The internet let out a collective roar today as it was announced that Wonder Woman would indeed play a role in the upcoming Superman sequel. That roar intensified when it was announced that Gal Gadot, formerly of the Fast and Furious franchise would be stepping in to fill Diana’s bracelets. Speculation as to whether or not Wonder Woman would be in the film had been running rampant recently but today rumor gave way to a press release and now fanboys can start arguing whether Ms Gadot will be any good in the film sight unseen.
There is still plenty up in the air at this point though; how big a part is she playing? What sort of angle are they going for with the origin? What is the costume going to look like? Are they going to try to shoehorn a love triangle with her vs. Bruce and Clark?
At this point all we can do is really wait and see.
The character rights to Superman have been in dispute for some time now. The court case between Warner Brothers and the Siegel and Shuster families has raged for quite some time. An original deal was made with the Shuster family and Warner Brothers in the early nineties that would allow payments throughout their lifetime for the use of Superman. A similar deal was supposedly reached with the Siegels in the early 2000s as well. Those deals notwithstanding, both families have been embroiled in legal battles with Warner Brothers over ownership rights. Close to a year ago the Siegel family lost their final appeal and this week the same court that shut down that case ruled against the Shusters as well, securing all rights to Superman and any characters derived from his use for Warner Brothers.
With talks of copyright extension in the news it is interesting to take a look at this case and see how different and yet the same things are within the comic book industry when it comes to the handling of work for hire. DC Comics does have a fairly decent track record as of late. Talks of royalty checks showing up in Chuck Dixon’s mailbox when The Dark Knight Rises hit theaters for his contributions to creating Bane got a lot of press. Apparently DC has no incentive to do this, but did so for reasons nobody can truly fathom. Creator rights seem to be a very broad spectrum from case to case. I think everyone is quite aware of how Marvel treated Jack Kirby and Joe Simon regarding their contributions to the Marvel universe.
Most people who do work for hire understand the ramifications of that. Look at Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker and their reactions to the Jim Gordon TV show announcement and the use of The Winter Soldier. They know that Marvel is well within their rights to use those characters and ideas because that was in the terms of their contract with the company. Most creators are realistic when it comes to how their work-for-hire output is utilized and what expectations they should have regarding compensation. Siegel and Shuster were in a very different boat when they made their deal with DC comics in the early twentieth century. They tried to secure a fair shake for their involvement when they were alive and their family continued that fight after their deaths.
The world of copyright and creator rights is an ever shifting landscape. The comics industry should certainly treat their creators with more respect. The people in charge would not have these characters without the creative types doing their job. Royalties for new creations shouldn’t be such a stumbling block. I don’t work for any of the major companies so I don’t want to overstep my bounds. But I don’t think I’m going out on too far of a limb to say that I support creators and creator rights and think that its not bad business to support the people who keep your enterprise alive.
As I sit down to write this review, Green Lantern has a 24% rating on RottenTomatoes. When I see a number like that, I expect something around Transformers 2 level shoddiness. Having just got back from seeing the film, I can say that it’s leagues better than that. Thank Christ. I’ll level with you. I enjoyed it more than I did Iron Man 2. Sure there are some script issues, and it doesn’t have the dedicated focus that the more recent Marvel Studios releases seem to have down to a science, but it’s nowhere near the abomination that its ratings seem to indicate. It’s not Ghost Rider, Elektra, Catwoman, etc. level bad. It’s actually a decent film. It may alienate some of the more hardcore fans of the Green Lantern comics with the liberties it takes toward continuity and Hal Jordan as a character, but the truth of the matter is that as a film it works just fine. Does it have flaws? Yes. So did Batman Begins, to be perfectly frank. And most of the problems are actually the same. It comes down to pacing and structure. Although I’ll be honest, there is some really sub-par CGI work which hinders the film just as much as the script ever does. But if you think about the sort of money that it would take to really get a Green Lantern film on the screen and have it look flawless, it’d equal the national deficit following our middle-eastern war campaigns.
Green Lantern has a lot working against it when you walk into the theatre. Ryan Reynolds was a controversial choice to play Hal Jordan for numerous reasons. First and foremost, he doesn’t embody the comics version of the character very much at all. He’s more prone to playing the cocky wise-cracking prankster than anything else. Can he do serious? Yes. But does he here? Not really. The film version of the character seems molded around Reynolds rather than the other way around. He only tangentially resembles the Hal Jordan most fans of the comic are familiar with. The caveat is that the Hal Jordan of the comics is somewhat of a dull figure. He’s a straight arrow who is generally most interesting when placed against his foils. That’s why the “hard traveling heroes” years where he crossed the country with Green Arrow were so great, it was the interplay off the opposing characters. Here, Hal is front and center and the story revolves around his journey. In order to play to the masses, they had to mold Hal into a hero that’s more in line with the modern sensibility of what a comic-film hero should be. They’ve turned him into a sort of pseudo-Tony Stark who is massively flawed and yet puts on a brave face propped up by their own sarcasm and wit. It’s not the classic interpretation of the character but the backstory revolving around Hal’s father’s death and his battle to overcome fear are familiar enough that it doesn’t feel like a complete destruction of his character that results in such horrible films as the aforementioned Ghost Rider or Elektra. The film’s Hal Jordan retains enough of his central character that most people will not be offended by the changes and the mainstream audience viewing the film won’t even take notice.
The biggest changes come in the form of Parallax’s origin and, well, his entire existence. I would argue that it might have been a bad idea to throw Parallax into the mix so early, but realistically speaking it’s the easiest way to explain the concept of the color yellow as the embodiment of fear and sets up the eventual Sinestro heel turn (which we KNOW will happen if a sequel ever gets off the ground) as well as any plot device could. It also gives an easy explaination for the introduction of Hector Hammond as a villain. Hammond serves well as the earth-bound villain element of the piece, and Skarsgard plays him with an old-school studio-style monster edge that, while not exactly subtle, is more than enough to match the tone that the film is setting up.
There are only a few major misfires in the whole of the film, the first of which being Hal’s unnecessary friend/comedic relief played by Taika Waititi who looked remarkedly similar enough to Richard Ayoade that I really just wish that they would have had Hal befriend Moss from The IT Crowd. It would have been much more entertaining.
I know it sounds like I’m tearing the film apart a little bit but really it’s quite enjoyable. It may not be the Green Lantern that die-hard fans have been clammoring for but it’s a great first attempt and I think that subsequent sequels without the burden of the origin story to weigh them down will find their footing a little better than this debut entry. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you in any way want the studios to take risks with DC characters on screen because if it flops I guarantee they’re going to go with the safest bets possible and that’s no good for anyone, least of all the fans.
Inmates Running The Asylum : Jim Lee Named Co-Publisher & Geoff Johns Named Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics
The internet got itself all up in a maelstrom over the news that Jim Lee would join Dan Didio as a co-publisher while Geoff Johns would step up as DC’s new chief creative officer.
A lot of people took this to mean that now every book published by DC will be populated by death and mayhem, with just a tinge of regressive silver-age obsession. A Teen Titan would die every month and so on, etc., etc.
Look people, I riff on Geoff Johns a lot. I mean, I’ve nearly been assaulted in the shop by merely stating that he’s not the greatest writer of all time and that as a writer, his stories won’t be remembered in 20 years time as anything more than an example of what comics were like at a particular point in history. His writing is really rather middle-of-the road. The fact of the matter is that his books sell because of hype and promotion, not because of quality. Blackest Night is not an amazing event. It’s actually fairly tepid. But people buy it because they’re told it’s important. His stories are not particularly inventive or ground breaking, which is partly due to his obsession over the DCU’s history.
So after spending a paragraph ripping on the guy (again), how can I actually defend his appointment?
Perhaps because he’s exactly what the company needs. He’s a fanboy and at the same time he’s a businessman. He knows comics on the retailer level, because he is one, as well as on the creator level. He knows h0w to hype his own product to the fans. He sees himself as one of us and speaks as such. Which is something that DC has seemingly lacked, a sort of fan-level enthusiasm. DC has, as of late, seemed so corporate and robotic when compared to Marvel’s hype machine. I believe that having someone like Johns overseeing the creative direction of the company, and being able to sell that direction, will be a major boon to DC. Which I really do hope for, because I love DC comics. I grew up with Batman and Superman as much as I did Spider-Man or the X-Men.
All I can say is, please, stay calm and remain optimistic. If I can do it, so can you.
Hey, remember back in 2006 when Bryan Singer hopped off the X-Men train to helm a new Superman film and everybody got their collective geek panties all soiled up and sopping wet only to complain about the end product not being as good as they had hyped it up to be in their mind before walking into the theater?
Get ready to get bumrushed by a striking case of deja vu because we’ve got a similar situation a’brewin at Warner Brothers, once again centered around the floundering Superman franchise and a nerd-christened messiah coming in to save the day.
According to Deadline, Batman Begins & Dark Knight director Christopher “Jesus Christ” Nolan has been brought in by the studio to act as the overseer of a retooling of the Superman franchise. Because, you know, he made those awesome Batman movies so he must be able to work that same kind of magic on a character that is, quite literally, the opposite end of the spectrum as far as what the character is or represents.
I will pause here to say that Nolan is a competent director. Hell, he’s more than competent. He’s actually one of the finest working directors in Hollywood at the moment. But nothing in his long list of credits gives me any indication that he is the right person to manage the creative direction of the Superman franchise. All of Nolan’s work seems to focus on the deeply psychological elements of the characters that inhabit the worlds he creates. I hate to use such a cliche, but Nolan’s work tends to be very dark. Memento, The Prestige, his Batman films, Insomnia… none of those films have the sense of levity that a Superman film needs. Granted he is just the architect here, and not the director, but one would assume he will have a heavy hand in the tone the new film will take.
It’s almost like they are trying to repeat the mistakes of Bryan Singer’s film. While I myself enjoyed Superman Returns, I can see the flaws and pinpoint where and why it did not take off with a mainstream audience. Nobody wants to watch a dour Superman. The tone of a Superman film should be closer to that of Jon Favreau’s first Iron Man, where the sense of adventure is overshadowed by the character drama or serious moments, but instead enhanced by those elements.
These are films based off of comic books after all; and while I won’t be the guy who says that as an art form comics should be light and fluffy, they seem to suffer when they take themselves too seriously.
So what is my point in all this?
Really, this is just a preemtive strike. I want to ask everyone here and now not to start wetting themselves over the prospect of Nolan at the helm of a Superman film. A name does not ensure quality. Just because he gave us two amazing Bat-films does not mean that he will deliver unto us a Superman film with everything we want with no flaws whatsoever.
Just be pragmatic.
That’s all I’m saying.