Monday, August 11, 2008

Upcoming Movie: Push

Whoa, did movie producers pull a fast one on me this time. Here I am, flipping through the 8-8-08 issue of Entertainment Weekly (I fell behind on vacation), and I come across a page full of pictures of various actors posed in front of a white backdrop. The heading at the top of the page indicates that these were taken at Comic-Con. Now, normally I don't bother to read the pages that just have pictures of celebrities, but one picture catches my eye: a cute little portrait of Dakota Fanning. I think to myself, What is Dakota Fanning in that would be at Comic-Con? So I look at the little box with all the captions for the photos and it says "2. Dakota Fanning (Push)".

This stops me dead in my tracks. Push?? The Push that I know??? If they were making that movie, it would indeed go to Comic-Con, but it didn't have any little girls that Dakota Fanning would pl-- Oh, of course, it had that spunky little too-old-for-her-age 13-year-old, whom Dakota Fanning, being a spunky little too-old-for-her-age now-14-year-old, would be perfect for... But no way, how could this have slipped by me? A quick trip to IMDb, while not giving me as much information as I'd like, answers the relevant question: Yes, the sci-fi thriller script that I read two years ago, that I thought could make a really cool movie, is now in post-production, scheduled for release on February 6, 2009.

Sweet. Push stars Chris Evans in the lead role, supported by Camilla Belle and Dakota Fanning, with Djimon Hounsou playing the lead antagonist. While I have somehow never seen any movie with Chris Evans in it (I will get around to Fantastic 4 someday... I was so psyched about it until the first came out to such horrible reviews... Why Jessica Alba?!), I have had my eye on him for several years. I found him notable in that he had leading man roles, as opposed to leading kid roles, in his early 20s. (It's related to that phenomenon where an 18-year-old girl can be a leading lady, but men that age still look like kids; consider that, though Shia LaBeouf is just one year younger than Keira Knightley and a year and a half younger than Scarlett Johansson, the year 2003 saw the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Lost in Translation, and--wait for it--Holes... but I digress). I haven't had an interest in anything Camilla Belle has been in, but I won't hold that against her. I think Dakota Fanning should be good in her role, and Djimon Hounsou is very promising as the villain. With a cool script with a clever story and a strong cast, it's a good start. But having seen a beloved fantasy novel given a very strong cast but turned into a disappointing movie, I am cautious about getting my hopes too high. How the movie turns out, of course, will be largely dependent on how it is realized--the look, the tone, the pace, the action, the time paid to character development, etc., etc. Director Paul McGuigan has a few credits including Lucky Number Slevin under his belt, which makes me not ecstatic but at least hopeful.


Now, about the story of Push. It would probably be bad form for me to give away too much, plus I don't know how much has been changed between the original script and the actual movie, so I'll only say what I think 1) will not have been changed greatly in the final cut and 2) wouldn't give away anything that would make anyone mad.

Push is set in modern times in Hong Kong (original script was Beijing). During WWII, Nazi researchers experimented in the development of psychic abilities, and since their fall, other governments have continued the research with their own experiments, using genetic modification to endow humans with psychic abilities. Most of the agents put under the genetic alteration die, but those who survive become valuable psychic agents for their governments. Many, however, have fled the government agencies that made them and have taught their children, who inherit the abilities, to do the same. The story centers around Nick Gant (Evans), an American psychic hiding in Beijing from the U.S. psychic agency, Division. Nick is a Mover--a telekinetic. Fanning plays Nick's friend Cassie Holmes, a thirteen-year-old who as a psychic has been through enough to give her a perspective and attitude far beyond her years. She is a Watcher, able to catch glimpses of the (frequently changing) future. She finds Nick in Beijing because she believes he can help her find a woman that Division, which has incarcerated Cassie's mother, wants her to find. As Cassie predicted, Nick does run into this sought after woman, who turns out to be his old flame Kira (Belle) seeking his help to escape Division and find a cure for a mysterious ailment she has developed. Kira is a Pusher, able to "push" memories into a person's mind (hence the movie's title). On her tail are two Division Sniffer agents, who can psychically track individuals, and Agent Carver (Hounsou), another Pusher. Division also ropes in a dangerous mercenary Chinese family of psychics to help catch Kira. Nick, Cassie, and Kira, with a few other friends scattered around the city, must use their different abilities to save Kira from her pursuers, and maybe even make a little money while they're at it.

Note: In the actual movie, there is no monetary reward in the end as there was in the original script; the heroes do everything just to help bring down Division.


Now I'll address some Frequently Asked Questions, or at least what I would ask myself or expect would be asked frequently.

Q: Is this a ripoff of Heroes?
A: Hardly anything is totally original these days, least of all Heroes. Let's just say that anything that Push has in common with Heroes had already been done long before Heroes. If that isn't enough, considering the fact that the script made it to me before Heroes made it onto TV, it's probably safe to say that the script was written before Kring pitched Heroes to NBC. So in short, no.

Q: Okay smahtie, is this a ripoff of X-Men?
A: *Sigh*. I don't imagine X-Men was completely original either, but I'm not helping much with these protests, so I'll give a proper response. Let's examine some relevant differences. For one, the origins and pervasiveness of the powers are different. In X-Men, the powers are the result of an unexplained genetic mutation that manifests itself in adolescents. Random people all over the world are suddenly discovering that they have any number of amazing powers. Heroes is similar, with a couple notable differences: the genetic anomalies have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years at least, and Heroes may discover their powers at a wide range of ages (usually at a time that makes them just as inexperienced as all the other Heroes who have to work with them to save the world). In Push, the powers are the result of genetic experiments. The only people with psychic powers are those who were experimented upon and their descendants. This leads to another difference from X-Men (and Heroes): the place of the people with powers within society. In X-Men, the general public fears the mutant condition like a pandemic. In Heroes, the Heroes work to keep their powers under the radar to avoid causing a panic. In both, as people discover their powers, they are bewildered and in many cases desperately need to find others like them to help them through their changes and trials. In Push, the psychics are outcasts and number few enough to keep under the radar. And since they generally learn about their powers from the agencies or their parents, there are no surprises, and no psychics desperately trying to learn what's happening to them. This difference strongly affects the feel of the story and the tone of the world that the psychics of Push are living in. Furthermore, the variety of powers is much more limited in Push. Since all of the powers are the result of experiments to create psychics, all of the powers are psychic-related. Powers in Heroes are much more varied, and even more so in X-Men. Push has no time stoppers, no super-sonic fliers, no electricity slingers, and no power stealers (or brain-slicing power stealers). Nor does it have any laser-shooters, blue-furred beasts, or people who walk through walls. The controlled variety of the powers makes them somehow more--dare I say it?--"realistic". Lastly, I'll point out that, unlike the X-Men and the Heroes heroes, the protagonists of Push aren't out to save the world. They're trying to lay low and get by. In this way, it's like comparing Star Trek to Firefly (though the Heroes and X-Men aren't Federation military or anything... please don't look too hard into that comparison, it doesn't go very far). All of these differences give Push a grungier, rawer tone and an edgy, more real-world feel than Heroes and the X-Men movies (there are so many X-Men comics that I won't make the mistake of implying that there aren't any grungy or edgy comic incarnations).

Q: Did you just call psychic powers "realistic"?
A: Okay, this was merely in comparison to powers in some other universes. The limited powers make the universe a little easier to imagine--they're significantly scary, but not so world-altering that you can't really imagine what it would be like if they actually did exist. Plus, the limited array of powers gives the universe a more controlled environment. I feel there is a difference between being able move things with your mind and being able to shoot from your eyes beams of red energy from another dimension that can punch through almost anything except your eyelids or a good pair of sunglasses. But I do use "realistic" rather loosely.

Q: The movie is named after the "push" ability, but just giving someone a memory of something that didn't really happen sounds kind of lame. What's the big deal?
A: "Pushing" is a subtler ability than straight mind control but when used well is quite effective. If I made you think that I was your sister, how would you treat me? If I instead made you remember that I was the murderer of your beloved sister, then how would you treat me? Besides, I think Pushers may be able to push small thoughts or ideas into people's minds as well--little suggestions like Don't you want a cup of coffee right now? or something.

Q: What are all the powers in Push?
A: These are the different kinds of psychics in the original script [Edit: names changed for the movie are in brackets]:
Movers - telekinetics
Watchers - see the future
Pushers - push memories/ideas into people's minds
Healers [Stitchers] - heal people
Sniffers [Sniffs] - track people
Shadows - can hide people from Sniffers and Watchers
Wipers - erase memories
These last two powers didn't have cute little titles in the script, so these are the names from the official movie promotion:
Bleeders - emit a piercing screech that bursts blood vessels, giving opponents a nosebleed... and much worse, if subjected to the effect for too long
Shifters - can temporarily alter the way objects appear.

Q: Did I hear that Dakota Fanning gets drunk in this film? And what's with all that leg she's showing in the movie stills? She was--what?--thirteen when she filmed this? Is that appropriate?
A: No, I don't suppose it is appropriate, but that's the character. As I said, Cassie is old beyond her years and pretty badass. She's making her way through the streets of Beijing alone. And as Fanning explained herself in an interview, the drinking is related to Cassie's powers; like her mother, Cassie's Watcher powers get clearer the drunker she gets (perhaps it has to do with letting loose her inhibitions, or maybe in a strange way the less clear the present becomes, the clearer the future is). In a desperate situation, she will get herself drunk as a last resort. I get the feeling that Cassie's naughtiness was toned down in the movie. In the script, she smoked cigarettes, and I recall her drinking more than simply as a last resort. From what I can gather (mainly a lack of controversy surrounding the issue), they've done away with the smoking thirteen-year-old, which is not surprising since there are strong movements to decrease smoking in movies because it encourages young people to smoke and having a young heroine smoke in a movie would be doubly bad.


Well, that's all for now I guess. Judging from the script, Push has potential, and its edgy sci-fi/fantasy action genre is right up my alley. A February release date isn't exactly a vote of confidence, but movies like 300 excelled in March, so who knows? With a promising cast and creative team, here's hoping that it'll deliver. I've got my eye on this one.

Edit 10/18/08: You can watch a trailer here.
Edit 12/6/08: Another trailer here.


Jared said...

how did you happen upon reading this script two years ago?

side note: i think i will begin reading your blog on a regular basis. to say we have similar interests, though true, is irrelevant. what captures me more than anything is how similarly we interpret the material. i can only think of one person i have ever met to share these views and i'm happy to find another. keep it up.

Eleni said...

In regards to your question, Jared, a friend of mine who reads scripts for a movie production company passed it on to me because he thought I'd like it. As for your side note, it's nice to know there's someone out there who cares (I don't know how to say that without sounding totally cheesy). I'll do my best to keep it up.