Schizopolitan: The Podcast – Episode 4 – The DC/Marvel Superhero Movie Smackdown

It’s back! The Schizopolitan podcast returns, and this time Jehan and Saxon tackle the thorny subject of the newly released DC movie slate! A slew of release dates have been revealed for movies in the DC shared universe (which will be properly kicking off in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice) stretching through till 2020. But what does this mean? What properties have been chosen, and why? Will DC stand any chance of matching Marvel’s success? And will any of what Jehan and Saxon say result in Aquaman actor Jason Momoa wanting to punch them? Listen to the podcast to find out the answer to these questions, and many more!

Also, Lego movies! Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them! Rumblings in the world of Marvel! And does Sony really not have the faintest idea what they’re doing with Spider-man?

Enjoy the podcast (please let us know in the comments if you do), and stay tuned for more episodes soon! And remember – you can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes! Follow this link to subscribe – the first three episodes are already available, and this latest one should be up there in the next 48 hours…

(The opening and closing music on the podcast is ‘Ouroboros’ by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

Comics Review: The DC New 52, Week 3 – Batman and Robin, Batwoman, Deathstroke, Demon Knights, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Green Lantern, Grifter, Legion Lost, Mister Terrific, Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man, Suicide Squad, Superboy

Reviewer: Saxon Bullock (aka @saxonb)

Batman and Robin 1 cover DC New 52 2011BATMAN AND ROBIN issue 1
Writer:
  Peter J. Tomasi ~ Artists: Patrick Gleason and Mick Grey ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=3/5]

The second of the main Bat-titles to shift back around to an all-Bruce-all-the-time approach, this opening issue from Peter J. Tomasi basically acts as a primer to set up the troubled Bruce/Damian relationship, being the first point where Batman’s ten-year-old son has officially teamed up with him as Robin (aside from the brief sequence back in Batman: The Return). There’s all the disagreement and the conflict you’d expect – for new readers, this is slick, efficient if not exactly incredible, with the added bizareness of a sequence where a public swimming pool seems to be conveniently mounted above a nuclear reactor. However, the Bruce/Damian dynamic doesn’t really generate anything but the most predictable of sparks – against Dick Grayson’s cheerier Batman, Damien was a brilliant, grumpy contrast, but here the result is two characters locked in an ever-increasing stoic grumpiness contest. Batman and Robin started out as a place for Grant Morrison’s wilder, cartoonier ideas – this is an okay start, but it could really do with establishing a slightly sharper identity.


Batwoman 1 cover JH Williams III DC New 52 coverBATWOMAN 
issue 1
Writer:
 J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman ~ Artists: J.H. Williams III ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=4.5/5]

Now, this is what you call a long wait. Delayed from launching early this year (and this after an acclaimed Detective Comics run that was held back time and time again), JH Williams III’s glorious interpretation of Batwoman is finally back in comic stores, and it’s been worth waiting for. No longer written by Greg Rucka, the script maybe lacks a little of the sharpness and edge, while Williams also sensibly doesn’t go too stylistically nuts in this issue, easing readers into the world of lesbian ex-marine turned vigilante Kathy Kane while also setting up some very intriguing questions. The story is well presented, and there’s some nice links to elsewhere in the DC Universe (especially in the appearence of Chase, one of the first characters Williams worked on at DC), but ultimately it’s the visuals that are the star, and the issue doesn’t disappoint. Quite a few of the DC relaunch titles don’t take enough chances visually, and Batwoman shows exactly what you can get away with when you’ve got an artist functioning at the top of his game.


Deathstroke 1 DC New 52 coverDEATHSTROKE 
issue 1
Writer:
  Kyle Higgins ~ Artists: Joe Bennett and Art Thiebert ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=2/5]

There’s plenty of titles in the DC New 52 that had me scratching my head as to why anyone would want them, and high on the list was this – a starring role for Deathstroke, aka Slade Wilson, the grizzled, eye-patch wearing assassin and mercenary who’s happy to leave a massive bodycount in his wake if it means the job gets done. There’s no shortage of attitude here, and the action’s presented with plenty of visual energy – unfortunately, the black humour is in very short supply, while Higgins’ script barely gives us any reason to actually care whether Wilson lives or dies. Another example of DC’s bizarre 90s nostalgia kick, Deathstroke isn’t dreadful, but is certainly lacking in anything but the most basic “look, we’re being really Edgy!” action.


Demon Knights 1 DC New 52 CoverDEMON KNIGHTS 
issue 1
Writer:
  Paul Cornell ~ Artists: Diogenes Neves and Oclair Albert ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=4.5/5]

Just when I was feeling like the relaunch wasn’t really succeeding in going anywhere that felt truly new, Paul Cornell comes along and restores my faith. Demon Knights is a blast, an energetic medieval action romp that introduces all of its characters with a brisk amount of energy, while also showcasing some promising bad guys and a seriously intriguing world. Set in the medieval era of the DC Universe, this is sword-and-sorcery territory populated by some of the weirder, more immortal DC characters like Madam Xanadu, Vandal Savage and Jason Blood (along with his demonic alter-ego, Etrigan the Demon), and this first arc is basically aimed as a lively pastiche of the Magnificent Seven, throwing our heroes together in a quiet little village under threat. There’s some interesting choices – like the fact that, at least for now, Etrigan isn’t speaking in rhyming verse – and like Justice League, this is one comic where DC’s general decision to concentrate on the visuals means that this is more of an ‘opening five minutes’ than a self-contained chapter in it’s own right – but that’s partly because Cornell sets things up so nicely that you’re already up for the next chapter the minute this one ends. I had my issues with Stormwatch’s first issue, but Demon Knights is fresh, funny, and certainly one of the most engaging DC relaunch titles yet.


Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. 1 DC New 52 CoverFRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. 
issue 1
Writer:
 Jeff Lemire ~ Artist:  Alberto Ponticelli ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=4/5]

Here, the DC Universe gets its own take on Hellboy – and following the appearence of the Shining Knight in Demon Knights, another character from Grant Morrison’s epic series of relaunches Seven Soldiers of Victory gets a starring role here. Setting up Victor Frankenstein’s tragic creation with his own team of ‘Creature Commandos’, this is lurid fun from Jeff Lemire that’s very different in tone from Animal Man. Alberto Ponticelli’s art gives the whole thing a very dark pulp feel, pulling of some excellent splash pages, and there’s enough lurid weirdness here to suggest that this dark adventure could head down some very promising roads.


Green Lantern 1 DC New 52 cover Sinestro Geoff JohnsGREEN LANTERN 
issue 1
Writer:
 Geoff Johns ~ Artist: Doug Mankhe and Christian Almy ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=3/5]

Out of all the DC relaunches, Green Lantern was always the one that was going to be touched the least – Geoff Johns is the current DC Comics golden boy, after all – and no surprises, Green Lantern 1 is the most perfunctory of all the first issues, making virtually no allowances for any readers jumping on. Admittedly, the setup is relatively intriguing – with Hal Jordan stuck on Earth and powerless, now that his Green Lantern ring has, for reasons unknown, chosen his arch-nemesis (and previous Yellow Lantern) Sinestro. Johns is always a reliable, no-nonsense writer and the art from Mankhe and Almy is as sharp and impressive as ever, but it would have been nice if this had felt a little more welcoming to new readers, and more of a genuine relaunch, rather than simply a pause in a story that’s been going a long time and won’t be stopping anytime soon.


Grifter 1 DC New 52 coverGRIFTER 
issue 1
Writer:
 Nathan Edmondson ~ Artist:  Cafu ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=2/5]

Weirdly enough, we’ve got two comics this week starring characters on the run pursued by mysterious (possibly demonic) forces that they barely comprehend, and this ongoing title starring a character previously from the Wildstorm team comic Wildcats is certainly the lesser of the two. As with Deathstroke, there’s an assumption that we’re just going to care about the lead character simply because he’s the lead character – Edmondson pulls off some good setpieces, and Cafu’s art is slickly executed without ever being remarkable, but the whole thing feels somewhat aimless. The central character at the moment is basically locked as a combination of Gambit from the X-Men and Sawyer from Lost, and this action adventure is going to have to have something major up its sleeve if it isn’t going to be the first of the New 52 to die a swift death.


Legion Lost 1 DC New 52 CoverLEGION LOST 
issue 1
Writer:
 Fabian Nicieza ~ Artist:  Pete Woods ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

There are plenty of people in the world who don’t have the faintest idea who the Legion of Super-Heroes are, and weirdly enough we get this spin-off title appearing before the main title itself. Here, a squad of characters from the 30th Century incarnation of the Legion get accidentally stranded in the present day, with plenty of problems to tackle- the biggest of which is the deadly virus that’s just been loosed onto the world. Nicieza does an efficient job in introducing the characters, while there are some entertaining setpieces and an enjoyably pulpy SF feel to the whole adventure. Along with some effective, well-executed art, this is one of the more promising middle-of-the-road DC titles.


Mister Terrific 1 DC New 52 CoverMISTER TERRIFIC 
issue 1
Writer:
 Eric Wallace ~ Artist: Gianluca Gugliotta ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=4/5]

Here’s an example of a DC Comic actually getting it right, and making me interested in a character I knew virtually nothing about. With an emphasis on science that’s creative and fun, this introduces celebrity scientist Michael Holt (aka Mr. Terrific) well, bringing us up to date on his history while also throwing some serious threats in his path. Visually it’s well executed, with some excellent splash pages, and it’s hard not to feel that this is what the very lacklustre Green Arrow should have felt like. Giving us an intriguing central character and setting up a number of conflicts, there’s also the welcome appearence of DC character Karen Starr – who longtime DC readers will know better as the cleavage-tastic heroine Power Girl – and a cliffhanger that certainly sets the stakes high for issue 2.


Red Lanterns 1 DC New 52 CoverRED LANTERNS 
issue 1
Writer:
 Peter Milligan ~ Artists: Ed Benes and Rob Hunter ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=3.5/5]

The latest addition to the Green Lantern franchise is this somewhat inevitable ongoing starring the rage-fuelled Red Lanterns, and it benefits a lot from having ex-2000AD and longtime Vertigo writer Peter Milligan onboard. There’s a darkly grotesque feel to this, while Milligan sets up the character of Atrocitus in some effective ways, giving the audience a mix of well-written introspection and over-the-top violence (especially in the opening sequence, featuring the lethal Red Lantern cat Dex-Starr). It’s not without its moments of cheese, however, while the earthbound revenge plotline is (at least so far) a little bewildering, and the art goes for the cleavage-heavy cheesecake approach at every conceivable opportunity. Nevertheless, Milligan has at least set this up as a worthy addition to the already crowded GL franchise ranks, and looks to have plenty in store.


Resurrection Man 1 DC New 52 CoverRESURRECTION MAN 
issue 1
Writers:
 Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning ~ Artist:  Fernando Dagnino ~ Price: $2.99 ~

[xrr rating=4/5]

One of the most reliable writer teams out there, Abnett and Lanning always deliver well-crafted and entertaining comics – here, coming back to a character last seen in the Nineties, they’ve given us another entry in the darker and weirder edges of the DC Universe. Mitch Shelly, the man blessed/cursed to resurrect with a different superpower every time he dies makes for an interesting protagonist, and the whole atmosphere of dark brooding atmosphere pays off in spades. Dagnino’s art just amps up the darkness, pulling off a handful of nicely executed and inventive moments, Abnett and Lanning raise the tension and set up plenty of mysteries, and by the climax this is certainly looking like one of the more intriguing of DC’s ‘Dark’ family of titles.


Suicide Squad 1 DC New 52 Cover Harley QuinnSUICIDE SQUAD 
issue 1
Writer:
 Adam Glass ~ Artists: Marco Rudy ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=2.5/5]

Any fans of Secret Six should look away now. This isn’t anywhere near as good as Gail Simone’s magnum opus of morally grey supervillains, while Harley Quinn’s new look is shameless exploitation for its own sake (as well as a shameless bid for the Arkham Asylum/Arkham City computer game geek crowd). Ultimately, writer Adam Glass does get a certain amount of fun out of this very, very old set-up – death-row criminals sent on near-suicidal missions with the vaguest chance of redeeming themselves – and also pulls off an ending that’s certainly attention-grabbing. Unfortunately, this is also so deliberately, self-consciously edgy it’s almost painful to read at times, and does feel like a collection of most of superhero comics’s worst excesses wrapped up in one rather worrying parcel.


Superboy 1 DC New 52 CoverSUPERBOY 
issue 1
Writer:
 Scott Lobdell ~ Artists: R.B. Silva and Rob Lean ~ Price: $2.99

[xrr rating=4/5]

A pleasant surprise, this, as we get a setup for this new iteration of the Superboy character that’s similar to the previous history (he’s still a clone with some of Superman’s DNA) but also adds in plenty of themes from Flashpoint’s Project Superman miniseries. A surprisingly dense and well-crafted script takes us through some engaging drama, contrasting Superboy’s gradual discoveries about the world via his ‘education’ with the corporate shenanigans and skullduggery going on around him. On top of this, there’s some excellent, clean-lined art from R.B. Silva (the recent Jimmy Olsen special) and Rob Lean, giving this a bright and colourful feel that’s pleasently different from some of the darker, murkier, more Jim Lee-influenced titles to be found elsewhere. A satisfying set-up, this only really runs into problems with an ending that links directly to Teen Titans – a comic with isn’t out yet, meaning the final page might be a bit confusing to those not in the know. However, this is an efficiently executed superhero comic that hints at some interesting stories to come.

Previous DC New 52 Reviews:

The DC New 52, Week 2: Action Comics, Animal Man, Batgirl, Batwing, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Hawk and Dove, Justice League International, Men of War, O.M.A.C., Static Shock, Stormwatch, Swamp Thing

The DC New 52, Week 1: Justice League

 

 

Movie Review: Green Lantern (2011)

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins ~ Writers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg ~ Director: Martin Campbell 

Green Lantern Movie Poster 2011 Ryan Reynolds[xrr rating=2/5]

The Low-Down: DC’s latest attempt at a superhero blockbuster, Green Lantern should have been a giddy mix of colourful action and space adventure. Trouble is, nobody seems to have told that to the filmmakers – what we end up with is a deeply mediocre, flatly executed comic-book romp with only a few brief flickers of the lurid saga it should have been.

What’s it About?: Hotshot test-pilot pilot Hal Jordan may be talented, but he’s also an irresponsible risk-taker who ends up derailing a potential big contract for his employers, Ferris Air. But, just as his life seems to be going wrong, an encounter with a dying alien results in him being inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, a group of interstellar policemen who battle against unimaginable forces of evil – one of which is now on its way to Earth…

The Story: Oh dear. Poor DC can’t seem to get a break outside the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies. They’ve been stuck way behind Marvel for years, and even now that Warners is finally getting their act together with some serious franchise-starting action… it’s still not quite happening. They’ve bet a fair old whack of money on Green Lantern (with an estimated price tag of around $200 million, plus the marketing costs on top of that), and I’m sure they can’t be happy to have the first of 2011’s batch of superhero blockbusters that really does appear to have a “Kick Me” sign attached to its back. The $50 million opening weekend (plus a 69% drop-off in its second week) means it’s a long way from being the ideal franchise opener that DC and Warner Bros obviously wanted – and while it’d be lovely to report that this is all terribly unfair, and that Green Lantern is actually a fun adventure that’s catching a small superhero backlash almost purely by accident… I’d be lying through my teeth if I did.

It doesn’t quite deserve some of the vitriol that’s been thrown at it (and is certainly a long way from being as dreadful as the Fantastic Four movies), while there’s also the fact that not every superhero movie has to be The Dark Knight, meaning that there’s room in the multiplexes for a lighter, more colourful piece of superhero action. However, it’s hard to recall the last time I saw a movie quite so flat  – a blockbuster that simply seems to go through the motions, giving us a sketchy version of the Hero’s Journey and a handful of nicely executed effects shots without ever cohering together into a genuinely thrilling ride.

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds Publicity Still 2011There’s a pervasive sense of ‘that’ll do’ to much of the picture, alongside the feeling that they’re not doing a fantastic job of getting the reported $200 million budget all up onscreen (with the film looking a little creaky outside the big CG setpieces). One of the original comic book’s strengths is the extensive mythology (which has been upgraded a lot in the last few years by main GL writer Geoff Johns), but the film doesn’t approach this with anything approaching the confidence of Thor. Instead, this is a film that’s desperate to be taken seriously but simply slaps chunks of the mythology onscreen in the hope that it’ll wow us, sandwiching them together with lots of dreary expository dialogue (“I believe you have the power to overcome fear!”). There’s precious little sense of us learning about the universe with Hal Jordan or getting more involved with his character that way – instead, the piecemeal screenplay is just a collection of things that happen, leading up to Hal discovering his inner awesomeness (and, as a footnote, that it’s better to be nice than an arrogant asshat).

Green Lantern 2011 Oa Ryan Reynolds Movie WallpaperThere’s a whole heap of exciting stories to be told in the Green Lantern universe, but the film seems to be terrified to tell any of them for fear of busting the budget. It doesn’t help that by cranking up audience expectations of the footage depicting the Green Lantern Corps’ home planet of Oa (which has basically been the highlight of the publicity campaign, while the far more integral central relationship between Hal and ex-girlfriend Carol Ferris is barely featured in the trailers at all) the film ended up shooting itself in the foot. Yes, the Oa scenes do feature some spectacular moments and memorable characters (most notably the Geoffrey Rush-voiced Tomar-Re, who’s the highlight of the entire movie), and it is the point where the film does finally hit the right note of lurid SF action – but it’s all over within ten minutes, and the rest of the film feels like a let-down. After the colour and variety of the Green Lantern Corp’s home planet, the last thing we want is to be chucked back onto Earth for lots of scenes of Hal Jordan experiencing Olympian levels of angst and more lumpen villainy from the deeply unimpressive adversary Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who comes over as more of a slightly annoying distraction than an intimidating threat in his own right (while the film’s ‘main’ villain – a floating CGI head with massive cloud tentacles – barely even registers as a convincing threat until virtually the end of the film).

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds 2011In terms of balancing spectacle, it’s the same problem that the original Michael Bay Transformers movie faced – how to cope with the fact that the budget won’t stretch to setting the entire film on Oa (or with the fact that, thanks to the CGI approach to the costume, every single shot of Reynolds in costume is an effects shot) – and while Bay’s solution was hardly brilliant (filling the film with clumsy racial stereotypes and John Turturro overacting), Green Lantern’s earthbound scenes aren’t exactly much better, frequently feeling like a rather limp and gag-free version of Nineties CG-fest The Mask – or, in one slightly unwise balcony-set scene, Disney’s Aladdin (where it wouldn’t have surprised me if the costumed Hal had immediately taken Carol Ferris for a flight and a rousing chorus of ‘A Whole New World’). The Oa scenes simply crank up the spectacle to a level the rest of the film (bar the climax) can’t hope to match, and it’s hard not to think that maybe (especially in the wake of Avatar, which took audiences to an alien planet for the whole film) leaving Oa for a sequel might have been a wiser move.

Naturally, this won’t stand – Hal has to go to Oa because ‘that’s how it happened in the comics’ – and while fidelity to the source material is usually used as a benchmark of quality for comic book adaptations, Green Lantern is another example to stand alongside Watchmen that sometimes throwing the comic onscreen note-for-note isn’t the best idea. While the film draws massively from the recent run overseen by comics writer Geoff Johns, Green Lantern itself has been around in one form or another since 1940 (with the Hal Jordan iteration of the mythos debuting in 1959), meaning that over the years it’s ended up as a rather odd mish-mash of different concepts from different decades, many of which sit rather weirdly together when thrown into live-action. Most notably, there’s the GL costume’s slightly ludicrous domino mask, which only really works in the scene where the film deliberately mocks it, along with the deeply silly Green Lantern Corps’ poetic oath (Would any modern screenwriter in their right mind attempt to pitch “Yeah! He’s a cop from space… and he also does poetry!”?), and the fact that one of the main characters (who also sports a not-in-any-way-villainous forties moustache and pointy eyebrows) is given the “Honest, there’s no chance of me turning evil” name of Sinestro.

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds 2011The end result is an occasionally head-scratching pot-pourri of influences, and the film’s solution to this potential problem is to simply throw it all  onscreen and hope for the best. While it captures the general pacing and structure of a Geoff Johns comic well (even down to the exposition-heavy opening), all it proves is that the kind of pacing and storytelling that works in superhero comics often falls flat on the big screen. The film’s story simply consists of important character moments without any of the connective tissue that actually makes it feel like a movie. Things seem to just happen, characters are moved around with little to no logic (especially when Hal heroically bursts into a room at one point for absolutely no reason), plot arcs are introduced and then abandoned (such as Hal’s family, who are given a fairly major introduction in the first fifteen minutes and then never seen again), while even the mid-credits Marvel-style ‘teaser’ scene, obviously inserted to whet the appetite for a potential sequel, instead blows the film’s most interesting character arc out of the water and simply seems to happen because, well, that’s what happened in the comics.

Maybe with a different director, the film could have been sharper – after all, Martin Campbell is a really weird choice for a CGI-fest, with his background being in executing practical action on a grand scale in films like Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro and Casino Royale. While he does pull off a couple of good-looking sequences, he simply can’t bring the film to life and fails to give it the sense of wonder and involvement it needs. But then, he’s saddled with a weak screenplay full of clunky and uninspired dialogue that any filmmaker probably would have struggled with. The cast largely do their best – after being apparently considered for every single superhero role going, Ryan Reynolds gives a confident lead performance, although he’s much better at the cocky arrogance than the mopey soul-searching, and Peter Sarsgaard makes a serious attempt to do something kooky with his villainous role, even though even he can’t make a low-rent telepath with gigantism into a convincing adversary.

There’s also excellent work from Mark Strong as Sinestro, although Blake Lively is rather flat and wooden as Carol Ferris, while both Angela Bassett and Tim Robbins are reduced to looking slightly embarrassed in extended cameos. Nobody’s exactly dreadful – Green Lantern isn’t interesting enough for that; it aims squarely in the middle of the road, and what we get is a perfunctory superhero origin, with all the character moments marked in triplicate for those not paying attention. There’s the potential for a good film here, but so much is lazily underdeveloped (like the conflict between Hal and Hector Hammond over Carol Ferris, which barely gets mentioned for half the movie before suddenly becoming a vital plot point) that once again, DC has been left in the dust by Marvel.

Ultimately, a live-action Green Lantern seems like a flawed prospect from the get-go – it’s a concept that would play much better in animation (reducing some of the budget problems, and enabling the ‘unlimited imagination’ of the ring constructs to really cut loose), and simply feels constrained by the limits of how much this kind of photo-real CG animation costs. An Incredibles-style CG cartoon could, in theory, be a brilliant idea, and the mix of tones in the GL mythos would play much better if it was slightly stylised, but of course, live-action is what the market demands, and that’s what it gets. Of course, a continuation of the franchise isn’t impossible, and it seems like Green Lantern will eventually turn a profit – but on the current form, it’ll have to do a hell of a lot better on its second movie if it isn’t simply going to be written off as yet another cinematic superhero misfire.

The Verdict: A superhero blockbuster that will leave fans of the comic delighted and everyone else wondering what the hell just happened, Green Lantern is not the death knell of superhero movies, or an absolute celluloid disaster. It’s just a misconceived and poorly executed romp that falls a long way short of equalling any of the decent and entertaining superhero flicks in the last ten years.

[amtap book:isbn=0789322617]

[amtap amazon:asin=B004XK4OL4]

Movie News: Lanterns-a-Go-Go (New footage from Green Lantern)

Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds Movie Poster Wondercon Teaser Footage

Only yesterday I was talking about how the production schedule and effects work on Green Lantern has kind of slowed down and caused problems with the marketing push, resulting in us only getting a not-exactly-stunning trailer so far. Well, it seems like Warners have woken up to this, as the footage that’s recently premiered at US Convention Wondercon has also been put up online in sparkling high definition at the Apple Trailers site. It’s a sensible move, considering how often comic convention exclusives almost always get leaked onto Youtube as crappy cameraphone videos, and how awareness of Green Lantern as a movie property is not exactly at an all-time high right now.

And the footage? Well… it certainly proves that Warners dropped the ball with the first ad, and really should have gotten more effects-work done in time, as this is a much more impressive trailer than the first one, giving a far greater sense of scale and easing back for the most part on the cheesy humour. It certainly looks like it’s going to be colourful and fun, but with a major streak of straight-faced sci-fi cheese that seems to be – at least from my perspective – part and parcel of the whole Green Lantern experience (To be honest – it’s going to be absurdly hard to make the kooky and poetic Green Lantern oath work dramatically, and it doesn’t look like they’ve cracked it here (and I’m deeply worried about sequels and potentially getting to all the other colour Lantern Corps, all of whom have their own ridiculous poem-oath)). The costume looks better here (even if the mask is still going to be a tough sell – an alien energy costume, and the best thing it can think of to protect his identity is a domino mask?), although much of the footage on Oa, home of the Green Lantern Corps, looks like it’s way too skewed for the whole 3-D experience with CG shots that are good, but not always looking brilliantly immersive. I’m more onboard than I was before, but I’m still not entirely convinced (I’m nowhere near as sold as I was on the Captain America trailer), and I do reckon it’s going to be very interesting to see what sinks and what swims in this upcoming superhero-overloaded blockbuster summer…

The Friday Linkfest (1/4/2011): Links on my Mind

Justice League of America adaptation film for 2013 news Batman Superman Wonder Woman

Warner Bros are aiming for a Justice League of America movie by 2013. The question has to be asked – what the hell is going on with the Warners and DC-related superhero films? They’ve previously said that ‘we’re not doing crossovers’ – that the Nolan Batman films wouldn’t cross over with any other motion pictures, and that neither would Snyder’s Superman – each series would tackle them as the only superhero in their world. Now, this is a step away from the Marvel ‘grand plan’ to culminate in The Avengers (which hasn’t always worked – Iron Man 2 being a case in point), but did seem to make sense at the time (especially with how aggressively realistic the Nolan films have been). Now, however, they’re saying they’re aiming for a JLA film in 2013 (which is absurdly quick), and that the JLA will feature Batman and Superman, but not Henry Cavill as Superman, and not whoever inherits the Bat-cowl when the franchise is rebooted following The Dark Knight Rises (which I’m willing to bet will embrace a slightly more comic-booky direction once Nolan departs).

Now, if they weren’t going to use Batman and Superman, I could understand it – while they’re the two big heavy-hitters, it would be possible to cope without them (in a similar way to how Marvel Studios films have to cope without crossovers with Spider-Man, the X-Men or The Fantastic Four, because they sold the rights). It’s also not impossible to have two different live-action versions of the same character around – Superman Returns was made while Smallville was on the air, and if the Wonder Woman TV series is a success, there could be both a TV and a film version of Wonder Woman, as one concept is for the JLA film to launch characters that could then go on into standalone movies. But this has never happened in movies before – two different versions of the same character, possibly appearing within months of each other? Warners experimented with this in 2008, when a JLA film came very close to being made (and which would have mostly starred unknowns, including The Social Network’s Armie Hammer as Batman) – it was a weird idea then, and it’s a weird idea now. Presumably, any spin-offs from JLA would be taking place in the same universe – so some DC films will cross over, but others won’t? Are they seriously trying to create an onscreen version of the DC multiverse? Are they out of their minds? Well, 2013 is a very optimistic date for a film that big (It’ll be interesting to see how well Green Lantern does on release – that could have a major effect on how the DC Universe films progress, especially if it doesn’t end up doing well…), and I suspect minds could be seriously changed if The Avengers turns out to be a giant-sized monster hit…

Green Lantern’s publicity is being delayed by the extensive effects work. Some recent superhero films have been quieter in the pre-publicity stakes than others – Captain America only just unveiled its first full trailer, while Thor has been giving us all kinds of images and trailers since late last year. Green Lantern hasn’t exactly been doing brilliantly – the first trailer has its moments but didn’t exactly blow me away, and given that this is a long, long way from the relatively earthbound action of Iron Man or The Dark Knight, you’d think they’d be doing more to sell the film. Well, they would be, only the combined problems of major sequences taking place on fully CG alien planets, plus the added problem of doing all this in 3-D, means that the whole process has been delayed, and the next trailer for Green Lantern won’t be ready until the release of Thor on May 6th – and that’s only about six weeks before the movie itself is out on June 17th. They’re even still casting voice roles (with Michael Clarke Duncan strongly tipped for the slightly-awkwardly-named Killowog), and given that the summer is already stuffed to bursting with blockbusters, it does at least put a big question mark over whether Green Lantern is going to sink or swim.

The Wonder Woman costume for the TV pilot has been modified – the version spotted in a location shoot doesn’t have funky PVC trousers, and the boots are red now, instead of blue. Now, this may be as a result of the ludicrous level of fan complaints when the costume was unveiled, but it of course hasn’t done anything to quell the somewhat hilarious tide of people bitching online that “it still looks like a Halloween costume” (because of course, the Lynda Carter 70s TV costume in no way looked ridiculous) and generally moaning about how of course the show’s guaranteed to be completely terrible anyway. There are times when I love fandom, and there are times when I don’t.

Amy Adams has been cast as Lois Lane in the upcoming Zack Snyder version of Superman. Now, this is both really good news – Adams is a great actress, and a surprisingly good choice for Lois Lane – and really annoying, as I’d much rather she was appearing in a Superman film not directed by Zack Snyder. At the least, it’s a surprise to have a Lois who’s actually eight years older than the guy playing Superman (Adams is 36, Henry Cavill is 28), plus it’s really nice that Adams will actually look old enough to be an experienced reporter (as opposed to poor old miscast Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns, whose version of Lois looked about twelve years old).

And, to coincide with this in a rather sadder way, Deadline posted a letter from Joanne Siegel – widow of Superman creator Jerry Siegel, and original model for Lois Lane – written two months before her death, asking the head of Time Warner to actually pay the money the company legally owes the Siegel family (and to stop the crappy legal delaying tactics they’ve been using). Yes, we all know that most corporations are going to act in crappy underhand ways – but the Superman legal saga is an epically complicated one, and it’s just a pity it couldn’t have been resolved before Siegel passed away.

Neil Gaiman’s Doctor Who episode is called – shock, horror – ‘The Doctor’s Wife‘!  Now, I’m pretty sure, if I’m remembering correctly, that this is a bit of a meta-in-joke as well, as the production team did at one point (in the classic era) try to identify a leak to the fan press by falsely putting out the completely bogus title ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ just to see what happened. It’s certainly not what I expected – the initial thought is that obviously, it’s going to be another ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ where it turns out that the Doctor hasn’t actually had a secret daughter stashed away all these years, and it’s unlikely to be a River Song-centric story considering Moffat’s bound to be handling that side of things. Actress Suranne Jones is playing the character ‘Idris’, so I’m mildly perplexed – especially considering that Gaiman has actually said that his story brings back someone (or something) we haven’t seen since the Sixties (or, to be more precise, the 1969 story The War Games). Of course, the Doctor has actually already been married onscreen – he accidentally acquired an Aztec wife in the sixties historical story ‘The Aztecs’, but I can’t imagine Gaiman is constructing a whole story around that. I guess we’ll wait and see…

Also Gaiman related – his novel American Gods has been optioned, apparently by a director with ‘many, many Oscars’. Who knows what this means, but it’s a challenging idea – American Gods is a fascinating, occasionally tricky book (one I struggled with on my first reading, but eventually came to really love), but it doesn’t strike me as especially filmable. But then, neither did Stardust, and look what happened there…

Continuing the recent theme of Hollywood adaptations that completely miss the fecking point of what they’re supposed to be adapting, Hollywood are plotting a modernised version of Miss Marple – and have cast Jennifer Garner. Yes, the star of spy action series Alias. My mind is reeling at exactly how much of the original material just got thrown out of the window. Alright, Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost may be involved, but will someone please find the other people who are involved in this and then punch them? (And then sit them down in front of the BBC Joan Hickson Marple adaptations and go “LOOK!”?)

And as if that wasn’t depressing enough, the Terry Gilliam film Time Bandits may be remade as an ‘action franchise for kids’. No. No. NO. I’m sorry, but that’s entering territory where I may have to hunt down and kill anyone who’s responsible for bastardising the wonderful, quirky and barmy world of one of my favourite films. And again: NO.

HBO drama series The Wire, re-imagined (rather well) as a Victorian-era novel.

The BBC4 pilot episode adaptation of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently books has been comissioned for a series of 3 1-hour episodes. As you’ll see from my review of the pilot, I’m not exactly delighted by this. I guess it’s possible that writer Howard Overman might iron out the issues with the first episode given more time, but I doubt it. Whether I have the patience for another three hours of vaguely tiresome comic shenanigans that bear a vague passing resemblance to books I really, really like remains to be seen…

And finally, news of a slightly more promising movie remake – director David Gordon Green is helming a US version of utterly barmy Italian Horror movie Suspiria. Now, this would normally strike me as a bad idea, especially since Suspiria is a genuinely demented, eye-searingly colourful and hyper-violent movie, one of the few horror movies I’ve seen that genuinely qualify as nightmarish, but David Gordon Green strikes me as a director capable of bringing something interesting to the table (especially in the way he’s bounced from lyrical arthouse dramas to stoner action comedies like Pineapple Express). He’ll have to go some to match the sheer lunacy of Suspiria, but at least he is planning to use significant amounts of the original progrock-tastick Suspiria score by Goblin, a major element of the original’s unique atmosphere, as you can hear from the attention-grabbing, barmy and deeply unsettling main theme: