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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Critical Thinking

Do you ever wish a writer had consulted you before turning in that last draft?
I recently saw the movie 9, and if you haven’t seen it and don’t want spoilers, it would be best to skip to the line-thingie, cus I’m gonna give it all away.

9 is about a little rag doll that wakes up in an attic in a post-apocalyptic city. In the room, he finds a little disk with strange markings on it. He unzips his front and sticks it in his torso, then goes out to see what he can see.

Pretty quickly, he meets an inventor—2—a nice guy with a funny hat. The inventor finds the disk and gets very excited. Then they’re attacked by a strange robot with the skull of a cat. The Cat Beast takes the disk and the inventor, and runs away.

9 tries to follow, but the Cat Beast is much quicker. Another rag doll, 5, shows up and brings him to a half-bombed church. 1 is the ruler there, and 8 is his giant henchman. 1 explains that his purpose is to keep the rag dolls safe.

9 appreciates this, but he feels obligated to 2 for rescuing him. So he convinces 5 to go with him to a factory where the Cat Beast had taken 2. They do get to the factory, and they find 2, imprisoned in a bird cage. Cat Beast finds them, but another rag doll, 7, decapitates him. While they’re catching their breaths, 9 finds the disk and realizes it fits into a depression in the wall. He nestles it in, despite cries to stop. A giant robot, the Fabrication Machine, awakens. In the chaos, the Fabrication Machine grabs 2 and sucks out his life force—think the Gelflings in The Dark Crystal.

7 takes 5 and 9 away to a library where the twins, 3 and 4 live. They can’t speak, but one of them can project movies through his eyes. He shows a film clip of a scientist who made a machine to make things better and a chancellor who used it. The machine turned on the humans, though, and the war destroyed all life and all the machines.

9 recognizes the disk in a diagram, and 5 recognizes it as something 6 had drawn. He takes 9 back to the church, where we meet 6, a mystical creature that looks so much like the voodoo-priest-boy in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome that I had to continually remind myself what I was watching. While wrestling with what to do next, a bird machine—Winged Beast—attacks. 7 is injured. The rag dolls search for a new safe place, 8 taking time to get stoned off a magnet, when the Seamstress appears. She has the body of a snake, the head of a doll, and the tail of 2’s body. She captures 8 and 7 and slithers away.

9 convinces everyone to chase after the Seamstress. They go back to the factory and rescue 7, although the Fabrication Machine manages to steal the life force from 8. 5 destroys the factory, and the dolls are safe.

Well, not quite. The Fabrication Machine wasn’t completely destroyed, and it goes after them. They manage to escape, only losing 6. 9 insists on following 6’s advice to “go back to the source,” which he figures is the room where they woke up. 1 and 7 insist on destroying the Fabrication Machine. 9 sets off on his own and finds the corpse of the scientist—the same scientist that made the Fabrication Machine—lying on the floor, his hand resting over a music box. On it is a tag that says “For 9.”

9 opens the box, and a hologram rises up. It shows the scientist really did mean the machine for good, but the chancellor commandeered it. When the Fabrication Machine turned on the humans, the scientist realized he had endowed it with his intelligence, but not his soul. So he made the rag dolls. With the help of the disk, each of the dolls had a piece of his soul, the last bit going to 9 as the scientist died.

9 realizes what he needs to do. He returns to the others to find they have made a cannon. A fight ensues. 1 sacrifices himself so that 9 can retrieve the disk. The Fabrication Machine is destroyed.

9, along with 7, 3, and 4, take the disk to a street. They make a bonfire with five flaming spokes that branch out to meet wooden cross-pieces with fabric hung from them. Each piece of fabric bears the number of one of the rag dolls the Fabrication Machine had consumed. 9 touches the runes on the disk in a specific order, and the souls of the dolls rise up into the sky. It starts to rain. Rain saturated with the bacteria that will return some kind of life to the Earth.

Oh, it made me so mad! Everything was great until 9 came back to see 1 and 7 trying to destroy the Fabrication Machine. It seemed so obvious to me! The Fabrication Machine had the scientist’s intellect, but not his soul. Obviously, the rag dolls’ purpose was to give the machine the scientist’s complete soul. Then it could start repairing world.

Instead, we get some kind of weird separation. Four-ninths of the scientist’s soul inherits the Earth, and five-ninths of it…creates rain? Huh? What on earth were they thinking?

Okay, you can come back now.

I accidentally discovered a show that you can not only change, you can create. It’s called Bar Karma on Current TV. It’s about a man with unnaturally strong luck who appears in a bar in the middle of everywhere. He meets an Australian woman with bad luck, and Larry from The Newhart Show. (Neither Darryl have appeared, yet.) Their job is to wait for lost souls to wander in, then help them make different choices.

The bizarre thing is, fans plot the episodes. Fans can go online and make their own story boards. Once a storyline is coming together, the producers go back to the fans for specifics like, “What’s the name of the wine she’s drinking,” or “What will an office building look like fifty years from now.” They even have a contest—enter your own, full storyboard, and the winner gets a six-month writing contract in LA.

I have seen three episodes. I have to say the dialogue is not stellar. And the editing is…interesting. I don’t think they’ve gone so far as to let the fans write the dialogue, so that’s on them. But it is a very interesting concept, and something I could find myself devoting way too many hours on.

So, is there any story out there—book, TV, movie—that you wish you could tweak? Or change completely? And if you say, “I’d get rid of Jar Jar,” I’ll tell you to stop being petty and be more creative.
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