In elementary school, I watched Batman & Robin with my dad. My freshman year of college, a few of us ate pizza and watched the Halle Berry Catwoman. A few years ago, I actually went to the theater to see The Last Airbender.
I’ve spent a lifetime watching terrible movies.
This gets me thinking: Great screenwriting can save mediocre acting, but can great acting save a mediocre screenplay? The screenplays of those three movies weren't the best, but the acting wasn't, either. Could better acting or directing have gotten a better outcome?
My hypothesis was no, great acting can't save terrible writing. It's the same for audiobooks: No matter how talented the voice actor or actress, a badly written book is a badly written book. To explore my theory, I "analyzed" a few not-so-great films (all superhero flicks. What a shock):
Batman Forever (1995): Script? Baaaad. Acting? Ehhhh. Direction? Campy.
X-Men (2000): Script? IMHO…great. Acting? Meh. Direction? Good.**
Watchmen (2009): Script? Wonderful. Acting? Solid. Direction? Ugh.***
Fantastic Four (2015): Script? Terrible. So, so bad. Acting? Not awful. Direction? Also not awful.****
Let’s look at Pitch Perfect 2 (hey, an example that’s not a superhero movie!). While the first movie is fantastic, the sequel was the first movie on a different set. I can’t really blame the screenwriters; they knew the first one was a winner, so it makes sense that they would try to stick to the mold. But it didn’t work. The talent was there, but the screenwriting fell flat. It felt like dating an ex in disguise.
When a movie has a good or even a great script, the actors and actresses in the film have more opportunities to perform as stars. I can't think of anyone who has won an Oscar for starring in a badly written film. Take Daniel Day Lewis' performance in Lincoln. Good script, right? It wasn't a shining star of glory, but it was good. Lewis' performance, though, was amazing. Everyone in that film had the chance to shine because they had a solid foundation of good writing under their feet.
I honestly believe a bad script dooms the entire film. Can anyone find proof to the contrary?
Michelle broke down and got a Twitter. Besides feeling like she betrayed herself, she's actually having fun posting character sketches and writerly things. You can stalk her @redactionaire
*A fact I actually NEVER NOTICED until I re-watched the film a couple of years ago. Sheesh. I was much less discriminating as a kid. Evil minions on ice skates? Then: HECK YES. Now: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING.
**I love this movie. If anyone ever needs to ingratiate themselves to me, I recommend talking about how much you also love this movie.
***It kind of feels like watching a movie that keeps nudging you and saying, “Hey, I’m a movie based on a comic book! Look how dark I am! Hey! Hey LOOK AT ME!” It does a great job of keeping to the source material while making things more clear, but for some reason it still falls flat.
**** They just weren’t given the chance to be amazing. I was so mad about this movie. It had the potential to be SO GOOD and the screenplay was SO BAD.