UPDATE: I’m not upset in the least that I’m a part of a group of folks Harry Knowles referred to today as jackasses. In fact, not only am I not upset, but I’m honored. I feel like I’ve turned a corner today. That I can die happy. Well, maybe not completely happy. I am a little disappointed he didn’t mention me by name. Oh well, let’s move on.
Naturally, Ernie Cline wasn’t too happy that I implied his recently-purchased screenplay Thundercade was plagiarized from other works, such as The King of Kong. And he sent us a strongly-worded e-mail expressing his displeasure. And so I had a brief chat him a couple hours ago to sort this shit out. It turns out he was more concerned than angry, and he was actually pretty cool about it.
As it happens, Cline wrote the treatment and registered it with the WGA back in 2006, well before The King of Kong saw the light of day. He also shared with me off the record some story details that create a premise that’s much more zany and, dare I say, interesting than the plot summary that was included in the press release, which, I might add, doesn’t really reveal what’s really going on.
My conclusion here is that while there are still some elements that clearly draw some inspiration from The Wizard, the story contains enough original ideas to stand on its own. Whether or not it ends up being good is something else, but I don’t doubt most of you reading this have already made up your minds about that.
ORIGINAL TEXT: While the folks who truly believe being a nerd might allow them to have sex with Kristen Bell* haven’t forgotten about Fanboys, Ernie Cline, the film’s co-writer, is moving on. After toiling with that film for over 10 years**, he’s probably come to the realization that the shit just ain’t worth it.
So what he has done is write an ingeniously original screenplay that is deceptively named Thundercade. Rather than being about or even containing a procession of people traveling via thunder, as the title immediately suggests, it focuses on a mid-thirties nerd, which is probably a term that describes Cline himself.
What does that mid-thirties nerd do? Well, as is a common theme in Cline’s dense filmography, he goes on a quest with his best buds. For what are they questing? He must reclaim a record he set on a classic video game (oooohhhh, so that’s what the title is all about) in the ’80s after what the Hollywood Reporter calls a “young punk” breaks it. Why does he still care? Because he’s a nerd suffering a midlife crisis.
So in order to reclaim the record, our heroic nerd and his companions must travel to a faraway land to “win the world’s ultimate gaming championship, Thundercade.” I can buy that a competition involving Thundercade could be a major event.
Hold on a second; someone’s trying to tell me something.
[wait five minutes]
I’ve just been told that the plot of this film is very similar to that of a documentary called The Kong King. I’ve never heard of that film, but I do know that Cline certainly did not steal Thundercade’s plot from it. Indeed, the Hollywood Reporter also states this:
Cline, a self-proclaimed lifelong video game addict, said he was inspired to write the screenplay by his nephew, who would trash talk him while the two played Xbox games.
“I fell in love with the idea of pitting older ‘classic arcade era’ gamers from the ’80s against teenagers — the Atari 2600 generation vs. the Xbox 360 generation,” Cline said.
With that evidence in hand, I think we can clearly nip the plagiarism debate in the bud before it gets going.
Lakeshore Entertainment has picked up the script, and they’re going to fast track it into production. I, for one, can’t wait to see it. Who’s with me?
*At the end of Fanboys, Kristen Bell’s character ends up with one of the nerds. If you’re pissed about the spoiler, fuck you.
**Cline sent the script to Harry Knowles in 1998.