Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Green Lantern

"In brightest day,
In darkest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.

Let all who worship evil's might
Beware my power,
Green Lantern's light!"
--Green Lantern Corps Oath.

Find an actor who can deliver those six lines without a wink, flippant-shrug or slightest hint of irony, a team of filmmakers who understands that the recitation of such needs/deserves (in context, I stress) to be framed as the relative-equivalent of "They may take our lives but they'll never take our freedom," "With great power comes great responsibility," "May the Force be with you" and "The list is life" and a musical composer to score the moment with appropriate gravitas and you'll have a good "Green Lantern" movie. Seriously. This is the "is the shark scary?" core of this particular franchise - if this works, and the movie around it is operating at about the same level, the movie works. Period.

Latino Review (hat-tip: Chud) has a modestly spoiler-free review of what's apparently the screenplay for Warner's all-but officially in-production Green Lantern movie:

What I like most about the prospect of a Green Lantern movie is that it's just an ever-so-slightly skewed version of the traditional superhero yarn thanks to the 'rules' of the character. The "Green Lantern Corps" are an intergalactic police force, not vigilantes or hyper-idealistic do-gooders. It helps power through some of the usual genre hangups (silly costume? "I was issued this, it's my uniform.") and removes the need for too much story contrivance - anything you want GL to do or avoid doing can be chalked up to "orders and regulations."

What details are provided are encouragingly fan-friendly: Hal Jordan as the main GL, Abin Sur, Oa and Kiliwog all accounted for, moderately-obscure heavy Hector Hammond as a principal baddie, apparent out-loud mentions of both Guy Gardner and Clark Kent (!!!) and a tease about "golden age" GL Alan Scott playing some kind of part? So far, so good. Apparently Carol Ferris is already in the story as Jordan's girflfriend, which could potentially gives the hoped-for franchise the most interesting recurring female role in recent superhero movies - in the books, Carol undergoes a tragic transformation into the supervillianess Star Sapphire.

I am curious to see how Warners handles the innevitable "race issue" that's going to come up down the road. Historically, there have been five (human) Green Lanterns, Jordan being the best known and generally favored among fans. However, third (?) GL John Stewart - the first black man to wear the uniform/ring - was drafted as the resident-Lantern on the four seasons of "Justice League" cartoons (to help balance-out what would've been an otherwise lily-white principal cast) which were probably watched by more people than read GL comics by a pretty big margin. It's been said that, thanks to the character's appearance on this series, the John Stewart Green Lantern is probably the best known "black superhero" right now. So one wonders what fans who came to the franchise from that starting-point will think of the movie GL being another white guy.


Kyle said...

I hope they make a good movie. Of course I'll wait and see, but I have no reason not to be optimistic about this now.

Whiskey said...

Well, whites make up 75% of the population, so going with a white hero is a no-brainer. Going with John Stewart presents three problems.

One, he'll be confused with Daily Show John Stewart. Two, fanboys will want the conflicted, Hamlet-indecision Stewart on Mosaic world, who was boring. Three, the kick-ass Marine Gunny version of John Stewart has one problem -- he's already a near superhero without the ring.

Green Lantern is a huge power-fantasy -- I have a magic ring and can go off and do things I could not as Joe Average without powers.

The problems with the Green Lanterns was that most were kind of boring, classic pre-villain Hal Jordan was a test pilot with the right stuff. Giving a version of Chuck Yeager a power ring, or comic-artist Gen Y slacker Kyle Rainer, a power ring was dumb. Guy Gardner was funny, but often obnoxious funny, as the sort of dumb jock who's un-PC but right.

It isn't the power -- it's the character, and the greater the power the more critical the character be defined.

Put it this way, Frank Miller took joke character Daredevil and made him the tragic, Catholic guilt and redemption driven fighter (JUST like his old man) into the great character he is today. Daredevil uses his powers to embrace his fathers legacy as a fighter -- for Joe Average.

If anything I'd use Gardner. Make him have to THINK which as a Jock he doesn't like to do, while using the Ring. While he finds value/validation protecting Joe Average.

The rules don't matter much -- it's the character that counts. It's why Downey's Iron Man rocked, Howard Hughes in the cybernetic age happiest fiddling with technology, and the interplay with him and Paltrow. It's also why the Punisher movies sucked, and why Ghost Rider largely failed.