Blood of Eden: “a very complex and sophisticated tale”

Recently, I posted about a screenplay that Steve Antczak and I wrote called Blood of Eden, which got fairly close to becoming a Die Hard movie.

In that post, I mentioned that the producer’s “coverage” (a detailed summary/review of the script for in-house use) had been leaked, but I wasn’t able to find it.

Thankfully, “belzecue” posted a comment to that entry, pointing to a copy of that coverage posted to a screenwriting news site.

Because the coverage is, naturally, full of spoilers, I don’t want to just dump it here or just post the URL, lest it ruin the reading of the actual full script for someone. It has a tricky twist or three I don’t want you to have spoiled.

So, I’m going to post a heavily redacted version first, editing out most of the plot details, but leaving in the writer’s general opinion of the story.

Then, after the jump, I’ll post the entire coverage, in the hopes that people won’t read it until they’ve read the actual script (you can find the link to it in the original entry). To make the read easier, I’m adding some paragraph breaks where there weren’t any, as the original uses huge blocks of text that won’t read well online.

EDITED, NON-SPOILERY VERSION

Title of Submission: Blood of Eden
Author: Tim Byrd & Steve Antczak
Date Covered: 9/2/99
Genre: Action Adventure

STORY
This screenplay’s story is a very complex and sophisticated tale, presenting its drama and tension in an undersea setting. While there are more and more space- and sea-oriented films these days, this screenplay stands out on the merits of its excellent writing and the incredibly detailed, yet believable, environment in which it takes place. I have some plausibility questions, but they are minor and can be easily addressed….

CHARACTER
While the characters’ main personalities and motivations are clear, I’d like to see them developed a bit more…In this story, it’s very refreshing to see all the bad guys (the ninja) referenced by name, rather than by Ninja #1, Ninja #2…it’s a nice thing to have the bad guys be real people names…

DIALOGUE
Dialogue in this screenplay is a mixed bag. Overall, it’s fine, and it’s especially refreshing to hear the Japanese bad guys using realistic dialogue. Unfortunately, this quickly unravels into typical American macho expletives. The contrast of Japanese thought and phrasing versus the language we are used to hearing is one of the points which made this screenplay unique. Also, some of the American dialogue is either weak (“then the bad guys struck”) or too obvious as exposition (Travis and Desmond comparing backgrounds). In an otherwise very fine screenplay, dialogue is an area that could use improvement.

THEME
“Blood of Eden” is more action-packed than theme-packed, but does touch on several interesting topics, including nationalism versus Pacific Rim countries, maternal and paternal instincts, heroism and honor.

WRITER’S STYLE
The writers do a stellar job of writing action, weaving a tense, sophisticated and compelling tale. Their descriptions of environment and physical action, in particular, are exemplary. All of the hand-to-hand scenes are vividly depicted. The descriptions of the Edensphere do a great job of making the complex “seeable.” Lots of the action and other descriptions are almost literary in their quality, such as the spattering of bullets, the rushing of walls of water, etc. The writers’ challenge is to bring the quality of their characterizations and dialogue up to par with the rest of the screenplay, but I’m sure they can do it.

STRUCTURE
The structure here provides a strong foundation for the story. All scenes are vital and either propel the action or impart necessary information…

SETTING ORIGINALITY
The writers have done a great job of imagining and describing an entire undersea environment and the rules for survival there. Edensphere’s location in the Pacific, however, is unclear. It’s not too far from San Francisco…but it’s clearly far enough north to be in frigid waters. From the “Northern Pacific” slug lines, I kept imaging someplace off the Alaska coast.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE
This screenplay has great potential as a very entertaining and marketable commercial venture. It gets off to a good start, jumps into action very quickly and keeps the action going til the very end…

And now, the un-redacted version…

FULL, VERY-SPOILERY VERSION

Title of Submission: Blood of Eden
Author: Tim Byrd & Steve Antczak
Type of Material: Screenplay
Draft Date: 8/25/99
Number of Pages: 119
Date Covered: 9/2/99
Genre: Action Adventure
Location: Experimental habitat in North Pacific
Circa: Present Day

Logline
A security expert struggles to save himself, his pregnant wife, and other hostages when an experimental undersea habitat is taken over by high-tech ninja.

Synopsis
It’s an important day at Edensphere, the underwater habitat which hangs suspended beneath an off-shore oil rig in the northern Pacific. Years of work by Kyoto-based Kirishima Corporation will be put to the test today as the facility is demonstrated to SENATOR HOYDEN SHEFFIELD. Sheffield’s positive response will clear the way for Edensphere’s technologies to be licensed by NASA. It’s not a given that the Senator will vote positive: even though Edensphere is staffed by a primarily American crew, it’s a Japanese business and constituents don’t like seeing their tax dollars go to Japan.

Heading Edensphere are husband and wife TRAVIS and ANDREA MOORE. Travis is head of security, while very-pregnant Andrea is project manager. Accompanying the senator are his assistant, DESMOND COHEN (28), and Kirishima execs, including senior exec WATANABE SAIGO and up-and-coming SEN-ICHI (22). A small crew mans the surface-based control room while this group descends into the expansive facility.

In a nearby trawler, 15 Japanese don wetsuits and sink beneath the ocean surface. As their presence is detected by sonar in the undersea control room, a Japanese employee accesses a “black box” and eliminates the sonar reading. Hmmm…

As the divers near Edensphere, Andrea pitches the project to Senator Sheffield. As aide Desmond excuses himself to find the restroom (actually looking for a place to smoke), Linda sabotages a security monitor and the divers board the facility. Meanwhile, Travis goes in search of Desmond, since smoking is a no-no.

Linda subdues her counterpart in the security center, and signals the divers to proceed. The divers are led by a stunning SHIVA and handsome KANO (mid 30’s), and all are ninjas loaded with arms and gadgetry. Linda cuts the feed to the surface-based control room. The divers subdue guards as they make their way through the facility. Still searching for Desmond, Travis spies the ninjas and locks himself into the security room, where he and Linda scuffle til he finally stabs her to death.

The ninjas take over the operations center. They take Sheffield’s group hostage, with Shiva announcing that they’d rather not slaughter everyone. As Travis scrambles, Shiva realizes that he’s missing and sends ninja after him. Travis continues, knocking out video cameras, with two ninja tracking him.

Shiva’s group divert the video feed to the surface-based monitors and, as the monitor shows her holding the group hostage, she announces that she is here to satisfy a debt of honor, owed by the Kirishima Corporation, and its head Kirishima Masakazu, to Shiva’s family. She demands that Kirishima Masakazu come pay the debt in blood, and that one hostage per hour will die until he arrives. Shiva’s ace-up-the-sleeve is that she knows that Sen-Ichi is Kirishima’s grandson, last of the line. He’ll never allow them to kill Sen-Ichi.

To prove her seriousness, Shiva executes Watanabe. Travis keeps running and tries sending an SOS but it is blocked. The ninjas almost nab him but he escapes into the pump room, filled with energy-generating plumbing. In a gun battle, Travis is wounded but takes out a few of his opponents.

The more important casualty, however, is the hull of the sphere which is ruptured by a ninja’s plastique explosive. The doomsday clock begins to tick now, as the ocean floods into the sphere. The facility automatically seals part of itself off, but the damage is already massive.

Shiva and her group suspect that Travis has been killed, and Shiva tells Andrea, but they still keep an eye out for Travis. Andrea is devastated.

Still sneaking around, Travis comes upon Desmond who’s been in hiding. The two team up. Meanwhile, Kirishima gets the news and he and bodyguard TETSUO begin their journey.

Sheffield inquires about Desmond, alerting Shiva to the fact that she has another loose end. She sends more ninja in search. Travis and Desmond duke it out when these ninja, and barely survive before killing their assailants.

Meanwhile, it’s time for Shiva to sacrifice another Kirishima executive, which she does. Senator Sheffield tries to tackle her to save the man. Shiva has no patience for his heroics, and gives him an unforgettable reminder to sit still: she chops off his left hand! Her people then apply a tourniquet and give Sheffield first aid. Shiva’s ruthless but not heartless. Andrea jumps all over Shiva, but Shiva spares her, saying she doesn’t want to harm Andrea or her baby.

The crew from the surface-side room try to negotiate, finally succeeding in getting Shiva to stop the hourly executions, pending Kirishima’s arrival. Travis and Desmond make their way, through obstacles and treacherous going, to an operations room, where they can see what’s happened and what is still happening. Travis sees evidence that Andrea is still alive, and is spurred on in his quest to save her.

Shiva meanwhile, zeroes in once again on Travis’s location and sends more ninja. This time, Desmond is shot in the leg and captured, but Travis escapes, taking out a few more ninja. He’s finally captured after losing several fingers, and is exceedingly surprised to find Shiva tending his wounds. She explains that she’s a Harvard-trained doctor, and that she’s going to kill Kirishima because he killed some of her friends. Travis and Andrea have a tearful reunion.

Kirishima arrives in San Francisco and boards a helicopter, with a troop of commandos, for the last leg of his journey. When they reach Edensphere, Kirishima insists that his commandos take over for the surface-based crew. Whatever – it’s his company.

Kirishima’s man Tetsuo does the talking with Shiva, and they are not strangers. Hearing his voice, Shiva flashes back to a scene where Tetsuo savagely rapes her after having murdered her family. She was hugely pregnant at the time.

As Tetsuo buys time talking with Shiva, the commandos infiltrate the sphere. Kirishima talks quietly with an old man who looks very much like Kirishima himself. AOTSUKA does as ordered, becomes the stand-in for Kirishima and makes his way to Shiva’s group. Shiva is only fooled briefly and executes Aotsuka, but this buys time for the commandos to tighten their grip.

Realizing that Kirishima has the upper hand, Shiva orders her ninjas to take Sen-Ichi and clear out. The ninja activate a gadget which sends out an electromagnetic pulse, disabling most of the sphere’s operations.

Sen-Ichi makes a break for it, more ninja die, Sen-Ichi escapes in an elevator, but Shiva tosses a grenade in at the last second. When the elevator opens, Tetsuo finds a dead Sen-Ichi and two dead commandos. Kirishima orders his grandson’s body be taken to the helicopter, and he contemplates his next move.

Back in the sphere, the hostages and Shiva’s group are in a standoff, the arrival of the commandos having turned things into chaos. When Shiva insists that Kirishima will destroy the sphere with whomever may be aboard, the senator and Travis are at first unconvinced. But when bombs begin to explode, all are convinced that they are doomed.

Shiva and Travis’s people join forces and struggle mightily to make their way through a disabled sphere that’s now not only filling with water, but floating almost free and twisting around on its axis. They face Herculean odds in making their way to safety, and battle commandos along the way.

Shiva loses her will to go on when Kano is killed, and she stays behind. Sheffield dies heroically trying to save Desmond. Topside, Kirishima sets the timer on a nuclear bomb and prepares to leave. Desmond sacrifices his life to take bullets aimed for Andrea.

Travis and Andrea make it to the surface, where Travis takes out Tetsuo. Travis accosts Kirishima. He and Kirishima duke it out, and Shiva saves Travis’s life by beheading Kirishima, but she’s gravely injured. They find the bomb, which Shiva’s cousin SAM takes with him aboard a helicopter while Travis and Andrea take Shiva in the ninja’s getaway sub. The bomb blast rocks the sub, but Travis and Andrea survive. Shiva dies. Amazingly, Andrea’s baby kicks, confirming that he’s survived the mayhem intact.

Comments

STORY
This screenplay’s story is a very complex and sophisticated tale, presenting its drama and tension in an undersea setting. While there are more and more space- and sea-oriented films these days, this screenplay stands out on the merits of its excellent writing and the incredibly detailed, yet believable, environment in which it takes place.

I have some plausibility questions, but they are minor and can be easily addressed. I found Shiva’s elaborate plan to be in need of further explanation. She’s recruited a small of army of people including an insider in the Kirishima organization to execute her plan. How is it that she’s a ninja? Who are these other people and why are they willing to help her?

Shiva’s ruthlessness versus her humane-ness is a good touch, but could use some work to come across as a more convincing dichotomy. We assume that she spares Andrea because of maternal instinct and that she doesn’t really want to hurt anyone except Kirishima employees, but this could be challenged a bit more to give her a chance to voice her attitude.

The scene where Bill Logan talks Shiva into sparing more hostages from execution happens too easily. She’s a woman with a mission and with the gleam of revenge in her eyes – make it a little harder for Bill to talk her into this.

While Shiva holds the group hostage, we cut for quite some time to track Travis. I think that this leaves the audience sort of forgetting about the group as they focus on Travis. Some intercutting to show what’s happening with the hostages, even just that they are quiet and frightened, would keep the audience reminded of their plight. We also must assume that the group on the surface and the group that Andrea is addressing are the only people in the sphere, other than Linda and her group and a few stray guards. It would help, I think, to make this clearer earlier, since I kept wondering what everyone else in this massive bubble was doing as Andrea et al were taken hostage.

I’d also like to have some sense of where Desmond disappears to, because I kept wondering about it until he reappeared. This left me looking for him to pop up.

The scene in which Kirishima’s commandos take over the operation left me wondering how it was that they were knowledgeable enough to infiltrate this complex space. A bit of exposition, beyond their studying blueprints, about how they know enough to be effective would help.

Finally, the notion of Shiva and hers joining forces with Travis and his happens to fast too be believable. I’d be hard-pressed to team up with someone who just chopped my hand off and executed several people before my eyes. It should be relatively easy, though, to show the two groups agonizing over their decision to team up, or show them going separate ways briefly before they are forced to join forces.

CHARACTER
While the characters’ main personalities and motivations are clear, I’d like to see them developed a bit more. The setup of Travis and Bill as buddies is very brief. How do they know each other? Why has Bill taken this job? Andrea and Travis are also set up very briefly, although fairly effectively. But the audience’s sympathy for them is tied mostly to the fact of Andrea’s pregnancy, a pretty obvious device. Tell us more about these people to make us care about them.

From the viewpoint of Kirishima and Tetsuo, I’d like to know what kind of business they were in that they murdered Shiva’s family (husband, father?), and how it is that their reputation to the U.S. is of fine, honorable men. What kind of man is Kirishima? What are his motivations? Is he just a ruthless businessman who’s been operating with the tactics of a samurai, or is he really part of a Japanese “tong” or mafia? What did Shiva’s family have to do with Kirishima?

In this story, it’s very refreshing to see all the bad guys (the ninja) referenced by name, rather than by Ninja #1, Ninja #2. Granted, they are actually quasi-good guys, but it’s still a nice thing to have the bad guys be real people names.

Finally, and most importantly, Travis is very solidly set up as a thinker, not a doer on page 1 of the screenplay. That being said, he jumps immediately into rip-roaring action, with hardly a pause to breathe, no less think. Either don’t set him up as a thinker, or show us his thinking/planning along with his action.

DIALOGUE
Dialogue in this screenplay is a mixed bag. Overall, it’s fine, and it’s especially refreshing to hear the Japanese quasi-bad guys using realistic dialogue. Unfortunately, this quickly unravels into typical American macho expletives. The contrast of Japanese thought and phrasing versus the language we are used to hearing is one of the points which made this screenplay unique. Also, some of the American dialogue is either weak (“then the bad guys struck”) or too obvious as exposition (Travis and Desmond comparing backgrounds). In an otherwise very fine screenplay, dialogue is an area that could use improvement.

THEME
“Blood of Eden” is more action-packed than theme-packed, but does touch on several interesting topics, including nationalism versus Pacific Rim countries, maternal and paternal instincts, heroism and honor.

WRITER’S STYLE
The writers do a stellar job of writing action, weaving a tense, sophisticated and compelling tale. Their descriptions of environment and physical action, in particular, are exemplary. All of the hand-to-hand scenes are vividly depicted. The descriptions of the Edensphere do a great job of making the complex “seeable.” Lots of the action and other descriptions are almost literary in their quality, such as the spattering of bullets, the rushing of walls of water, etc. The writers’ challenge is to bring the quality of their characterizations and dialogue up to par with the rest of the screenplay, but I’m sure they can do it.

STRUCTURE
The structure here provides a strong foundation for the story. All scenes are vital and either propel the action or impart necessary information. The ticking clock of a hull breach, and the later ticking clock of a bomb, are very well used devices. Desmond’s reappearance and then Andrea’s almost immediately learning that he’s missing were an excellent example of “a big sigh and then dashed hopes.” My only negative comments about structure are minor: Why does Travis stop in a restroom and wash up? Seems like an odd thing to do, with no purpose except for him to register the fact that Andrea is in danger. Kirishima and Tetsuo’s first scene seems to come awfully late, after much time has passed after Andrea’s announcement of her plan. Moving it a bit earlier should be simple, though.

SETTING ORIGINALITY
The writers have done a great job of imagining and describing an entire undersea environment and the rules for survival there. Edensphere’s location in the Pacific, however, is unclear. It’s not too far from San Francisco, since Kirishima’s helicopter flies between the two locales in not much time, but it’s clearly far enough north to be in frigid waters. From the “Northern Pacific” slug lines, I kept imaging someplace off the Alaska coast.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE
This screenplay has great potential as a very entertaining and marketable commercial venture. It gets off to a good start, jumps into action very quickly and keeps the action going til the very end. And while I must commend and admire the excellent action writing, I probably wouldn’t go see this movie, primarily based on the amount and nature of the carnage throughout. The sensitive subject of “film+violence” aside, I find the notion of people being beheaded, dismembered, or having brains blown out to be extremely offputting. But that’s just me. Other aspects which also score on my personal “no thanks” list are people shitting themselves or urinating when they are afraid, people vomiting, and the word “cunt”.

COMMENTS
Miscellaneous comments about “Blood of Eden”: What’s the flying time between Kyoto and San Francisco? Is it feasible compared to the time span of the screenplay? If someone chopped off your hand, would applying a tourniquet really do any good? Wouldn’t you bleed to death anyway? And, if you didn’t bleed to death, wouldn’t you be in a pretty serious state of shock – serious enough that you wouldn’t be fit for action? And, my biggest question (which is due to ignorance and is not a challenge in the least) – what’s the main difference between a ninja and a samurai. Are ninja primarily good forces, whereas samurai have an evil reputation? Without a moral distinction, it seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black for Shiva to be a ninja ragging on a samurai.”

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One comment on “Blood of Eden: “a very complex and sophisticated tale”

  1. […] [UPDATE: Someone sent a link to the coverage, and I posted it in full here.] […]

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