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They’ll be back: summer’s tentpole cliches

SOMETIMES I WORRY about myself. Watching the big summer movies, I don’t seem to get into the spirit of things. I know I’m supposed to be rooting for the protagonist, but I find myself fretting about the innocent bystanders who have to file insurance claims (“Two cyborgs from the future got into a big chase on my street and my car was totaled”).

I worry about the woman who has to call in late for work (“The cops are chasing a 15-foot green man around my neighborhood and traffic is backed up”).

But mostly I worry about screenwriters. When they’re assigned to script a summer tentpole, they must go through agony wondering how to make it original.

Reel Life can help. First step, it’s important to make your tentpole about something, such as “X2: X-Men United” (a veiled look at bigotry), “The Hulk” (a study of rage against parents), or “The Matrix Reloaded” (well, actually, I’m not sure what that was about, but I think it was deep).

Second step: Create sparkling dialogue. Luckily, this summer’s movies provide an ideal blueprint for scintillating repartee. Each of the summer biggies provides dialogue that is unique, making each film memorable and distinct. Here are seven lessons for screenwriters to remember, followed by some examples of the pithy and trenchant dialogue that helped this summer’s scribe tribe earn big bucks.

1) PROVIDE A SENSE OF URGENCY.

“What the hell was that back there?” (“X2: X-Men United”)

“Who the hell are you?” (“The Italian Job”)

“What the hell is going on?” (“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”)

2) UNDERLINE THE SENSE OF DANGER.

“Dear God, you’re saying this country is completely open to attack!” (“T3”)

“Sir, are you sure about this?” (“The Matrix Reloaded”)

“Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go!” (“The Italian Job”)

3) HEROES MUST BE VULNERABLE.

“Nobody’s responding. I can’t get a signal.” (“X2: X-Men”)

“There’s no power — some kind of counter-electromagnetic field!” (“Hulk”)

“We’ve lost contact!” (“T3”)

4) THE VILLAIN NEEDS MEMORABLE LINES.

“Kill them! Kill them all!” (“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”)

“Non-lethals only! I repeat, non-lethals only … Hit him with the foam!” (“Hulk”)

“Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without.” (“Matrix Reloaded”)

5) PROVIDE TECH JARGON.

“Its arsenal includes nano-technological constructors.” (“T3”)

“Repatch the main ACs to the hard drive and prepare to broadcast!” (“Matrix Reloaded”)

“The vertical thrusters are offline!” (“X2: X-Men United”)

“They’re absorbing all the ambient energy!” (“Hulk”)

6) THE LEADS MUST HAVE A TRUSTING RELATIONSHIP.

“Where are you taking me?” “To a safe location.” (“T3”)

“Who have you told?” “No one, no one, I swear to God!” (“The Italian Job”)

“I don’t understand how this is possible, you should be dead!” “They worked: the nano-meds!” (“Hulk”)

7) A FILM NEEDS PHILOSOPHY.

“We can never see past the choices we don’t understand.” (“The Matrix Reloaded”)

“Know: What happened happened, and couldn’t have happened any other way.” (“Matrix Reloaded”)

“I know because I must know. It is my purpose. The reason I’m here. The reason we are all here.” (“Matrix Reloaded”)

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