LOGAN is one of the best superhero movies ever made, so I thought we might look at X-MEN 3...
Which is not.

There's this scene near the end of X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND where this big guy charges Wolverine, and Wolverine uses his razor-sharp claws to cut his arm off. So the guy grows another arm! And Wolverine cuts that arm off. The guy grows another arm, and Wolverine cuts that one off, too. The rest of the "fight" consists of Wolverine futilely cutting the guy's arms off so that he can't punch him and the guy futilely growing replacement arms. After this goes on much longer than I can tolerate, Wolverine kicks the guy in the groin, dropping him.

And that, my friends, is the movie in a nutshell.

Magneto came back. Professor Xavier came back. Storm came back. Wolverine came back. Jean Gray even came back - and she died at the end of the last movie. But this time around, the film seems like a big dumb Hollywood action flick, instead of that odd combination of superhero and indie flick like the first two.

Over the years, super hero movies seem to have grown up. They aren't just dudes in tights fighting really odd criminals, now they're *conflicted* dudes in tights. "With great power comes great responsibility." The first SPIDER-MAN film was actually one of the best films released that year - it not only made a ton of money, it also had a point. David Koepp's script was a great exploration of responsibility to yourself, the people you love, and society. Even the big fight scenes were *about something* - you can save the woman you love or a bus full of kids: pick one. For the sequel we got a script by Oscar winning screenwriter Alvin Sergant (ORDINARY PEOPLE). Though SPIDER-MAN 2 was better plotted and had a better villain than the first film, I thought it didn't dig as deep as the first film (and I may be in the minority on that) - but it *did* explore those big themes of responsibility. It was both a summer popcorn film *and* a serious movie that really explored a theme. Last year we had BATMAN RETURNS, another deeply flawed superhero in a story that really dug into its theme. It was a darned good movie. The first two X-MEN movies have really explored the issue of being an outsider and questions about conformity and diversity. In the wonderful world of subversive cinema, it's pretty easy to see that those X-MEN movies were dealing with Gay themes - X-MEN: UNITED even had a scene where a boy "came out" to his family as a mutant. Through Rogue's character they also managed to explore AIDS. Lately superhero movies have dealt with some pretty serious issues - meanwhile SUPERMAN RETURNS and all of the other DC movies up intil WOMNDER WOMAN have disappointed. No theme, no point, and they were cold and heartless and Superman and Batman have become selfish a-holes.

WONDER WOMAN was a breath of fresh air... "It's not about what you deserve, it's about what you believe."


Theme is hypotheses. A question. Like a theory. Not necessarily a moral to the story, and though I've said before it's the point of the story - it doesn't have to be. I've also called theme an exploration - and I think that's closer to the real definition. You're poking around in some subject looking for answers or information. When you ask the question, you may come up with an answer... or you may not. But when you are searching for the answers you will certainly discover more than you knew before. Our job as screenwriters is to discover the story's theme, then *explore it* rather than *ignore it*. Make sure we really look into the theme and make sure the dialogue, characters, and even the fight scenes are there to explore that theme.

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND seems to ask the question: If we can "cure" those who are different than us, should we? Problem is, once it asks the question it proceeds to mostly ignore it in favor of big silly action set pieces that have nothing to do with the theme and usually end up with a kick in the nuts. No discussion among the X Team about the concept of a "cure", even though Jean may really need one. They never talk about it! Rogue has a legit reason for wanting the cure, and we get the best scene in the movie from a discussion between her and Wolverine (echoing their discussion onboard the train in the first film). But what does Bobby - Rogue's boyfriend - think about her being de-mutanized? Do you lose other traits when they de-mutanize you?

But everyone else agrees that the cure is a bad idea - no more discussion... and no more exploration of the subject. It's almost as if the cure is just an excuse for the story, rather than the actual story. There's this cure, and we have to do something about it. Why? Don't ask.


The first two films showed us difference between Xavier's group and Magneto's gang, but in this film they don't seem all that different. They both agree that the cure is bad. No discussion, no exploration - just a bad idea. I wonder *why* it's bad? It takes away your super powers - but these characters seem *cursed* by their super powers. Cyclops has to wear his sunglasses at night, and can never look the woman he loves in the eyes (without destroying her with his laser beams). Storm can change the weather, but aside from guaranteeing good weather for a picnic, her power seems to have no other use except fighting those bad mutants. Starting fires and freezing stuff - don't we have appliances that cover that? What good are all of these super powers (except fighting crime... crime caused by other mutants)? Why is it good to be a mutant?

Because of this cure, Magneto wants to fight the humans and Xavier wants to... I guess just do nothing... they both seem to agree on the main points. I wonder what might have happened if the President had made the cure mandatory - would Xavier have fought it? If so, how is he different than Magneto? And that's a big problem this time around - I don't know how the two sides are different when in the end they both fight and destroy a lot of stuff. Why are the good mutants good and the bad mutants bad? Usually this is covered in theme - theme can often be found in the philosophical differences between hero and villain.

This creates a complete cop out. By just saying "the cure is bad" we get no chance at all to explore the hypothesis. With everyone on the same side, we not only remove the conflict, we have no way to explore the theme. Why not have Xavier be "pro cure" and have him gradually learn why the cure isn't the solution as the story goes on - this could be his character arc in the film. Xavier would likely be "pro cure" anyway - isn't the purpose of his school for mutants to teach them how to *control* their mutant behaviors so that they can blend in to society? They may still look different than everyone else, but at least they aren't burning everything with their laser vision! Xavier is all about mutants being more like everyone else - and that's exactly what the cure is! By giving a real voice to the cure, we could have some real discussions. Really dig in and look for answers. Explore the theme.


I suspect the main reason why they automatically decided "cure is bad" is the Gay thing. Since these films have always been subversive cinema about Gay issues, having the good guys on the side of a cure for homosexuality is just politically incorrect. You'll never get another Christmas card from David Geffen. To kick *myself* off his Christmas card list, I have to ask: Why is it wrong to discuss a "cure" for homosexuality? I'm not in favor of such a thing (I'm sure it's not even possible), but this is the exact kind of debate and discussion that can be used to explain why diversity is important. In it's mutant metaphor version, we could really dig into the subject without encouraging bigotry (except, maybe, to mutants with super powers). If you could live a perfectly "normal" life and be just like everybody else, wouldn't that be a good thing?

A couple of interesting arguments they could have used in the film would have been diversity - the world is a more interesting place if we aren't all exactly the same... and religion. You read that right - what if Storm were to argue that she was born a mutant. Not stillborn. Her mother didn't reject her, she didn't die because she was "different". She didn't die of small pox or any other childhood disease. Her immune system wasn't affected by the genetic mutation. "We lived. Maybe we were born this way for a reason. Maybe these powers - these things that make us different - are a gift not a curse. I don't want to change the way He made us - I don't think any of us have that right." See - you can discuss the cure and stay on Geffen's Christmas card list *and* appeal to the religious audience at the same time (maybe). If nothing else, these would make for some interesting discussions - and allow each of our lead characters a chance to help define themselves. We'd learn more about who they are... Which is another thing that theme does - it helps define characters. All of the cardboard characters in this film might have been more fleshed out (Rogue and Wolverine come off real in the film, many of the others are just people in super-suits).


Either because the story never really digs below the surface to find interesting thematic conflicts, or due to poor design, conflict remains on the surface. Character remains on the surface. Everything remains on the surface. You can either dig deeper or go broader - and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND is all surface. Too many characters, too many subplots, and no driving force. No conflict that propels the story forward.

Because the conflict doesn't come from the inside, it's pasted on from the outside and we get all sorts of "soap opera" conflicts. Big hollow arguments. Scenes that need a ton of violins on the sound track. Bigger emotions for the characters doesn't always translate to better - understated emotions often do more to move the audience. Sometimes it's good to be small, good to focus on the little details.

Action scenes need to come from character and story and theme. Anything that isn't exploring the story is just killing time. Unlike the great action scenes from the first MATRIX movie which *all* illustrate Neo's lack of faith in himself, or the action scenes from the first SPIDER-MAN which force Peter to make some pretty frightening decisions... then be responsible for the outcome, none of the action scenes in X-MEN: THE LAST STAND explore the theme or have any emotional components - it's just bunch of junk action.

And junk action isn't exciting action. When the audience complains that the action scenes are *boring* it's because those scenes just play on one level - stuff blowing up or people getting punched. You want action scenes to do more than one thing at once. You want there to be a reason for the action and a point to the action.

The fights in X-MEM: THE LAST STAND don't explore theme and don't show the difference between good mutants and bad mutants. And they go on too long and become repetitious. There's a never ending fight near the end between Storm and some evil mutant chick - they just keep slamming each other. After a few minutes of completely pointless and *boring* fighting, Storm just sends a lightning bolt to kill the evil chick. Why didn't she just do that in the first place and save us all of that boredom? Why didn't Wolverine start out by kicking the arm-regenerator in the nuts? The fight scenes seem to be all padding and completely repititous because they weren't about anything except fighting - no theme involved. This wasn't a way to show what the difference between good mutants and bad mutants - though it should have been. The very least they could have done is found a way for Storm and Wolverine to use evil mutant's powers against them.

Wouldn't it have been nice if there was an action scene that showed how diversity is a good thing? A *thematic* action scene showing how *different* people with *different* skills can work together - and the combination of skills and powers may do more to solve the problems than one person's powers or skills alone. I would have had non-mutants and mutants work together to show that non-mutants are actually better off with mutants in the world. The cure might make us all the same, but having different strengths and different skills is what society needs to survive.

Instead, the entire concept of "the cure" is forgotten - after it is introduced it is never discussed. The most we get are some extras protesting in the background of a scene. They ignore it instead of explore it!

If think the lack of real drama and real conflict and action scenes that mean something also lead to completely senseless spectacle scenes. Now, every summer tentpole flick needs big spectacle scenes - but those scenes need to grow organically from the story... and they need to make sense! The scene where Magneto rips the Golden Gate Bridge off its foundation in order to create a way to get to Alcatraz Island is just silly! Wouldn't it have been *easier* to take a boat? Wouldn't they have had the advantage of surprise if they took a boat? You need to have *logical* spectacle scenes, not just stuff thrown in that looks cool but doesn't make sense.

And the final big SPOILER.... In the end, Magneto is winning the battle (what does that tell us) so the good guys decide to use the cure on Magneto to remove his power. Okay, what does that *mean*? What's the message there? That good mutants are okay but bad mutants should be destroyed? That good mutants can use morally reprehensible weapons on the bad guys... and they're still good? That when the bad guys are winning a supposedly fair fight, it's okay to cheat? What is the moral of this story?

Should kids be allowed to see a movie that teaches that cheating is okay if you're a good guy? What are we teaching our kids, here? With great power comes great responsibility - and this film seems pretty irresponsible to me. I don't think they were *trying* to be irresponsible, I think they just weren't trying very hard to tell a good story. They didn't explore the theme that was right there in the premise of their story, and accidentally made a point they probably never wanted to make.

All of these things seemed to be corrected in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and DAYS OF FUTURE PAST...

And theme and heart are the *focus* of LOGAN and WOMDER WOMAN.

What's your theme? What is the hypothesis your story is exploring? How is that hypothesis explored in character, story, action scenes, and dialogue?

Explore it, don't ignore it.






Your story is like a road trip... but where are you going? What's the best route to get there? What are the best sights to see along the way? Just as you plan a vacation instead of just jump in the car and start driving, it's a good idea to plan your story. An artist does sketches before breaking out the oils, so why shouldn't a writer do the same? This Blue Book looks at various outlining methods used by professional screenwriters like Wesley Strick, Paul Schrader, John August, and others... as well as a guest chapter on novel outlines. Plus a whole section on the Thematic Method of generating scenes and characters and other elements that will be part of your outline. The three stages of writing are: Pre-writing, Writing, and Rewriting... this book looks at that first stage and how to use it to improve your screenplays and novels.

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Most screenplays are about a 50/50 split between dialogue and description - which means your description is just as important as your dialogue. It just gets less press because the audience never sees it, the same reason why screenwriters get less press than movie stars. But your story will never get to the audience until readers and development executives read your script... so it is a very important factor. Until the movie is made the screenplay is the movie and must be just as exciting as the movie. So how do you make your screenplay exciting to read? Description is important in a novel as well, and the “audience” does read it... how do we write riveting description?

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NEW: Update with casting for films 7 & 8!

All Six Movies analyzed! All of the mission tapes, all of the “that’s impossible!” set pieces and stunts, the cons and capers - and how these scenes work, the twists and double crosses, the tension and suspense (and how to generate it), the concept of each film as a stand alone with a different director calling the shots (broken in the sixth film), the gadgets, the masks, the stories, the co-stars and team members (one team member has been in every film), the stunts Tom Cruise actually did (and the ones he didn’t), and so much more! Over 120,000 words of fun info!




Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the *Master Of Suspense*; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

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*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!

Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!

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Screenwriting books have been around as long as films have. This series reprints vintage screenwriting books with a new introduction and history, plus new articles which look at how these lessons from almost 100 years ago apply to today’s screenplays. Anita Loos book is filled with information which still applies. In addition to the full text of the original book, you get the full screenplay to Miss Loos' hit THE LOVE EXPERT, plus several new articles on the time period and women in Hollywood.

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Show Don't Tell - but *how* do you do that? Here are techniques to tell stories visually! Using Oscar Winning Films and Oscar Nominated Films as our primary examples: from the first Best Picture Winner "Sunrise" (1927) to the Oscar Nominated "The Artist" (which takes place in 1927) with stops along the way Pixar's "Up" and Best Original Screenplay Winner "Breaking Away" (a small indie style drama - told visually) as well as "Witness" and other Oscar Winners as examples... plus RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 200 pages!

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*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Kindle!

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Expanded version with more ways to find great ideas! Your screenplay is going to begin with an idea. There are good ideas and bad ideas and commercial ideas and personal ideas. But where do you find ideas in the first place? This handbook explores different methods for finding or generating ideas, and combining those ideas into concepts that sell. The Idea Bank, Fifteen Places To Find Ideas, Good Ideas And Bad Ideas, Ideas From Locations And Elements, Keeping Track Of Your Ideas, Idea Theft - What Can You Do? Weird Ways To Connect Ideas, Combing Ideas To Create Concepts, High Concepts - What Are They? Creating The Killer Concept, Substitution - Lion Tamers & Hitmen, Creating Blockbuster Concepts, Magnification And The Matrix, Conflict Within Concept, Concepts With Visual Conflict, Avoiding Episodic Concepts, much more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

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*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

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Expanded version with more ways to create interesting dialogue! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 50 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

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copyright 2019 by William C. Martell

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bluebook E BOOKS: New Blue Books and Novelettes!
I am expanding all of the Blue Books from around 44 pages of text to around 200 pages! Some are over 250 pages! See what is availabale and what is coming soon!Also, I've been writing Novelletes and there will soon be novels.

Furious Action Class

Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.

Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.


Naked Class The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON CD! The 2001 London Class on 8 CDs! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival wrapped. The two day class on 8CDs, plus a workbook, plus a bonus CD with PDFs.
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Each Blue Book is 48 pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
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