Sunday, February 27, 2011

The problem with the A Team

Remember the show The A-Team? Remember what it was about? It was about a unit of men who helped people even though every time they helped someone it put them at risk of being discovered by the government that wants to put them back in prison.

So what was the movie about? Some dudes who coincidentally met in the desert and blow a lot of shit up while trying to find some plates that will prove... what, exactly? That they didn't steal them? How does finding them prove they didn't steal them?

So let's look at that difference. The show was about helping people at great risk to themselves. In this movie they help ONLY themselves. The show was about life after the prison break. In the movie the prison break - if you can call it a prison break - happens almost halfway through the film.

This is, I think, where the problems with this film started. The A-Team's mission statement is completely wrong.

It feels like someone made a list of cool sounding explosions and ways to defy physics and strung them together loosely with some poorly-thought out plot.

Piloting a tank through the sky? Really? And here's the thing. While they're piloting this tank they're having the time of their lives. Whoa, cool! We're piloting a tank! Except only Murdoch should be acting like that because he's crazy. Everyone else should be having a fucking panic attack. They should be arguing about what to do. B.A grumbles, but he's tied up so it's not really an issue.

Or Face. He's a womanizer, never wants to settle down. It's what he's known for. But when he finally comes into contact with the woman who changed all that, he's already long since fallen for her. We don't even get to watch him change or struggle against that change. It's like every single opportunity for genuine conflict was sucked right out of the story and replaced with a goddamn flying tank.

This movie is never about being a unit, because there's never any question about whether or not they are one. It takes conflict to bring out theme.

So, Emily, put your money where your mouth is. How would you have done it?

Here's how. Start with the prison break. They're trying to run from the law, but they end up running into some people who need their help. One member of the group wants to help, but everybody else thinks it's not their problem. After coming to blows, they end up helping these people. They almost get caught, but get away at the last minute, whatever means they had to clear their names destroyed forever. That would have been my take. And I would not have flown anyone through the sky in a fucking tank.


  1. Anonymous9:48 PM

    ten years in development hell, countless rewrites, mid-digit scrrenwriting fees

    hardly surprising that this movie was a turd.

    anyway, this film kinda remind me of Charlie Angels in drag.

  2. Yeah, this was one of those studio nightmares with 8 million writers attached and no story to speak of at the end.

    I'd have opened AFTER the prison break. While on the run, our boys would stumble across some poor innocent bastards who are being victimized by some heavies.

    After much debate, fighting and squabbling, the Team would concoct and ingenious plan which would deal not only with the antagonists of those they are helping, but with the government authorities who are closing in around them, as well.

    The Team would then ride off into the sunset in their van, determined to continue avoiding the government while helping those in need. The story would be loud, corny and shitloads of fun. Just like the show, only more contemporary and on a larger scale.

  3. LOFL!!!
    What's going on with HWood? Well, I think we're selling to the wrong people. We (writers) should be selling to directors and actors, but the audience first.

    It makes it easier as most viewers only think about themes, plot, etc when they talk to their film-nerd friends. For the most part the audience wants memorable dialog and dramatic situations (how else is Sandler selling?) not plot twists and character arcs.

    Dev execs need to swallow their pride and realize they can't buy enough tickets so they should thinking like the person who has to get up, get the kids ready (or the dog), take on traffic, find parking, get the tickets and see the movie.

    I doubt a flying tank would be one of those things.

  4. Christian,

    You think Sandler movies have memorable dialogue and dramatic situations? Not since Punch Drunk Love.

    Audiences want McDonalds. I'm actually shocked that something as silly, and action-y as A Team didn't sell more tickets. It certainly had that craptastic vibe that so often fills theaters.

    Maybe the studio got confused and suddenly felt that Liam Neeson and the dude from The Hangover were actually movie stars, when in fact, they are not.

    If you replaced those two with Clooney and Matt Damon or Cruise and Lebouf then the A Team would have been a monster hit.

    The fact that the movie sucked had nothing to do with why it didn't make money. Transformers is proof that quality has nothing to do with commercial success.

  5. Actually RBR I have a whole post coming about the difference between Michael Bay and people who imitate Michael Bay, and why the imitations are not as successful as the original.

  6. I look forward to reading that.

    But Michael Bay is only successful financially. As a filmmaker, he is a complete failure. And I say this as somebody that loves action films ranging from more character oriented (48 Hours, the first Lethal Weapon) to retardedly absurd stuff (Con Air, The Losers).

    I even loved Drive Angry.

    I don't see Joe Carnahan (director of A Team) as a Michael Bay imitator. He's a very talented dude that took a paycheck job and proved he is probably not a paycheck kind of guy.

  7. Anonymous2:34 PM

    I agree with your assessment.

  8. OMG I loved that tank, hurtling through the sky, favorite part. Made no sense, nor was remotely plausible, but damn was fun, and whole time wondering how the hell it was going to end (well, besides the SPLAT part).

    What struck me as fatal flaw to story, the A-team working with the military, with authority. (Made everything kind of false and clumsy on top.)

    I'd have given up the big military global scale thing, and stayed more local, some exotic locale, and stayed a whole lot truer to the characters, they were fun.


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