William Monahan's Blood Meridian screenplay

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  • 01 Mar 2015 at 9:32 pm #6629

    DavidLambert
    Member

    Here’s William Monahan’s adaptation of Blood Meridian. I don’t want to color anyone either way until they’ve read it.


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    02 Mar 2015 at 6:31 pm #6633

    jasonp
    Member

    No sir I don’t like it.

    (But thanks for posting it.)

    For one, the judge doesn’t talk with the judge’s sophistication:

    THE JUDGE
    Maybe so. Maybe so. He’d pay you * the bounty on such scalps as are * presented. But Governor Trias * don’t advance cash money. You got * biscuit and ball enough to take on * Apacheria? You ain’t a war party. * You are refugees. And I know from * what. Let me sweeten the pot.


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    02 Mar 2015 at 7:55 pm #6634

    That ending? How could he do that to the ending?

    Putting the Reverend Green scene at the very end, when it was a perfect (and rather funny) way to introduce the Judge to the audience? C’mon now.

    And a complete dismissal of the Judge’s making of the gunpowder and their stand against the Apaches?

    I pass.

    (I also agree with jasonp…the Judge just doesn’t say “aint.” Just no.)


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    02 Mar 2015 at 9:31 pm #6635

    Rick Wallach
    Keymaster

    No.


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    03 Mar 2015 at 4:30 am #6636

    Toni
    Member

    Awful.


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    03 Mar 2015 at 4:33 am #6637

    Driftwood70
    Member

    I was too chicken to post the first comment.
    So I waited a whole European night for you fellars.

    Wow. Thanks, David, for posting it.

    I am actually extremely impressed with this script as a masterful example of turning an extremely elliptical, hypnotically difficult and overwhelmingly magical novel into a sensible and efficient Hollywood screenplay utterly devoid of all ellipses, difficulty and magic – in other words, all the good stuff: all desert, no mirage.

    I can’t say that I did not enjoy racing through it. I am impressed with it’s clarity. A monumental task for this material. Too bad it’s just wrong – or should be called something else altogether. It felt rather like I was reading the script for Black Hawk Down (another Ridley Scott technical achievement), and might become what it should be only if the next incarnation of Jodorowsky or Herzog were to take it up and radically f it up.

    I immediately shared Jason’s observation regarding The Judge’s syntax. I thought, oh, this is close, but when it missed, missed by a mile.

    Regarding Drunk Suttree’s comment about the Gunpowder Scene: having dealt with a theatrical version of that scene myself, and having watched Franco’s catastrophic sleeper – I would say that I am empathetic to the odd problem this scene creates for the screen. While it is utterly riveting, central to both the novel’s action and thesis, and indeed one of its primary set pieces, it is a story told, and I’ve long been convinced that what makes this sub-narrative so compelling and effective is that it is told, both orally and on the page. The excitement and tension lie there, in the telling, not in the re-dramatization of the action. This is one of the beautiful problems with the book, for example, much as I desire to SEE this thing: it’s one thing to photographically capture a landscape, quite another to have to craft it in words over and over and over again – and to participate in that process as a reader or listener. Of course that’s just my opinion, and I will whole-heartedly second DS’s sentiment anyway, regarding a million other omissions, and for me in particular, the tree, man – the heraldic tree in the desert…. To me that is like omitting the rear-view mirror from the shopping cart in The Road, which was also an unforgivable and a stupefyingly missed cinematic device.

    So although I will say that I enjoyed reading this attempt, and am impressed with how readable it is (I enjoyed it the way I might enjoy watching a Ferrari be assembled: curiosity at the manufacturing of a too sleek machine that I can’t afford and wouldn’t f-ing want anyway)…

    So I will also have to go with Rick’s succinct one-word assessment.


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    03 Mar 2015 at 2:25 pm #6640

    jasonp
    Member

    I think the inciting incident would have to be when the kid and Toadvine get picked up by the Glanton gang. Then it would be about 25 pages of scalp hunting carnage before you hit the midpoint.

    The problem is the set up before that would be too bulky. I guess you’d need some serious montage action to fit it all in.


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    03 Mar 2015 at 3:39 pm #6641

    DavidLambert
    Member

    I agree with pretty much everyone else’s assessments. I think the script would make for a decent Western, but that Western is not Blood Meridian. Hated the clumsy and unnecessary rewriting of the judge’s dialogue, hated the attempts at McCarthy-esque writing in the stage direction, and hated hated hated the ending. I was lukewarm about the adaptation until that point. I know Tommy Lee Jones’ attempt at the film had a script that was a much more faithful adaptation (which makes sense considering his respect for McCarthy and the closeness his Homesman adaptation had with Swarthout’s novel), but I had no faith that Ridley Scott would have the same kind of reverence (Monahan’s script was written for Scott). I’ve heard rumors that Michael Mann had an adaptation written in the early 90s. Any truth to that? Someone who claimed to have read it said it was actually pretty good.


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    04 Mar 2015 at 6:13 am #6642

    Driftwood70
    Member

    I think I would agree with you, Jason. And is most certainly why the screenwriter(s) compressed and conflated so much of the beginning. I don’t think they did a terrible job of doing it, it’s just a pity to have to do it to begin with. It eliminated a great deal of depth, in the epic mode, leading up to the Kid’s initiation into the Gang. Which is why even though I’d probably be first in line, I’m not sure it has any business being anywhere near Hollywoodland.

    Similarly, David, it’s surprising how far the writer went in so clearly making that straight-up Hollywood choice about the ending – foregoing all ambiguity. On the one hand, killing the Judge: there’s been so much speculation about what really went on in the Jakes, that it’s not preposterously out of the realm of possibility. But to have him redemptively take up the boy and carry him back east? Cue sappy score and overlaid American flags waving in slow motion. (Need I be reminded of the “sensitive piano” in the film version of The Road. – there are no goddamn sensitive pianos in The Road!). Anyway, interesting and crystal clear choice with the Kid…. if McCarthy had made it! But he didn’t. It’s fascinating how Hollywood cannot tolerate the ‘vacuum’ of the ambiguous character.

    Still I’m very interested in the problems and puzzles of it, for better or worse. I have no idea if this was one among a great many various drafts of this script – with all kinds of different variations – or where this one falls in the sequence.

    Many will try and many will try.
    Or so it would seem.


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    • This reply was modified 2 years, 1 month ago by  Driftwood70. Reason: eliminated specific references to Monahan
    04 Mar 2015 at 3:50 pm #6643

    DavidLambert
    Member

    What’s interesting is that Monahan wrote The Departed, which *SPOILERS* kills off the main character pretty unceremoniously. It makes me wonder if this was a demand of Ridley Scott’s…but then The Counselor had an equally bleak ending. So weird.


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