I have from time to time in this blog analyzed successful movies, occasionally doing an in-depth analysis over several weeks (E.T., Fargo, American Beauty, The Usual Suspects). Usually I analyze good movies to show how they work. This is very helpful for the screenwriter - if we see what techniques are successful we can emulate them.
It can also be useful to analyze bad movies to see where they don't work. It's often easy to spot the problems in a movie - plot holes, inconsistent characters, etc. But it can be more challenging to translate what we find into useful techniques. It's easy to say, "Don't have plot holes" but harder to boil that down into techniques for avoiding them.
Over the next few weeks I'm going to do an in-depth analysis of the film I picked as worst written of 2010: Robin Hood (story by Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris and Brian Helgeland, screenplay by Brian Helgeland). I'll try to not only identify the problems in the screenplay but tease out how you and I can avoid similar mistakes.
If you haven't seen the movie you may want to watch the DVD so you can follow what I'm talking about. Of course, I don't really expect you to enjoy it. But sometimes education is painful!
How did the movie go awry? There is some clue in the history of the project. It was originally called Nottingham and was a big spec script sale by writers Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris. But over the course of development, it was drastically changed. You can read an interview with the original writers and read their draft here. I'll talk about it a bit after analyzing the final version of the film. Comparing original and final drafts can be an extremely educational experience!
The movie wasn't exactly a bomb, though it wasn't considered a success domestically. Its final domestic gross was $105 million. Internationally it did better. Critics generally panned it - it scored a 42% on Rotten Tomatoes. Not the worst reviewed movie, but hardly very good.
So over the next few weeks I'll go through it and explain where I think the script went awry.