Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Blast from the Past #650: February 12, 2005: Re: some backstory ideas

Subj: Re: some backstory ideas
Date: Saturday, February 12, 2005 6:29:34 PM
From: Peter Laird
To:   Kevin Munroe


     I'm still thinking about your recent backstory notes document, but I wanted to get a few of my thoughts on it to you so we can keep this thing rolling. So here goes:

     1.) I'm not married to the idea of the big flashback being the opening scene to the movie, but I do think it could work. One of the things I was envisioning was something I've seen in a few movies: We have the big battle take place around -- or at least end -- on or near some distinctive, recognizable landmark (could be natural -- rock formation, unique-looking mountain, waterfall, etc. -- or manmade, i.e. an ancient pyramid or temple). The backstory segment ends with the camera locked onto that setting... then we do a dissolve to the present, without moving the camera.

     For example: Say we end the big battle of the backstory on the upper levels of some kind of pyramid/temple of this ancient pre-Olmec civilization. We pull back to a distance of a thousand feet or so, and we see the temple (it's daytime, maybe late afternoon) with all of the fire and blood and smoke from the previous battle creating our color palette... then we dissolve to present day, many centuries later. The temple has vanished under the creeping growth of the jungle, long lost to man... with JUST enough hints of its shape under all the trees and vines to remind the viewer that they are looking at the same temple. The color palette has shifted to cool and dark colors... it's night... the sky is filled with stars... and we do a pan downward to pick up the activity which begins that opening sequence with Leo doing his training thing.

     2.) Re: the following:

    "Start in a “Lost Civilization” that existed even before the Olmecs. Almost Atlantean, in that it’s technology and peoples were really advanced given their historical placement. I like that we can do this, provided that the civilization mysteriously disappears in our story, and the Olmecs started from scratch."

     Maybe I should wait until I've read this whole thing, but I feel like I should make a comment now. Whenever I read "Atlantis" and "technology" in the same line, I think of that old movie with the "death ray" that the Atlanteans had. I don't think we should go that far... maybe that's not what you are proposing. And I think the Olmecs might not necessarily have to start from absolute "scratch", but maybe they build upon the fragments of the previous civilization -- perhaps picking up on some of the basic design elements used by that civilization (so that when we design that vanished civilization, we can use some Olmec-like elements and thus imply that the Olmecs took from this precursor civilization... without really having to say anything).

     3.) Reading the rest of your ideas got me to thinking. What if... The "Plague Army" which was called forth was essentially a motley collection of various demonic, otherworldy critters and beast, which Yaotl, using magics he doesn't COMPLETELY understand, let loose against his enemies (in some kind of act of desperation, I would think). But, as you say, the plan kind of backfired, as these creatures were pretty uncontrollable, and they did as much damage to Yatol's own forces as they did to the opposing side (the "good guys"). The battle raged back and forth, but in the end, the united forces of Yaotl's opposition -- both warriors and wizards -- prevailed. Yaotl's army was destroyed, and the "plague army" -- whose numbers had been reduced due to many of the creatures being slain by both weapons and magic in the battle -- dispersed into the jungle.

     Now Yaotl and his four generals are cursed -- Yaotl becomes immortal, and the four generals stone statues.  (Maybe these stone statues are then transported to various far-flung locales -- as far-flung as is possible given the resources of this pre-Olmec civilization.) And for various reasons, this civilization proceeds to vanish into history,

     However... the "plague army", which had dispersed into the jungle, DIDN'T disappear. In fact, they dispersed further than the jungle, eventually spreading around the world and becoming the demons of legend which have plagued the world over the centuries. The vampires of Romania, the werewolves of Hungary, the chupacabra of Mexico, the Yeti and Bigfoot and Sasquatch, the mothmen, the Kraken and other sea monsters -- these and more were all remnants of the "plague army", stubbornly sticking around to plague mankind.

     And Yaotl, cursed with eternal life, came to understand this. Humbled in his defeat, he realized what evil and suffering his rash actions had visited upon the world. And he has spent all of his long years since that time trying to find a way to make it right. In fact, as part of his efforts, he has used his immortality as a tool to help him track down and capture some of these monsters through the years (and as part of the decor of his "headquarters", we could use some of these weird things, a la in the BPRD HQ in the "Hellboy" movie). He thinks he has the answer now. He is reconstructing the gateway that he had once used to bring these creatures into our world -- when finished, he plans to use it to gather them all together and send them BACK to Hell.

     (I'm not totally clear on all the practical details of this -- something we'd have to hash out.)

     One of the side effects of Yaotl/WInters' efforts is that -- for some arcane reason -- as he rebuilds the gateway, something about the mystic nature of it begins to attract the remnants of the "plague army", slowly drawing these creatures from their hiding places and dens around the world, luring them to New York. (One of the reasons I like this part is that it could add some cool action -- NYC is experiencing a growing amount of "X-Files"-type stuff -- a mounting plague, if you will, and the Turtles could be right in the thick of it. In fact, it could add to Raph's motivation to become Nightwatcher -- he wants to get out there and fight these monsters.) Some of the monsters find their way to WInters' "Trump Tower-like building", and he uses the purpose-built monster containment cells to imprison them until the gateway is completed.

     Near the climax of the movie, when it appears that Yaotl/WInters is on the brink of success, we have the double-cross -- his four Stone Generals decide that they would rather the plague army remain on Earth, and be THEIR army, with which they can wreak havoc and conquest on the world of men.

     3.) I'm still not sold on the idea of Raph somehow being "The Heart of the Warrior", the final piece of the puzzle required to remake or reactivate the gateway. As I mentioned in my last notes (or at least I think I did), there is something distressingly haphazard about using Raph in Yaotl/Winters' plan in this way. Think about it -- if Raph is the only element suitable to fill the slot of "The Heart of the Warrior", how in the world could WInters have ever conceived that he could or would find Raph, especially if there is a time factor involved (i.e. a planetary alignment, or whatever) AND he doesn't even know Raph exists? It's an incredible coincidence as it is that their paths cross.

     I know that this bit -- surprising the audience by turning their expectations upside-down, in this case revealing that what they thought was an OBJECT being sought turns out to be a PERSON -- is very seductive, and I think when carefully planned and thought out, it can be a winner. But then you also run the risk of turning it into something unintentionally silly, as in "The Fifth Element", when that fabled element #5 turns out to be... "love". (I think the first time I saw an attempt at this kind of slight of hand was in the old "STAR TREK" episode where they are on a planet patterned kind of after the Romans, and they keep hearing about people who worship "The Sun", and they think that means the sun in the sky... but then Uhura drops the bomb on them at the very end when she reveals that her analysis of their society shows that it's really the SON (of God).)

     So while I'm not totally opposed to it, I think we're a long way away from a compelling explanation as to why and how Raph can be this "Heart of the Warrior" that Winters needs.

     4.) I was thinking that it might be cool to work the Foot into this movie idea we're working with, and the way I'm seeing that is to use the Foot as "hired guns" that Winters is using to do various things for him (the "fodder" referred to in the outline). This would allow us have some  fun showing the Turtles beating up on some of their classic opponents -- I think the fans would love it.

     And we could have one of the Turtles say in passing (as a way of explaining) that since they killed the Shredder, the Foot has been reduced to hiring out as muscle.

     5.) The more I ponder this plot, the more it is clear to me that we need to flesh out the nature and character(s) of the four Generals, especially as they are when in stone form. Otherwise, their "double-cross" of Winters at the end won't mean a heck of a lot.

     Part of this must be an understanding of what it is like for them to be turned (magically) into beings of stone. How has this affected their minds? Are they immobile stone most of the time? Do they require some kind of magic -- provided by Yaotl/Winters, I would assume -- to become animate? Are they aware and thinking while they are immobile stone? Why, exactly, would they turn on Yaotl/Winters at the end? What does this get them? Do they WANT to remain as they are -- beings of stone? If so, why? 

     (Actually, while I am still not crazy about the "exo-suits" for the stone warriors, I just thought of a POSSIBLE rationale for them: Imagine that when the four Generals are turned to stone, they aren't dead... though to normal eyes, they would seem to be. But, in truth, they ARE alive... but in their new stone forms, they can only move VERY slowly. It takes a year for them to blink, for example. Yaotl/Winters discovered this truth only after many years of observation, and through experimentation and delving into deeper magics, has figured out a way to ACCELERATE the "life cycle" of the stone the warriors are made of now. 

     And part of this technique involves techno-stuff -- the "exo-suits" -- though in what fashion or manner I'm not completely sure of. To riff of something you said in your notes, maybe these "exo-suits" aren't meant to add strength to the Stone Warriors (like your classic exoskeleton combat suit or Power Loader as seen in "Aliens" is meant to do), but instead is some kind of magic pacemaker or circulatory system for some kind of magic whatever which feeds magic stuff into these Stone Warriors at a rate which allows them to be animate. Actually, that builds into them a vulnerability which we could exploit if needed during a fight -- some of their tubes or conduits or whatever could be damaged, which would slow them down or stop them altogether.)

-- Pete

1 comment:

  1. Interesting notes. It bugged me when I was watching the movie as well. What was the glowing piece that Winters put on the Stone General's chest that allowed them to move. It wasn't explained and it didn't really make sense to me. I figured they didn't have time to explain it.

    Being able to see the Foot without the Shredder was certainly fun in the movie. I liked the ending where the Turtles,Splinter, Casey and April were all battling the Foot ninjas and Karai. But I do find it hard to believe the April can evenly match Karai in battle.