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Green Lantern… The Other, Other Hot DC Comics Property

Everyone knows Batman and Superman. Those dudes – and their supporting casts – are the nearly the only ambassadors for DC Comics to the world of mainstream cinema. With the exception of the odd stand-alone project, such as Watchmen or Road to Perdition, DC seems to be having a hardtime transitioning its properties to film. Marvel has managed to secure franchises for many of their lights, both greater and lesser – ask the X-Men, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Blade, Iron Man, The Hulk and even The Punisher – leading me to wonder why DC has taken so long to get out there. Sure, perhaps Superman and Batman (and Wonder Woman) are the most iconic of their stable, but I’d also suggest that the Flash and Green Lantern also carry name recognition (though not to the same degree). I’m greatly anticipating Green Lantern as the second-biggest superhero event of next year (because Iron Man II has one of the best casts… ever), but I’m left to wonder: what the hell took you so long?

Doesn't he know that domino masks are sooooooo Silver Age?

Doesn't he know that domino masks are sooooooo Silver Age?

The Flash had his famous “so kitsch it’s cool again” live action series nearly two decades ago. Linda Carter made in impression on a whole generation of teenage guys as Wonder Woman. Why doesn’t the old Emerald Crusader get any love? Sure, he’s getting an animated feature (Green Lantern: First Flight) and was the core of a previous such animated direct-to-DVD feature (Justice League: New Frontier), but I just can’t make head-nor-tail of why the character has remained tied to the page so long.

I had the good fortune to buy the six volumes of the Silver Age Green Lantern Archives, covering roughly the first seven years of the character’s life. Sure, they were subject to the same restrictions as most other books at the time (casual racism! incredibly irregular speaking patterns! dues ex machina endings! – and did you ever notice how nobody ever dies, they’re just knocked unconscious?), but the volumes contained some neat pulpy science fiction concepts. Strange planets! Screwy time travel! But a genuinely likeable, if undeveloped, lead and one of the strongest women in comics at the time.

I’ll concede, the character might not have the best collection of bad guys in comic-bookdom – few heroes are as lucky as Batman or Spiderman in that regard – and some come across as duds. Still, the book must have some magic, as the current run by Geoff Johns involving a warring colour spectrum (it’s better than it sounds) has managed to eclipse the death of Batman as the must-follow event on the DC lines this year. Which brings me back to the character’s core strength: due to the very nature of the hero (a single member of an intergalactic police force), it has an incredibly broad canvas. Due to the four-colour origins of the character and its basic conceits (a ‘magic’ ring that can create anything the lead can imagine), it can get away with flights into fancy that any other such comic would cringe at, but it’s also executed with a more epic air than anything in The Fantastic Four. If you don’t believe me, check out the concept art for the motion picture planned for next year.

Many comic book movies flutter because they don’t have a good grasp of their source material (Superman Returns tried to give the overgrown boy scout some emotional turmoil; Hulk tried to offer too much psychological depth to a character that is gloriously empty spectacle; Spiderman III tried to tempt us with a ‘dark’ Peter Parker who was basically an emo), but I think that audiences would really respond to what Green Lantern is, at its heart. It’s a massive space opera with a loveable rogue as its lead character. It will live or die by the strength of its lead – which isn’t everything, but it is a lot (as Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber demonstrated by singlehandedly saving Wolverine earlier this year) – but it will engage with its audience based on its scale and its heart.

C'mon... Red Skin? A dodgy moustache? A name like 'Sinestro'? There was no way this kid was ever going to turn out to be one of the good guys...

C'mon... Red Skin? A dodgy moustache? A name like 'Sinestro'? There was no way this kid was ever going to turn out to be one of the good guys...

Rumours are that the movie is intended to jump-start a franchise, which is great. There are suggestions that the story will introduce characters who will become important as it goes on – for example the David-Niven-inspired red-skinned and moustached Green Lantern Sinestro. It will also draw heavily from various story arcs within the comic books – in particular the origin as crafted from Emerald Dawn. This comes as a bit of relief as the stronger comic book movies over the past decade have borrowed and blatantly stolen from classic arcs (Spiderman II took its emotional arc from Spiderman No More; X-Men II borrowed and built upon God Loves, Man Kills; Batman Begins bears a suspicious resemblance to Batman: Year One, despite the writers’ protestations; The Dark Knight takes liberties with Harvey Dent’s storyline from The Long Halloween and the Joker’s initial appearance back in 1940), making artistic improvements along the way. On the other hand, Watchmen came in for a bit of criticism for being too faithful to its source material (even though it drastically changed the ending).

Though Green Lantern continues to look for a star, with every young male actor from David Boreanz to Nathan Fillon to Chris Pine mentioned, it does have a director. Martin Campbell is the man who reinvented Bond, twice – though he doesn’t really get much credit for Pierce Brosnan’s debut in GoldenEye as he does for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale. Still, he’s a director who knows how to kick start a franchise while balancing action and character development. It’s no coincidence that his James Bond films are two of the best in the series since Sean Connery left.

I’ll concede that – despite a lifelong fondness for Spiderman and the X-Men; and a newly-acquired softspot for Tony Stark as played by Robert Downey Jnr. – I have always been a bigger fan of DC than of Marvel. I don’t know why. Maybe I was just drawn to Batman as the most fascinating of the heroes. Still, I see huge potential in the ranks of their heroes. Wonder Woman is an enigma, Superman needs a better-written movie and there’s always room for Batman. The Flash and Green Lantern are always fun and light heroes, who could easily make for a bright and breezy box office blockbuster or two. Not that I am implying they need by camp or cheerful, just that not every superhero film needs to be The Dark Knight. It’s a sad state of affairs when you are anticipating next year’s blockbusters more than this year’s (though I was pretty hyped about Star Trek), but what can I say? I’ve always loved the Green Lantern’s light.

One Response

  1. […] what happens if Christopher Nolan doesn’t return to Batman and got ourselves hyped about the upcoming Green Lantern film. We also hoped (vainly) that Bruce Wayne would remain […]

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