Genre: Historical Action/Adventure
Premise: A forgotten king fights to take back his kingdom.
About: These days it's hard to find bidding wars in Hollywood. Studios are getting cheap. But Friday was an exception as Warner Brothers battled it out with Paramount for the spec script, "Odysseus". I'm not sure how much it sold for but I assume it's a lot. Now an interesting little tidbit. The script is being directed by Joseph Liebesman, who also happens to be directing another script I reviewed on Scriptshadow. A little script called "Battle: L.A." I'm not going to go any further than to say Liebesman might want to get Peacock to rewrite that one.
Writer: Ann Peacock
Sometimes The Scriptshadow must wield his power over The Hollywood. He must show them that his fingers can reach deep into the center of the beast, and rip from its body any organ he so chooses. Today's organ of choice? Odysseus, a script that was sold less than 16 hours ago! Reviewed for you here. On a Saturday. On a fucking Saturday! A day I was supposed to have off!!! Damn you Hollywood! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELLLLLLLLL!!!
I guess this is what happens when you receive a script on a day when you've already read three. So before I fall into a heap of exhausted slumber, let us get in our time machines, and head back to the ancient times. To Greece (or somewhere near there anyway).
Ithica is a beautiful island off in the middle of the sea. Its people have lived without their king, Odysseus, for 20 years, as he never returned from the Trojan War and is assumed dead. But the peaceful Ithicanians (?) are in for a rude surprise, as an army of bloodthirsty warriors, led by the Ancient Greek version of Darth Vadar, ANTONINUS, arrive on the island. The Ant Man is both a mystery and a terror. And his horse will piss on your face (no seriously, he will).
This army of ancient douchebags slaughter the locals like chickens in a chicken pen and overtake Odysseus' castle without so much as raising a finger. There, Antoninus captures Odysseus' wife Penelope, and his son, Telemachus, and begins his rule over the land.
After years go by, a starving weak bearded man washes ashore, a man who it doesn't take long for us to realize is Odysseus. He's finally come back to his kingdom. But what he finds there instead, is an island destroyed and decimated. If Odysseus wants his kingdom and his queen back, he's going to have to fight for it.
The first thing that struck me when I opened this script was the page count. It comes in at a lean 90 pages. Yes! 90 pages! I can't remember the last time I read a 90 page script. It seems like every script these days is 117 pages. But this wasn't done to appease my lack of sleep. It was done to keep the story moving as fast as possible. This is the first script I've read in awhile where there were no unncessary scenes. Every inch of real estate here had a purpose and it's an awesome decision. The script flies like a Greek eagle.
Every character here is compelling. Odysseus' people hate him because he never came back from the war. Why didn't he? Queen Penelope must live with the sadness that her husband never loved her enough to come back. Telemachus, Odysseus' son, must serve Antoninus or his mother will be killed. And there are many great secondary characters sprinkled throughout the script.
I think the moment I really knew I was dealing with a professional was when Odysseus began planning how to take back the kingdom. Soonafter, Antoninus orders a child from every household to be murdered in 24 hours if Odysseus is not captured. This does a couple of things. It turns his own people against him. But more importantly, it forces Odysseus to speed up his plan drastically - in effect, giving him an impossible timeframe to acheive his task. This is what good writing is about. Creating an extreme sense of urgency where the stakes are incredibly high. So few writers do that these days. I was very impressed.
Another nice surprise was Antoninus, who could have easily been a stereotype villain but who we learn actually has a pretty compelling reason to be doing all this to Odyssesus.
I don't know if you're a Braveheart lover like me. But remember the scene where William Wallace comes back to the village after his wife is slaughtered? Well the final 40 pages are like an extended version of that.
As you know, I haven't read anything that's really excited me in awhile. Sloshing through these top-selling scripts of 2008 all week, I was beginning to think that nobody at the studios knew what the hell they were talking about. But Odysseus definitely deserved the bidding war it received. Great script and very impressed.
[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[ ] genius
What I learned from Odysseus: This script is the perfect example of no wasted space. Every scene is important to the story. There are no vanity scenes. Every scene has momentum and purpose.