Green Lantern movie review

Green Lantern movie poster
Green Lantern movie poster

On Saturday, 18 June 2011, Janice and I went into Cambridge, Massachusetts, for Free RPG Day (which I’ll blog more about soon) and lunch at Four Burgers. We then picked up my comic book subscription at New England Comics in Norwood and went to Legacy Place in Dedham, where we screened Green Lantern. Despite mixed reviews and middling box-office receipts, we enjoyed the movie almost as much as the similarly cosmic The Mighty Thor a few weeks earlier.

The latest live-action adaptation of a comic book superhero shows how hotshot test pilot Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds) overcomes his fears to join the intergalactic Green Lantern corps. Fans of space opera literature will recognize the similarities to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s “Lensman” series, and Janice and I once met GL creator Martin Nodell at a convention.

I thought that Reynolds and Blake Lively (as Jordan’s boss/love interest Carol Ferris) delivered better-than-expected performances, if not quite on the level of Thor‘s Oscar-winning cast or script. Jordan and Ferris are not only both attractive but also bring a human dimension to the star-spanning tale.

Other notable actors in Green Lantern include Geoffrey Rush voicing bird/fish-like Tomar Re, Michael Clarke Duncan as drill sergeant Kilowog (who pleases fans by using the epithet “poozer”), and Mark Strong is spot on as Jordan’s superior and potential rival Sinestro. If you liked all the aliens in Star Trek and Star Wars, there are some cool crowd scenes on Oa, headquarters planet of the Green Lantern corps.

On the Earthling side, Peter Sarsgaard plays mad scientist Hector Hammond; Tim Robbins is his smarmy father, Sen. Hammond; and Angela Basset portrays government agent Amanda Waller. As with Thor, the hero and villain both struggle with daddy issues. The younger Hammond is infected or corrupted by Parallax, a soul-sucking entity mistakenly created by the blue-headed Guardians. The tentacled horror isn’t the best villain in movies, but then, it’s not the most compelling one in the comics, either.

As in Superman Returns, Thor, and the Incredible Hulk, the action scenes were well choreographed and took place in daylight. Only now are the visual effects of the ring-slinger’s will-powered constructs even possible. Green Lantern may not be considered to be as good as Batman: the Dark Knight or Iron Man, but it was entertaining nonetheless, and Disney/Marvel and Warner Bros./DC are to be commended for trying to tackle cosmic and second-string heroes again after many were disappointed by Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

I’d give Green Lantern, which is rated PG-13 for violence and language, a solid B, three out of five stars, or a 7.5 out of 10, only slightly less than Thor. While I haven’t yet seen X-Men: First Class, I’m looking forward to more movies based on comic books this summer, including Captain America: the First Avenger and Cowboys & Aliens. I also recently picked up Green Lantern: First Flight on DVD.

Coming soon: Animation reviews and space opera games!

How I would reboot Wonder Woman

NBC's Wonder Woman
The latest Wonder Woman

As more details emerge about DC Comics’ renumbering this coming autumn, there has been a lot of discussion about what fans want to keep or change in that publisher’s continuity. So far, the costume redesigns and making the major characters younger don’t bother me much, even though I like how Batgirl, the Birds of Prey, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Oracle have evolved to date. The proof will be in the writing and art.

Batman and Superman have been subject to numerous successful interpretations, Wonder Woman has lagged behind the other members of the “big three” in terms of popularity or steady depiction. Here’s how I’d approach DC’s iconic superheroine, in print comics, animation, or live-action television or movies:

Diana Prince, an athletic and poised woman in her early 20s, arrives in Washington, D.C., to study international relations (or history with a focus on ancient warfare, if that’s easier). She’s obviously of Mediterranean descent, but she’s estranged from her mother and looking for her father. This is similar to Smallville in showing a younger, somewhat less confident heroine unaware of her full origin and powers, but it doesn’t quite drag us back to a high school soap opera.

Her roommate is Etta Candy, an African-American blogger who helps her get an internship at the U.S. Department of Defense. There, Diana meets Air Force Col. Steve Trevor and Titus Martin, head of contractor Ares Industries (actually an avatar of Ares, god of war, himself). Could either of these men be her father? In general, the casting of supporting characters should be diverse and color-blind.

Another classmate of Diana’s is potential love interest Billy Barnes, who volunteers at a women’s shelter in a neighborhood beset by poverty and crime (where she can occasionally fight street-level villains). Diana’s professors include secretly fascist psychologist Edgar Cizko (Dr. Psycho), spymistress Anita Maru (Dr. Cyber/Poison), archaeologist Julia Kapatelis, and historian Helena Sandsmark.

At the Pentagon, martial arts classes, or Capitol Hill, Diana would also meet Tom Tresser, a con man turned secret agent and another potential romantic interest. Diana could eventually mention that she has a younger sister, Donna, for a later cameo or supporting role. Rival Artemis could be another classmate and rival whom Diana struggles to win over.

When she’s not spending time with her friends, studying, or fighting crime, Diana would get mysterious missives from Athens (Athena) through Hermes Delivery, but they’re not from her mother. They’d tip her off to bigger problems to fight, such as the abuse of women overseas, diplomatic attempts to avert wars (sometimes putting her at odds with Col. Trevor or Tom), and even mythical monsters and alien invasions — within the limitations of budgets and computer imagery, of course.

If possible, it would be great to get Lynda Carter as Diana’s mother Hippolyta, queen of Themyscira, which the producers of the failed NBC pilot had hoped to do. The historical Themiscyra was on the Black Sea in what’s now Turkey. I’d like to see a mix of regular thugs, villainous masterminds, and magical opponents for Wonder Woman to fight with her wits and fists. Cameos by other DC heroes and heroines could also eventually occur.

Diana should be a feminist and seek peace when possible, but she should also eventually be unafraid of sexuality or conflict. I don’t want Wonder Woman to fret over shoes, boys, or toy sponsorships, but she should have a sense of humor and be an optimist (brooding is for other characters such as Bruce Wayne). She should grapple with modern controversies, including religious fundamentalism of any kind, ethnic rivalries, sexism, abortion, and militarism.

As for props and costumes, I think that DC Comics and NBC have been headed in the right direction. Wonder Woman should have multiple outfits for different occasions. The classic shorts and bustier could be worn under her clothing or when going somewhere warm (like Washington in the summer).

In fact, Wonder Woman’s costume should reflect modern athletic wear rather than mid-20th century circus outfits. The tiara, bracers, and lasso are must-haves, while the stars, red-and-blue color scheme, and eagle can reflect her (and her mother’s) admiration for American ideals.

The longer pants and a top with shoulder straps would be more practical for regular crime fighting, and Greek-style armor would be appropriate for wading into high-powered battles. I’d also give her good fashion sense (without dwelling on it too much, see above) and casual and formal wear as needed. Creator William Moulton Marston‘s interest in polygamy, lie detection, and bondage could come up in villains’ plots rather than Diana’s outlook or costume.

While JMS and Jim Lee‘s recent reboot of Wonder Woman by stripping her of her memory and traditional costume was a better-than-average attempt, it’s not as good as George Perez’s in the mid-1980s. I think that Wonder Woman, who is still widely recognized and could be a role model for girls, deserves better. (DC, feel free to use my ideas!) What do you think?

Welcoming the latest DC Comics reboot

DC Comics' revived Justice League
First look at DC Comics reboot

DC Comics announced today that it will be rebooting its universe with 52 titles with Issue No. 1 in September, after the current “Flashpoint” summer crossover, in which the Flash deals with an alternate reality (one of many parallels).

While this may get some attention in the mainstream news media, it’s too soon to tell whether this will be good or bad for DC’s iconic characters or the comics industry in general. I’ve noted before how superhero stories have been fodder for popular movies, even as print sales decline. DC’s announcement that digital versions of its comics will be available on the same Wednesdays as individual issues is a strong attempt to address this decline.

I also doubt that this will have the same long-lasting effect as Crisis on Infinite Earths, which reset DC’s timelines in the mid-1980s, just as I was returning to comic books and graphic novels as a young adult. Marvel Comics tends to reboot individual characters (see One More Day for Spider-Man) or teams (such as the Avengers Reborn) rather than its entire continuity at once.

The reason for such reboots is simple: Fans want their favorite characters, such as Batman or Captain America, to be relatively unaging, while real-world and fictional events (such as the maturing of sidekicks) pile up around them. To bring in younger or more casual readers, a periodic housecleaning makes sense.

In “comic book time,” how long has Superman or Wolverine been a costumed vigilante? Is Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, or Damien Wayne the youngster in the Robin costume? Which president is considering the Mutant/Metahuman Registration Act?

I don’t mind clearing the cobwebs around continuity, as long as it leads to fresh looks at characters without changing their core concepts (most superheroes don’t kill) or to mere rehashing of well-known or recent stories. “Nerd rage” will focus on Jim Lee’s costume redesigns, the economics of renumbering issues, and the impermanence of any historical revisions. I prefer to wait and see how drastic DC’s reboot will be.

On a related superheroic note, I watched the latest episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the direct-to-video Thor: Tales of Asgard this past weekend. The animated feature focused on a young god of thunder, and was a decent parallel/companion piece to the live-action film.

Monday, 3 August 2009: Comic-Con and graphical entertainment

Google's Comic-Con logo

It’s too bad that in all the news media coverage of last week’s San Diego Comic-Con and costumed fans, the source material for television shows, movies, and games was often overlooked. My hat goes off to the writers, pencillers, inkers, letterers, colorists, and editors who work on comic books. The Eisner Awards, named after the creator of The Spirit,
recognizes each year’s outstanding achievements in graphical entertainment.

As I’ve mentioned before, I mostly read monthly superhero comic books, but I appreciate other genres, independent publishers besides DC and Marvel, and longer graphic novels. As the average reader gets older, we’ve been increasingly targeted by titles around licensed
properties and nostalgia, but as long as new readers are brought in, the hobby should stay healthy.

I’ve been a fan of the colorful, iconic superheroes of the DC Comics universe since college in the late 1980s. The “event“-driven crossovers of the past few years have been dark in tone, and Green Lantern: Blackest Night is no exception. However, it does look like it will address
the revolving door of death necessitated by the need to keep characters forever young while also respecting long continuities. Speaking of Green Lantern, Janice and I enjoyed the direct-to-DVD Green Lantern: First Flight this past weekend. It covers some of the same territory as the recent Justice League: New Frontier but is more of a police procedural in space.

I’ve blogged before about the often-confusing or lackluster storylines in DC’s team books, but I hope that the latest roster updates of the Justice League, Justice Society, and Teen Titans will get them back to being the world’s finest superheroes. Over at Marvel, I’ve
stopped following the three Avengers teams and numerous X-Men, but Spider-Man 600 did a good job of merging Silver Age nostalgia with an update on what’s going on in Peter Parker’s life now. Captain America is still my favorite Marvel title right now, as Steve Rogers returns to wear the red, white, and blue.

The Batman family of titles has been among my favorites lately, with strong art and
writing on Detective Comics, even without Bruce Wayne as the Dark Knight. I haven’t been following Superman as closely, but I’m glad to see epic storylines and art inspired by the late Christopher Reeve. I’ve also been watching the Kirk Alyn serials from the late 1940s on DVD. DC’s Wednesday Comics have continued to impress me, even though, as with any anthology, some features (Teen Titans, Wonder Woman) are weaker than others (Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Kamandi). On balance, I’ve been enjoying the experiment.

Speaking of avant-garde storytelling, I look forward to Volume 3 of Umbrella Academy, Gerard Way‘s postmodern fever dream that turns the conventions of costumed vigilantes on
their heads. A dysfunctional family of foundlings, raised by an alien and a
robot, fights itself and reality. The latest ongoing Doctor Who title got off to a decent start.

Manga (originally Japanese comics, in a more compact format) seems to have peaked in
popularity, with bookstores across the U.S. tightening their shelf space offering it. However, that’s still a wider distribution network than the direct market of specialty comic book shops, and manga did draw many younger, female readers. I hope that, like the upcoming live-action adaptation, the Avatar: the Last Airbender manga does justice
to Nickelodeon’s fantasy television series.

Coming soon: Games and travel!

Comics Wednesday, July 2009

Justice League Unlimited

Friends, please note that my blog is no longer available at Yahoo 360. You can find it at MySpace.com or under my “edemaitre” Yahoo Profile. As promised, here are some of my thoughts on recent comic books.

As I mentioned in my previous posting, the San Diego Comic-Con is this week. While I
haven’t yet made the hajj to the largest annual genre/popular culture event in the U.S., I have closely followed coverage of it for the past few years. Movies, comic books and graphic novels, action figures, television shows, games, and more are announced or previewed at this convention. I hope to get to smaller shows here in the Boston area, such as November’s Super MegaFest.

In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying DC’s Wednesday Comics, a 12-issue experiment in weekly comics on tabloid newsprint. The quality of the writing varies, but the art is
impressive
, and it reminds me of lying on the floor reading Prince Valiant in the Sunday funnies.

DC‘s big summer storyline crossing over several titles is Green Lantern: Blackest Night, which addresses the temporary nature of death among costumed superheroes (and villains). Although I don’t plan to spend even more on comics than I do now, it has gotten good reviews so far.

I have continued picking up the Batman family of titles, as Bruce Wayne is presumed dead and former Robin/Nightwing Dick Grayson has taken up the mantle. I wasn’t a big fan of Grant Morrison’s trippy run, but he, Paul Dini, and company have upped their game with the creative freedom granted by the temporary change in lead characters.

Similarly, Marvel Comics is winding down its run of Bucky Barnes as Captain America with the imminent return of Steve Rogers. Unlike the regular shakeups for Superman, Spider-Man, or the X-Men, Rogers has been gone for a few years now of continuity (fictional history), and the espionage/thriller tone of his title remains engaging. I’ve been avoiding most team-based Marvel and DC books lately because of overly convoluted continuities and gimmicky crossovers designed to sell more issues.

Speaking of alternate histories, I’m still catching up on collected editions. I’ve recently read Dark Horse’s convenient omnibuses of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and I look forward to getting to the next installment of the steampunk The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (not the weak movie adaptation), the metahuman procedural Powers, and the political Ex Machina. Dynamite, which I’ve praised previously for its handling of licensed properties such as Buck Rogers, will also be handling the next batch of Stargate comics.

Typically, fiction is adapted from print to television or movie, but in the case of Nickelodeon’s excellent Avatar: the Last Airbender, a fantasy cartoon is being adapted to a live-action film series directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Last Airbender shouldn’t be confused with James Cameron’s upcoming science fiction movie Avatar.

The first previews and still photos of the young cast have appeared online. I sympathize with those who feel that Last Airbender should have had more actors of Asian descent in its cast, I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ll have to wait and see whether planned movie reboots such as Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, Astro Boy, and Green Hornet are closer to Watchmen or to Dragonball in quality.