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Red Sonja Script Review

Posted by LiveFor on September 29, 2008

Latino review have got hold of the script for the Robert Rodriguez / Rose McGowan sword and sorcery movie. Sounds decidedly average at the moment.

Here’s what they have to say:

Things start off in pretty standard fashion for this sort of movie – and by that I mean sword and sorcery, medieval, barbarian, and even western and samurai movies – a surly, tough, clearly evil WARRIOR is passing through town and stops in at the seedy local tavern. Everyone there is scared of him, but nobody has the guts to face him except our intrepid but at this point mysterious hero, who emerges from the shadows and dispatches the scumbag in a violent, badass fashion. In this case that hero is, of course, SONJA, disguised as a prostitute selected by the unsuspecting bad guy for a night of pleasure that quickly goes south for him. It’s fairly clear right off the bat that Sonja isn’t just cavorting around killing random sleaze-bag warriors; she has a connection to this particular sleaze-bag and her murderous actions are driven by revenge.

Sure enough, we’re promptly transported back a few years to a younger, more innocent, black-haired time in Sonja’s life so that we may learn the origins of her later, vengeful ambitions. In “Hyrkania,” Sonja’s idyllic hometown (or rather, homevillage) we meet Sonja’s MOTHER, FATHER, and brothers DARAN and GREGOR as they prepare for an annual festival held in their happy little shire. Amidst all the hustle and bustle Sonja sneaks off to the bank of the nearby river for some contemplative alone time – our younger, more innocent Sonja seems to be a bit of a dreamer – where she meets her friend hypothetical love interest CYRUS. The two teens flirt and tease each other playfully, and even share an awkward moment of intimacy in the woods on the way back to town.

Things seem downright wonderful, so I’m sure most of you reading this can see where things are headed. Before you can say “Conan The Destroyer” the peaceful village is overrun by violent marauders, riding through the town killing and burning everyone and everything in sight. Cyrus is (seemingly) dispatched in the blink of an eye, and the attackers quickly turn their attention to Sonja’s family as they try to escape. In what feels vaguely like a medieval version of The Professional, all four of them are brutally slaughtered before Sonja’s eyes. Things promptly go from extremely bad to extremely worse when five of the higher ranking members of the invading group show up. We can tell they’re important somehow, because they all wear distinctive matching amulets, which will no doubt have some significance later. This cabal includes their leader, ORNOK, as well as the man Sonja impales in the opening scene. The five of them take turns raping the poor girl and then conclude the highlight reel of brutality and horror by literally kicking Sonja while she’s down – they stomp on her head and leave her for dead.

Some indefinite amount of time later a barely living Sonja wakes up and begins dragging herself around the burnt-out, blood-soaked, corpse-ridden hellscape that was once her beloved village. Wandering around the wasteland in a daze, she eventually finds herself on the edge of a massive precipice and (actually, quite understandably) decides to end it all by jumping. Now, by this point in the script there have already been plenty of swords, but no sorcery, so the time has come to introduce some of that element. Sonja takes the plunge, but a giant funnel of mist rises up to meet her in mid fall and gently, miraculously guides her slowly and safely to the water below, where a magical, glowing figure called THE RED GODDESS appears before our heroine. The Goddess spouts some stuff about it not yet being Sonja’s time, and that she has chosen her for a special purpose, and that to that end the Goddess will imbue her with a special quality or power that will make her some sort of ultimate badass warrior of virtue and justice. Those may not be her exact words, but that’s the basic gist. She also makes a somewhat odd remark about potential future mates having to best Sonja in combat to prove themselves worthy of her love. Understandably overwhelmed by all the death, destruction, and mystical visions, Sonja passes out again.

She awakens to find herself at a campsite in the company of a man named OZZYUS, who is actually described in the script as “A rogue thief and warrior of dubious loyalties but unquestionable heart.” It seems that Ozzyus and his merry band of warrior thieves, among them the hulking BROGGER and the playfully insubordinate RONNEL, found the now mysteriously red-haired Sonja by the side of the river, and being of unquestionable heart, decided to nurse her back to health. Sonja initially plans to high-tail it out of camp ASAP, but is attracted to the whole warrior thief lifestyle and doggedly convinces Ozzyus and his men to let her stay and learn their ways. Time passes and Sonja, seeming to have a preternatural aptitude for said ways, blossoms into a formidable warrior thief.

…She demonstrates the scope of her abilities in a daring raid on the castle of KING GHANNIF, the objective of which is the theft of an extremely rare and precious jewel called the Tundas Ruby. Sonja gets sidetracked in a swordfight with the king, which ends in a draw. At this point the script somewhat awkwardly makes a big deal of Sonja realizing she can use her feminine wiles as an additional weapon, as she returns to the castle for a rematch wearing a chain-mail bikini and offs the distracted king. Now wanted for regicide, she must go off on her own, but not before Ozzyus can impart some words of advice and a wicked new sword on her. Sonja’s transformation is complete: red hair, skimpy outfit, forbidable combat and thieving skills, and mighty blade; this is the Red Sonja everyone in the theater paid money to see, the “warrior-woman of Hyrkania,” ready to set out on her mission of vengeance.

And that’s what we get, as we are finally caught up to the present as seen in the opening scene. Sonja is working through a list of her enemies, Kill Bill style, and is now three deep, as evidenced by the ever growing collection of their amulets around her neck. She’s still a wanted woman and must therefore contend with the seemingly constant threat of bounty hunters and mercenaries (i.e. an excuse for more badass sword fights). She is also being followed by a mysterious cloaked figure who is quickly revealed to be (surprise, surprise!) a still living Cyrus. Old Cyrus has helped to organize a rebel army intent on overthrowing an evil wizard/warlord called KULAN GATH, a character heretofore completely unknown to the audience, who is apparently ravaging the countryside and enslaving the people so that they can build him a temple that will supposedly imbue him with godlike powers. Naturally, Cyrus and his army want to recruit Sonja as their new leader. Single-minded Sonja refuses, determined to stay finish her personal quest for vengeance, which she does, but… I’m sure you can see where this is headed. Not only does she join the rebel cause (“reluctantly,” Han Solo style) but she is reunited with Ozzyus and his men, who have also been recruited by Cyrus. All this happens just in time for the cursory (and surprisingly anti-climactic) final battle.

And that’s the main problem with the script. You’ve no doubt noticed how many times I’ve said something like “You know what’s happening next” or “I’m sure you see where this is going,” and that’s because everything here is so familiar. Virtually every character, every plot point, every action beat – you’ve seen it all before in countless other sword and sorcery, fantasy, and “historical” epics. Yes, that’s just the source material, and in a sense that’s probably why a lot of people go to movies like this. It offers pretty much everything one could want out of the genre. But it makes little to no effort to dress it up as something fresh, to hide how generic it is. It’s fantasy 101, which is extremely well-tread not just for genre fans, but even for mainstream audiences at this point.

Not only does this leave the film feeling stale and bland, it also spreads the focus too thin. The script is so busy moving from one generic sword and sorcery cliché to the next it never takes the time to establish a truly epic or compelling story, or, perhaps worst of all, a distinct villain. Is it Ornok and his men? Sure, they serve as the catalyst for a lot of the action, but as villains they’re weak – not much screen time, no overarching plot, little to no menace, too easily dispatched by the heroine. Then is it Kulan Gath? No, not him either. His entire subplot shows up far too late in the script and is far too vague, and he barely makes an appearance in the flesh. They’re saving him for the sequel (and the filmmakers certainly seem confident that there will be a sequel, as this ends with a frustratingly massive cliff-hanger).

It’s reminiscent of a lot of the superhero movies that focus on the character’s origins; it all feels like one big prologue by way of commercial for the sequel, which will inevitably be better without having to worry about establishing the characters and their backstory. An epic quest to defeat the evil wizard Kulan Gath would make for a far more interesting (albeit still quite familiar) movie, but what we actually have here is clichéd, bogged down, and disappointingly small in scale. It can’t be a good sign if you’re more interested in the eventual follow-up than the first movie that hasn’t even started shooting yet, but never the less… wake me when Red Sonja II is hitting theaters.

What do you think? Are you still excited about seeing this?

4 Responses to “Red Sonja Script Review”

  1. Kane said

    I was looking forward to this movie. Not so sure about it now

  2. Kane said

    I was looking forward to this movie. Not so sure about it now

  3. Live for films said

    Hi to the people over on Forum. What do you guys make of the script review? You’ll know more about the whole Conan / Red Sonja thing than me. Does the story sound anything like the Red Sonja you know? Could this be good?

  4. Live for films said

    Hi to the people over on Forum. What do you guys make of the script review? You’ll know more about the whole Conan / Red Sonja thing than me. Does the story sound anything like the Red Sonja you know? Could this be good?

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