The Abridged Script
INT. 1950S SCHOOLROOM
DANIELLE CARTER's class are doing DRAWINGS for a TIME CAPSULE - except creepy kid LARA ROBINSON, who scribbles down OMINOUS NUMBERS dictated by SPOOKY DISEMBODIED VOICES.
Just like the government passing a budget bill. Hiyoooo!
LARA goes missing, so the POLICE search the school premises in the DARK by TORCHLIGHT for some reason.
Does anyone think this might be easier if we turned the lights on?
Don't be daft, how else would we get the obligatory scene in which someone goes down into a dark basement with a torch to investigate a strange noise?
DANIELLE adheres to movie convention and finds LARA scratching MORE OMINOUS NUMBERS into a door.
Those better be the winning lottery numbers, or a bitch is gonna get slapped.
EXT. NICOLAS CAGE'S BACK YARD
NICOLAS CAGE is barbecuing with his son CHANDLER CANTERBURY. If that is his real name.
So I was thinking about aliens and how aliens totally probably exist, and I decided I think aliens do. Exist, I mean. Aliens.
Hot damn, way to knock the subtle early foreshadowing out of the park. Now I'm off to drink whiskey from the bottle to show how troubled I've become since your mother died.
And I'm going to stay up late watching TV against your say-so, because I too have read the Screenwriters' Bumper Book of Cliches.
Which reminds me, we should probably have a contrivance that affects our family dynamic, so let's go with...
(pulling out Book of Cliches)
Okay, we'll do "mild disability". Don't forget to charge your hearing aid.
What was that about fearing spades?
INT. CLASSROOM AT M.I.T.
NICOLAS is lecturing on ASTROPHYSICS to some STUDENTS, who are contractually obliged by Hollywood to be played by 30-YEAR-OLDS.
Captain Corelli the astrophysics professor? No, we're not buying it either.
But look, I have a model of the solar system and use big words like "determinism" and "randomosity"!
So how would you sum up all this discourse on deep philosophical concepts like the illusion of free will, ontological naturalism and classical teleology?
I think shit just happens.
Setting the idiocy bar pretty damn low for the next ninety minutes, then.
Kid, you have no idea.
INT. NICOLAS'S HOUSE
CHANDLER has turned off his HEARING AID because it's tuned to the SPOOKY DISEMBODIED VOICE frequency.
What are you doing with these not-yet-demonstrably-ominous numbers you were given when the school opened that time capsule today?
I thought they could be a math puzzle, or maybe a poorly-conceived plot device.
You may be right. First I'll drink a bottle of whiskey to get my rational scientist's mind fired up. It's the first thing they teach you at M.I.T.! Now go to bed, and don't forget your hearing aid.
What was that about Dennis Quaid?
NICOLAS drinks a bottle of WHISKEY and randomly circles some NUMBERS, only to find...
My God, two of these hundreds of numbers are 9 and 11! It can only be an overt reference to 9/11, the most cinematic of all catastrophes!
INT. SCIENCE LAB OFFICE
NICOLAS is using his RATIONAL SCIENTIST'S MIND to explain his carefully-tested hypothesis and conclusive empirical evidence to colleague BEN MENDELSOHN.
So I got wasted on liquor, circled some random numbers and pissed about on Google, and discarded any evidence that didn't support my harebrained drunken theory. I'm convinced these now-ominous numbers were written by a kid in the 1950s who predicted the dates and death tolls of future disasters. It's the only possible rational explanation!
Way to celebrate the scientific method. Weren't they inside an unsealed capsule under an unsealed manhole that no one ever checked? It's probably a hoax, and with the current facts at hand that is literally the only logical conclusion an expert scientist like you should have come to.
A pox on your logical conclusions! It could also be...
GIORGIO A. TSOUKALOS
Or a thinly-veiled biblical allegory. Without any further evidence, it's too early to say.
Except that it isn't and it's definitely one of those two things.
EXT. TRAFFIC JAM
NICOLAS notices the CO-ORDINATES on his GPS look suspiciously like some of the OMINOUS NUMBERS.
The half-baked theory I pieced together indicates many people are about to die right here! Using my rational scientist's mind, I think the best thing to do is stay exactly where I am.
Suddenly a CGI PLANE descends from the sky and CRASHES loudly, spreading TERRIBLE CGI FLAMES everywhere. NICOLAS uses his RATIONAL SCIENTIST'S MIND again, and runs straight into the crash site like a HEADLESS FUCKING CHICKEN.
Hey! Guy who's on fire and burning to death! I'm going to yell at you for no reason!
The GUY WHO'S ON FIRE continues BURNING, as does everything else.
And here I thought that running into this flaming wreckage and shouting incoherently would have dramatically improved the situation.
INT. CHANDLER'S BEDROOM
Creepy stranger D.G. MALONEY appears from the shadows like an ALBINO PEDOPHILE and extends his FINGER (which is better than the alternative).
Are you waiting for me to pull that?
No, I'm pointing at the absurd dream sequence unfolding outside.
CHANDLER looks out of the window and sees more TERRIBLE CGI FLAMES being overused.
This movie sure does like showing off its bargain basement fire FX.
Wait till you see the ending! But first, check out this completely random flaming moose.
A completely random FLAMING MOOSE and assorted other BURNING WOODLAND CREATURES show up, presumably winning the screenwriters a LATE-NIGHT DRUNKEN BET.
NICOLAS and CHANDLER are stalking ROSE BYRNE and her daughter, now-non-creepy LARA ROBINSON.
We've got this far without a half-assed love interest, fancy the job?
Oh I can definitely half-ass it, as anyone who saw '28 Weeks Later' can attest.
By the way, I'm actually stalking you because I think your mother had psychic powers and you need to help me save the world from these ominous numbers. Any thoughts on that?
I think you sound completely fucking mental.
I feel like I should have seen that coming.
INT. NICOLAS'S HOUSE
NICOLAS is watching the news, which mentions a planned TERRORIST ATTACK in New York, because lord knows we needed ANOTHER 9/11 reference.
This was also predicted by the ominous numbers! Using my rational scientist's mind... yeah, you know where I'm going with this.
NICOLAS heads to New York specifically so he can be in the MIDDLE of ANOTHER DISASTER, then acts surprised when SHIT GOES DOWN and he almost DIES.
It was the only logical thing I could have done, because I am the WORST RATIONAL THINKER IN HISTORY.
NICOLAS returns home to find ROSE and LARA waiting for him. How convenient.
I believe your crazy ideas now, because I remembered my mother was also mentally ill and used to ramble about numbers, and if there's anything more convincing than an insane weirdo it's two insane weirdos.
Let's go and check out the eerie trailer in the woods where she lived, because only good things happen in eerie trailers in the woods. Besides, we're getting into the third act and we could do with whizzing through a quick chunk of exposition.
INT. EERIE TRAILER IN THE WOODS
It turns out the last set of numbers means everyone in the world will die tomorrow.
INT. SCIENCE LAB OFFICE
NICOLAS rushes inside and does his patented WIDE-EYED OVERACTING.
Remember that completely hypothetical solar flare model I once made? Here, look at this imaginary computer simulation - I'm sure I don't need to explain further, which is fortunate because I pulled this idea straight out of my ass.
Of course! You've used your powers of elucidation to prove that our sun is about to explode, or something.
Yes, the solar gamma radiation is projecting a superflare which will melt the atmosphere and mutate the neutrinos! Aliens communicated the ominous numbers telepathically to a group of chosen ones as a coded warning that everyone on the planet will die of positron nucleus atomic pseudoscience!
Christ, this is less believable than 'The Core'.
NICOLAS heads off on a completely unnecessary search for MORE OMINOUS NUMBERS.
The obvious thing for me to do now is abandon the scientist who seems to know everything about what's going on, kidnap his child and drive off into the wilderness.
So stupidity is quite literally contagious?
On the way they stop at a gas station where D.G. uses his SPOOKY DISEMBODIED VOICE POWER to abduct LARA and CHANDLER. There is a REALLY BORING CAR CHASE and ROSE's car CRASHES.
Introduced almost an hour in to the movie and written out by the 90-minute mark? That was a compelling role that totally deserved second billing.
EXT. EERIE TRAILER IN THE WOODS
NICOLAS arrives in time to find D.G. and friends loading LARA and CHANDLER onto a SPACESHIP.
Wait, are you guys actually aliens, or given the ongoing biblical subtext, angels? If you're supernatural or super-advanced beings, why did you need to steal a car to drive here? And if you were going to just kidnap the chosen ones yourselves anyway, what was even the point of the ominous numbers in the first place?
Those are all very good questions. Let me juuuust get the answers from inside my spaceship...
(leaves in spaceship)
So, now we've established that the entire fucking plot didn't even need to happen to get us to this point, I'll go reconcile with my estranged priest father just in case this was a biblical thing after all.
He DOES, and then the world is destroyed by YET MORE TERRIBLE CGI FLAMES.
EXT. ALIEN PLANET
The ALIENS / ANGELS deposit LARA and CHANDLER in a field and bugger off back to OUTER SPACE / HEAVEN.
They're intelligent enough to develop faster-than-light travel and predict the future, yet their fifty-year masterplan to save the human race was to dump some children alone on a strange planet with no resources? It's like they caught a case of stupid from someone...
GHOST OF NICOLAS CAGE
It's my final gift to you all.
Well, I hope you packed the batteries for your hearing aid.
What was that about Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?
Owain B. has been an author at The Editing Room for 2 years. You can support Owain B. and the rest of the site on Patreon.
Owain is a part-time rock star with the beard of a full-time hobo. In his high school yearbook he was named "most likely to become a genius comedian", and he's been struggling to live up to that ever since.