05 February 2007

The Dreaded Sequel

Word on the street in Boston is that William Monahan, the screenwriter of The Depahted, is working on a story for Mark Wahlberg’s character. Both men have been nominated for Oscars, the movie was a hit, and, frankly, it didn’t leave a whole lot of other sequel potential.

On the down side, Wahlberg portrayed a flat character, according to the dichotomy E. M. Forster proposed in his most enlightening Aspects of the Novel:

A “flat” character, according to Forster, can be summed up in a single sentence and acts as a function of only a few fixed character traits. “Round” characters are capable of surprise, contradiction, and change; they are representations of human beings in all of their complexity. Forster’s aim, however, is not to elevate the round at the expense of the flat, although he admits that the round is on the whole always a more interesting creation. Instead, he argues that there are compelling artistic reasons for a novelist to employ flat characters.
Can a flat character carry a movie? (Well, a good movie?) Or will Wahlberg’s role have to be filled out with (gasp!) a personal life?

This Hollywood news made me think of US Marshals, the 1998 vehicle created for Tommy Lee Jones and his supporting cast after The Fugitive brought in so much money and an Oscar for Jones. Marshal Sam Gerard, Jones’s character, was also flat in Forster’s sense, obsessed with chasing down his quarry, but Jones delighted us with unexpected details.

Once those details had become expected, however, the delight faded. The sequel smelled stale right out of the box, even though it was years ahead of its time in depicting Wesley Snipes on the run from federal agents.

Still, US Marshals has one line that is useful in many situations.
Robert Downey Jr character reacting to something Tommy Lee Jones character has done: Is this guy crazy?

Joe Pantoliano character: No, but he’s a carrier.

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