Good morning and happy Saturday.
I’m going to get this out of the way early. As you know, our author today, Randall Hahn, wrote a gem of a script called Gideon, that Roy still gets excited about.
Well I teased Randall on the forums saying I was going to bash this script because Roy liked the other so much. I can’t stress how much I was teasing there.
That said, as with all our reviews this will be my completely honest opinion of the script.
Anyway, let’s get started.
Oasis by Randall Hahn
Logline: A team of Soldiers and Scientists sent into the desert, must survive a prehistoric monster to get revenge on the man who used them as bait.
An underground science/military corporation known as “Blue Diamond Corporation” or BDC, hires a team of Soldiers and Scientists to do a “boots on the ground” operation in the Libyan Sahara Desert.
The mission: “Operation Oasis”.
The team has 5 days to go roughly 350 kilometers to the target area, and 5 days back to rendevous point. Any longer than that, they will be considered “non-compliant”.
If the team succeeds in gathering hard data that proves “Blue Diamonds” exist, the corporation will make them extremely wealthy.
Five men, and two women, must battle through the harshest elements the Libyan has to offer, including, fighting off the various denizens that live out in the hostile desert. Although BDC is run as Military Facility, its first concern is protecting the desert environment and its inhabitants. Thus, the team is issued strictly BDC weaponry, only to be used for “stun and subdue” purposes.
What the team is not told, there is an “ulterior motive” for sending them in.
It isn’t until half way into their mission that they discover the true reason BDC has hired them. The owner of BDC, Doctor Ahab, seeks a prehistoric beast that dwells in the Libyan. He has outfitted his facility with a huge tank for the purpose of drawing the desert titan in. His motive? Revenge. And he will stop at nothing to exact it. Including, sacrificing these teams he puts together, he refers to as “bread crumbs.”
When the team finds out they have been duped, and were purposely sent out as “bait”, in order to implant the prehistoric beast with microchips, they change their mission.
They will go back to BDC, and kill Ahab.
But first, the team must fight its way back across the desert, before their supplies run out. They must locate the underground facility, somehow sneak in, and get to Ahab without him knowing it.
The major obstacle to this plan? The desert Leviathan.
And here we go.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
The script starts out strong.
EXT. LIBYAN SAHARA DESERT – RIBIANA SAND SEA – DAY
Hot and dry, the Sea of Sands look like a corduroy pattern of 18 karat gold.
SUPER: “LIBYAN DESERT. RIBIANA SAND SEA”
A hundred foot DUNE breaks the pattern. The desert, eerily
A CAMEL’s THUNDEROUS hooves explode over the dune.
A NOMAD, SAMIR,(40’s), wears a turban, with typical desert
garb. He exhorts the camel, terrified.
A SECOND NOMAD, LAWI,(20’s) blasts over the dune, giving a
hard chase. Suddenly, Lawi, veers down the dune in another
Samir reaches the bottom. Relentless seconds of panicked
riding go by.
Sweat. Sand. Fear. You can taste them.
Samir steals a look behind. Nothing behind.
Roy especially talks about how the opening more or less sets the tone for the rest of our story, and I completely agree with this.
Randall did an excellent job with the first scene, but the problem is that the style he uses doesn’t carry through to the rest of the script.
It took me until page 74 until I found another nugget that struck my fancy.
Ahab sneers as hatred drips from his lips.
Was the other description bad? Absolutely not, but I think it was a bad idea that we started at such a high point with no follow through.
The one thing I will caution here is the WALLS of description that accompany the fight scenes or escaping the monster.
They were very hard to follow (and a bit boring), especially the elevator scene at the end. I had no clue who was where and what was going on for half of it. (What floor is Quay on? Are Wainwright and company inside the elevator? Etc.)
I think a lot of the details need to be edited out in favor of a style similar to what he opened with.
6 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Format was good.
A few transitions that I don’t think were needed, but I don’t think anyone would be bothered by them.
Same thing with the typos. I found 4 maybe, (and since the score on the rest of the script will be rather harsh, imo), I’ll let the typos slide.
Oh, and 120 pages? Cut that down by a few pages just so there’s not sticker shock when someone opens your pdf.
10 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it, the dialogue never got above mediocre.
Wainwright especially felt like a montage of EVERY Arnold one liner from all his action movies in the 80s and 90s.
And Fitzy…I absolutely HATED him. The other characters didn’t get annoyed with him until the very end of the script, which I found baffling.
Why don’t move? Is this where the
giant thirty foot mama scorpion
skewers, Fitzy, while everybody
just stares in horror?
Daylight come and me want to go
Felt out of character too.
What the hecksters?
This was the moment I realized I hated Fitzy.
You ain’t dead. We got a mission
to finish. After that, I’ll kill
A warning would have been nice.
I started the jeep.
Driver, if you see a Starbucks on
the way, just drop me off.
The main problem was the characters (ESPECIALLY Wainwright) felt very two dimensional.
One area to fix this is where we get a peek into Wainwright’s past.
You hire a Merc to do your dirty
work, not be your dirty work.
I’ll explain it to you. The same
way I told the guy who was lying in
the weeds for me. The guy you sent
It’d be nice if this was SHORTER and CLEARER. Randall does a great job setting Wainwright up as this badass, but then he talks and seems to flounder.
I DID like his problems with Quay about the types of people on his team, but that was about it. Like I said, everything else felt cheesy. (Which only compounded the effect of Fitzy’s lame lines.)
Also, Wainwright monologues at the end and I was lost.
Killing, Ahab, blinded me. Never
mind we were alive and already beat
That whole monologue I had a problem with because I didn’t understand where he was going with it, since he hadn’t killed Ahab yet.
Also from the previous page:
You may have escaped the bonds of
the bottomless pit, but I swear by
my hand you will reap the
recompense of your wicked soulless
Ahab started talking weird here, and never having read Moby Dick, I wondered if these weren’t the same lines from the story being incorporated into the script. If they were, that’s fine, but they’ve GOT to fit your story, you can’t suddenly cherry pick them in.
If they’re not from the story, then this is another case of bad dialogue.
What money we’ll make, Doctor.
Ahab shoots back.
You’ll get your money, Major.
Don’t mean I don’t regret it.
The two “don’ts” felt like a typo, but did she talk like that?
Plus there were too many characters that were introduced well, but then all talked the same.
Subtext? Let’s not worry about that right now. There’s bigger issues.
1 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
The action scenes were “go big or go home” so a trailer definitely formed in my mind. I’m sure once Randall clears the description up in those scenes it’ll be even better.
9 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
I know Roy liked Gideon, but being that we both read at least two scripts a week, I haven’t had the opportunity to check it out.
It’d be interesting to see, and maybe some of you can weigh in that read both, if there’s a typical style which only Mr. Hahn can bring about, especially if his characters were deeper, dialogue was better, etc. with Gideon vs. this one.
The nuts and bolts of the story were here though, and by making this a cool twist on the Ahab vs. Moby Dick story:
5 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
The opening scene I’ve already said was fantastic, both in it’s description and what it actually contained. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that since there’s still a lot that needs reworked in these other questions.
I was a bit confused on why Lawi turned back, though? Did he see something? Why was he chasing the other guy in the first place?
14 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
As I also previously mentioned, Wainwright is introduced to us as a cool badass. Even when he talks it doesn’t really ruin that effect, but I have a problem with our protagonist.
He doesn’t have much dialogue in the script, and this is great, but when he does talk he needs to be very precise in what he says. Barely more than one word answers, but they MUST speak volumes.
Right now his dialogue is barely above most of Fitzy’s which isn’t good, as Wainwright isn’t your funnyman. Most replies to Fitzy seem to be a continuation of the joke.
Okay, but back to maintaining the hook. Once Wainwright is introduced we’re swept off to the BDC facility.
This is good, and mysterious. I liked Ahab’s introduction.
What I didn’t like is the downtime once they’re at the facility.
They should get there, be debriefed (given a shot during the debriefing) and sent right out.
This speeds things up and should cut pages.
I was intimidated by the number of characters in the crew, despite them having good and varying introductions. It was hard to focus.
The problem I had with these first 20 pages is they just go through events. The scorpions, the baboons, it felt very much like Indiana Jones: Crystal Skulls for me. Pick one or the other, THEN have one of the team comment on them, saying this isn’t natural behavior. (SOMETHING to clue our characters in that this mission is more than about diamonds.)
Same thing with the natives. Just felt like, “Well shoot, this is what the script says, so I guess we’ve got to do it.”
(Episodic is probably what Roy would say.)
To make your characters deeper, we need them to all bond around Mainwright. He’s the quiet loner who’s not nice to them, even if he’s there for their safety. They should resent him and fight him each step of the way ESPECIALLY in something that concerns the fields they specialize in.
Make this part of the drama. Right now they all just kind of bumble through the plot together.
Next, bring the terrarium scene sooner. This should be our inciting incident that let’s US know (not our heroes) that things aren’t what they seem.
Restructure, pick an event, cause drama.
7 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
The idea of the monster is really cool. A giant worm that creates an oasis in the desert to trap its prey.
The problem I had with that was I’m still confused how it works. It seemed almost like an advanced version of an angler fish, but sometimes palm trees were in it’s mouth, other times they were at the oasis. Same thing with the water. Is it there before and after the worm leaves? This needs a better explanation.
Other than that, the main problem I had was the story ran too long at the end.
Wainwright and company are the only team currently. A previous team has been sent out, but there’s decent time in between. (How was that body still alive that grabbed Fitzy by the way? I was assuming the worm used it as some sort of puppet.) This makes more sense as professionals from all over the world slowly disappearing in groups doesn’t make sense.
Also, it puts more pressure on them to succeed, which means Ahab will be more invested.
Second, BDC should be independent of Dr. Ahab. It should be a corporation that wants to capture the white worm for capital gain, and Ahab is the professional on it. This puts Quay and Ahab at odds in the end, and with the project compromised Quay has orders to evacuate and destroy the facility with some sort of self destruct code. (The individual bombs were too drawn out.)
(This takes out the part about money which I thought was kind of lame.)
Lastly, Wainwright should have a past with Ahab somehow, and it gives him a DRIVE to get back to the facility once the group talks to Hansel.
These last two bits give Wainwright all kinds of problems to solve in that he’ll want to stop Ahab, but he’ll also need to stop Quay from killing the team.
It should also make for a neater and cleaner ending.
Other plot problems
How did Ahab/Quay know the teams would eventually find the monster (other than you wanted them to? Why didn’t it eat the Nubians too? Were the scorpions and baboons random events or driven by the monster’s presence?
Page 49 – Why would the Nubians give Pretzel weapons even if he was doing a magic show? They were captives.
Page 63 – This canteen bit felt like the buoys on Jaws, but why couldn’t this GIANT WORM pull this SMALL canteen under the sand?
Page 70-ish – They go to all this effort to send out another team, when the monster just attacks the soldiers and their trucks. Um, why not just send out the trucks if the beast was so close?
Page 80 – Ahab should be more intrigued by Wainwright and team being stuck in the tank. He now has something unexpected to lure the monster out once it wakes up. Good chance for some great dialogue here by Ahab to Wainwright. (Monty Burns tapping his fingers and saying, “Excellent.”)
As I said, the nuts and bolts are in here For the majority of the script, but it needs to be polished.
4 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
This is a great idea for an action movie that I think a lot of people will be excited about.
One HUGE problem though for it to get past a reader is the numerous characters. Most, once introduced, don’t say much or add anything.
I think they need to be condensed from 8 down to 5.
Two possible solutions would be to combine Matu and Backwoods into one hot looking local gal, while also bringing Pretzel and Fitzy together into your funnyman.
H.S. And Janey I didn’t care much about because I didn’t get to know them. If you need people to kill, just send random security guards with them, that the baboons (or scorpions) can kill.
This took a lot to get by, and as I said I really only got to know Fitzy and Wainwright, and I didn’t like them. That’s a big problem.
The other issue was at the end. Why were the guards suddenly helping Backwoods, especially when they killed Ahab? This should be one last problem for them to solve before killing Quay and escaping.
5 out of 10 points.
The backbone of a good story is in there, but this feels like a very early draft.
I hope Randall keeps at it though, as his other work we’ve reviewed exceeds the mark for an amateur script, so we know he has it in him.
I also wanted to say that never having read Moby Dick, there’s parts (and I think once this script is polished up) that inspired me to check out the classic work to see the parallels Randall was drawing.
Total 61 out of 100 points.