Without giving anything away: did you ever see the Danny Boyle movie “Sunshine”? Well, that’s “God Particle”, the new script from screenwriter Oren Uziel that recently sold to J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company and Paramount. The two films are amazingly alike, from a promising beginning and set-up to what eventually becomes a generic, by-the-numbers slasher movie. Who knew the end of the world could be so … ordinary?
POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW
Here’s the official logline for “God Particle”:
After a physics experiment with a large hadron accelerator causes the Earth to seemingly vanish completely, the terrified crew of an orbiting American space station is left floating in the middle of now-even-more-empty space. When a European spacecraft appears on their radar, the Americans must determine whether it’s their salvation, or a harbinger of doom.
What that logline doesn’t tell you is that the film takes place in the near future, and in this near future, the Americans and the Europeans are engaged in a world war. Yes, that’s right; it’s World War III, and we’ve finally had it with those damn Europeans and their nude sunbathing and wonky Euros and whatnot. Of course, we don’t really know all that much about the war, just a snippet here and there, but for the most part this World War III is just an excuse for the film’s main plot.
Which is the disappearance of planet Earth after an American space station crew fires their “large hadron accelerator” (or some such). Oops! Once the Earth disappears, the crew scrambles to discover why. Just as they’re about to give up all hope, a European shuttle appears. Remember, future America is at war with future Europe, so this results in a very tense situation for both crews. With the planet gone (and all the fighting on it), are they really suppose to keep on fighting, or make nice? They decide to make nice, though only after a lot of arguing amongst themselves.
All is well, and the two crews gather at the American space station to have dinner. Then the dog gets poisoned and dies. (Yes, they’re keeping dogs on a space station, apparently.) Then one of the Americans gets poisoned too and also dies. Uh oh. Maybe letting those sneaky Europeans in, what with their accents and faux courtesy wasn’t such a bright idea after all! Slowly, one by one, the Americans keep dying, and “God Particle” goes from a space movie with a nifty premise into full slasher mode, with the survivors suspecting each other, the Europeans, and even God Himself.
And then it all goes out the window and becomes “Die Hard on a Space Station”. I shit you not. In about 120 pages, “God Particle” goes from Big Idea Sci-Fi to Slasher Movie to “Die Hard”.
To be perfectly honest with you, I haven’t a clue how Oren Uziel managed to sell “God Particle” to a guy like J.J. Abrams. I would imagine Abrams must have read a few thousand scripts in his lifetime, including writing many of his own. Uziel’s script is incredibly amateurish. There are at least a half dozen instances where characters stop everything to explain the film’s science in the most cliched manner, usually preceded by someone saying, “In English please, Doctor!” or something similar. Then the character begins a two-page explanation using diagrams and drawings and what have you. No, seriously. This happens. A lot. Obviously this is all for the benefit of the audience, because why would a bunch of space scientists need someone to explain, you know, science to them? Science, mind you, they’ve been stuck in space doing for the last few years?
You won’t be surprised to learn that the characters are all pretty bland and indistinguishable from one another. The lead is a female character name Hamilton, who stands out because, well, she’s the only woman in the group, something that gets mentioned every other page. She has a boyfriend on the space station, but harbors dark secrets about her past back on Earth. Eventually she asserts herself and takes control when the situation spirals out of hand, though honestly, why the others allow her to lead is a mystery. I’m not even sure what it is she does on the station, that’s how poorly the characters are distinguished from one another. The most we get is some broad personality trait — one’s a religious fanatic (in space!), one is a bit of a douche, there’s a jokester, and later, one becomes blind. The only other character that stands out is Martinez, who is this Alpha Male dick who turns out to be Hamilton’s best ally when the shit hits the fan. He gets some of the best lines, including a couple referencing his “Mexican”-ness.
But did these bozos really destroy the Earth? Make it go bye-bye? Or did they zap themselves into some parallel universe like some bad episode of “The Twilight Zone”? Well, you find out the answer, don’t worry, but you probably won’t be too happy with it. In fact, you might roll your eyes and think, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Which is essentially my reaction for much of “God Particle”, especially the second half: “Are you fucking me with this bullshit, J.J. Abrams?” Followed by: “You better rewrite the shit out of this if you expect to turn it into a decent movie.”
Still, I get why Abrams and Paramount plunked down the money for “God Particle”. It’s got one of those High Concept loglines that sells movies. I can only hope that Abrams sics his legion of writers on this thing before he pushes it into production. If, that is, it ever reaches production. Studios and producers buy scripts every day. That’s cheap. Getting them made? That’s the expensive (and hard) part.