Saturday, December 28, 2013

Here Comes MAN OF STEEL 2's Innevitable Stupid Racial Controversy

I was chatting with a good friend about the MAN OF STEEL sequel recently, and the one thing we could both agree on is that it feels very, very likely that Warner Bros. etc has no real binding plan for this thing (or that, at least, they don't have one anymore) and that the film is probably going to be one of those projects that goes into production without a final script. That's not necessarily a bad thing - IRON MAN was being shot while they were still figuring out the third act and who the villain was.

Maybe we're wrong. Maybe it's a complete misreading of the production stories. But right now, the image emerging is that something that went into pre-production (prior to the release of MAN OF STEEL, back when WB was sure that Nolan/Snyder/Goyer had delivered an AVENGERS-level game-changer or a TRANSFORMERS-level moneymaker) as a Superman sequel with maybe some "world-building" cameos from Batman etc morphed into a "Batman vs. Superman" movie, then a "Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman movie - possibly also featuring The Flash...

It's like we've blown right past the point where we could've been making "MAN OF STEEL PART II: SORRY ABOUT MAN OF STEEL PART I" jokes and the Cosmic Treadmill is rapidly taking us in the direction of "MAN OF STEEL 2: OKAY, WE FUCKED UP, WE'RE SORRY, HERE'S JUSTICE LEAGUE, PLEASE STOP YELLING AT US."

This weekend's gossip started out in the ever-fertile realm of race-swapping casting rumors, namely that DC was talking to prominent black A-list stars - Hollywood-to-English translation: "Denzel Washington" - for an important role in the film. The initial guesses were that they wanted him for Lex Luthor, but I don't see that happening. Not that he'd be bad casting, more that it's A.) just inviting more DAREDEVIL jokes in the press and B.) I can't imagine even Warner Bros. being dense enough to drop a "group of white superhumans beating up the ONE black guy in the movie, who is evil" tableau into a situation where the lack of diversity in the genre is already so widely criticized. But I did find it plausible, at least in one scenario, that Warners could be talking to "Denzel or Denzel-types" for the movie...

Now, gossip site "Nuke The Fridge" says maybe that scenario is correct. Their guess (and mine?) That if Warners is talking to "name" black stars for this project, it's for John Stewart - aka The Green Lantern.

Okay, quick bit of catch-up: In the comics there've been four "modern" (read: post-Silver Age) Green Lanterns: Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner most prominently. But during the character's stint as part of DC's GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW double-act, Hal also had a "backup" in the form of John Stewart; an ex-Marine from Detroit who started out as an extension of GL/GA's recurring "Hal needs to get over his weird race issues" theme but proved popular enough that he started spending good chunks of time as "the" Green Lantern whenever Hal would be unavailable for this or that reason.

Honestly? That John Stewart would wind up being "the one" if Green Lantern ever turned up in a Justice League movie has been one of the easiest calls to make all along for two simple reasons: 1. a non-white face is the most visible way possible to immediately tell the entire world "This is NOT in any way the same as that terrible Ryan Reynolds movie you all hated;" and 2. while WB/DC has the advantage of the Justice League being a much more widely known entity in popular culture than The Avengers were prior to their movie, the "catch" is that very (VERY!) few audiences under 40 are primarily familiar with them from comics. If they know them, they know them from the DC Animated Universe JL/JLU cartoons. I don't think that's an exaggeration in the slightest: I'd bet that, if polled, there's a sizable part of the target-generation for this movie for whom Stewart - NOT Hal Jordan - is "the" Green Lantern.

If this turns out to be true (I'd say Denzel being considered is a 50/50 but Stewart being in the movie and/or JL is more like a 70/30), it would make him the biggest "name" on the team by far, with Affleck a close second as Batman. Maybe this is part of WB's overally strategy for this series: "We have the bigger-name heroes AND the bigger stars?"

UPDATE: Yes, I agree it's also possible that he could be reading for J'onn J'onzz, The Martian Manhunter. The reason I'd call that a remote possibility is that I seriously doubt even half of the people making decisions on this movie know that "Martian Manhunter" is a thing that exists.