Saturday, December 29 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Finished the work for Confidential Job #2. Now I have to type it up. Phew! Over 20 pages of notes on this one! I got about 12 pages typed yesterday; will try to get the rest done today.

Cat Muldoon, whom I hosted on A Biblio Paradise, has a question about what readers want from a writer’s blog in the comments from yesterday’s post. If you can leave a comment in response, that would be a big help for her. Thank you!

Okay, if you haven’t seen National Treasure: Book of Secrets, skip the next nine or ten paragraphs, because there are spoilers. If you have, or don’t care, here’s my opinion.

There were too many writers and no coherent vision. It started okay, the stuff with the Resolute desks and the Book of Secrets was all clever and fun and in the spirit of what made the first one great. But, first of all – the house that Abby and Ben lived in – different house. What happened to the historical house Ben bought at the end of the last movie? Completely different architecture. You think we wouldn’t notice? Second, although I liked the part of Riley writing a book and the scenes at the signings, etc., were something to which every writer can relate – I don’t believe for one second that Ben would not have read the book. Not only would Ben have read it, he and Riley would have gone out to dinner and debated it point by point. It diminishes Ben’s character to have him ignore Riley’s book. Their friendship was established too strongly for him to do that, and Riley is willing to drop everything to help Ben again, and Ben knows enough to go to Riley for help.

In general, I felt Riley was short-changed in this script. In the first NT, Riley Poole as sidekick broke fresh ground. And it wasn’t necessarily the script – it was Justin Bartha’s performance. He gave it a spirit and a sense of fun and intelligence that transcended both script and genre. In this film, Riley’s lost ground. Instead of gaining confidence and self-esteem from his previous experience, he’s lost it. He’s gone backwards. I understand that he’s always afraid he’s not good enough. But to constantly keep throwing himself on the sword, metaphorically speaking, because he’s hoping they’ll let him know they value him – didn’t work for me. Ben would have let him know he valued him, especially after everything they went through last time. I understand the mirror relationships of Abby/Ben and Patrick/Emily, but Riley’s character was left in the cold, and not in a good way. He didn’t necessarily need a love interest, but it was out of character for them to treat him the way they did. He’s too important to the team.

Ed Harris was wasted. His character was inconsistent, unbelievable, and not at all threatening. Ed Harris can pin you to the wall with a look – he wasn’t utilized properly. His opening scene was terrific, and the rest lost ground from there. Also, in the last one, all of Ian’s team was strongly, swiftly characterized. In this one – Wilkinson’s henchmen were unmemorable and largely ignored. There was never a THREAT, and the chase scenes were lame – except where Ben stopped in time not to hit the dog and the dog licked the camera.

Again – if Ben’s going to be that careful of a dog in the midst of a chase, he’s not going to abuse Riley the way he does. There was never a sense of tension in the chase scenes, either from the bad guys or the cops. It was frustrating.

Now, getting to the mystery/treasure. This lost city of gold was in Florida. So how did it get to underneath Mt. Rushmore? Did somebody move it when the mountain was carved? Wouldn’t someone have noticed it? And, if the city HAD been moved, then the engineering devices, wheels, etc. used to hide it would have had symbols native to the Black Hills area, or, at the very least, to the time that Rushmore was carved (since it was supposedly carved to hide the city), NOT to Central and South America carved on them. Or, if that’s where the city was all the time, again, it wouldn’t be all a mishmash of Central and South American symbolism – it would have been native to the region – Arikara, at the time of the city, and later Cheynne, Kiowa, Pawnee, Crow, and Sioux. The art would have resembled the work coming across the Bering Strait from Russia through Alaska and Canada and down, not up from Central and South America. And, supposedly, Helen Mirren’s character is fluent in Olmec. The Olmec were Mesoamerican, situated west of the Mayan. They were NOT in the Black Hills near Mt. Rushmore. I’d have to take a closer look at the glyphs on the two panels, but, from what I could see on screen, they were NOT Olmec (yes, I’ve done research on the Mesoamerican glyphs). There might have been one or two, but it was not straight-up Olmec. It looked to me like a mishmash of Toltec and maybe some Mayan or Aztec in there.

And yes, I care. The movie wasn’t tight enough or clever enough to make me suspend my disbelief by this point. They’d already pissed me off enough so I was ready to nitpick.

I also felt cheated because it started as a Civil War caper and then turned pre-Columbian. I understand the throwaway explanation that the Confederates wanted the gold from the Lost City to defeat the Union, but still . . .again, if Wilkinson’s character had been better developed, the segueway might have worked, and I would have bought it.

Then, again, you have the oil that’s been there for years, ready to light up; the fact that no one is smart enough to check the electronics when Patrick is knocked out in his own house and nothing is stolen, and treating Riley like a stray dog who happens to be following them around, instead of the integral part of the team that he is. Helen Mirren, was, of course, wonderful. Nic Cage was good most of the time, but was a bit too mellow (lost the edge of the character) at other times, and sometimes even bordered on smugness, which doesn’t become the character. Justin Bartha did the best he could with the material handed to him. Diane Kruger was underused. I would have loved scenes of her and Riley actually DOING things, DISCOVERING things, instead of just running around. There was too much focus on Nicolas Cage instead of being an ensemble piece. It’s not that Cage can’t carry a movie –of course he can. But part of the appeal in this context is the sense of teamwork, and that was lost. They took a great ensemble piece and tried to turn it into a star vehicle. They equated BIGGER with better, instead of simply making it better. And actually doing research. It’s fine to create a different mythology, but it has to be rooted in the believable before it can fly. And this had no roots.

Now, the first film wasn’t perfection – it was lively and clever and fun up until they got to the treasure room, but I figured most of my trouble with that was because I have such strong opinions on Templar Treasure based on my own research. But I started disagreeing with so much in this movie so early on, and by the time the glyphs showed up, well, if I’d been watching at home, I would have been shouting at the screen.

So, yes, I was disappointed. Deeply, deeply disappointed, because I’ve been looking forward to this film since I heard it was in production.

But then again, they made $65 million dollars in the opening weekend, so it’s not like any of them CARE what I think! 😉

And then, last night, I saw, finally Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. More spoilers ahead, although I suspect most of you have seen it.

I was very disappointed. I felt they short-changed both Lupin and Snape’s characters, which hurts the rest of the cycle. Lupin’s gentle understanding and insight was so important in book 5. He needed to be there when they got Harry out of the house at the beginning, along with Tonks. The attack on the trip to Sirius’s didn’t happen, and that’s vital to the story. The fact that young Lily defended Snape from James in the flashback is also vital to the story, and that was cut. The gold statues never came to life in the fight in the Ministry of Magic, which was also important to the story. The fact that Hermione and Ron flew on threstrals they couldn’t see was never dealt with, and needed to be. Another important occurrence in the book is how badly injured each of Harry’s friends is during the fight in the Ministry – it’s part of what hurts Harry so much. And here, they just all sort of wandered out and watched him writhe on the floor. It’s as though the filmmakers got tired by the time they got to the end.

They handled the passage of time well, to show things escalating throughout the year, but none of the action sequences had enough action in them.

Phoenix was my favorite book, and they diluted it so much for the movie that I was disappointed, and I’m also concerned for the next two. They sanitized it too much.

Two disappointments, movie-wise in two days. Sigh.

Great morning’s work on Hex Breaker. Over 5K, and now I’m exactly where I want to be. I’d like to keep going, but I’m spending the day at a friend’s, and I need to get going.

So, let’s hope I can keep the HB momentum going. I’m delighted with the way it’s taking shape, and I’ll hit the 25K exactly when I should. Then I can do another revision and get it off before I leave for Philly.


Hex Breaker – 17,151 words out of est. 25,000

Of course, it’s too much to ask that the Zokutu Word Meter actually WORK when I could really use the morale boost!



  1. Devon – I agree with much of what you say – National Treasure 2 didn’t have the magic of the first one. I saw so much that could have been done differently, and I was definitely disappointed in numerous aspects. Ed Harris’ character wasn’t strong enough, nor his motivation clear. At the end, when I heard him apologize for dragging Ben’s relative through the mud, I wanted to shout, “NO, you’re the villain and dastardly and you would do anything possible to get what you want – you don’t say you’re sorry!” 🙂

    I also think it moved too fast in some places, the answers came to them without a lot of thought. The first movie had a great pace – very believable. I think the problem was they didn’t slow down enough to sort of ease you into the next clue – it was just BAM, here’s the next clue, OH, I already know the answer!

    So yes, I was disappointed. I enjoyed it, but it could have been so much better. I felt the same with the Pirates movies – if they had just left off with the first Pirates movie and never made the second and third, I would have been quite happy.

  2. Thanks for the spoiler warnings. Of course, that meant I could only read about 7% of your post. 🙂

  3. I am not as well read as you, but am very diappointed to hear that the movie was so historically inacurate. As for the Harry Potter movie, daugher and son enjoyed it, but daughter said if she were to pick a favorite it would be the first movie.

    I hope you had a lovely saturday and a peaceful sunday!

  4. The Writertopia wordometer one is a code that always seems to work. Not sure if you put your Zokutu words automatically somewhere, but this could be an alternative when you need that morale boost?

    I always think the first film in a sequence is the best one. Then it just seems to be downhill every time.

    I’m sure you’ll be on again before you go on retreat, but in case I miss you, I wanted to say have a good one, and a great new year.

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