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Friday, June 6, 2008

For Our Eyes Only: A Look At Fleming...Ian Fleming

El Mayimbe here...

I get criticized a lot for liking everything I read. That is not true. I only write about the stuff I like. Most of the stuff I read dissapoints on some level. I get to share with all you fans the gems. My MO has always been to stay positive and it isn't fair for a script if it gets dissed online because that script is always a rewrite or even a polish away from being great - hence the development process. Trust me folks, I put more than half of the scripts down before the midpoint. If you don't get me by the end of Act 1 then I move on. I'll give you a 2nd chance by the midpoint if it has potential. But like I said in the Grayskull script review, it has been a good year so far for scripts.

A couple of weeks ago, Jay Fernandez wrote in his last scriptland column for the Los Angeles Times about the developments behind Fleming which DiCaprio is producing. The article mentions that DiCaprio is looking to move forward with another writer. Based on what my reader CAXE said below, I can see why. I have a lot of fans in Britain who requested this script review since Ian Fleming just had his 100th birthday yesterday and a new Bond book called DEVIL MAY CARE just recently came out.

So let's see what my guy said below. Hopefully DiCaprio finds the writer who can nail this because the Fleming story has a lot of potential.

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, was a pretty interesting guy. He was a British officer during WW II who created a covert unit of highly trained spies to infiltrate enemy territory and conduct reconnaissance missions – and afterwards, he wrote a ton of books, most of them about the soon-to-be-famous Bond.

Now it seems this guy’s crazy adventures would have been the perfect fodder for a film. Well, they have served as fodder – for numerous biographies and not just one film, but two. Granted these were smaller productions; however, it’s been done. But when has this ever stopped Hollywood?

For attempt number three at conveying Ian Fleming’s life, we have first-time-writer Damian Stevenson’s Fleming, snatched up by Leo DiCaprio’s production co as a possible starring vehicle for him and set up over at Warner Brothers for a possible 2010 – 2011 release.

Now this sounds like it could be a pretty nifty idea. Leo playing the dashing Commander Fleming as he concocts plans to foil the Nazis and traipses off to Jamaica to write about James Bond.
London. 1944. COMMANDER IAN FLEMING, 36, makes love to the beautiful ANN. They are interrupted by the sound of typing – a ticker-tape machine spits out orders to report in.

Ann asks Ian if she’ll see him that evening but Ian says he never makes plans that far ahead. She mentions that TEDDY proposed again and she may take him up on his offer if Ian doesn’t settle down with her.

He leaves and heads into HQ to report but is tailed by some spies. A car chase ensues. Suddenly, we freeze and go to…

Jamaica. 1952. Fleming and Ann are together, dancing and enjoying one another before their wedding. Fleming chats with his author friends, relating how he’d like to create a famous spy. They all tell him it will come with time.

An old friend, ADMIRAL GODFREY appears and tells Fleming that his old Nazi enemy KRUPP has surfaced in South America. Fleming examines the photos of Krupp at a casino – a RED-HAIRED WOMAN is with him, her features obscured with glasses and a shawl. Fleming knows it’s “her” but Godfrey tells him not to jump to conclusions.

Godfrey says he wants Fleming to go with a team but just to identify Krupp, not to take part in any action. Fleming agrees despite Ann’s protests and leaves with the assurance he’ll be back right before the wedding.

As Fleming sits on the plane to Belize, we are taken back to…

…the car chase. Fleming evades them and reports in where Godfrey asks if he knows about Operation Valkyrie, the secret plan by a group Nazi higher-ups to assassinate Hitler and take over leadership of the Nazi party. Valkyrie is led by a man named Krupp who will take over as the leader. It is explained that Krupp and his men would be worse for the world since they want to end the war by making peace with the Soviets, allowing them to maintain total control over their empire and not be held accountable for their evil deeds.

So Fleming is assigned with the mission to foil Krupp and his plan – to essentially protect Hitler, in this case, the lesser of two evils.

Fleming balks at the idea at first but eventually agrees after he is introduced to his partner, the beautiful red-haired MAJOR LANA MIROSLOVA, a Russian spy who has managed to infiltrate the Third Reich. Together, Fleming and Lana must take out all the Operation Valkyrie members before they can kill Hitler.

As one might expect, Fleming and Lana run into complications, but not before getting involved romantically, all while Krupp begins to formulate plans of his own…

As I pored over Fleming, I thought, “Wow, this reads like a James Bond flick,” all while thinking that the guy had a pretty impressive life and that I now understood where he got his inspiration for the character.

I was on the fence about Fleming at first – great story, but a lot of script issues. Beyond Fleming, the characters are all fairly flat clichés we’ve seen in Bond films before – but hey, this is a true story, so I let that one go. Fleming also spouted off a number of one-liners that got on my nerves, but I let that one go as well.

Another big issue was the pacing and the overall structure of the story. While we have wartime antics peppered with the flash to the future for the first portion of the story, we delve into a rather oddly placed lull about what happens after the war between the Operation Valkyrie mission and life in Jamaica with Ann that should have been trimmed or placed in other areas across the story instead of simply interrupting the action for a good twenty pages. Finally, the final mission to Belize is anti-climactic, clichéd, and a fairly big let-down.

I was, however, willing to forgive these faults all because it conveyed such an intriguing story. It wasn’t until I did some background research that I realized that most of what I had read was total fiction. This WASN’T REAL – it was all made up, with only a few of the most basic facts ringing true: the dates are roughly accurate, Fleming did marry a woman named Ann, he did create James Bond, and he was a Commander during WW II – but that’s where the truth ends.

So all the crap I was willing to forgive because it was true was simply a made up story, the writer’s attempt at crafting a James Bond film without actually calling it James Bond. And it isn’t even a good James Bond script at that. It’s reminiscent of the direction Bond was going after Die Another Die – explosions out the ass, bad guys who are bad just for the sake of being bad, cheesy and unfunny one-liners, and two guys who give the hero unbelievable mechanical toys. (Yes, that’s right: there are blow torch lighters and dart-shooting watches in this.)

I get the idea – Fleming may have wanted to have the exciting, womanizing fantasy-like life of James Bond – but he didn’t, and trying to say that he did is a crock. Imaginary biographies are obnoxious and unnecessary unless they are well done and actually convey something deep or interesting about events or people – something Fleming does not accomplish.

It isn’t all bad – there are some amusing action sequences, including a nice bit at Krupp’s mother’s birthday party and an amusing moment at, of all places, a funeral. But even with the idea that this is “based” on a true story, it’s flat-out unnecessary. The man had an interesting life – do a straight biography, or borrow from one of the earlier films and convey his real life along with a fantasy life. Do anything but this.

As far as this script, simply imagine a mediocre Bond film set during WWII and you’ll get Fleming.

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