MORIARTY's EXCLUSIVE First Peek At Imagine's New BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN!!
Published at: Jan. 16, 2001, 5:50 a.m. CST by staff
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I’m not exactly sure who Laeta Kalogridis is or what she looks like, but I’d like to take this opportunity to propose.
After reading both TOMB RAIDER and her strange, bold take on BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, I’ve grown fascinated by her voice as a writer. She seems to specialize in action with a genuinely feminine edge, fulfilling a promise that Kathryn Bigelow once made to action fans. Bigelow’s action films always strike me as a woman trying to play what she perceives as a man’s game. With Kalogridis, that’s not the case. Her female leads are the center of her scripts, and it’s their very nature that sets the tone for everything we see, everything that happens. There have been very few women who have tried to establish a strong identity in the genre, and to see someone turning in several exciting projects in a row gives me hope. Action could use strong, specific new voices like this, male or female, new perspectives. It’s appropriate that the first two pieces I’ve read by her are both twists on classic genres and styles. It gave me a chance to see how she makes the familiar fresh, and it’s the strongest indicator of where she’s headed as a writer.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying she’s a good writer just because she’s a woman. TOMB RAIDER is as good a piece of mainstream action writing as I’ve read in quite some time, with descriptions that pop off the page, action that pulls you through the thing, all of it hinging on character. Because there were other hands on the TOMB RAIDER script, I wasn’t sure how to judge the input of Kalogridis. Now that I’ve read the October 2000 draft of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, her fingerprints have become far more visible on the earlier piece. I think only Cameron has written stronger central action characters for female leads. Kalogridis seems to have a fairly sharp knowledge of genre. TOMB RAIDER manages to reproduce the kicks of a video game without sacrificing depth or a certain sophistication of storytelling. She paid closer attention to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK than Stephen Sommers did. She’s not writing camp. She definitely has a wicked sense of humor in the appropriate moments, but she’s most assuredly not writing camp. She means what she writes. The stakes are high for her characters, and they’re real. Lara Croft may be chasing a treasure, but she’s also chasing a sense of closure in regards to her lost father. The lead character in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Lily Praetorius, goes through a horrific transformation, a journey into death and back, but she’s also torn by her dissatisfaction with her place in the world, her need to put love before duty.
I’m not going to spoil too much of the script. Imagine, working with Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel of Alphaville, has tried something radically different with this pass at remaking the classic tale. I actually dragged out Anne Rice’s take on it, a script I read two or more years ago, just for comparison. It’s as stiff as I remember, without a single new idea to contribute to the Frankenstein mythos. The dialogue is low-grade bodice ripper, and the script takes forever to get where it’s going. Part of the difficulty in telling a Frankenstein story is finding some way to keep the audience engaged. We’ve seen so many different riffs on the material at this point that it’s all a sort of blur. When I picked this new draft up, I didn’t really expect much. What I got was as much a retelling of Fritz Lang’s classic METROPOLIS as a reimagined version of James Whale’s brilliant original BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Purists are going to freak, protesting that this isn't FRANKENSTEIN. That's true... it's not. But if I see one more straight-faced remake of the original, I'm going to scream. At this point, FRANKENSTEIN means "science meddling with the domain of God" more than it refers to specific characters in my mind. This is a new story, a new world that's been created, and anyone who isn't able to get past that first hurdle might as well stop reading now. The script is set in a future of metaphorical design, rather than practical. Things have been divided into the very rich and the very poor, with the privileged living above the ruined planet’s surface in The Enclave, fabulous spires and crystalline bridges of spun glass serving to connect everything. On the streets of the Lower Realm, life is a dark, poisoned exaggeration of today’s worst urban settings.
Lily Praetorius lives in Tor Praetorius, her family’s castle-like structure, one of the richest in The Enclave. She’s engaged to be married to Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant scientist whose work is so advanced that it seems like magic. He is working with ultrasmart nanobots, honing sophisticated medical techniques designed to repair or even replace damaged tissue of any type. Even so, Lily finds herself drawn to Ben Morran, a police detective who gets his hands dirty on a daily basis, working in the Lower Realm. They’ve been seeing each other secretly. Ben’s involved in a major case, though, that threatens his relationship with Lily. He’s trying to figure out what’s behind a recent rash of "chopshoppers," prostitutes and poor women and even children who have shown up dead, all of their organs surgically removed, some of the scars very old. It appears that they’ve been selling themselves off, piece by piece. Ben’s questions are the obvious ones: who is buying the organs, and why?
Ben’s investigations stir up trouble in The Enclave, and he finds himself stonewalled at every turn. He manages to spur Lily’s conscience, though, and she ends up pursuing her own inquiry. Her questions lead her to her fiancee and to her own family. When she confronts Victor, the argument spins out of control, and this leads to Lily’s death and rebirth as something more than she was, something more than anyone has ever been before. Lily is the first incarnation of Victor’s twisted dream, and it sets her free from the conventions of the society that has restricted her. She becomes an angel of vengeance, a terrible force of destruction fuelled by righteous anger. It also sets loose Lily’s carnal side, something that both Ben and Victor experience.
It’s gonna take one hell of a filmmaker to pull this one off. If Imagine and Alphaville move ahead with the film, they need to talk to Alex Proyas first. I’m not the world’s biggest advocate of either DARK CITY or THE CROW, but I can admire his ability creating a certain tone. DARK CITY has that one unforgettable sequence, the first Tuning, that feels like total invention, true inspiration. THE CROW is a film I can’t watch for personal reasons, but I find the action sequences in it powerful and visceral, and they stick with me. This is a strong piece of material, giving Proyas a headstart he’s never had as a filmmaker. He could knock this one out of the park. If not him, though, then start talking to people like Chris Cunningham or Steven Norrington. It’s not a perfect script right now, but with a strong visualist who understands the material, it’s close enough to be exciting. The greatest trap would be to camp it up at all. Try and be post-modern, and you might as well save the money. Find somebody who falls in love with this draft, not someone who wants to come in and start tearing it apart and redeveloping it. I’m definitely interested to see this project move forward if it’s in the right hands, and I look forward to covering it as it does.