Friday, June 29, 2012

Movie Pitch: "Martin Luther"

Pew pew, mah brothuhs and sistuhs.
Nick and I do a lot of drinking. Most of it happens standing around the kitchen/living room area on The Humboldt's ground floor. This being a phenomenal venue for Intellectual Discussions of Great Rigor and Turgidity, we have some highly productive sessions. Others are spent laughing at foul-mouthed cartoons. We contain volumes. But our movie discussions are the best; something about that second drunk person in the room does wonders for the creative process. What follows isn't our first idea or necessarily the best, but it's the most immediately marketable. It's my take on these recent "wacky historical bullshit action movies." Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter would be the most topical example. The 1860s were arguably our nation's most fascinating decade and the public seems to have limitless appetites for Civil War material. The 1960s were also up there for fraught decades, so why not bring them together?

Working Title: "Martin Luther"
Oh hey, it's Stringer Bell!

One-sentence synopsis:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. goes back in time to fight the Civil War.

Character List With Ideal Actors, in order of appearance:
MARTIN LUTHER KING: Idris Elba (perfect mix of gravitas and action-hero believability. Also, being English, his Mississippi-inflected public speaking will be amazing)

GOD: this is the easiest, most obvious casting choice of all time. Morgan Freeman. Book it.

CAPTAIN RODERICK VAN STUNTINGWOOD, leader of a U.S. Marshal team. He's a nice fellow, but got his post through family and is so hopelessly patrician that nobody will mind when we kill him off at the end of Act 1. The part will be played by Shia LeBoeuf, who needs to play more onscreen characters who suffer violent deaths.

MUNCIE COLLINS, "CHICKEN" MACTEETERS, AND ALDO BUCADIBEPPO, three other U.S. Marshals. Muncie is a slow West Virginian, Chicken is a fast-talking Boston Mickhead, and Aldo is a wacky gregarious Italian immigrant with a penchant for circus knife tricks and fine cooking. They are a blend of ethnic and national stereotypes, particularly Aldo because I'm a sucker for ridiculous Italian people. I don't actually care who plays these guys; just nail the stereotypes and they'll be fine for comic relief.

"'Supporting Actor,' my ass."
GENERAL ULYSSES S. GRANT: Denzel Washington. "But Tony, that makes no sense! There were no black generals in the Civil War, and this man went on to be President! Making him black just throws the United States' history out the window!" Oh noes, I've pierced the fragile bubble of historical authenticity that previously surrounded my "MLK battles Satan in the Civil War" story. Would you like to see Denzel play Ulysses Grant and get a bunch of action scenes? Yes, of course you would. Everyone would. Let's move on.

FOXY YOUNG WIDOW WHO TEMPTS OUR HERO: Megan Fox. She's hot, white, believable as a jezebel figure, and isn't too proud to take minor demeaning roles in big action movies about The Doings of Men. See: every single role of her career.

JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY: Chris Pine. He's got the looks, action-movie cred, and comedic timing. Dunno if he could pull off the strange way JFK talks, but a professional Hollywood diction coach should get us to a passable Mayor Quimby rip-off by the time shooting starts.

"And a capital evening
to ALL Y'ALL."

GENERAL NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST/VOICE OF SATAN: Benedict Cumberbatch. Ghostly-white, weird, aloof and sinister. I bet the guy would do a great Satan, and as General Forrest he'd give us the greatest/most awful English-to-Southern accent transplant since Kenneth Branaugh in "Wild Wild West." Which will come up again before this pitch is over, I promise you.

Note: You may notice I've reunited two of the three stars from Glory, the fantastic 1988 film about the Union's first all-black regiment. To that, I say: it's Morgan and Denzel. Fuck you.

Plot Outline:
We open in 1968, with a montage of contemporary TV stock footage of the King assassination. Zoom out to a shot of an actual TV playing this footage in a stark white room. MLK is watching it, as if in a dream, wearing a white suit. Looking around, he sees he's in Heaven's waiting room and realizes he's died. God enters the room and tells MLK he has a problem: Satan is intervening in the Civil War on the side of the South, by possessing General Nathan Bedford Forrest (later the founder of the KKK) and using demon magic. Before MLK can go to his eternal rest, he has to go back in time and save America from falling into darkness.

The religious angle is necessary for the integrity of MLK's character. We need to overcome MLK's famous pacifism rooted in Christian tradition: only God could ask him to own faces like this. As for Satan's influence on General Forrest, keep in mind that people in the South actually have fond feelings for the Confederacy. They're rooted in a wacky backwards-ass tribalism, but that's why it's the South. You can't portray folk heroes as tools of Satan, so we have to pick someone already renowned as an evil motherfucker. Finally, the religious angle lets us explain away time travel, gives MLK a soft landing in the past because God can hook him up, and lets God grant MLK superhuman combat powers like Denzel's character in "The Book of Eli." But God's power isn't limitless in the Satan-tainted past, so if MLK dies in the past he'll fall straight to Hell where Satan wants him for his life of adultery.

Appearing in 1863 at the height of the Civil War, MLK is given (by God) a background story and position in Lincoln's government. He's a U.S. Marshal, placed on a small team of Marshals sent into enemy territory in pursuit of Confederate paramilitary raiders. On the way south, MLK and company meet up with General Ulysses Grant and some of his men. Near its destination, the train comes under attack from the very same raiders MLK is hunting. After an awesome battle across the train (horses can be used as well), the raiders are driven off by MLK and General Grant. Captain Stuntingwood is killed in the battle and MLK's God-infused combat prowess (and awesome public speaking!) makes him the natural leader. They go their separate ways, and the band of Marshals journeys deep into the woods of Tennessee.

MLK and the Marshals discover a raider camp and jump them for questioning. They learn about a large secret base where General Bedford is pursuing an important project. Before they can act on this information, the Marshals are jumped by raider reinforcements. MLK manages to escape, but his comrades are taken prisoner. Alone and wounded, he hikes through the woods looking for help. Being in Confederate Tennessee, MLK needs to avoid both the raiders and the civilians. He eventually collapses, and is taken in by a foxy white lady who's recently widowed and lives alone. MLK recovers but refuses to sleep with the white lady when she wants his business. He feels guilty about his past indiscretions, but she accuses him of being a racist and kicks him out. Wandering down the road, MLK finds a disoriented white man. Recognizing him as JFK, MLK greets him and discovers he's been sent by God as aid, and as punishment for his own life of adultery. "But you died years before me!" "God said not to ask dumb questions. He's God." The two inveterate poonhounds go off in search of the secret base.

They track some raiders to the base entrance. JFK steals a uniform and pretends to be bringing MLK in for questioning. Once inside, they sneak to the heart of the base where a giant 19th-century steampunk 'mech is being built. You read that right: a mech, a bipedal combat robot. Think the giant walking spider machine from "Wild Wild West," only slightly less ostentatious and more purposeful. MLK and JFK split up, the former going to rescue the Marshals while the latter keeps searching. JFK finds a secret Satanist ritual chamber below the mech construction pit, and learns that Satan is planning to transfer his essence from General Forrest's body into the mech itself. From there, he will have a new body to become a god on Earth and eventually dominate all of man. But JFK is caught by Forrest himself, who mortally wounds the Prince of Camelot and completes the ritual. MLK rescues his fellow Marshals, but is powerless to stop the new Satanbot from destroying the base and tromping away. MLK fights his way through the raiders to JFK, who tells him the whole plot and dies. Last words: "Ask not what your country can do for you...(cough)(retch)(grabbing MLK's lapels and pulling him close)...ask...what you can do...for your country!"  BOOM. Emotional moment.

Enraged and sick with grief, MLK owns the shit out of a dozen raiders with a cavalry saber. He's yelling Revelation verses or some cool Old Testament stuff. Towards the end, as his rage is at its peak, the saber bursts into flames and starts glowing. The effect fades afterwards, but the sword remains inscribed with Heavenly runes. Our man's got a flaming sword: belee dat. With the rest of the Marshals, he hijacks a freight train and rushes back to Union territory ahead of the relatively slow-moving Satanbot. Before long, MLK re-unites with General Grant who is about to commence the Battle of Chatanooga (November 1863, the major victory that made Grant famous across the Union. I've already put more thought into this outline than went into the entirety of "Prometheus." Ugh, that was a disappointing flick).

MLK explains the situation to Grant, who's naturally skeptical. The Battle of Chatanooga starts, and the Satanbot arrives. The Union forces are on the verge of all-out retreat and desertion. MLK delivers a ridiculously awesome MLK-style speech, though we probably shouldn't use any of his actual famous lines because that would be offensive (unlike, say, making Dr. King a character in your absurd Hollywood time-traveling action movie with undertones of blaxploitation). The Union soldiers charge into battle, and give MLK the time he needs to battle the Satanbot. The flaming sword is the only weapon that will damage the unholy-enchanted machine, so we're gonna have a sweet "Shadow of the Colossus"-style boss fight. MLK will have to make his way up the massive machine, slowly but surely, destroying crucial components with the flaming sword as he goes. Eventually he's able to bring the Satanbot down, but The Foe of Mankind isn't so easily vanquished! Satan appears as a shapeshifting apparition, warping between the appearances of all the people who dogged MLK from Bull Connor to James Earl Ray and eventually...HIMSELF with a violet glowing sword. (horns and strings crescendo)

Glowing sword duel ensues, and the real MLK is victorious. Falling to his knees, MLK apologizes for plowing all those skanks. God appears, though only MLK can see him, and tells him order is restored to time and space. MLK asks about JFK, who appears on cue as an angel. "I was an angel all along," he says, "I just wanted to motivate you, to help you when you needed it most." But why, MLK wants to know, did JFK go directly to Heaven while he had to endure this terrible trial?

The answer: "Because I'm Catholic, obviously." CREDITS. Skrillex.


  1. Like MLK would turn down Megan Fox. That just ruins your whole credibility. He has to plow her and THEN feel guilty about it afterwards.

    Also, add some zombies.