Review of: Anne Bonny 

reviewed by miriamp on 09/20/2010
miriamp
A Period Piece, And All That Comes With It
There is obviously a lot of research that went into this. I did a lot of research for An Unnatural Soldier, so I recognize the quality of work here. You’ve done a great job of capturing the tone of the times, especially the King’s pardon and the friction between the “papists” and those members of society who belong to the more accepted religion.

The fight scenes are well-done, with lots of good description: lots of weapon research there. And I love how you’ve captured the tempestuous relationship between Calico Jack and Anne.

However there are some problems. The dialogue for one; it’s a mixture of what we know of eighteenth century speech and something I’ll call “Pirate-speak.” There is no way to know for sure how people in the early 1700’s spoke. We have no records of their actual speech: only letters. And the language of letter-writing was as carefully crafted as the penmanship. Even letters between close friends, or among family members, were not allowed to stray into common vernacular.

I don’t believe that people of that era, or any other era, actually spoke the way we “hear” them in their letters. I don’t believe that people who watched Shakespeare spoke that way themselves. The written language of those days was more flowery and descriptive than everyday speech, and I think this is a common mistake that writers make when trying to re-capture the essence of those times.

As to the Pirate-speak, I think most of that was adopted in the popular telling and re-telling of the tales of Pirates when the stories were handed down orally. The region was a mix of language and culture, so those people who had been born speaking some other language would certainly have sounded more like Pirates than those who had been educated in English-speaking schools as children.

I believe James Bonny, Jack Rackham and Mary Reade would have all sounded closer to modern Brits in their speech, except for vernacular expressions. Mary Reade was born in England, so I doubt she would have used “be” for “are” or any of the other variations that set Pirate-speak apart from day-to-day “Plain-speak.” I think it’s a mis-conception that Pirates spoke like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.

I also think that even if people did use more “flowery” period speech in the actual time, it should still be “modernized” for the movies, just to make it easier to understand. You can see this in the more successful adaptations of period pieces. And I think the film-makers for “Pirates” went the opposite route of emphasizing the “Pirate-speak” to make the movie more fun.

Another problem is that script is quite obviously a period piece, and they don’t do well in Hollywood. The difference between this script and say “300,” or “Romeo and Juliet” or “Just Visiting” is that all of those scripts came from people who had already made money doing more mainstream work, and that they were made primarily to entertain, not to exactly re-tell the events of a certain point in history.

At least you’ve studied the value of set-pieces. This script just bristles with them. I really like all the descriptions of the noises of battle and when the ship runs onto the reef and into other ships. Didn’t think of that one!

Speaking of flaws, the third one is pretty bad. This story really suffers from the lack of a specific antagonist. This is the same mistake I made with my Civil War script and I think really hurt its chances when it was being reviewed by Script Shark for the SOM.

The antagonist in Anne Bonny is a shifting mass of English government, her own internal religious struggles, and other pirates, but there is never any one person who directly opposes Anne and her goals. And there is no showdown in the third act. Audiences love a good fight between the hero and her enemy, especially in a story that can be classified as action/adventure. After seeing review after review for An Unnatural Soldier and trying and failing to come up with a specific antagonist, I vowed never to make that mistake again. Now I always set it up when I’m doing character studies during the outline phase. Who is my hero’s enemy? Why are they enemies? What are the enemy’s wants and needs?

The enemy becomes the enemy because he is the hero of his own story. In The Fugitive, the enemy is very clearly Detective Gerard, who is most definitely a good guy. But he’s the antagonist because he opposes the person the writer has set up as the hero: Dr. Kimble. So the antagonist doesn’t have to be a bad guy: just the person who directly opposes the main character’s main goal.

Having a clear antagonist is what creates conflict and conflict is what creates drama.

Other than that it’s a fine story. It reads well and is easy to follow. The characters are clearly drawn and maintain their personalities from scene to scene, never an easy thing to do. There is a lot of work that went into this script and it shows in every word and every line. Good job.
NOTE: This review does not factor into the site rankings.

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