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ZvG: Zombies Vs Gladiators, J. H.'s 2nd Draft

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Zombies v Gladiators

Overall Recommendation:
1 stars
1 stars
Story structure:
2 stars
2 stars
1 stars
1 stars
October 30, 2017
I have seen both the storyboard and the video for this project, and I also read the second draft of the script. I'm not really excited by the premise; as others have said, it sounds like a cheap afternoon TV movie that could air on Syfy. I get it, zombies are in these days, and period films crossed with zombies have not really been done before (I'm just going to go ahead and ignore Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and Abraham Lincoln: Zombie Hunter). But zombies with gladiators? Honestly, it made me think of Cowboys & Aliens. This isn't a pairing I was expecting or wanting to see happen.

For story structure, I understand what you were going for. The three-act structure is there, I believe, but there is no real sense of evolution for the characters, they're just a list of TV/movie tropes. I couldn't identify with any of them. Titus has no weakness, absolutely none. He isn't disabled (physically or mentally), he isn't the underdog, he never doubts himself or his ability to lead and fight. The man was a prince and lead a revolution, finds himself in the Coliseum, at the very bottom of Roman society; has lost the woman he loved and his newborn son, and he never weeps nor shows anger or frustration. His purpose in life seems to be kicking zombie butt. He is never truly in danger, he never makes a mistake, he is never surprised. I don't know if you're familiar with the Mary-Sue/Gary-Stu trope in fanfiction, but perhaps you should read about it.
The supporting characters have no substance either. I don't care for Daria. Why is she here? How did she end up with Titus? She only exists for him. Just because you create a female who is skilled in combat doesn't mean she's a full character. She has no purpose in life than to love Titus and fight for him. Plus, she conveniently becomes a zombie halfway through, and is saved by the power of looove. How original. I don't buy into their love story, it's forced upon us. It doesn't happen naturally at all. Why couldn't Titus be hurt by the zombie? That would have given an arc to Daria (going from second-in-command to leader, and fighting against Lavinia) and a better fight at the end, since both Titus and Flavius would be zombies at this point.
Concerning your antagonists, I just don't buy it either. Why is Flavius evil? Why does Lavinia want to be seen as the saviour of Rome? Is Flavius jealous of Titus, and if so why? Is it a love-hate relationship à la Thor and Loki, from the MCU? Or is it something more Shakespearean, like Orlando and Oliver's relationship in As You Like It?
And what of Lavinia's and Titus' past relationship? Why did she choose Flavius in the end? You need to refine your characters, give them a past life and motivations. Even if everything isn't answered in the script (we don't need to know everything, just enough to understand and care for your characters), knowing what kind of life your characters have led will inform you on the choices they would make in your story, thus making it more human and emotionally true. You must strive for emotional truth. It could compensate for the gaps in your story.
(By the way, and this is a detail at this point, but your movie doesn't pass the Bechdel test. Admittedly the test has its flaws, but it is a useful guideline for screenwriters. Think about it.)

When it comes to the script, you really need to work on it. There are no logical links between the scenes, and no true voice emerges through the dialogue. I can't see any difference between the characters when they speak. The type of language you use isn't always consistent either, you mix daily English vocabulary and sentence structure with a higher register of language, which cannot work. Also, can we lay off the expletives? You can convey frustration in other ways. Show us your characters are angry, don't tell us. Make them stomp their foot, scream, shake, frown, pace, whatever works for them. Swearing is not the only way to show you're angry. I would also recommend that you vary the sentence rhythm; write monologues and interweave them with snapping sentences, witticisms, one-worded replies. Have fun while you're writing, and it will be felt in the story too. To help you in this endeavour, I would recommend 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing, by Gary Provost.

Finally, you don't really respect the zombie genre conventions. I don't believe that movies must honour every convention, but you need at least a few to provide anchors to your viewers. There needs to be a logic to it. How about resetting your story in the country, instead of Rome? The story could follow the exile of Titus after his failed revolution, and his quest to get back to Rome and reclaim his throne. Moreover, many zombie stories take place in abandoned or remote places, in order to properly convey the sense of loneliness and decay, as well as maximizing the fear factor. Seeing Titus alone would also give the opportunity to the audience to care for him.

While I still don't subscribe to the premise at all, I believe that the familial and political intrigue has potential. Make your characters more believable, give them flaws, and give the women something other to do than being the Action Girl that ends up needing to be saved and the Malevolent Power-Hungry Ex-Girlfriend; work on your dialogue and story structure, and you could have something interesting.


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