Review of: Anthem 

reviewed by ericdelmermillen on 11/15/2010
Credited Review
ericdelmermillen
faithful but less fun than it could be Credited Review
review of “Anthem”

story and characters.

overall i think this is a pretty good adaptation but it comes across as a bit too didactic and less fun than it could be. a big problem for me is exposition; particularly the way you show the audience what this world is all about. it feels like this movie is unsure whether it’s a movie about ideas or a character driven drama. you start the movie on what seems like a pretty pivotal day(mandates being given out) but you don’t really give us the opportunity to get to know the characters much before the big let down of the mandates. it might help you to get some of the exposition out of the way by showing us the day before(we could get to know the world a bit better, see the characters routines and get to know them better). in a similar vein, we know nothing about Liberty before Equality brazenly breaks the law and talks to her. as the seething resentment of the populace towards the rulers is pivotal in the final overthrow, it might be good to really take the time to let us see how deeply this resentment runs, and what techniques(aside from public meetings and burnings) the rulers use to indoctrinate the population. as far as the revelation of who the mother/father of everyone is later in the movie goes, this reads a bit artificial as you have not set up people’s attitudes towards the system(aside from showing the one “mating” scene earlier). i think this novel is a bit preachy; the screenplay you’ve written is a good adaptation, but i think it could be a lot more fun if you really let your characters have time to show us who they are rather than just jumping into the action. also, for me the massive montage at the end seems tacked on; you could just end with the feeling of a new birth: we do not need to see all these marvelous changes, the story could end a bit more on an “open note”. a lot of the film has a very “heavy” tone; you need to let the audience recover periodically, or else it might get a bit numbing.

personally, i would tell this story in a less linear way; perhaps beginning in the middle(showing us the ruined city; letting us overhear the expositional speeches by the characters as they learn from the books), then returning to the beginning, setting up the characters discontent, and perhaps even jumping ahead the characters after they have been captured(would provide a lot of suspense as to the details of how they got there; who has betrayed them, etc). also, it would be really nice if we could understand what motivated the revolution in the first place; people must have been unhappy on a pretty big scale to completely abandon their old society.

exposition/story structure.
--initial shots of the sign and the architecture may not be necessary(very expositional)
--explain what we are seeing when we look at the dead city
--might not be clear that Equality is the one who had to remove the prisoner’s tongue just by seeing him w/ some blood on him
--good use of slogans to give expositional information
--p 21; exposition about mating seems a bit tacked on; could be handled more tactfully if you show us a day in the lives of the characters before they receive their mandates(let us see what “normal” is in this society, rather than have characters tell us about these things in flashbacks and tacked on conversation; you seldom hear people on the street explaining democracy to each other— we usually don’t explain things that we all know to each other in such detail)
--you have shown us a great deal of brutality in the first act(cut out tongue, death by burning, rape, mother having baby taken away; may want to lighten the tone w/ some humour around p. 25 so it is not too much of the same over and over)
--Equality and Liberty meeting seems a bit too sweet; she is not particularly worried to be breaking the law talking to him(not reluctant at all); where are her sisters? might work for a better pay off if they warn her not to talk and try to stop Equality but then concede when she chooses to answer Equality
--group dynamics w/ the boys could use a bit of work; Equality has already had a change of attitude, Union is obviously a bit of a rigid thinker and likely to give the boys up when push comes to shove; we need to know why these collectivists should tolerate non-conformity in each other
--might be interesting to use the mirror imagery; perhaps have Equality spend some time looking for the words to describe Liberty’s face to her so that he may sweet talk her when they next meet(would be a good motif; having him trying to plan how he would describe her to his friends, but they all think he doesn’t quite have the description right— or even better, they don’t care and are annoyed by his love sick obsession)
--the boys seem a little lackadaisical when in the tunnel; not concerned by Horsewhip or Union
--overhearing the Ancient ones seems a bit tacked on; why not let us hear them ourselves?; this scene doesn’t seem to add anything to the story except for setting up the call back at the end
--we really should see how these people are brainwashed; what exactly have they been led to believe about how things used to be?
--VO of Sacrifice around p 48 seems conspicuous and tacked on; sudden and significant change in narrative style/form
--P. 50; seems weird to have the unexplained seizure right before the romance scene in the montage
--lightning striking the rod is also strange; how? in what circumstances? why does he not die if he is holding the rod? we get that they are trying different experiments in science books, but these are disjointed examples
--p 57; no need to mention that they are going to bleed Union; we already get that they’re backwards in their treatments; leave it to our imaginations; might be compelling to show both Equality experience via pov while Union’s is shown via handicam? thematically, choosing to use pov more and more as the characters move towards great free thinking radicalism might be a good way to visualize the transformation they go through
--p.59; the screw escape seems a bit easy
--very hard to visualize E’s “box”
--it is a bit predictable that the scholars will not like Equality’s light(they had the books he used to invent the box after all, and this society seems anti-technological); you should either motivate Equality’s hope(maybe there was some other “magical” invention years back which was greeted w/ approval) or allow us to be voyeurs, by knowing what will happen before hand and allowing us to pity Equality every step of the way
--dialogue after Equality and Liberty wake up seems a bit unrealistic; give them a few quiet moments to let us see them bond
--Solidarity killing Sacrifice is fine, but the father revelation seems a bit tacked on; would Solidarity actually get teared up considering how little family seems to mean in this society?
--Justice’s razor scene is yet another heavy scene; one after another; might be a bit much; pacing
--i don’t really buy the turning of the crowd; need to set up the discontent more; maybe have Solidarity warned against his intention to make the light public(he shrugs off the warning)
--not sure if i buy the Justice/International mother/son thing; would he reveal this to her if he is displeased by the revelation? you could milk this for a bit of drama(the choice to tell her or not)i understand it’s comic relief but not sure if it works for me

grammar/formatting.
--“try to not”; “try not to”
--give us a short description when you introduce characters(age, race, appearance, personality)

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