible enough to whet our sci-fi beaks.

 

The general arrangement of the script and the story structure are on-point.

What We Found Least Effective

Of the three pillars of fantasy writing, Chrome strikes closet to the mark on world building.  We found the system of magic to be under supported, and without much explanation – it just happens.  The action sequences would hold up fine against most 90’s action flicks, and better than some.  With the advent of the likes of Thor: Ragnarok and John Wick, Chrome’s action sequences need to do much more to have a chance of standing out.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Big Picture Suggestions

 

  • At times, we struggled to understand whether Dodge was: (i) a highly skilled and nearly invincible bounty hunter/mercenary (e.g., John Wick, Bryan Mills), (ii) competent, but old school and getting by on grit and tenacity (e.g., Rocky) or (iii) bumbling and loveable.  In the opening sequence, Dodge is slick, coordinate and lethal (i.e., romanette (i) above).  One page 48, Kemp refers to Dodge’s chrome as “old chrome” – it worked, and we understood Dodge to be more like romanette (ii) above in that moment. In the extraction job, Dodge does relatively little of the fighting, fails to anticipate Switchblade, and is captured without much of a fight (his team fights like crazy, but he is mostly a bystander) (i.e., more like romanette (iii)).  Dodge doesn’t have to fit perfectly into one of those categories, of course, but he had elements of each of them and felt a little inconsistent at times.  We liked him best when he felt like part of the second category: old chrome (but experienced); highly skilled, but outmatched by new bells and whistles; wins the fight through determination and a few “old dog” tricks.

  • World building is tough to do in a script.  Movies made from fantasy/sci-fi books rely on the books to have prepared the audience and and to fill in gaps, but it is possible to world build within a standalone fantasy film (e.g., Avatar).  One suggestion is to work on personalities for the “giant corporations” referenced in the intro voice over. In Blade Runner and Resident Evil, for example, Tyrell Corp. and Umbrella Corp. are integral to the story, and characters in their own right.  It’d be a nice boost to the story to add an corporation as a character with its own personality, goals, richness and texture.  You approach this later in the script by identifying Spectrum Labs… but that happens for the first time on page 28 and isn't fully explored.

  • Systems of magic are devilishly tricky.  One exercise we’ve used is to see if you can articulate it for yourself.  What is the overall thesis and can you state the rules in 10 (give or take) bullet points?  Questions we had about magic in Chrome, for instance: what makes mages magically tired (and how tired)?  How long does it take the mage to rejuvenate his/her magic?  What can/cannot defeat magic (bullets seem like a no, missiles seem like a yes).  How/why did magic return?  Is there any way to identify a mage before he/she uses magic?  How does the magic plane work (who can access it, how does it influence the real world, what are the consequences of actions taken there)?

  • Jack and Kate are both absent from the script for 100 pages.  Yet, they’re Dodge’s primary motivation.  We think it’d be helpful to visit with them periodically (preferably via Dodge) to keep us connected with Dodge’s emotional drive.

 

Odds & Ends

 

  • General Note – You should add page numbers, top right.  Page references below do not count the title page.

  • Pg. 1. Very Blade Runner-esque opening.  We dig it.  Also, we are a complete sucker for Batman/Spiderman style building jumping.

  • Pg. 1. The description of Dodge is a little too specific.  Does it matter if he is 6’1” exactly or what his weight is?

 

  • Pg. 4. Typo.  “…that resembles an engineers compass.”  Engineer’s should be possessive.

 

  • Pg. 5-10. We like Tim’s energy and defiance, he feels real.  But, for a Dr. (and presumably smart guy), it seems stupid/reckless to confide in Jill in the middle of the lab.  Wouldn’t he find somewhere/somehow more private for this conversation?

 

  • Pg. 17. Dodge giving Jack the sunglasses is a nice touch, but leaving blood on them is a bit bumbling.

  • Pg. 22. Kate’s dialogue starting “He needs new lungs…” You do a good job of clearly setting up high stakes, but on occasion we felt your script could be improved with a bit more subtlety.  Kate’s dialogue here bangs the audience on the head with the problem, but we already understood the issue.  If, for example, Kate had said nothing and simply cried into the phone, we would have taken the point – Jack has only one option left.

 

  • Pg. 23. It seems like Dodge was already in position to do the relocation job.  Why wouldn’t he do that job and then the extraction job?  When he grabs the relocation job later, we weren’t sold.

 

  • Pg. 24. Typo.  “They walk past the change rooms and…”

  • Pg. 27. Typo.  Cody’s dialogue, “Not much, just you’re going to do a extraction…”

 

  • Pg. 29. We’re dying to know what the battle van looks like.

 

  • Pg. 30. The coffee joke is… corny.

 

  • Pg. 23-36.  The team-recruiting montage takes up a pretty good chunk of script.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s also nothing particularly compelling about it, and its length bogged us down a bit (we haven’t heard about Jack for a while at this point).  Consider condensing it, eliminating it, or seeing if you can spice it up further with some tricks we haven’t seen before.

 

  • Pg. 23-36. Dodge is pretty darn quick to accept people onto the team.  We know he’s desperate, but wish he had a more compelling reason to say yes to Fox and Lori in particular (since he’s never met them).

 

  • Pg. 11-41.  Jill is absent for 30 pages.  We were interested in her story, and would have appreciated staying connected with her and learning more of her backstory (what brought her into this fight?).  Since her ultimate role is so significant, we wouldn't leave her off screen for too long.

  • Pg. 50. Not crazy about circling back to the relocation job here… We’re in the middle of a car chase.

 

  • Pg. 54. Switchblade does not feel organic to the script.  It’s a good idea, to have a competing headhunter, and another obstacle for Dodge to overcome, just the way he is worked in felt clumsy.

 

  • Pg. 58. There is a character referred to as the man-in-a-suit, as well as ten henchmen referred to as men in suits.  It’s a bit confusing to follow who is doing what.

 

  • Pg. 59. Once there is more than one mage in a scene, it would make it easier for the reader to follow the action if you name them, even if it’s simply Mage 1, Mage 2, etc.

 

  • Pg. 60. We think it should be “Magic Plane” and not “Magic Plain” as in a “plane of existence” rather than a “flat and sweeping landmass.”

 

  • Pg. 40-63.  This section reads as one long action sequence, starting with the extraction of Jill and ending with Dodge jumping out of the VTOL.  Given the level of action throughout the script (high), this is probably too long for the audience to stay engaged with pure action.

 

  • Pg. 65. Did Dodge have the glider on the VTOL?  We didn’t see it mentioned.  It seemed like he just fell out of the plane.

 

  • General Note: At some point, Jill assimilates onto Dodge’s team.  It happens organically, which is good, but some sort of explanation for her rationale would be helpful.  It’s one thing for her to be working a covert operation to steal data from Spectrum Lab, it’s a way different level for her to join Dodge’s squad for revenge.  Since she turns into a dragon and has her big reveal as the mastermind, we’d love to see that foreshadowed earlier in the script so that a really close watcher might guess she has a bigger role to play – that’d help us suspend disbelief on her decision to join with Dodge’s crew.

  • Pg. 88. We didn’t buy Kemp’s request to be reinstated to the team.  It just felt a little off, emotionally, coming from someone who gunned down women and children, and just killed Cody moments before.

  • Pg. 89.  Hahaha, we like Casper the android.  Excellent, totally gross moment.  We’d love to see Casper introduced earlier as a nemesis for Lori throughout – it would have made this payoff work even better.

  • Pg. 92. Typo.  “Aiden is creating powerful magical above his head.”

  • Pg. 104. 700 years?!  We did not see this coming.  Intriguing twist.  One note, if its 2150, then Jill and Syril last met in 1450.  In the intro, we’re told that magic has returned to offset the bond of man and machine, which presumably happened sometime after present day, so there’s an inconsistency in the timeline/rationale for magic.

  • Pg. 105.  Dragons, yay!

  • Pg. 106.  We don’t quite follow the recurring water bottle joke (we think it’s a joke, anyhow).

  • Pg. 107.  It’s been about 100 pages since Jack and Kate were on screen.

 

  • Pg. 112. Conceptually, we like the notion that Dodge is holding onto Archer and that Archer is stuck in the magical plane.  But, this is really the first notion of magic working spiritually in this way.  It would have helped us to ease into this concept earlier in the script so that, by the time we get to this scene, we’d long since foreshadowed a meeting between Dodge and Archer in the spiritual/magical plane.

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