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Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (2000) Movie Script Review

I recently had the chance to read a script for an unproduced Doc Savage movie that would be been directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Walking Dead) and star Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role. The copy of the script I read is dated August 16, 2000 and was written by David Leslie Johnson with story credit to Johnson and Brett Z. Hill.

If you’re unfamiliar with the character, Doc Savage was originally a pulp action hero with the main bulk of his stories being written between the early 1930s and late 1940s by Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent). Though Doc has never been as recognizable as contemporary comic book characters like Superman or Batman, the Doc Savage character has a fervent fanbase that has kept the character around in one form or other, be it in book reprints, comic books and even a line of new books, to present time.

The feature film version of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze would have taken place in the late 1930s and would feature Doc along with compatriots Ham, Monk and youthful Jack racing Nazis and  Japanese forces to the mythical city of Angkor Naga. Supposedly, Angkor Naga is a place filled with gold and other treasures including a Nazi sub that may or may not have some special technologies within that would make the Germans and Japanese practically unbeatable in the upcoming world war.

While there are some segments of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze that do work, most of the first two acts of the script don’t work very well.

In these two acts, we meet Doc and compatriots in the trenches of the first world war, then jump to the late 1930s with Doc fighting giant robots and Nazis and traveling the world in search of kidnapped scientists and friends.Which is all good, except here the scriptwriters forgot one important thing; they didn’t introduce Doc Savage and his team to the audience that well. We never learn why Doc is rich, stronger than the average man, a brilliant inventor, etc. or anything about his friends. Instead, these details are glossed over at the expense of action AND MORE ACTION!

To be honest, the first two thirds of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze read more like the first few episodes of a Doc Savage TV animated series than a feature film version, and that’s too bad because the last third of the script is actually really fun and in line as to what I’d expect a Doc Savage movie to be.

In the last act of the script, there are some unique set pieces that I don’t think I’ve ever seen on-screen before, namely two racing military trains on adjoining tracks blasting away at each other like sea galleons of old, and some giant monster action I wasn’t expecting too.

I also liked how certain aspects of the Doc Savage character were handled in the script; he’s a real life Boy Scout who abhors killing and is the smartest person on the planet who can accomplish literally anything if he puts his mind to it. I also liked how in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze certain aspects of 1930s America were a hyper-real version of that time, with dirigibles landing at the Empire State Building, evil Nazi robots menacing the populous and weird inventions having the capabilities of turning the tide of war.

When the writers of Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze gets the story right the script is akin to both the comic and movie The Rocketeer. When they get it wrong it’s a bad riff on Indiana Jones.

But I’d argue that what doomed this version of a Doc Savage movie from hitting theaters wasn’t only this weak script, it’s Schwarzenegger in the starring role too. Here, he’d have been a man in his mid 50’s playing someone 20 years younger who’s supposed to be in peak, if not super-human, physical form. It wouldn’t have helped that Schwarzenegger was coming off a string of disappointing movies including Jingle All the Way (1996), Batman & Robin (1997), End Days (1999) and The 6th Day (2000) leading up to this role too.

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze Script – Grade: C+