Which Summer Movies Did The Writers' Strike Hit Hardest?

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Click to viewLast year, Hollywood's writers went on strike for 14 weeks, and genre television took tremendous damage as a result. But movies didn't emerge unscathed, either - we just won't see the fallout until this year.

When the studios decided to wait out the striking writers, they put a lot of big genre TV shows in jeopardy. Some emerged almost unscathed - Lost was able to go back and finish its fourth season - but several others took major damage. For example, Heroes had to end its second season early, leaving plotlines unresolved (Catilin?) and a bad taste in people's mouths. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ended its first season early, and by the time it came back after a nine-month gap, it had lost a lot of viewers, maybe permanently.

But because of the longer lead time for movies, we're just about to start seeing the effects of the strike - fewer movies, and worse movies. Says USA Today:

Another question, even some executives admit, is the caliber of 2009's movies. "The real impact of the strike could be felt next year," says Erik Lomis, head of distribution for MGM. "Some things were put on hold, some things were rushed to beat the strike, perhaps to a lesser quality. You never want to see that happen, but it's a concern."


So how does this affect the movies you care about? Here's a rundown, based on what we know so far:


X-Men: Origins: Wolverine.
What happened? According to the L.A. Times, this X-Men spinoff was rushing to get a script ready before the strike started. Fox Movies "issued an urgent SOS to the major agencies looking for a quick rewrite person" to get the script into shape in the last few remaining days, so Wolvie could start shooting in time to make a May 2009 release date.
What's the damage? We know the script was bad enough that it needed a rewrite. We know the rewrite was done in a hurry by someone the studio found by begging the talent agencies to find someone quick. We don't know how it turned out, though — maybe they got the greatest script doctor in the universe to step in. Also, it's possible there were more rewrites after the strike ended. Note that the film extended its shooting, ending in May instead of April.


G.I. Joe
What happened? That same L.A. Times article mentioned that Collateral scribe Stuart Beattie was frantically working on polishing up the Joe script before the deadline. Said producer Laurence di Bonaventura, "Given what's at stake and the [time] we have left, our writers on every project are working under inhuman amounts of pressure."
What's the damage? Well, they didn't have to bring in an outside screenwriter. Beattie is a good writer, but "inhuman amounts of pressure" doesn't sound like the best circumstances to come up with story beats for Storm Shadow and the Baroness.

Star Trek:
What happened? The script was done in time, but director J.J. Abrams and producer Damon Lindelof couldn't tinker with it during filming — at least for the parts of filming that took place during the strike, because they're both WGA members. Said screenwriter John August: "J.J. was describing a scene he was shooting the day before. Midway through it, he got a great idea for a new line. Which he couldn't write. Couldn't shoot. Couldn't be in his movie."
What's the damage? Honestly, pretty minor. It sounds as though we lost a few funny lines of dialogue. The film was still filming after the strike ended, so if Abrams felt strongly that a scene didn't work as written, he could have gone back and reshot later.


Terminator Salvation
What happened? The script was done before the strike hit, penned by Terminator 3 scribes Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato. But both producer James Middleton and director McG said in interviews that the script needed a rewrite, and they were hoping the strike would be done in time to punch it up before the movie started filming. The strike ended in February 2008, and they started filming in May. During that time, Jonathan (The Dark Knight) Nolan did a new revision of the script.
What's the damage? If we'd been stuck with a script by the writers of T3, I'd be horrified. But it sounds as though Nolan had plenty of time to fix it.

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
What happened? Michael Bay wrote the script. Actually, from what I've gleaned from interviews with writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, they gave Bay an outline before the strike happened, and he tinkered with it during the strike, adding his own ideas. And then Orci and Kurtzman came back after the strike. Says Orci: "We gave them a treatment before the strike which they prepared off of, then when we came back, we started writing immediately, and back to your question about how we were able to do it. On "Transformers," we demanded to be teamed up with the amazing Ehren Kruger, who co-wrote the movie with us."
What's the damage? Well, if you think Michael Bay is the greatest, then it's not "damage," it's "extra awesomeness." But it does sound as though this sequel may be more Bay-tastic than the original, since Bay had a lot more time alone with the script than might be healthy.


Dragonball Evolution
What happened? I couldn't find any actual trustworthy information. However, there seems to be a pervasive belief, among message board posters and film-blog commenters, that the Dragonball movie wouldn't exist at all if it wasn't for the writers strike. The theory goes, Fox was desperate for a property to rush into production as the strike hit, and Dragonball had been languishing in development since 2002. So we have the strike to thank for Dragonball's very existence, supposedly.
What's the damage? Well, if you believe that theory (and it sounds plausible, I guess), then it depends how you feel about this movie. If you're excited to see James Marsters covered with funny makeup and sporting ribbed armor, then score one for the strike.


Land Of The Lost
What happened? Hard to say. Another L.A. Times article (in August 2007) mentioned this film among the movies that studios were rushing into production ahead of the strike. Will Ferrell had a busy calendar and could only shoot it in March 2008, in between other projects. The film was greenlit at the last moment, in October.
What's the damage? No clue. I read a big chunk of the script recently, and it was pretty meh. But that may not have been the result of a rushed development process.


What happened? This was a spec script that Sony bought in a bidding war, the first big script to be bought after the strike ended, according to Latino Review.
What's the damage? It's going to be dumb — it's a Roland Emmerich disaster movie. But it won't be dumb because of the strike.

PS: Stay tuned for our 2009 movie forecast, in a few days.

Top image from Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen.