Letter From The Editor - Issue 58 - August 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
February 2009

The big loophole

Screenwriting is easy! Just make it up as you go along!

Push
Summit Entertainment
Director: Paul McGuigan
Screenplay: David Bourla
Starring: Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, Camilla Belle, Djimon Hounsou, Maggie Siff, Cliff Curtis and Ming-Na
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 51 minutes
Opened February 6, 2009
(out of four)

As it turns out, having superhuman powers is something of a nuisance. Certainly not all it's cracked up to be.

More than anything, they just keep getting in the way. You'll forgive the characters in Push for fretting about their place in this world, seeing as how all their powers are so meaningless, so often.

Instead of lashing out at each other, however, they should blame their own Creator - screenwriter David Bourla - for being so lazy coming up with the rules of the world he has constructed around them.

Sure, our heroes (and villains) have various psychic powers that allow them to, in one way or another, control their environment. Problem is, every character has one of these powers, and every one of them can conveniently be used to defeat another one. One character negates the next.

Push is, in effect, a giant, telekinetic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. There are not plot developments in this movie; there are loopholes. Only loopholes. It's just a series of shortcuts to the inevitable.

It's almost comically absurd at times. The film adds powers as it goes along, expunging its own logic for the sake of advancing (I use that term loosely) the story (ditto). Whenever a character runs into an obstacle, you can almost hear Bourla shouting, "I've got just the thing!"

And voila.

You've got a powerful ability to move objects? Well, I've got the ability to control your ability to move objects.

You've got the ability to watch me, track me, wherever I go? Fine, this guy here's got the ability to shadow me so you can't! You've got someone who can follow me by my memories? Fine, I've got someone who can wipe my memory! Ha!

And on and on, until infinity.

Or wait . . . scratch that. Infinity isn't a possibility, since it's all so circular. Not in a good way, either, but in a "we've been doing this for two hours and still haven't gotten anywhere" way.

Superpowers are, of course, always used for convenience's sake, but this movie just seems to be making it up as it goes along. Instead of thinking his way through the script, Bourla just learned how to be a creative cheater. He probably uses cheat codes to skip to the next level of video games, too.

Granted, this is supposed to be a vehicle for director Paul McGuigan to craft action sequences and special effects based on all these fantastical concepts, but . . . well, the characters are all so simultaneously powerful and vulnerable (to another power, that is), that even the action sequences seem to go nowhere.

McGuigan and his cinematographer, Peter Sova, do some interesting things with the splashes of color within the film's crowded Hong Kong setting - particularly during the marketplace scene - but it all goes for naught.

Everything else is too easy. Judging by this screenplay, Bourla apparently fancies himself one of his own characters - able to manipulate his surroundings for his own accommodation. He doesn't even follow his own rules, though. In one sequence, Nick (Chris Evans) writes a series of assignments to the rest of his posse, then has his memory erased so that he can't remember them, and thus his cohorts can't be tracked. (That's the short version.)

Only in a couple of moments after getting his memory wiped, he is absolutely aware of what he wrote, and why. Hmmm. Apparently no one in the editing room noticed.

Perhaps Bourla hoped that his own loophole would be the action scenes, which would somehow disguise the logical glitches - or, worse yet, the old "it's only an action movie" excuse. But I gotta tell you, Fink - it won't wash. Movies make their own rules; if they break them, they better have good reason. Push doesn't.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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