The Storyteller Reports

At long last, Wednesday has come. That means I get to unleash my new feature on you. Say hello to the Storyteller Reports. As promised, every week I highlight some news relating to storytelling, and rant about it. Then I highlight someone who tells stories, and tell you about him/her. Watch me go!

Rant of the Week: Paradise Lost As A Movie

This is something I’ve been aware of for some time. Being an English undergraduate and a writer, I’m cynical about Hollywood, so I didn’t like to hear that they were adapting John Milton’s amazing epic poem for the silver screen.

What I want to say is that I got even more cynical as the details rolled in. Unfortunately, it’s more complex than that. It does seem as if the focus is going to be on angels and devils duking it out in a cosmic battle. That entirely misses the point of Milton’s poem, and if that’s really the angle that will be taken, I can’t expect much from this.

Bradley Cooper is going to be Satan. My first thought was that he starred in The Hangover; my second, that this movie was going to be terrible; the third, that this could actually work. The Hangover may be vulgar and unfunny, but at least it has compelling characters. Bradley’s math teacher is a suave, confident guy. When his friend gets in trouble and freaks out, he takes charge and tells him to calm down. Satan is similarly persuasive with the devils who follow him to Hell. Bradley could win Oscars for this role if the script thinks on that level.

The director intrigues me even more. Alex Proyas has an interesting track record. The only one I’ve seen is I, Robot. Others include Knowing and The Dark City and The Crow. He seems to have a flair for the dramatic. It could serve him well. I understand The Crow is rather satanic, so that could help him with the demons. None of this tells me about whether he can handle the deeper story going on in Paradise Lost.

In the end, it’s about Satan tearing Adam and Eve away from happiness. Not the battle royale. I haven’t lost hope yet, but in all likelihood, Hollywood is going to turn this literary classic into Transformers with supernatural warriors.

Storyteller of the Week

This fashionably dressed Brit is none other than Christopher Nolan! He has single-handedly pulled blockbusters from the intellectual brink.

There are so many people that have sung the praises of the Batman movies and Inception that I have nothing to add. What I will do is bring up some of my favorite touches in Nolan’s movies…

  • Andy Serkis in The Prestige. What an inspired choice. Nolan brought him in as Tesla’s assistant; Serkis rewarded Nolan by making that 15-minute character unforgettable.
  • The lack of CG in The Dark Knight‘s chase scene. I was blown away when I found out how they flipped that truck. And rigged the monstrous explosions. Even the 2-second clip where Batman flips his motorcycle off a wall was done without computer help. That takes skill.
  • The scene in The Dark Knight where Harvey Dent and Lt. Gordon yell at each other, while Batman watches. It’s not melodramatic at all. It’s tense, angry and very grown-up. It sets a different tone in the movie.
  • The way he had Batman reveal himself to Rachel Dawes at the climax of Batman Begins. Anybody would have made him look bashful and just say, “It’s me. It’s Bruce.” Not our boy Chris. He has Batman gaze at her and echo what she said earlier in the movie. “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” Without another word, he flies off. It does the job and shows how distant Bruce has become inside Batman’s costume.
  • Starting out Batman Begins in the prison camp. So many people would have kicked things off with Bruce-as-a-child, but Nolan delivered that same backstory through flashbacks that are perfectly timed and sequenced.
  • The death of Joe Chill in Batman Begins. Nolan took things slowly as Bruce approached with the gun. We see him cock it, we see his scared face, we see him walk forward slowly, almost unwillingly… and then the mob girl gets there first. Chill goes down. There’s quick, panicked shots. Bruce looks shocked, bewildered and poignantly lost as the confusion unfolds.
  • Having Mal in Inception attack with a freight train. Why not a gun, or something more conventional? Because Chris is Chris. The fight train is a symbol of what Mal is to Dom: a strong, iron presence that he can’t fight.
  • The ending of Inception. Need I say more?
If you’re not sold by the end of this list, we are no longer friends. I salute this man! Watch his movies! Christopher Nolan has something to teach all storytellers, whether they are film makers or not. He’s the Francis For Coppola of our day. Salute him and learn from him!
And keep telling stories!
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