Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Brightest Midnight Preview!

The first comics I read were Golden Age. No, I’m not old enough for that, but my first steps into the world of printed superheroes (straight from watching the Superfriends) were checking out compilations and those way cool 1970’s giant treasury editions from the library. The Justice Society guys had (and still have) a special place, but the Silver Age DC gang were the heroes/myths/legends that belonged to me. They were the ones from the cartoons I knew, represented on the merchandise I owned, and still the current group at the time. From early on, Green Lantern was my favorite: Alan Scott from the Golden Age stories, but mostly Hal Jordan in all his pre Satellite Era, Rat Pack style, honest and fearless, square jawed glory. One of the first comics I ever owned was a Weird Monster War collection featuring a reprint of “The Leap Year Menace” from Green Lantern issue 3.

A true Hal story if there ever was one, where he creates a giant monster to avoid committing to a woman, then has to defeat it and save the day after losing control of the creature following yet another of his trademarked accidental knocks on the head.

I got around to collecting comics regularly around the time of the DC universe rewriting Crisis. (Remember the good old days before the response to “Universe Rewriting Crisis” was “Which one?”) I was mortified to see what was being done to MY group:

Flash dead and replaced by his sidekick, Robin replaced as well, the JLA full of goofy unknowns, Superman and Wonder Woman redefined and restarted, and no sign of Aquaman or more importantly Hal. I happily collected Marvel for several years, randomly, and very luckily, falling into several classic runs: Simonson’s Thor, Engleheart’s West Coast Avengers, and Layton and Micheline’s return to Iron Man.

At this stage I was still totally unaware of how editorial mandates and creative team changes drive storylines (as opposed to my original belief that the characters exist on a separate vibrational plane, and their stories are beamed into the writer’s dreams.) Therefore, when suddenly:

Thor wasn’t Thor anymore,

Avengers West went through roster changes, marriage break ups, and personality erasures,

Iron Man was faking his death again. (I hadn’t learned that Tony does this as often as most people change underwear.)

I was mortified some more, and it was time to leave.

At the same time, over at DC, Hal Jordan was making a long awaited (by me) return to headlining in Gerard Jones’ Green Lantern…a little scruffier, a little greyer, a little, and forced to share his book with his replacements that I didn’t care too much about, but still back. Not only that, but the original Justice Society was back in action as well (in Strazewski and Parobeck’s vastly underrated, and way fun, series) …What could go wrong?

The whole Emerald Twilight - Zero Hour- mess mortified me (yet again). Not only was Hal a bad guy in an ugly ninety’s costume, but since my wife had no history of the character when she read the Green Lantern box (shortly after he died, a bit, in Final Night), to this day she still calls him, “the Killer” and chose the snot nosed pretender who took over for him as her favorite. Hal’s traitorous turn was the closest I’ve ever come to giving up comics completely. (At least until the upcoming DC “We’re #2 so we’re making everything #1” promotion.) In fact the only thing that kept me reading them was I had just found the one series to rival Simonson’s Thor for my absolute favorite run: Ostrander’s Spectre. (In a twist of fate, after that series was canceled, Hal BECAME the Spectre for a while in a series that, while interesting, did very little to advance either concept.)

Luckily (for my entertainment if not my wallet) by this point I gained an understanding of the process behind creating comics, and started following specific writers. I became mortified at a much lower frequency, and actually went back and enjoyed some of the previous series that had enraged me due to their treatment of fictional people who fly around in their pajamas.

As if being rewarded for my new found knowledge, the Jeff Geek Conjunction occurred. Hal was coming back as Green Lantern - in a series by an artist so good he made delays to my junkie like need to see the next issue worthwhile; and one of my favorite writers, who had restored the JSA (including Alan Scott) to glory and relevance. Not only that, but Hal was returned to the crazy risk taking, wild lifestyle, two-fisted self-assured smart-ass of yore, who never turned evil, but was just possessed by an alien space bug (because, that happens all the time) and most of the people he killed were only “mostly dead”. The other Lanterns were also included, but they’d changed in ways during the Hal drought that made them grow on me (even the snot nosed pretender). For a change (as all I usually have to do to get a series cancelled is buy it regularly), I wasn’t alone in my excitement about events concerning nonexistent galactic police. The character took off, spawning multiple mini and full series, line wide cross overs, and finally a major motion picture.

I got a tattoo at age thirty, when I realized I wasn’t going to grow out of this addiction. Since my birthday presents for age forty included Watchmen action figures and a forty-seven issue run of David’s Aquaman, I guess I was right. One thing that really excited me about the movie, was the fact that after over a decade, people would stop saying the tattoo was “Batman, Superman and, um, Green Hornet right? I remember that show.” Of course the Green Hornet movie that came out earlier this year guarantees the confusion continues.

Note that I didn’t say I got excited about the movie itself. When a film about a property comes along that I have this much emotionally invested in, it could go either way. I try very hard not to get too pumped up about it, because for every Star Trek (a fun for everyone adventure that, while new, kept the spirit of the original and had enough references to let us old guys to know everything would be OK) there are several Rocky and Bullwinkle’s (made by people who saw the cartoon, remembered the cartoon, but didn’t GET the cartoon).

As the DC logo appeared during the midnight preview, I wondered if there would be happy moments like, “Rorschach delivered that line in the cafeteria perfectly!”

Or would there be more moments like
(Yeah, I had to be restrained for that one, too.)

Above and beyond all enjoyment, complaining, cheering and fussing, my review has to focus on the fact:


It was an overwhelmingly fun, exciting, entertaining, and shiny wild ride of a movie. Please keep that in mind when I rant, nitpick and whine about some issues that only those of us who pay far too much attention to the details of a fictional universe may notice.

More good stuff -

The Corps: Tomar Re, Kilowog and Abin Sur got to shine (or at least glow) for the brief times they were around, providing some nice variability in the aliens showcased. Kilowog’s ring makes noise just like it says in the comics. (He said, restraining from making a fanboy “squeeee!”)

I am greedy though, once they showed Bzzt I kept waiting for the camera to pan along the giant green energy beam the Corps fired as a whole as it left Oa and follow it until it reached Mogo.

Oa itself was quite the impressive world. The scenes gave a sense of the alien nature of it and architecture designed for people (and things) that can all fly. Also the scope and size of the Corps was nicely illustrated as well.

Tom Strong as Sinestro gets a special mention. In the comics, a great deal is made of him formerly being the greatest Green Lantern before his fall. That’s been shown in some flashbacks but it, and his rivalry with and growing respect for; Hal was brought to life very well. (Does this count as a spoiler, since it’s actually spoiling an unmade as of yet sequel? I’d guess no, mostly because when a guy’s name is that close to “sinister” I’d like to believe even the most brain dead movie goer would expect some kind of heel turn down the road.)

Constructs. Constructs constructs constructs! Everyone’s was a little different. Everyone’s matched their personality. Finally, and most importantly, they were loaded with “oooooh” inspiring shininess. But there should have been a boxing glove, darn it. I was checking. All the fists Hal ringed up had fingers.

Overall, the actors did entertaining jobs brining the comic characters to life. When announced I thought Blake Lively would be too young to pull off Carol’s maturity and intelligence, but she did it admirably. Nice cameos by the Jordan family too, a dynamic that’s been seriously underused in the comics recently.

Ryan Reynolds had Hal’s attitude down cold (for the most part: see Rants for the exception.) He was able to revel in the goofiness of some of the comic cliché’s, but also bring the seriousness and heroism when needed. (For example: The difference between figuring out the oath, and using it in combat.)

Changes in the “Different isn’t always bad” category:

A Parallax image change: Amazingly, switching him from a giant yellow space bug to a big lumpy head atop a giant collection of black snake fireworks made him scarier and more impressive.

Combining Krona with Parallax to tie everything together more neatly makes some sense, and having the yellow energy source on Oa avoided the need to travel to the anti-matter universe of Qward to find it. (This film already pegged the “Weird Alien Locationometer”, why push it?)

More Parallax combining, Hector Hammond has no connection to the yellow energy in the comics, but as long as he’s a creepy little guy with a big head and mental powers, it’s not all that important where they came from.

Keeping Hammond’s head from becoming larger than his body was probably a good move, both visually and practically. Having him look like a combination of “Rocky” Dennis’ perverted uncle and a bruised potato may have not been the best option, however.

Another good move was changing Hal’s best friend Tom from an Eskimo mechanic with a nickname that’s also a racial slur to a generically ethnic computer jockey.

Some Nitpicky Things:

You know a domino mask can’t conceal someone’s identity,

I know a domino mask can’t conceal someone’s identity…

Heck, everyone knows a domino mask can’t conceal someone’s identity.

But that’s the convention of comic book superhero stories. I always figured the ring did something else besides generating the mask to block identities (image projection, vision blurring, telepathic hypnosis…the usual stuff.) However, since the scene was a hoot and a half, I’ll let it pass this time.

Xudarians are bird people, not fish people. Tomar Re does have a fin looking thing on his head, but he’s been a member of an avian race since his first appearance in Green Lantern issue 6 in 1961. Obviously, the response in the movie about them being similar to earth fish was put there solely to annoy me, as there is no effect on plot, story or character for this throwaway line.

Somebody please, please, please tell Hollywood that the villain doesn’t have to die at the end of every superhero story.

First, because that’s a really good way to make every hero look like a vigilante in flashy underwear. Many superheroes have positive relationships with the police and society in general because they go out of their way to KEEP ANYONE FROM DYING.

Second, and more important on a financial basis, it’s a great way to run out of the good villains. If they keep it up, by the time a Justice League movie gets made, they’ll have to fight the Ten Eyed Man, Crazy Quilt, and the Fisherman.

Full on Rants:

These are inevitable with me in a superhero film. My family mostly ignores it now; my wife simply rolls her eyes, while my sister unemotionally throws her arm across my chest to keep me in my seat, while never taking her eyes off the screen.

Rant 1:

The movie went out of its way to impressively and accurately (your definition of “accuracy” may vary here) establish the green energy of will power is the most powerful in the universe. It also established that the ring only generates the green energy of willpower. Finally it established that the green energy of willpower is, y’know, green.

Similarly the movie went out of its way to tie the villains; past, present and future, into the yellow energy of fear. (I guess this takes the place of the old yellow weakness due to an impurity in the central power battery…no love for the classics.)

Given both of these, one would assume that when Green Lantern whips up the construct of a flamethrower the fire SHOULD NOT BE YELLOW!!!! Neither should the jet exhaust or muzzle flash of the (wicked cool looking) anti-aircraft gun. Seriously, how freakin’ hard is “EVERYTHING THE GREEN LANTERN RING CREATES IS MADE OF GREEN ENERGY – WHICH IS GREEN” to remember?

Rant 2:

For years, the requirements to be chosen for the Corps were to be honest and fearless. The honest part vanished off the list a while ago, which is a shame as it was a nice check to prevent the drafting of thrill seeking lunatics. Granted there was a problem with honesty and the whole secret identity thing, but since this movie is too cool for silly comic book mask conventions, that shouldn’t have been a problem. However, even in the comics, the honesty part has been forgotten long enough that I won’t comment on it. (I won’t’ accept it either, no matter how many retcons they do; they can’t touch my old books.)

The BIG requirement is to be fearless.

Being fearless does not mean having courage, that’s doing what has to be done despite fear.

Being fearless does not mean “overcoming fear”, that’s the transition needed to have courage.

Being fearless means NOT HAVING FEAR!


The more recent comics have worked in overcoming fear, but even then for Hal it was his father’s crash, and living through seeing his greatest fear happen, that made him move beyond fear and become FEARLESS.

I understand that the ability to have, and act in spite of, fear can be an inspiring example of what makes us human.

I understand that being the only member of a fearless Corps that understands fear can set the hero apart.

I understand that the character arc of facing a lifelong fear and then overcoming it can be compelling.

But that’s not Hal’s character arc. It’s Kyle’s. (The Green Lantern formerly known as the snot-nosed pretender, for those of you without nonexistent persons on speed dial.)

Hal didn’t crash planes, annoy the crap out of authority figures, and irritate team mates because he was afraid.

He did all those things because he was overconfident, a tad stupid and FEARLESS.

OK, working his way through that may be a less motivational message, but we’re not talking about a stirring docudrama on “WeTV” about a mother of four who doesn’t know how to tell her children she loves them before dying of some horri…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Sorry, I fell asleep. Anyway, it isn’t that kind of movie. It’s the chronicles of shiny pants space soldiers with imagination powered fantasy rings. Let’s have a little fun people.

I will say that once we got passed all the overcoming, the butt kicking, wise cracking, “I got this” Hal made an impressive display. Plus he used Kyle's necklace made of Green Energy, which I always liked. (old softee that I am) Maybe the Hal and Kyle stories can be friends after all.
I get misty thinking about this scene...yeah, I'm lame.

What I’m looking for in the sequel –

The same action, adventure and fun…but with more fearlessness and green boxing gloves.

Only Sinestro, and maybe his Corps, using other colored rings. The emotional spectrum has given us some good comic stories, but I’ve heard rumors of a Rainbow Brite comeback and I don’t want her in my Green Lantern movie.

Some sign of the rest of the comic universe. We have Amanda Waller as DC’s Samuel L. Jackson, how about a police report signed “B. Allen”, or a shipping crate marked Queen Industries, or even Detective Jones passing through from Apex city. Throw me a bone here people.

Speaking of which, there needs to be some reference to Guy, John and/or Kyle. I’d even take a puppy named G’nort at this point, and definitely Alan Scott, even if he’s only on a screen as a station manager during a news broadcast. If you can revamp the entire DC Universe, in print and on screen, to be younger, at least give us old guys a howdy.

Five Final thoughts-

Coming up in September, just like Green Lantern was “reborn”, a new Aquaman series by the same creative team is starting up. Here’s hoping we will be back here in a few years discussing a big budget spectacle of him and his finny friends. I’m sure Topo will be changed to a squid just to tick me off.

They showed a still add for Green Lantern comics after the credits. This was seen only by the handful of die hard Green Lantern fans who were disappointed that they didn’t get to see a clip after waiting. Yeah…that’ll sell books. At least my daughter was really excited to see the issue she got on Free Comic Book day. (She thought the movie was AWESOME!  It's amazing how much seeing it ahead of time to talk her through the scary parts helps.)

I hope Warner Brother’s was paying attention to their own movie, and use this as an example of how to make a high powered superhero movie where the main character actually physically fights his enemies when they get around to the next Superman film.

They totally should have shown The Green Loontern as a lead in cartoon.

A shout out to the guy who offered his umbrella and walked my mom to the car without any prompting in the downpour after the film let out. See, violent superhero movies can inspire good behavior.


longbow said...

I thought Jackie Earl Haley might get nominated for Watchmen. They probably did 20 takes looping in a studio but it was still a fantastic line reading.

Jeff McGinley said...

Haley really nailed it. They should definitely make Christian Bale study the voice he used. I think that's what he's going for as Batman.

Antonia Nedder said...

Enjoyed the post!! My particular favorite was your Rocky plus potato visual (I do adore that movie, and appreciate all references to it, but that was hysterical).

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx much. I saw Mask when I wasn't seeing anyone, I have absolutley no idea what led to that viewing...