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Premise:
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4 out of 5 people found the following review helpful:

a strong effort, but needs trimming and focus

Overall Recommendation:
3 stars
 
Premise:
5 stars
 
Story structure:
2 stars
 
Character:
2 stars
 
Dialogue:
1 stars
 
Emotion:
2 stars
 
August 22, 2011
This draft addresses the AS notes effectively and adds some “Mummy”-style elements.

The zombies now come into being because Flavius wants an army to control/eliminate the Senate. Although he speaks of “plotters and schemers,” only later does he learn that the Senate is plotting his death – might be a good idea to get this point in BEFORE he creates the first zombie, to give him an even stronger motive. He makes a deal with Orcus, to whom he has already given his soul, and creates the first zombie from the corpse of Titus’s brother Tiberius, whom he has previously killed. This is an especially nice evil touch.

Thus, Flavius is initially a more active villain than in the original. However, he is turned into a zombie as in the original, at which point he becomes very similar to the original version.

Late in the script, Orcus takes over as villain. The role of Quintus is very similar to the version in the original.

Early scenes show Titus and his brother Tiberius at considerable length, giving Titus a new back story and a good reason for wanting to kill Flavius after Flavius kills Tiberius. (However, little else about Titus has changed.)

Thus, all of the major AS notes have been covered, including some dramatic scenes in Orcus’s temple.

However, this new version also has new problems. At 135 pages (129 without the illustrations) it’s VERY long and slow to get started with the core story.

The draft keeps almost all of the old story/structure/dialogue from around pages 32-125 – including the elephants. :) The major changes in this section, which don’t have a significant effect on the plot, are making the first zombie out of Titus’s dead brother and making Lavinia a gladiator. (Lavinia is still basically the same character and still seems thinly drawn. And her romance with Titus still seems underdeveloped.)

The new version starts with a race, which is exciting and sets the scene and period. It reminded me of “Aladdin” and “Casino Royale,” which is not a bad thing but doesn’t seem really organic to this story. The race does establish some of Titus’s skills, but has nothing to do with either gladiators or zombies and may leave the audience wondering what the movie is about.

From pages 9-17 virtually nothing happens other than chit-chat and moving some rocks around. I strongly suggest losing the rock scene.

On page 18, I don’t believe that the Emperor would go out personally to investigate something as trivial as a footrace. (However, I did wonder why no one in the city did anything about such a destructive event.) I think you need a more plausible reason to put him on the scene – he could simply be coming back from inspecting the troops, for example, and happen to see the end of the race.

Flavius ordering the brothers to fight to the death is very evil and makes him a good villain to hate. Sentencing Titus to the Arena follows logically from Tiberius’s death, and provides Titus with both a motive for revenge and the skills to exact it.

The scene with the Emperor and Orcus starting on page 24 does have the camp vibe of “The Mummy,” which may be what AS is looking for, but it felt a bit formulaic to me.

Some of the scenes that follow are underwritten:

-- “Grand Gladiator exhibitions. Titus learns quickly and stays alive. He fights with superior skill, strength, and courage. He also fights with uncommon compassion, easily winning over his fellow Gladiators.”

-- “Titus is efficient with any weapon at short or long range. They test him with a multitude of varying challenges.”

-- “The great gladiator, Titus' fame grows.”

I liked “A TITLE CARD READS: 28 DAYS LATER” – a cute zombie movie joke.

Starting on page 29, I absolutely do not buy Quintus et al. plotting the death of the Emperor in front of 100 senators and assorted others. How “secret” is a secret session with that many people in attendance? If you’re going to plot an assassination, you do it in private with a very few trusted people. But it’s easy to fix this.

On page 31, Quintus’s speech didn’t make sense to me:

“I know what you're thinking, how can we kill? But, remember we kill daily, we kill the very thought of giving up. We kill any and all opposition that threatens our very existence. We annihilate hate. And sickness. And lawlessness.”

Huh? Little thick on the metaphor, and doesn’t advance the plot or reveal character.

The first 31 pages (25 without the pictures) set the scene for the real story. And a lot of these pages are VERY talky. So we're off to a slow start.

The scene with Titus in the Coliseum that came early in the original comes on page 32 here. Everything that came before is prologue and exposition. Although these new pages do accomplish important goals, I feel they also weaken the strong structure of the original.

Pages 32-125 track the original very closely, with only minor changes. Lavinia is now a gladiator, and takes over some of the lines/scenes from one of the original’s male gladiators.

Pg. 32: Why doesn’t Lavinia merit a name when she first appears?

Pg. 47: Making Titus fight the zombie of his own brother is nasty and good, and raises the emotional stakes, but putting the first zombie fight on page 47 seems VERY late.

Pg. 54: I think killing the zombie Tiberius here comes too early. Keeping him alive gives Titus some hope of saving him later and could give you a very nice resolution in the third act – the brothers could even team up to fight Orcus. Having Tiberius dead AGAIN doesn’t really enhance Titus’s revenge mission or raise the stakes.

Pg 55: I like Flavius and Quintus fighting for control of the zombies. This is a nice twist to thwart Flavius’s plans. But then why is Quintus unhappy about Flavius turning zombie on page 56? And then he orders Flavius killed one line later. So his motives seem muddled.

Pg. 96: Lavinia’s stabbed, not bitten, which means she’s not at risk of becoming a zombie. This lowers the stakes for Titus (and for her!) so I think it’s a weaker choice.

97-127: I felt the story (which is from the original) really sagged here and felt like “same old/same old” rather than raising the stakes or upping the intensity. Maybe cut most of this and fast-forward to Orcus? No need for the old temple scene, among other things.

Pg. 129: “Orcus-Flavius turns and reaches out to the zombies around him. He tears all the arms off the squirming zombies and attaches them to his body.” I liked this bit, and the sketch was cool. How about making it even better by putting a weapon in each one of those new hands?

129-130: I don’t buy Titus and Lavinia taking the time to chit chat and kiss when there’s a HUGE ZOMBIE GOD to kill.

130: I’m not clear how Orcus gains MORE power by melding with a human and taking mortal form, which makes him vulnerable. As a god, wasn’t he powerful before? Why exactly does he need an army? Flavius’s motives seem clearer than Orcus’s.

131: Lavinia sliding toward the pit is dramatic, but I’ve seen that scene 100 times before.

“Spirits, tortured souls, and screaming banshees fly out of the tomb and flood the battlefield.” That’s cool. Kind of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

132: This is a “use the force” moment for Titus. Maybe think of something fresher or a twist here?

135: The ending with Arrias feels tacked on, just setting up the sequel. Titus and Lavinia riding off into the sunset gives a better sense of closure, and it doesn’t mean they can’t have more adventures.


Most of the dialogue in the central section is from the original. Some of the new lines integrated well, but others seemed awkward, and I especially don’t like the “thee,” which isn’t used consistently:

-- And the skill in combat as [of] Mars himself.

-- You think too lofty...

-- So there is fight in thee yet.

-- But we only exist to serve thee and you [your] people, my Lord.

-- Recently, he has taken it upon himself to enact the reforms, essentially without the theoretical consent of the senate. (Sounds like C-SPAN.)

-- Make [have] no illusions.

-- My brother, who Flavius slain [slew] with his own hand.

-- That is why I have taken control out of the senate.


Overall, this is a solid attempt to address the AS notes and provide a “Mummy”-style tone. However, the script gets off to a slow start and I think it would be stronger if trimmed and focused.

Also, emotionally it’s not as strong as it could be – seeing his brother come back from the dead should be a HUGE deal for Titus, and saving him this time could be a goal that carries him throughout the rest of the story. As in “Gladiator,” a story about love is more interesting than a story about revenge.
 

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