It’s common knowledge that the blockbuster machine that is Hollywood is out of ideas. So to keep the dollars rolling in, every other movie release is a Remake/ Reboot/Reimagining of past hits or even misses (like ‘I Spit on you Grave’, I mean…seriously?) with varied results, from the unquestionable success of ‘Star Trek’ to the fiasco that is the ‘Wolfman’.
In pursuing fresh ideas, the industry believes it has found a goldmine by producing comic-based movies about every major and obscure superhero. This obviously makes a lot of financial sense, as comic books already have a dedicated following, which can easily be tapped by bringing a fan-favourite character to the big screen. At present, there are over 50 superhero properties at various stages of development and production, with this past month seeing the release of trailers for ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘Cowboys & Aliens’.
GEEK ALERT!! Now Considering the trailer of ‘Green Lantern’ – if like me, you know the difference between the Marvel and DC Universes – on seeing the antics of Ryan Reynolds (he of ‘The Proposal’ fame with Sandra Bullock, and recently voted the sexiest man alive by People magazine), one gets the impression that he is watching ‘Wally West-Flash’ (yes, there is more than one Flash) goofing off as ‘Hal Jordan-Green Lantern’ (yes, there is also more than one Green Lantern). The casting choice is a bit off, to put it mildly, as this is not the personality of Hal Jordan.
Why does this matter, you may ask? Well, if Hollywood is serious about cashing in on the enormous comics market, and at the same time attract average movie audiences who struggle to correctly identify an Avenger or a member of the Justice League, then they need to serve up well-developed and researched pieces, and not just special effects spectacles that either have very little or highly contrived plots (I’m looking at you Michael Bay).
As these Movie studios invest a ton in bringing these characters Faith-based movies to the big screen, they have every right to interpret them however they see fit. Nonetheless, when I expect to see the “cocky arrogant do-gooder who I love to hate” that IS Hal Jordan, and get the “playful lively man-child” that IS Wally West, then I’m not so certain I want to see that movie.
It is also fair to point out that the Movie studios don’t shoulder all the blame. As at times when they’ve allowed fanboys substantial creative input in what the final product would be, subsequent box office receipts have not justified the investment, either because the movie was too faithful to the source material and therefore did not attract enough mainstream audiences, or because fanboys did not come out in expected numbers to see something that they are already quite familiar with. These movies become artistic and critical successes, but also commercial underachievers (See ‘Kick-Ass’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim VS’ as case studies).
So where does then this leave us? As for every ‘Dark Knight’ and ‘Iron Man’, you get 2 ‘Jonah Hex’ and ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ (make no mistake, this was an atrocious movie, notwithstanding the commercial success). The solution I suggest is to focus on the source material!
Every Superhero has an essence, which when distilled out of the mythology, succinctly defines who they are and what they represent. This is what got the attention of geeks, when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first created the ‘Man of Steel’ in 1932 and still has them hooked in the decades that have followed. As what human being can’t relate to the struggle of finding your place in a world where there is no other like you. Or how about the prejudice that one deals with because he or she is different (X-men). Again consider the damage and hurt that uncontrolled rage can cause to you and the ones you love (Hulk).
So at a fundamental level, ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ succeeded because they illustrate the strength that one gets from discipline and overcoming adversity (plus the fact that Christopher Nolan is a genius of a director). Just as the Iron Man movies identify the importance of a life lived for a cause for which one is prepared to risk it all. The common denominator here is that these are character-driven movies, and not just a mesh-mash collection of set-ups and set-pieces that give the director a chance to play with the latest special effects wizardry!
If every superhero movie in development takes this approach in interpreting characters, then we can look forward to the release of ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America’ as they lead up to the ensemble ‘Avengers’ movie. With this in mind, there is still hope for ‘Green Lantern’.