In Save The Cat! I write about Basil Exposition, the character from Mike Meyers’s Austin Powers series played by Michael York. Basil is an inside joke, especially his last name, because every time he appears onscreen that’s all he does: Give the exposition. Basil tells Austin, and us, the history, state of, and future of the case that Meyers’ British superspy is trying to solve. And everyone, even Austin, rolls his eyes whenever Basil appears.
Imagine a whole movie peopled by no one but Basil Exposition!
Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code is a good, solid, entertaining movie. I don’t buy the backlash by critics who dub it a disaster. For fans of the book, the tale is enhanced by the visuals and settings. And Tom Hanks gives a truly weird performance that is definitely worthy of a look.
Man, what an exposition headache!
While watching the film last night with friends (a packed house by the way), all I heard was characters talking the plot. And when they weren’t talking the plot, they were flashing back to scenes from history — and personal backstory — that gave me whiplash.
I advise screenwriters to try to avoid the flashback and the dream sequence and this movie will give me lots of headaches when writers say: “They did it in The Da Vinci Code!”
I am a big Akiva Goldsman fan, the screenwriter who adapted Dan Brown’s book, but I sensed the struggle. Every character was forced to talk. And talk. And talk. And all the talk — or 90% of it — had to do with events that were not occuring in the present. Only occasionally did drama get in the way of “facts.”
It made me realize why there was such controversy about Dan Brown adapting so much of his fictional work from the purely historical speculation found in books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Because of the nature of screenwriting versus a narrator telling a tale to us in a book, it reveals how much of Brown’s work is really just based on this outlandish conspiracy theory. Perhaps this story is not really a story at all but a documentary?
Also, try though they might to give Tom, as hero Robert Langdon, a “limp and an eyepatch” — that being his having a life-altering trauma as a child — there was no “arc” in Tom’s character. Yes, they hurtled across France and England finding clues and avoiding bad guys, but nothing happened. Not really. Or not enough to transform Tom’s character anyway.
And that is what a really good story is about.
After all, Basil Exposition is the same in the first Austin Powers movie as the last. When the only purpose of a character is to function as a plot teller, there really isn’t much room for more.