A Few Things Great Screenplays Don’t Do

So I went to the movies last week. And I like both Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams, so hooray, alien movie, right?

Yeah, no.

First of all, if you want to drive away a substantial amount of your audience, lying to the audience through the entire story is a great idea. Wait, actually no, that’s a terrible idea. Don’t lie to your audience. Don’t lie to the reader. My God, people, why is this so hard? Don’t lie to the reader!

I was watching the story unfold, and it was pretty all right until we hit Problem #1: The Great Info Dump.

The aliens arrive. The government is flustered. We MEET THE ALIENS! OH BOY!

All is great, good music, tension is great. yadda yadda.

But then.



The entire crux of the film is “How can we communicate with these aliens?”

That is the whole point of the film. Right when we get to the cusp of HOW WILL THEY DO IT? They gave us . . . an info dump. They slipped right over the conundrum into a magical future land, where by the miracle of ENDLESS, AROUND THE CLOCK WORK that lasted maybe what? two weeks? three weeks? the humans have assembled a working vocabulary for apparently hundreds of alien words. Now communication is possible, and even easy! Ha ha! Because MATH, and COMPUTERS.

Yes, I’m annoyed.

This brings us to Problem #2: Modern Humans Can’t Sex.

(Insert cry of inarticulate rage.)

Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams start to bond over Hard Work, and Symbolic Nakedness (sorry people, but that’s what it was when they both stripped their hazmat suits off). They go sit on a truck in front of the big alien ship, and Jeremy Renner (who, I’m sure, is not actually this awkward in real life) AWKWARDLY FLIRTS. And Amy Adams, in the manner of an old and world-weary sage, gently smiles at his clumsy boy-flirts.


I’m sorry, but this is just . . . I just . . .


BIGGEST PROBLEM OF ALL, #3: The Big Fat Lie, also known as the Shady Plot Device.

So we’ve been rooting all through the film for Amy Adams to find happiness with Jeremy Renner, right? Because she’s all broken in pieces by the asshole who abandoned her and the cute baby who grew up and then died.

We all hate the asshole, right?

The bond that the story has built with the audience is predicated on our mutual ire against The Abandoning Dude.

Fully one third of the script is given over to building up and reinforcing our dislike of this extremely absent dud of a man, who has apparently left Amy Adams for shallow and immature reasons. We all hate the dude.

Cue the last five minutes of the film.

Oh, wait!

The dude wasn’t absent! He was . . . only partially absent! (Because the filmmakers lied to us, by eliding the apparently very involved and present father figure.) And actually, the filmmakers would now like us to please like the abandoning asshole, because SURPRISE! That asshole is Jeremy Renner!

But life is hard! And people get divorced! And we made you feel sorry for the kid with cancer! And anyway, now that Amy Adams knows how upset Jeremy Renner is about their baby dying, she will tell him anyway, because— *crickets*


When the last few minutes of the film rolled out, and the screen went dark, a person in the theatre audibly said, “That’s stupid.”


Your readers are people. If you lie to people, they will avoid you.